90 Years of Nürburgring

The History of the Famous Nordschleife

by Hartmut Lehbrink


“We tend to gild our memories. But not everything was better in the ‘olden days,’ just different. It would be awful if this book would be understood as an obituary, as a slice of nostalgia put down on paper.”


Knowing that the author has a firmer grounding in motorsports history than most, the quote above makes sense—but when all is said and done, this book is totally geared towards nostalgia, and how could it not since it was published to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the track’s opening in “Prussia’s Siberia.”

A quote from the book jacket is also worth noting: “So instead of filling this book with meticulous facts and figures . . . the author has captured its charisma through key events and statements from prominent witnesses.” This is a crucial bit of intel because the book title on its own could easily mislead prospective buyers into expecting a rather different sort of book.

You may have seen ace rally driver Walter Röhrl before but probably not at the wheel of a tractor.

And there’s a probably even more useful bit to chew on: while the book itself does not say so anywhere, the publisher’s press material calls it “The official book of the Nürburgring GmbH jubilee, published alongside the release of a film.” And that, QED, is why the book contains what it does.

Left to his own devices, Lehbrink—one should like to think—would probably have felt the world expected a more meaty book from someone as deeply knowledgeable as him. Even assuming that the book’s scope is circumscribed by that of the accompanying movie, the sheer selectiveness of the material will leave the more expert readers wondering who’s in the driver’s seat. Whether it’s historical bits such as “key races” (Lehbrink settles on the nice round number of 10) or more speculative aspects such as the track’s future, especially in the context of that other big-leagues German GP circuit (Hockenheim) and the fact that the 2017 Nürburgring race has been struck from the calendar, the coverage errs on the side of highlighting the positive and uncritical.

On the other hand, Lehbrink does paint with a full palette in regards to covering items often relegated to footnotes elsewhere, such as bicycle racing (above) and amateur activities (below) at the ‘Ring. Obviously, motorcycle racing is covered.

The book is divided into five main sections with mostly self-explanatory tiles—Milestones, Key Races, Poetry in Motion (the fine art of Michael Turner), Champions, Memories—that present highlights in mostly chronological fashion. The last section takes up almost half the book and presents reminiscences of 32 people—not only drivers!—that have a connection to the circuit; there are surely names here that have either been long forgotten or never known, certainly by US readers (Senegalese jewelry designer “Moko” or reporter Rainer Braun to name but a few).

Of course three-time world champion Jackie Stewart is included, and not just because it was he who gave the old course the cruelly accurate nickname “The Green Hell” (as almost all the photos we selected for this review show, the color green features prominently in the book, even on the endpapers) or his advocacy for safety.

If there is one common denominator in these recollections it is that the ‘Ring is not just a generic ribbon of asphalt on which to race. Some love it, some hate it, some do both—which is really what the book/film wants to convey in the first place.

If these remarks were to give you the thought that this is a book that doesn’t amount to a critical purchase, let the low price and the really, really nice photos sway you!

Also available in a German edition: 90 Jahre Nürburgring – Die Geschichte der Nordschleife (ISBN 978-3667105462).


Copyright 2017, Sabu Advani (speedreaders.info)

90 Years of Nürburgring, History of the Famous Nordschleife
by Hartmut Lehbrink
Delius Klasing Verlag GmbH, 2016   [In US: ACC]
296 pages, 85 b/w & 89 color illustrations, hardcover
List Price: $52.95 / €49,90
ISBN-13: 978-3667104106

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