After finally going into insolvency proceedings last July following years of teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, the famed Nürburgring facility is now apparently up on the selling block. Reports are that the asking price is now at $161 million, which includes both the famed 13-mile "Nordschleife" course as well as the newer 3.23-mile "GP Strecke" circuit, the museum, arena, hotel, and other facilities in the complex. The German government-owned facility has undergone numerous mismanaged upgrades in the previous decade (including an ill-conceived amusement park complete with massive roller-coaster built inside the facility dubbed "NuroDisney") that predictably ended up being complete busts financially, and when the previously promised private funding disappeared, it meant that some 350 million Euros (more than $450 million) of public European tax funds ended up being used for the construction. This hasn't sat well with either the European Union or the non-motor-enthusiast public, who now see the Nürburgring as a financial albatross that needs to be jettisoned as quickly as possible.
The Nordschleife ("North Loop") has gained fame not only as a Grand Prix racing circuit in its heyday-numerous racing stars only added to their legacy with heroics at the circuit, until both four and two-wheel GPs ceased being held there due to safety concerns by 1980--but also as probably what is the ultimate testing ground for numerous automobile manufacturers. BMW, Porsche, Mercedes- Benz, Audi, Nissan, Jaguar, Toyota and even General Motors all have R&D facilities nearby, along with numerous tire, suspension and other aftermarket performance manufacturers; there's so much testing going on at the Nordschleife that some photographers practically make their living just by hiding trackside and shooting the many prototype models (most disguised with taped-on fake bodywork) that undergo endless test sessions at the Nürburgring.
But probably the one aspect of the Nürburgring that has surely helped maintain its popularity and mystique over the years is that the circuit is open to the public on many weekdays in the early evening and on many Sundays. Because the Nordschleife has been technically considered a one-way toll road by the government when open to public use, all that is required is a valid driver's license, a street-legal automobile or motorcycle (a 95db noise limit is posted, but usually only enforced on the most obnoxious offenders) and paying the entrance ticket fee for the number of laps you want to do. That one-way toll road classification means that the usual basic European traffic laws apply, so it's not a free-for-all (check out editor Kunitsugu's story on his Nürburgring experience here).
Although the potential bidders list was as high as 50, it reportedly has now dropped to a handful of possible suitors, with state-appointed liquidator Jens Lieser telling Nordschleife enthusiast website bridgetogantry.com that there are "between five and ten" parties seriously interested in purchasing the complex, and that there's "not a single Oligarch or Sheik amongst them," in reference to the fear that a single impossibly rich individual would make the Nürburgring his own private playground.
While it's been suggested that the automakers may pool their resources to purchase the Nordschleife in order to continue using it as an R&D proving ground, that still leaves the specter that public lapping may soon become extinct. Justifying the costs of traffic/law enforcement and emergency logistics is easy when the government is running it as a toll road, but in private hands that financial liability becomes an entirely different matter. And then there is also the possibility that the Nürburgring facility will be sold off in pieces, which would bring with it another set of issues.