Frequently Asked Questions
- What's so special about the Nürburgring anyway?
The legendary Nürburgring is the longest and most challenging racetrack in the world. Period. Most respected automakers develop their sporting models at the ‘Ring before releasing them into the market. No other racetrack can match the mystique and history of the Nürburgring. Today, the facility actually consists of two independent tracks, the Grand Prix Strecke completed in 1984 and used for Formula One and GT racing cars, and the Nordschleife (North Loop) that dates back to 1927. We will describe the Nordschleife, where the International BMW School is conducted.
- What is the Nordschleife like?
Like nothing you've ever seen. Once nicknamed Die Grüne Hölle (the Green Hell), the North Loop includes most of the historic Nürburgring. These facts may help you put it in perspective: 13 miles long, over 170 turns (depending on how you count them), about 1000 feet of elevation change from lowest to highest points, a two-mile long straightaway, and four towns and a 12th-century castle are located within its perimeter. The most famous turn is the Karussell, once a concrete drainage culvert, which loops more than 180 degrees on steeply banked concrete. The German government maintains the track in excellent condition with smooth pavement and nice FIA painted curbing. Over the years, some of the sharp crests have been smoothed so cars don't leap into the air (as much), curbing and drainage have been added, and guardrails closely line both sides of the track to prevent cars from sailing off into the forest. The proximity of the guardrails also leaves minimal run-off room; so small mistakes can turn into major damage. Many of the turns are blind, due to crests you can't see over or are hidden by embankments or trees. Major sections of the track are named, which helps drivers to learn the track by section (Hint: learn the names before you go). Like many tracks, the turn-in points and apex points for most turns have been thoughtfully painted on the asphalt (though some different marks appear every year).
See this article from SportAuto magazine for a very good detailed description of the racing line through each turn of the Nordschleife.
For some excellent information about the Nürburgring, take a look at the following websites:
http://www.nuerburgring.de, track's website with public lap schedule and phone/fax numbers.
http://www.nurburgring.org.uk/ is a very complete site by British enthusiast Ben Lovejoy.
http://home3.swipnet.se/~w-32546/nbring/home.htm is an informative European site.
- Where is the Nürburgring?
The track is located between Koblenz and Luxembourg, in the central Western part of Germany. It is NOT near Nürnberg (Nuremberg) as many people assume. On a map, you'll find the ‘Ring just North of the A48 Autobahn. Built in the Eifel Mountains near the village of Nürburg, the track is in a picturesque setting of farmland and rolling hills covered with pine trees. Drive time from Munich is 5-6 hours at autobahn speed, depending upon traffic and stops. Frankfurt is about two hours. Frankfurt (airport code FRA) is the closest international airport to the track; Munich (airport code MUC) is about six hours away by Autobahn.
- Is it true, the Nürburgring is sometimes open to the public?
You've heard right. Since the track is operated by a German government entity (and their legal system makes people responsible for their own actions), they open the track to the public and charge a toll to drive laps. Any street-registered car or motorcycle can be taken on the track on these days. If you do drive the ‘Ring on an “open” day, beware of a wide variety of vehicles and speeds. Everything from wild Porsches to double-decker buses show up, and they're not always on line! Passing is permitted, but should be done with the overtaking car passing on the left. Most drivers will use their right turn indicator to signal that they see you and it's OK for you to pass them on the left. It can be a hair-raising experience compared to the orderly School.
- Who runs the School?
The Internationaler BMW Fahrerlehrgang auf dem Nürburgring (International BMW Drivers Training Course on the Nürburgring) is conducted by the independent BMW Club Mülheim-Ruhr. This is not a BMW CCA event, but our Club coordinates the participants from outside Europe, including Canada, Japan, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. Since 1964, the BMW Club Mülheim-Ruhr has conducted the BMW School and welcomed BMW car and motorcycle owners from all over the world to participate. Americans have attended in varying numbers since the ‘70s, and there's now a small core group that participates nearly every year. The total number of drivers in the School varies from 150-250, and the number in our BMW CCA group has ranged from 25-75. For the BMW CCA Group, a fun driving rally, BMW-related tours, and bierfests are often arranged in Munich before the School to build this event into a weeklong experience.
