Watching the Nurburgring from the outside

It may as well be on The List, because lapping the infamous Nordschleife at the Nürburgring is one of those rites of passage for so many driving enthusiasts around the world. It's also increasingly becoming the go-to test track for automakers big and small. But those two things may in the end become mutually exclusive.

The root of the problem appears to be a lack of funding for the Nürburgring. The famous public race track in the Eifel hills of Germany is publicly owned but privately managed, and the books have – push come to shove – just not balanced out recently. In an effort to turn a profit, Nürburgring Automotive has tried turning it into a tourist attraction, but with the expensive Ring˚Werk complex still weighing down the books and the number of tourists it was supposed to attract still not coming out to the track's remote part of the German countryside, management is apparently changing tracks. (Figuratively speaking, anyway.)

The result is that the latest calendar released by Nürburgring Automotive has fewer and fewer slots open for "tourist drivers" to come lap the Ring. That's because the circuit is being rented out more and more to automakers, who undertake development work there and pay more consistently than random ticket sales from enthusiasts. There's still plenty of weekend openings available, but those – as Autoweek correspondent Davey Johnson points out – typically much busier than the now-elusive weekday slots.

At the end of the day, we can hardly blame anyone in specific. The enthusiasts pay handsomely and take considerable risks to do what they love. The automakers pay more in search of the bragging rights and the taut chassis setups we all clamor for. Nürburgring Automotive, for its part, needs to balance the books if the Nordschleife is to stay open at all. But the bottom line is that the days of showing up in Eifel and lapping the vaunted Green Hell may be drawing to a close, and that's just a shame.