Have you ever wanted to own a piece of racing legend? Oh, sure, you could get various racing souvenirs. Get a racer’s autographic. Get tickets for a season’s attendance of major racing events. Get a jersey or helmet…maybe even dish out for a whole car! There’s no end to the swag you might be able to snag at various events or off racing websites.
But now there’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually purchase one of the most iconic racing locations in the world—Nürburgring!
That’s right. The infamous racing track that has awed racers for generations and set an industry-wide speed standard for ultra-sports cars across the world is now up for auction. This sale includes buying the rights to the local arena, the museum, the Nordschleife track, and many of the nearby properties (including an old roller coaster park).
What inspired this startling development? Well, last year, Nürburgring filed for bankruptcy, despite drawing in a reported $80 million per year through a variety of income channels, such as selling tourist tickets, access to the racing courses, and local lodging and food amenities. That’s not even accounting for the many auto manufacturers who employ the track to test out their latest supercar models, hoping to beat previous lap time records. Apparently, being a hotbed of auto mania isn’t any sort of guarantee of profitability.
One side-effect of the Nürburgring bankruptcy filing was determining whether this summer’s German GP event would actually run or not. After long negotiations, the German GP host, Bernie Eccelstone, inked a deal to allow it to run on Nürburgring, but on the shorter, modern Nürburgring track rather than Nordschleife.
What put Nürburgring in such a costly hot spot then? Reports indicate that Nürburgring’s financial handlers have come under fire in the past for “controversial” accounting procedures. Over the years, Nürburgring has racked up over $450 million in debt, making continuing operations untenable until the new owner and a better-performing budget is established.
Efforts have been made to try and save Nürburgring from such a woeful financial fate. For instance, a large amusement park was built near the central track between 2007 and 2009. However, this in itself proved a costly endeavor, and didn’t end up drawing near enough tourist spending to justify even its own construction—much less giving Nürburgring a chance for fiscal recovery. There was also an attempt at a public bailout, but this was blocked by the European Commission, stating this would qualify as illegal state aid. At the moment, the German government is the sole proprietor of the track and is managing the sale.
Now who might actually be considering buying the Nürburgring? It is possible that the track may end up being sold to investors in various sections, rather than the sum of itself. Last year, as many as fifty various potential buyers were listed. Since then, though, the number of prospective buyers has shrunk to less than ten (perhaps less than five, according to some reports).
There’s also plenty of opposition to this private sale, with protestors fighting for Nürburgring to be brought back into the public ownership sector as it once was.
What will happen to Nürburgring once it’s bought? That’s anyone’s guess. There are certainly fears that a new owner would close off the race course to outside tourism. Worries abound that a single private owner could turn the track into a personal playground, rather than respecting its massive legacy and keeping it available to global auto manufacturers. At the same time, others are hopeful that this sale will place Nürburgring in more responsible hands and give it a chance to rebuild its modern operations according to a more sustainable model. Also, the German government has made it clear that any new owner must agree to allow public access to the track—though whether this means simply in a spectator function or whether future public drives will be allowed remains unclear.
Any potential purchase bids must be submitted by June 12, 2013. Currently, estimates place new ownership acquisition likely to happen by the end of Summer 2013. The sale will transfer management of the 12.8 mile, 154-turn track, along with 300 employees currently on the premises.