- How is the School conducted?
The Nürburgring School is very different from BMW CCA Driver's Schools. With 2 Instructors for each group of up to 24 participants, it is not possible to provide in-car instruction. The length of the track also demands a different format. We try to maximize our openings in the School with two participants sharing each car. We encourage you to pick your driving partner in advance since you will spend a lot of time working together in the car. Passenger seat time is very valuable to the learning process, an opportunity to find and memorize track “landmarks” when you're not responsible for reaching them. Before we hit the track, every participant is given a booklet with a map of each section of the Nordschleife, including the “ideal line” that we teach.
The track is broken into ten sections so we can learn it one piece at a time. Several of these individual sections are as long as most US racetracks in their entirety! We spend 80 minutes in each section, driving down the track on line, turning around and going back, then driving down the track again over and over. Driving partners switch seats for each run to share the driving experience. After 80 minutes, we rotate to the next section. A lead-follow format is used, with one Instructor leading the line and a Coach about mid-way through the line. Drivers should follow the line as accurately as possible, both to learn it properly and to set a good example for those behind. This pattern continues for two 12-hour days so participants get to learn the entire Nordschleife. The schedule also includes time to practice total laps. On the afternoon of the third day, each participant gets to take a “graded lap.” One-at-a-time, each car takes a lap while Instructors observe from 21 strategic locations. Drivers are rated 1-10 in each section based upon their line, smoothness, and speed, in that order. The ratings are compiled into a total score, and the top performers in each group are recognized at the Awards Ceremony with a trophy.
- What does the School enrollment fee include?
Participants get 3 days of track time in the School, additional driver training exercises, lunch each day, a very nice Awards Banquet after the School, a commemorative trophy cup, a list of results, and lodging arrangements made at a nearby bed and breakfast or the track-side Dorint Hotel. The BMW CCA coordination for non-Europeans takes care of registering participants for the School, does fund transfers, helps arrange for a car to drive, organizes receptions, tours, and lodging in Munich, and provides participants with a commemorative shirt and nametag. Lodging is arranged in Munich and at the Nürburgring, but the costs for lodging, meals, vehicle, and airfare are the responsibility of the participant. Plan to spend $3000 to $3500 or so, plus airfare, for School entry fee, hotels and food during the week in Munich and Nürburg (depending on single or double accommodation). Regular commercial rental cars average about $500-$600/week plus fuel.
- Do I need performance driving experience before attending the School?
YES. The Nürburgring is the most difficult racetrack to learn and the most rewarding to master. This School is not structured to teach basic performance driving skills. You will be plenty busy just learning the track and refining your line over three days. Participants should already be familiar with high performance driving skills, including smooth steering and shifting, driving lines, and advanced car control techniques. You will be asked to list any driving school or other relevant driving background you have, and your participation is at the discretion of the organizer. Any less than 3 Driving Schools' experience and the ‘Ring might be more scary than enjoyable.
- What kinds of vehicles are allowed in the School?
This School is intended for BMWs (and maybe MINIs or Rolls-Royces?). Also, there are groups for BMW motorcycles. Non-BMW cars are discouraged except for necessary rental cars. Since European participants bring their personal BMWs, you'll see some great hardware (M1s, Z1s, Alpinas, M3 CSLs).
- Will I need a helmet?
Yes, helmets are required in our Group while driving total laps, so bring yours. Some European drivers choose not to wear them, but that tradition is changing with today's faster BMWs since there have been some serious rollover accidents in recent years. Open cars are discouraged.
- What about insurance?
