OK, so if you’ve taken the time to read the ‘About’ page of this website (and credit to you, if you have) you will recall that I did mention the likelihood that DTM may be brought up at some stage. Whilst this isn’t technically a DTM post, it is relevant to something very special on the German series’ calendar.
Don’t be fooled by this little street circuit’s size and long straights. It may be small (2.3km) and simplistic on the face of it, but it is far from tedious or boring.
Located in Nürnburg, South-East Germany, the Norisring sits on a site riddled with a ghastly history.
Though the circuit itself opened in 1947, it was originally only for bike racing and the track was a mere 2km in length. Cars would tour the venue the following year on an extended version of the circuit, which saw the start/finish straight extended significantly, with the sharp right-hander removed in favour of a long right-hander, leading into a very sharp hairpin. Meaning drivers could fly down the long right-hander, but would have to brake very hard from flat-out speeds to attack the corner. The length of the lap almost doubled to 3.940km.
You do have to ask the question of why the local authorities deemed it a good idea to utilise genuine parts of the Nazi rally grounds (Zeppelinfeld) as part of the circuit. However, whilst no doubt a touchy subject for many (and rightly so) the surrounding area of the grandstand – one of Albert Speer’s first works for the Nazi Party and from which Adolf Hitler orchestrated 6 Nazi Party rallies – was generally in fine fettle. Subsequently, the 360m wide platform was – and still is – utilised as a centrepiece of the race track and accommodates for 25,000 spectators. With the Norisring renowned for being one of the finest circuits for race views, the Steintribüne has a major role to play and continues to deliver to this day, despite its evidently decaying facade.
Back to a happier aspect then, the circuit itself! Since its inception in 1947 it has taken on 5 different track layouts. The strangest of which was in evidence between 1949 and 1951, which incorporated an underpass…
That edition of the circuit was actually the longest the Norisring has ever been, coming in at a length of 4km. That’s only slightly shorter than the modern day Red Bull Ring.
In 1952, it reverted back to its shape from 1948, with the extended right-hander leading into the first hairpin of the lap. 17th August 1952, was a significant date in the fledgling life of the Norisring, as it held its first ever international race. It held a special Formula 3 event, with championship races for motorcycles of 125cc, 250cc and sidecars up to 750cc to boot. That layout stayed put until 1960, when it was cut to its shortest ever length of 1.620km, all in preparation for… wait for it… TOURING CARS! Wheeeey! That year saw the introduction of touring cars, GT cars and Formula Junior events to the circuit. For the two years prior to this, however, no racing took place due to complaints of poor race organisation involving driver Sepp Liebl during the Formula Junior event. Those skilled in the German language can read one of the letters of complaint here.
There were 5 rounds of the ADAC-Norisringrennen on 3rd July 1960, with a broad range of cars including Fiat-Abarths, BMWs, Berkeleys, Alfa Romeos, DKWs, Porsches, Ferraris, Mercedes, Morgans, and Triumphs. Former Formula 1 driver Wolfgang Seidel took victory twice that day – once in a Fiat, once in a Ferrari. Though these were all non-championship races.
1961-1965 saw the circuit revert, once again, back to its guise from 1948 and 1952-57. Once again, it primarily held Formula Junior and GT races in this timeframe.
1966 was an interesting year though. There were two race meetings that year. One in July and one in September, either month adopting an amended circuit layout. In July, it took full advantage of the extended ‘sportscar circuit’. In other words, it was identical to the one from the year before. The German GT and Sportscar championship took centre-stage with Formula V and motorcycle races also being held on the same weekend. The new Porsche 906 made its debut at the Norisring and locked out the first 4 positions on the grid after race 2 of the day, Gerhard Mitter leading Udo Schütz home by 2.9 seconds. That Porsche averaged 98.798mph. Nowadays, a DTM car averages approximately 105mph around the Norisring.
September 18th 1966 was the date the touring cars took to the shortened circuit along with the Formula V cars.
The circuit then (once again) went back to the 3.940km option between 1967 and 1971 before the current version of the circuit was implemented in 1972; the shape of which is featured at the top of this article and can also be found below. The run towards the Grundigkehre hairpin was shortened following the death of Mexican driver Pedro Rodriguez. Predominantly a Porsche driver, he had been hired to drive a Ferrari 512 in an Interserie race and whilst driving for the lead, a slower car driven by Kurt Hild edged him into the bridge wall before the Schöller-S and his car erupted into flames. He was extracted from the car but could not be saved.
Hungarian racer Csaba Kesjár also died at the Norisring, during the 2nd practice session for the Formula 3 race in 1988. As he went for one last lap, he approached the Dutzendteich hairpin (at the end of the straight following the Schöller-S) and his car went straight on, smashing into the tyre barriers before landing upside down in the woods. He couldn’t recover from the suffered substantial head injuries caused by the accident.
Whilst his father claimed the car had been tampered with, a post-race report arrived at the conclusion that the car had suffered brake failure and the brake pedal had been split in two by Kesjár’s despairing efforts to stop the car.
Here’s a short highlight video of race 2 of the DTM at the Norisring in 2015.
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