Why the Nürburgring is considered the world’s most dangerous racetrack

  • In the small town of Nürburg, Germany, sits the legendary race course known as “The Green Hell.”
  • The Nürburgring is an iconic racetrack, with its terrifying twists, blind corners, and drops.
  • June 3, 2021, marks the beginning of the famed 24-hour Nürburgring endurance race.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: The Nürburgring. If you’ve spent any time reading about cars, you’ve probably heard the term. What is it? It’s a merciless 13-mile track with terrifying twists, turns, and dips, and arguably the most dangerous race course in the world. But it’s become a sort of holy destination for drivers, professional and amateur, who make the pilgrimage to the small town of Nurburg, Germany.

Since its construction in 1927, the ‘Ring’ has tragically claimed the lives of just under 70 motorsport heroes. Legendary Formula 1 driver Jackie Stewart famously crowned the track ‘The Green Hell’, a nickname it holds to this day. But just what makes the Nürburgring so brutal?

The Nürburgring is actually composed of two different courses, but it’s the site’s Northern Loop or ‘Nordschleife’ that most associate with the track. As the world’s longest racetrack, the Nordschleife remains the ultimate test of skill amongst professional drivers competing in extreme races like the 24 Hours of Nurburgring endurance race.

A closer look at the track reveals three things that make it such a challenge even for the most skilled drivers: the steep elevation changes, blind corners, and the lack of runoff areas.

Let’s start with the elevation changes. For an idea of just how severe the Nürburgring’s are, the total difference in altitude from the track’s highest point to its lowest is a jaw-dropping 985 feet. And it doesn’t occur gradually either. The shifts in elevation are abrupt and spontaneous, providing plenty of challenges for those who don’t know the track thoroughly, and even those who do.

One of the best examples of this happens fairly early in the track, at a section known as ‘Fox Hole’. This section features five sweeping corners that can be taken at full speed! But it’s at the last corner when the track goes into a steep downhill descent then immediately elevates that you feel more G-Forces than you’ve ever felt.

To better understand what driving through it is like,we caught up with someone who circles the Ring over 1,000 times every year. Misha Charoudin is a racecar driver, course instructor, and YouTuber who knows every inch of the track like the back of his hand. He’s even managed to guide a driver around it while completely blindfolded!

Misha Charoudin: You have Fox Hole. It’s a very, very downhill descent followed by instant climb and what a lot of people do is they think like, “Oh, let me see what the top speed of my car is because I’m going downhill now.” And then they brake at the lowest point. The issue here is the weight transfer. When you brake at the complete bottom you have the weight transfer ready because the car will change direction from going downhill to uphill, and when you apply the brakes on that, you will most likely end up in the barrier.

Narrator: But it’s near the Ring’s end that drivers face one of the most daunting sections of racetrack in the world when it comes to elevation change. Located 10.5 miles into the track is a section called Pflanzgarten. Known for its number of career ending accidents, there is zero room for error on this series of jumps and turns where drivers will find it nearly impossible not to go airborne.

Misha: So, you actually literally your car jump three times over I would say a period of one minute. Your car will be airborne one time straight before the braking zone, one time you will go a bit sideways maybe even in the air as well, and one time you will be going over 120 mph over a slight bump while changing direction. So when you have a mistake there it will usually end up in a very, very – let’s say track closure. People will have to close the track how bad of an accident it’s going to be.

Narrator: But it isn’t simply jumps and drops that cause so many accidents on the Nürburgring. On a 13-mile track made up of around 170 different tight corners, about 90% of them are blind. The Ring’s infamous turn they call Kallenhard, about 5 miles into the track, is the perfect example of just how blind these corners can be.

Misha: It’s difficult because it’s very blind and it gets very tight. It has a very very very late apex, and people just dont expect that. Because they think, “Well, the turn should be over now.” No, it gets tighter, tighter, tighter, and it’s very blind. And you see a lot of accidents happen there. So you have to stay very slow, very much on the outside, slow feet fast hands, and get it right. And this is something that people really mess up. So this is I would say in terms the blind corners, Kallenhard is definitely one of the most challenging ones.

Narrator: It’s also the lack of sufficient runoff areas that separates the Nürburgring from the rest of the world’s professional racetracks. While most courses feature plenty of zones for out of control vehicles to safely depart from the track, less than a handful of corners at the Nürburgring have what could even be considered runoff areas. For the majority of the course, drivers will find that there is less than a meter separating the track from the barriers. This means that even the slightest mistakes can result in cars smashing into the walls.

But as intimidating a track like the Green Hell can be, Misha has a few simple words of advice for those everyday drivers looking to tackle the Ring for their very first time.

Misha: I always say you can not impress here anyone after 93 years of history, but you can make everybody laugh. So make sure to be the person that does not make us laugh after ending up on YouTube for some bad crash video.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in September 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi breaks down why the race is so difficult

  • At speeds of over 220 mph, drivers tear around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 500 miles, or 200 laps.
  • But while driving an oval racetrack may seem fairly straightforward, surviving just one lap requires an expert behind the wheel.
  • We talked to the Indy 500 2016 winner Alex Rossi who took us turn by turn through the track.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Alexander Rossi: Hey what’s up guys I’m Alexander Rossi. IndyCar driver for Andretti Autosport. I drive the #27 NAPA AutoNation Honda and I won the 2016 Indianapolis 500.

So you roll off on what is kind of four pace and parade laps. The first one, you do a salute to the fans. So the first lap is very slow and you’re just waving to the fans. Then the second and third lap you go single file and that’s when you get the engine temperature, the tire temperature, the brake temperature all to the levels that you want. And the team’s kind of talking you through that. And then the final lap you form back into the grid formation, eleven rows of three.

