Once upon a time, fragile little grand prix cars raced on circuits that had no huge run-off areas, no enormous corporate hospitality suites, and lots of blind corners. Then the 70s happened.. Drivers like Jim Clark had already died at the wheel of their racecars and three time former champion Jackie Stewart was pushing to improve safety in all forms of racing, particularly Formula One. In August of 1976, defending champ Niki Lauda had a near-fatal accident at the Nurburgring in Germany. The Green Hell, as the 14 mile long track was called, would never again experience the shriek of a modern Formula One car. Until yesterday, that is.
The Nordshleife (North Loop) would be relegated to lower classes of racing, while a new, modern, antiseptic Sudschleife would play host to the European Grand Prix in the nineties and into the twenty-first century. On April 28, BMW Motorsport held a special event at the 'Ring and brought out several race cars including an M3 GTR and and one of last years F1 cars. BMW-Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld did three laps in the F1.06 which was stock aside from having the ground clearance maximized to survive the bumpy surface of the old course. He managed a best lap of 8:34 and a top speed of 275 km/h on the long straight.
If you are ever in the vicinity of Cologne Germany, on a weekend when the weather is good, it's worth €19 to take a lap of the track, just to get a taste of what it was like in the "good old days" of racing.
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