True driving enthusiasts interested in pushing cars to their limits know that a high-speed lap around the notorious Nurburgring Nordschleife is about as close to motoring’s Holy Grail as it’s going to get.
Itself built at a lightening pace between 1925 and 1927, the Ring was designed as both a race circuit and test track to allow Europe’s top motoring badges to test prototypes on a quick and uncompromising course.
When not used for either purpose, the general public was permitted onto the hallowed tarmac to enjoy a rare opportunity to push their privately owned vehicles to performance peaks.
Thankfully, that practice continues today because the Ring is, quite simply, the ultimate driving experience.
Just under twenty-one kilometres and boasting150 corners – the majority of them blind with little or no run off – the Nürburgring adds up to the most challenging circuit in the world, bar none.
It’s a fact that’s been widely acknowledged by top racing drivers from all eras.
Former three-time Formula One world champion Jackie Stewart famously dubbed it ‘The Green Hell’ after his victory there at the 1968 German Grand Prix in atrocious conditions.
Belgian driver Jacky Ickx described driving at Nurburgring as the highest possible challenge and a symbol of pure driving.
But ultimately, the Ring’s notorious temperament excluded it as the venue for the German Grand Prix in 1976 following Niki Lauda’s fiery crash in 1976.
It’s not just the extraordinary distance you need to cover in a single lap or the 41 different compositions that make up the tarmac which make this course so tough. It’s more the fact that on any given day, the weather can play havoc with one’s ability to negotiate this place safely.
It’s quite possible for the sun to be shining on the circuit at the starting point, just for it to become wet and greasy in the middle and snowing further on.
It’s these varying and unpredictable conditions that test even the best racing drivers in the world.
People perish here all the time, mostly during the public sessions. By last count, it was an average of one fatality each week the track was open.
That’s most days after 5:00pm in the warmer months.
You can’t learn it in a day, either. As mentioned, around 80 per cent of the corners are blind and you don’t know how sharp they are or where the critical braking points are until you’ve driven hundreds of real-world laps around this place with plenty of professional instruction.
While video games such as Grand Turismo and Forza can go some way in familiarising you with the track layout, they simply don’t give you a real feeling for the multiple elevation changes.
The track descends 300 metres in 8 kilometres and climbs back up in less than 5 kilometres. And you best keep off the kerbs no matter how tempting they might be – they have been known to flip a car.
Yes, several are safe to ride but the trick is to know which ones, especially in the wet.
I’ve driven here several times before, clocking up around 30-40 laps (placing me firmly in the novice club); the previous occasion in a fast-moving Hyundai Veloster Turbo during a torrential downpour.
It’s not something I’d recommend for first-time drivers here, unless you’ve got an accomplished Ringmiester such as the well-known ring queen Sabine Schmitz or Belgian racer Dirk Shoysman riding shotgun and talking you through each and every metre of the Nordschliefe, as I was lucky enough to experience previously.
Sabine is famous for piloting a Ford Transit van around the Nordschleife at breakneck speed with Top Gear's Richard Hammond in the passenger's seat, as well as notching up over 18,000 laps here.