The Nürburgring: Sold to an American Investment Firm?

Future is uncertain for this historic German racetrack.

According to a recent Reuters report, an investor group led by HIG Capital is "poised to buy" the financially troubled Nürburgring racetrack in Germany for roughly $82 million. The bid from the Miami-based firm apparently beat out earlier offers from Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and the ADAC, the German equivalent of the AAA in the US. The final sale of the assets, which include the entire 12.9-mile Nordschleife track, hotels and a theme park, is expected to be approved by the EU Commission late this month.

The sale puts to bed much speculation that one of the big German automakers—which test so often there—would buy the facility, which was originally constructed in 1927 to showcase German automotive engineering prowess but grew to become a hallowed place for motorsports enthusiasts…on two or four wheels. None other than three-time F1 World Champion Jackie Stewart called the track in the Eifel region of Germany "the greatest and most challenging circuit in the world," and F1 fans will always remember it as the unforgiving course where Niki Lauda nearly lost his life in 1976, the last year an F1 Grand Prix was held on the twisting Nordschleife. Now, as many know, the circuit is effectively a tollroad open to public in which riders and drivers alike plunk down their 23 euros and lap at their own risk. Our own Road Test Editor, Don Canet, did about 50 laps of the circuit on a Ducati 1098 back in 2007, and he still can't stop talking about it.

In July of 2012, the track—saddled with debt reported to equal about 50 years’ worth of profit—declared bankruptcy, and the place was put up for sale last May. Many motorsports fans, those with an appreciation for racing history, maintain that they’d like to see the ’Ring stay just the way it is, with manufacturer test days mixed in with the type of open-to-the-public lapping that allows each of us to find our inner Fangio or Hailwood.

But some fear that the sale to a private equity firm may have dire consequences, turning the forested facility into a more restricted place, an exclusive motorsport playground of sorts dotted with private cottages at choice viewing areas like Flugplatz, Brunnchen, Adenauer Forst and the Karussell. While something of the sort may be within the new owner's rights, we remain hopeful that the company can make the track financially sound while maintaining its magical nature.