Spirits Still Race the Nürburgring’s Forgotten South Loop
Over the course of thirteen years I have visited and driven on the infamous Nordschleife at the heart of Germany. Driving on the old northern loop provides an automotive experience that cannot be found elsewhere. Danger lurks behind every turn, making the experience both exciting and addictive. Since Rudolf Caracciola won the first race here on the June 19, 1927, the track has refused to indulge in FIA requirements, which has preserved the track’s soul. Even in the turmoil with greedy owners and unrealistic building projects in recent years, Nürburgring as a brand has grown stronger and therefore secured its existence. During the years I’ve been here I have heard the legend about a forgotten part of the course: the Südschleife.
The Südschleife was once 7.5 kilometres long, but there are now only a few parts of the track that are preserved. It was built at the same time as the Nordschleife, but today is forgotten by most. This track was once even more dangerous than the Nordschleife, because trees surrounded it, and drivers claimed that they saw ghosts who crossed path when they were driving. During 1970 and 1971, the Nordschleife was upgraded, the south loop was more and more forgotten. The death knell came when today’s Grand Prix track was built in the early eighties, so the majority of Südschleife was destroyed and all but forgotten about.
In the fall of 2012, I had a few hours to kill and brought my camera on an expedition to explore Südschleife. I found a magical serene place where dark trees around the track whispered of untold stories. The silence was the same as if a race had ended only a few hours ago. I saw no ghosts, but the feeling of someone lurking out there, watching me from the dark was enough to make me feel as if I had. I really hope that the Germans see the value of this forgotten piece of tarmac. No one specifically needs that place, so it should be left to rest in a dignified manner.
If you want to set out on your own and meet the spirits of the past, the south loop is not difficult to find. Drive in the direction to Barweiler past the old pits and new buildings. With the Grand Prix track on your right hand side, turn to Scharferkopf on the left. The south loop is near the area where the Grand Prix track crosses the road. You may end up feeling privileged to have had the experience.
Respect the legends. Rest in peace, Südschleife.
Photography by Christer Lundem