Mastering the Nürburgring Nordschleife Before It Was Cool
Photography and Story provided by Kostas Sidiras/RSRNurburg
There is more than enough material online about the history of the fearsome Nürburgring Nordschleife, but the one thing that’s made the circuit so special compared to many other historic tracks—besides, of course, its 14 mile length—is that anyone can drive on it.
The track’s famous Touristenfahrten–“tourist laps” have allowed people for decades to take their own car onto the Nordschleife’s harrowing layout.
There are many stories and legends about these public days, like the story of a young German girl, local to the track, named Sabine Schmitz. Schmitz would later became an exceptional racing driver and TV personality, but she got her start by stealing her mother’s road car to do her first Touristenfahrten laps at the tender age of 17…without a driving license.
Before being ‘discovered’ by Gran Turismo players hoping to master the real-life Green Hell after experiencing it on their Playstations, and before Top Gear’s antics on the circuit would reintroduce it to millions of viewers, a small group of enthusiasts would regularly attack the track in their Alfa Romeo 75s.
These were the days that you could drive a lap of the ’Ring for only a few Deutsche Mark. For instance, one lap on the Nordschleife in 1985 would be 6 DM, while today the same lap is 27€.
Instead of the advanced-but-gimmicky credit card-like ring°card (since dropped for 2015), visitors had an almost hidden Second World War-era-leftover entrance at T13 and one man with a leather bag who literally punched every single ticket. You may not believe it now, but for most of the ’80s and ’90s, the track was only used by locals and a few “hardcore” enthusiasts who would travel from all over Europe with their own cars.
Dutch racing driver Ron Simons is in that last category. Simons is an unabashed fan of the 75, the angular sedan with a reputation for being fun to drive but temperamental. With a few modifications, however, Simons discovered that the little rear-drive sedans were ideal for the Nordschleife, and would organize friends and enthusiasts into convoys of 75s.
Most mechanics of the day would joke that you need 20 Alfa Romeo 75s to have 10 working ones! That said, there are thousands of people that did their first laps on the Nürburgring in a 75, and learned the Nordschleife with Simons. Stories of convoys of 75s driving as fast as it was mechanically possible—occasionally leaking oil or losing parts through a lap—were notorious.
With less traffic than today, it was the ideal way to teach friends and small groups how to drive the track safely—and often, much more quickly than other drivers were expecting. Soon, the unofficial convoys became known as the 75Experience, and now RSRNurburg, with cars ranging far beyond the humble Alfa Romeo 75.
Note: Kostas Sidiras works in the media department at RSRNurburg, and wanted to share these period photos and this story from an era when the ’Ring wasn’t as popular as it is today. If you have your own stories of the Nürburgring, please get in touch!