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The Ring is, quite simply, the ultimate driving experience. 13 miles and
at least 73* bends add up to what even top racing
drivers describe as the most demanding circuit in the world. It's impossible
to describe just how good it is until you've been there, but if you can
imagine your favourite mountain road and your favourite race-track, and
combine the best bits of the two, you'll get the general idea.
Built in 1925-1927, the Ring was designed as a dual-purpose test track and race circuit. When not being used for these purposes, it was made available for public access, a tradition that - thankfully - continues today.
It used to be the German Grand Prix circuit until Lauda's crash in 1976 ended its GP career. You can find out more about the history here.
It is still heavily used as a manufacturers' test track today, and there are a few race events on it also (see my Links page for details). But on many evenings and weekends a year it is made available for public use. Anyone can take their car or bike there and enjoy.
During public sessions, its legal status is that of a one-way public toll-road with no speed limit (except on the approach to the two exits). Vehicles must be 100% road-legal (including tyres), and normal German road traffic law applies. Road insurance is also required, but don't assume that your fully comp cover applies - see my insurance page for details.
This website should give you all the info you need to plan your first trip to the Ring. If it doesn't, please tell me what I've missed so that I can include it. This page is just a handy guide to the real essentials. If you're heading over on your own and don't want to be Billy Nomates, join the Ringers forum for Ring addicts and potential addicts. Do, though, read through my site before asking questions to avoid being the 579th person to ask where to stay or whether your road insurance applies!
Before you go
First, don't contemplate a trip there unless you're happy with the risks. This is a dangerous road, and serious accidents are an everyday occurrence. The Ring is especially dangerous for bikers, and I strongly recommend that bikers drive the Ring in a car first. See my warning page for more details of the risks.
Make sure you have personal accident insurance. In particular, two-wheelers should ensure that their personal accident cover doesn't exclude motorcycling (many policies exclude motorcycles over 125cc). You should also make sure you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to entitle you to free medical treatment in Germany (the old E111 form is no longer valid). You can apply for this online here.
Arrange cover for European vehicle recovery, either through your normal annual policy or via a separate policy, but note that AA 5 Star is not suitable as it specifically excludes the Ring. If you don't, and you have a crash or breakdown while out there, you will be facing a very large bill indeed for bringing it back to the UK.
Think about your own ability to deal with an accident: first-aid training is highly recommended.
Be sure your vehicle is road-legal (ie it has a full MOT for UK vehicles). There is also a noise-limit of 95dB(A), so don't go there with a noisy can unless you have a quiet one with you and know how to reset the car/bike for the legal can. If you can't avoid exceeding the noise-limit, then make sure you bimble through the barriers and keep your revs low until you are past the bridge - many people get noise-tested because they rev their engine in the car-park or go haring off from the start, and the main local to complain about the noise lives directly above the stretch with the cones.
Don't do what a certain motorcycle magazine did and just turn up on spec! The Ring is only open to the public for limited periods, so check out the calendar before you schedule your trip.
B&B accommodation is plentiful and cheap, but you'll need to book in advance during peak seasons if you want to stay very close to the Ring. My Where to stay page gives details of some local hotels and guesthouses.
There's no fun way of getting across Belgium, so my recommended route is E40 - N67 - A258 - Ring. Full details are on the Directions section. You'll also find directions from local airports for those flying in and renting a car.
When you arrive at the track, you'll need to buy tickets. These are available from either the office or the ticket-machine immediately outside the office. If you literally just want to do a lap or two, you can buy single-lap tickets for the equivalent of thirteen quid. Better value are the 4, 8, and 25-lap tickets.
If you're there for more than a couple of days, or are planning on making more than one trip, then consider buying a season ticket ('Jahreskarte') instead: see my Ring prices page for more details. Tickets are inserted into a car-park style barrier as you enter the track, or you get a wristwatch-style transponder with the jahreskarte that is touched to the pad on the barriers.
Driving the Ring
I recommend that you try to get one or more passenger laps before you go out for the first time. The Ring is very long, has a great many bends and more than a few nasty surprises (the best-known of which is Adenaur-Forst, famous for 'failing to turn left' incidents). If you spot anyone with a Ringers logo on their car, they will probably be happy to take you out.
Take it VERY easy on your first few laps. You'll be overtaken by lots of fast-moving traffic, so keep an eye on your rear-view mirror, move over to the right and indicate right to let it past. If you fail to move to the right and someone rear-ends you, legally the accident will be your fault for being on the wrong side of the road! Although everyone of course treats it like a track and takes the racing line, the police have a simple view: it's a road, and therefore you should be driving on the right. Indeed, a British driver was fined when he was rear-ended in exactly this situation.
It's best to go out when it's quiet if you can - first thing in the morning at weekends and the weekday evening sessions are the best times. Frequent breaks are recommended to allow both you and your vehicle to recover - there's a restaurant on-site for drinks, snacks and full meals.
I strongly recommend forgetting about lap-times. Trying to push for faster times is one of the most reliable ways of ending up in the armco. Think about whether an 'impressive' time is really worth the risk of destroying your vehicle, being seriously hurt or even killed. It happens. See my warning page for more on this. The whole point of the Ring is to enjoy yourself, so concentrate on having fun rather than going fast - your speed will rise naturally as you get more comfortable on the track.
Many crashes are caused by fluid leaks. Make sure your car or bike is in tip-top condition before your trip, and if you have any suspicion that you may be leaking fluids during a lap, pull onto the grass immediately and check. If you have dropped fluid on the track, run back on the grass, get behind the armco and flag traffic to slow down (it is worth carrying a hi-vis vest in your car to serve as a flag). If you fail to do this, your fluids could kill a biker. See this page for more about fluid leaks.
If you ride a bike and drive a car, think seriously about making at least your first trip a car one. The risks of riding the Ring are very much higher than driving it. You may also be surprised to find that cars are faster through the bends, and bends are what the Ring is all about. And if you do decide to bring the bike next time, then you'll at least know which way the bends go.
Have fun ... :-)
*There are various different figures quoted, depending on what you count as a bend - look at the photo to get an idea of the difficulty of counting them - but the official number is 73.
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