The event carries liability insurance, and property damage insurance goes with the car. Rental vehicles have whatever insurance coverage you arrange at the time of rental. Carefully review any supplemental coverage provided by your credit card. Some do not extend coverage to rentals outside your home country or for certain high-end cars. European Delivery BMWs have the insurance arranged by BMW NA—review this carefully. Also, if you damage a guardrail, you or your rental car insurance company will be billed by the track for the cost of repair.
- What about cars for the school?
Regular commercial rental cars were used until a few years ago, but most major rental firms in Germany now list “safety driving schools” as forbidden activities; i.e., the insurance is void for such events. Some companies make specific reference to the ‘Ring as verboten, and there have been cases where substantial penalties for excessive wear and tear were charged for cars observed on the ‘Ring. All this to say, using a rental car for public days or the School involves a certain degree of financial risk, and perhaps of being blacklisted by the rental companies.
We are finalizing an arrangement with Rent-racecar for BMW CCA participants attending the School.
This will give us more free kms and hopefully a small discount for the three days.
Check out RentRaceCar.de.
Booking will handled through the School organizer.
You may wish to make your own arrangements through one of the other track-side firms such as:
Euro-delivery is still feasible, unless the insurance rules change.
Taking euro-delivery of a new BMW is a popular way to drive the Ring in your own car and
do some touring in Europe. Plan to take delivery at least one week before the school.
This will allow time to put the first 1250 miles on the vehicle prior to the School.
Alternatively, it is possible to ship your US car to Europe. More details on this option will be posted soon.
- How fast will I go on the track?
Most of the ‘Ring is driven in 3rd gear, with one or two 2nd gear turns and some 4th gear sections. On the lo-ong straightaway, a powerful car can get up to 130-150 mph before it's time to brake.
- Are there any games that allow me to practice driving the Nordschleife with some realism?
YES. There are some games with remarkably realistic graphics that have noticeably helped some past participants. Grand Prix Legends for PCs recreates the 1967 Formula One season, with the cars and track layout of that era. The “Sudschleife” has since been replaced by the modern Grand Prix track, and the hedges and trees are taller now, but avid drivers say it feels very real. For those with an X Box, Project Gotham Racing 2 and Forza Motorsport have amazing graphics and physics. But the most accurate recreation of the Nordschleife I've seen is Gran Turismo 4 for the PlayStation platform. Take ‘em for a few laps!
- What's it like to drive on the Autobahn?
Despite what you may have heard, the autobahn is not a top-speed free-for-all. Since the Berlin Wall came down and a reunified Germany has continued to grow, so has the traffic. Most autobahns are 2-lanes wide and can get clogged with heavy truck traffic. Certain areas of the autobahn have posted speed limits from 100-130 km/h (62-81 mph). Most congested areas, major autobahn intersections, older/narrower sections, and tall bridges tend to have the speed limits. And they do use photo radar for enforcement (detectors are banned). Sometimes you will see a speed limit sign that says bei nässe underneath, which means that it applies only when the road is wet. The rest of the autobahns have a recommended top speed of 130 km/h, but actual speed is unlimited as much as traffic allows. In remote areas between cities, particularly on weekends, you still can hold the pedal to the metal for extended periods. It is rare to see a German driver running over 180 km/h (112 mph), but beware, a few cars really fly down the ‘bahn. Driving at such speeds requires absolute concentration, watching way ahead and behind. The speed differential between a 220 km/h BMW and an 80 km/h truck is extremely dangerous. The law dictates that you stay in the right lane except to pass. If you are passing in the left lane, watch your mirror closely for an even faster car coming up—you might be surprised! Do not flash your headlights or turn signal to pass; instead, make yourself visible on the left edge of your lane and be patient. Most autobahns are very smooth for high-speed travel. To keep them that way, road repair is common in the summer, and so is traffic. Highway signs are very clear, often a pictogram of upcoming major intersections. Direction signs indicate the major cities that the autobahn goes toward, emphasizing destination over direction or route number. And beware of highway exits (Ausfahrt, make your own joke), slow down plenty from autobahn speed. They even provide signs counting down the distance to the ausfahrt: 300m, 200m, and 100m.