- 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.