Everyone who gets behind the wheel for the first time, whether they realize it or not, has an emotional reaction to the power of “going.” Whether you were a metal-mouthed teenager driving a beater or learning to drive late in life, the feeling you got when you stepped on the gas pedal for the first time (even if you were going 15 mph) is one you won’t soon forget.
Take that feeling and put it on steroids, and you may understand why fans from all over the world flock to the famous Nürburgring, just a couple hours’ drive from the Kaiserslautern area. I am not referring to the championship races and awesome viewing events like the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) that are held there, but to an opportunity we don’t have back in the U.S.: the chance to actually drive on the world’s most famous racetrack… yourself!
Imagine if you got to drive the Indianapolis Speedway or Talladega. Such experiences may exist in some form, but are extremely expensive and are usually under tight restrictions.
The world famous Nürburgring, however, is technically considered a two-lane highway (kind of like the Autobahn), so there are times you can just drive on it. This requires a fee of about 25-35€ per lap, depending on the day. But it’s totally worth it.
Here’s what you need to know
Ways to get on the track
- » Drive Your Own Car On “Track Days”
- » Rent a car from a local company and go with a pro instructor
- » Take a ride in a supercar called a “Ring Taxi”
- » Make it a group event
Drive your own car
I have taken my own cars on the track. These weren’t anything too crazy –namely, a VW Golf GTI, a BMW M3 and a Fiat Abarth 500 SS. Each time I took my own car on the track, there was part of me that was relaxed because if I crashed, I knew it was my car (and not someone else’s) that would need to be repaired.
The part of me that was not relaxed was the one that knew that if I crashed my car, I would have to explain to my wife why I had to repair it after driving on a race track.
The experience was a blast! I rolled up right next to Ferraris, Porsches, minivans and Mini Coopers on the Nordschleife (this is the part of the track that is open to the public as opposed to the “Grand Prix” track). What a rush!
Technically, however, there is no racing on the ring. So when someone comes up from behind, put on your right blinker and stay to the right so they can blow past. During my first lap, I got passed by a Corvette Z06 like I was standing still, only to see that car get passed by a Porsche GT3 RS like they were standing still!
Rent a car from a local company
One of the benefits of renting a car from one of the local motorsport companies is that you get to drive a fully maintained track-ready car. You also get the rules of the road and, if anything happens (buy the extra insurance), it isn’t your car!
I rented a BMW M4 with Apex-Nürburg (they can be found at Apex-Nuerburg.com, and they have multiple rental options), and opted to hire Misha, a professional driver/instructor. It was a good move. Having 430 horsepower just a gas pedal away was a bit more power than I was used to, and having Misha there to tell me how to deal with it was well worth the money.
I must say, the experience was totally different having a professional next to me making corrections and keeping me alert of possible issues (that can come up fast). Having Misha there made it more fun than stressful. I was able to concentrate on driving the track instead of worrying about the rules of the road or doing something risky. Of course, accidents can happen, but that is true of any drive you take.
Take a ride in a supercar called a “Ring-Taxi”
Most of us will never own a supercar like a McLaren or a Ferrari. If you love supercars, and if you had the opportunity to actually ride in one, I would suggest you go for it!
I was lucky enough to get a “Ring-Taxi” (what Apex-Nürburg calls a pro-driven supercar while you are in the passenger seat) in a Ferrari 458 Spider, McLaren 620 R and a special 4-seater BMW M3 tuned by Schirmer.
I can only say this: if you have never felt the exhilaration of going into a turn at 160 kph (over 100 mph) only to launch into a straightaway at speeds upwards of 200 kph (approximately 120 mph), then you need to try it. It was amazing how the car (and incredible driver) was able to handle the turns and braking at such high speeds with no problem. It actually gave me a taste of what a real race might feel like. The special 4-seater BMW M3 (which essentially is a race car) was really fun because there were three of us as passengers (all with special racing seats and helmets) connected by microphone.
Make it a group event
Great experiences are always better with other people, so we made a company event of our day on the Nürburgring. Everyone got to ride in the “Ring-Taxi” during the day, which was fun to experience together in the 4-seater BMW M3.
There were also a few of us who drove some of their rental cars, and we ended the day with an awesome lunch at the Lindner Hotel, which is part of the main facility at the ring.
The food was excellent and the surroundings were fitted with race memorabilia, driving video games and a great bar to boot. We reflected on the day and the new stories we had just written at the ring. It was not an experience I shall soon forget.
Visit nuerburgring.de for available dates.
From Kaiserslautern, take A62 to A1, then take the exit for Ulmen and follow B257 to Nürburg.Insurance note:
Standard car insurance normally covers accidents on the Nürburgring because it is considered a regular road. However, you should contact your insurance company first to confirm.
Contact any company you may work with ahead of time to find out the latest COVID protocols and hours of operation. Apex-Nürburg has signs up outside regarding protocols, plus they disinfect all surfaces in their offices every day. They offer contactless payments as well. Cars are sprayed and wiped with disinfectant after every rental. Staff members wear gloves when they help you in and out of cars.