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Most people (including me) accept the risk of driving uninsured on the Nurburgring, without fully appreciating how bad the consequences could be if something went wrong. The vast majority of people drive or ride the Ring without incident, and the few that do have an accident usually cause damage only to the track, the cost of which is listed here.
This information is for UK drivers who take their own cars on the Nurburgring for Touristfahrten. Other European drivers should check their insurance cover but the information here is for the "worst case" scenario.
Some of the content is taken from the following sources:
Note the difference between Touristfahrten (tourist driving) where the Ring is open to anybody who buys a ticket, and a track day where it is open only to the group that has hired it.
UK insurance does not cover you on the Nurburgring
The Nurburgring during Touristfahrten is a public road in Germany and German drivers' insurance covers damage to their property and third party claims on them. Until a few years ago UK car insurance covered the same risks. The increasing popularity of the Ring and the substantial number of crashes there led insurance companies here to exclude the Nurburgring from their insurance cover. Unless you have specific cover for the Nurburgring, UK general insurers will not pay to repair your car if you crash there.
Third-party cover (anybody but you, including your passengers) is more complex. As the Ring is a public road during TF sessions, insurers cannot legally escape their obligation to meet third-party risks. In reality, because their contract with you excluded cover at the Nurburgring (see below), they are likely to pay out third party damages and recover these damages from you.
The devil is in the detail
You should assume your UK car insurance excludes cover on the Nurburgring. Some insurers exclude 'de-restricted toll roads'. Other policies state that any road which is at any time used as a race-track is excluded. Yet others state that they cover only 'normal road driving' - and even the most creative lawyer would have a tough time persuading a court that lapping the Ring amounts to normal driving.
Even if your policy appears to be OK, I think you have to be prepared for your insurer to use any excuse they can to avoid paying-out if you end up taking your car home in a couple of carrier bags. At the very least, it is likely to be a long and expensive battle.
Consider yourself uninsured and drive/ride sensibly and within your limits.
Track days at the Nurburgring
Track days at the Nurburgring are either run under UK or German rules (ask the organiser when booking). UK rules means the same as a track day in the UK; you are not liable for third party damage (except to the Ring itself) because everybody accepts the risk of driving on a closed racing circuit. It is my understanding that the legal situation on track days run by German companies under their rules is similar to Touristfahrten sessions - ie you need third party insurance cover for any accidents. I found this out recently (May 2011) and am still researching. Please enlighten me using the Comment box below if you have firm information about this point.
Hire cars and insurance
Cars hired at the Nurburgring from the companies on the Car Hire page are registered in Germany and so are fully covered by insurance for the car you are driving and third party risks, subject to an agreed excess, which you should check and agree before hiring the car. Hire cars from companies such as Avis/Hertz in Germany will exclude use on the Nurburgring and you should consider them as uninsured on the Ring.
Buying track day insurance cover
Track day insurance companies can provide insurance for you on Nurburgring TF sessions and track days but it is expensive (starting at the higher of £250/day or 1.5% of the value of your car), and policies often have high excesses and low maximum payouts (for example, an excess of £5,000 and a maximum payout of £20,000). The price for insurance usually decreases for two or more days, on the basis that if you didn't crash the first day, you're less likely to crash on subsequent days. The top five UK companies in this field on Google are:
These policies may include damage to the track, but almost never include third party damages to other cars or drivers. If you can be blamed for a multi-car crash on the Ring (say due to an oil leak from your car), the crash damage can easily run into hundreds of thousands of euros. Add in the potential for damages to other people and it could easily reach millions of euros to settle a claim. Add in the cross-border element and it becomes easy to see why insurers have zero interest in covering Touristfahrten driving for a small fraction of their customers.
If you run an insurance company and would like to offer a fully comprehensive insurance product for UK visitors to the Nurburgring, please contact me through this site.
You should also make sure that you have personal medical cover: German hospitals are extremely good, but also extremely expensive. Bikers should ensure that their travel insurance covers motorcycling, as many policies exclude bikes over 125cc. I have an Amex policy which costs me £99 a year for worldwide cover.
Finally, remember European breakdown cover. Some policies (eg. Green Flag) give you European cover automatically, others don't. Note that AA 5-Star specifically excludes the Ring (item 4 in the general terms and conditions). To indicate why you want European breakdown cover, I once had a clutch fail in Belgium. Green Flag had to pay for immediate recovery from the motorway, recovery from a local depot to Calais, recovery from Dover to the specialist in London and a hire car to get me home. I don't know what the total bill came to, but I saw the paperwork for the Belgium to Calais recovery: €1,300 (about £1,050)! The total bill is likely to have reached four figures.