Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Nürburgring is paradise for petrolheads

AS I SIPPED on a cold Weissbeer and clocked the sight of dozens of classic cars lining the street I came to a conclusion. I had discovered Disneyland for cars.

Imagine taking a beautiful swathe of heavily-forested German countryside and carving a racetrack through it so large that entire villages nestle within it. Then populate the entire area with lovely people, almost of all whom speak perfect English, and brim the tanks in every bar until they’re almost overflowing with frothy, continental beer. Finally, organise a big party and invite pretty much everyone in the whole of Europe with an even vaguely nice car to bring it over and have a blast. That’s pretty much why the Nürburgring is the ultimate petrolhead pilgrimage. It really is a theme park dedicated entirely to burning rubber and revving engines.

A colleague and I were there – via a ferry trip to Rotterdam and a blast across Holland in an MGB that’s considerable shinier than mine – to cover something called the AVD Oldtimer Grand Prix, which sounds a bit tally-ho but is in fact three days of watching BMW M1s, Jaguar E-Types and even old Lotus F1 cars screaming around the home of the German Grand Prix.

The Nürburgring complex really is like AutoDisney, with a tacky gift shop to match – I resisted the urge to blow 40 Euros on a toaster which burns the outline of the Nürburgring onto your freshly heated bread – but in truth it was the party atmosphere in the villages within ‘Ring country which make it worth the visit.

Swiss-registered Ferraris, French Alpine A310s and more German-registered 911s than I’ve ever seen parked up right alongside the MG, which was flying the flag for British car fans – and almost everyone wanted to enjoy a chinwag, and to hell with the language barrier. As the sun set over the 15th-century timbered buildings in the centre of Adenau and the evening light highlighted the soft curves on a hundred sports cars, I realised I’d found an absolute gem of a place.

In fact, my only real regret was not being able to experience AutoDisney’s answer to Space Mountain, Oblivion and The Pepsi Max Big One rolled into one; the fearsome Nordschleife, which with 79 corners over no less than 13 miles is the longest (and possibly scariest) racetrack anywhere in the world. A scary racetrack which pretty much anyone, for the sake of 20 Euros, can drive around!

There’s always a next time, of course, but even though I’ve yet to sample its biggest attraction I can safely say the cars and the feelgood vibe alone should put the Nürburgring on any car lover’s list of holiday destinations.

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