You know what you’re trying to do is just maintain the speed off the car on your inside because he’s really the one setting the pace. And then from that point you’re just waiting until the row in front of you accelerates, and you try to go with them. You know, you want to get a jump on the cars around you, but ultimately it’s a 500 mile race. There’s so much that’s gonna happen in the next three hours that the last thing you want to do is throw it all away going into Turn 1.

As we’re going into Turn 1 this is the first time you’re actually seeing the grandstands full. Because of that, it looks a lot narrower than it has the previous few weeks that you’ve been practicing because the light’s not coming in, there’s different kinds of shadows and reflections that you see. It’s actually kind of intimidating the first time that you go through there. It takes your mind three or four laps to adjust to the visual sensation.

So going into Turn 1, there’s cars that are taking a bigger risk than other cars for sure. Going two wide, or three wide you can only do on starts and restarts. And the reason for that is you’re accelerating from such a slower speed out of Turn 4 that by the time you get to Turn 1 you’re only doing 180, 190 mph. While that’s still fast, it’s a lot faster when you’re going 240 mph. So your margin for being able to explore different lines only exists on starts and restarts, and from there you see it kind of fall into more single file racing.

As much as geometrically Turns, 1, 2, 3 and 4 are identical, they’re all very different. So you’re using the short chutes to kind of change the balance of the car based on how it was through Turn 1 that lap.

The typical kind of balance you have is you have a bit of understeer exit of 1 and into 2. Between the short chute of 1 and 2 you are usually stiffening your rear anti-roll bar, softening your front anti-roll bar, or putting left front weight. So you can change the cross weight of the car. You can move up to 150 pounds from the right front tire to the left front tire. This obviously changes the balance of the car quite a bit.

So in terms of the easiest places to crash, it’s usually Turns 2 or 4. And that is because the tires are at their peak temperature exiting Turns 1 and 3. So when you go into Turn 2 and 4 you have much less margin for error. Whereas when you go into 1 and 3 they have the entire straightaway to cool down and center themselves. The short chutes between 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 don’t allow them to cool down enough so you have to be super precise with what you do or the price is just exponential.

These cars are so aerodynamically dependent, and they’re made to be run by themselves. So that means when the wings and the floor of the car are developed, they’re made in a space where the air coming at it is clean, and the cars go through it as if it was brand new virgin air. Well when you’re behind cars that are going through that air, they’re actually dirtying up the air and it’s coming at the car in a much more disconnected fashion so it actually reduces the performance of your car.

Where this comes back to your advantage is in the straights. So because they’re basically having to punch a hole through clean air, that means that you don’t have to do that anymore, so that’s where the draft and slipstream comes into play.

So the main goal of the Indianapolis is, how do you find a car balance that you can stay close enough behind the car in front of you to not lose a draft, but then still fast enough in a straight line to pass them. Because you can obviously put down force on, raise the rear wing angle, really glue your car to the track and be able to corner really well and follow someone super close. But then when you’re in a straight and you try to slipstream past them you don’t have enough straight line speed. So it’s all about finding that balance of “this is the least amount of grip I can get by with, while still being able to pass cars.

So going into Turn 3 you can see the sparks coming from the car in front. One thing to keep in mind in a race like this is that because it’s so long, the tire pressures are pretty low at the start of the stint. So what you have is the car bottom, it actually touches the ground. It’s what we call bottoming. So when that happens there’s actually less of a tire on the ground which is fine, but you have to be prepared for it because the car can actually move a little bit, and it’s hitting the deck so it’s not as composed as it would be.

And then going into Turn 4, as you’re completing the lap, this is the first time you’re able to get a balance check of what the car’s doing. That first lap you’re really seeing “Did I make the right call? Is everything as I expected it to be?”

But as I mentioned, it’s such a long race that even if the first balance check that you do isn’t quite what you were hoping for or expecting, there’s enough pit stops throughout the race where you can tune on the car, adjust tire pressures and wing angles, that theoretically if you play your cards right, by the end of the race you can dial in your car to be what you need it to be to win.

So as you start Lap 2 it’s at this point that you kind of start to have an idea of what the car is doing, and you start to analyze people’s strengths and weaknesses. And start trying to analyze your areas of attack as the day goes on.

And quite honestly that changes. It changes every 5 to 10 laps. As your fuel load decreases your car balance changes. Temperatures are always fluctuating, and a 2 to 3 degrees change in track temperature can make a big difference on the balance of your car. And it’s the guy that’s able to stay on top of it the most and make the right calls and obviously have a good car underneath him that’s ultimately able to win the Indianapolis 500.

The 2016 Indy 500 was my first 500. It was my second race ever on an oval. Throughout the race we were having a lot of problems refueling the car. Every time I came into the pits we’d kind of fall back, I’d lose position because we were taking so long to put fuel in the car.

My strategist and team owner, Bryan Herta, came up with a strategy, a high risk, roll the dice, we’re gonna do one less pit stop than everyone else and try to save fuel. So we’re gonna eliminate stopping one final time and stretch our fuel to make it to the end. We always knew we were gonna run out of fuel on the final lap, it was just gonna be a matter of when, and were we gonna have enough of a lead to basically coast across the finish line.

So we had enough fuel to get us out of Turn 2 into Turn 3, and as we were in the short chute between 3 and 4 we ran out of gas. So I just pulled the clutch in and just waited and literally just free-wheeled from the middle of Turn 4 all the way to the finish line. We started the lap with a 24 second lead and won by 3.8 seconds. Certainly a very strange way to win that race.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in May 2020.

Read the original article on Business Insider