The Legend of the Green Hell

Frank Gardner.
Frank Gardner.

Since its construction (1925 – 1927), the Nordschleife in Germany has enjoyed a reputation as a terrifying and merciless route through the Eifel forests. Formula One’s Sir John Young (Jackie) Stewart, three-times world champion in 1969, 1971 and 1973, was so impressed by the circuit that he gave it the name which it will probably never lose: Green Hell (Grüne Hölle).

Tricky corners, treacherous crests, steep inclines and gradients and constantly changing road surfaces demand great skill from the driver and puts vehicles to an unbelievable stress. I am fortunate that I have driven it, and kept it off the walls, and the circuit is just a fantastic test of man and machine.

The number of fatalities in its 83-year history is almost 80. If a driver/rider has an accident and damage the Armco barriers, he/she (or a non-dead relative) will end up paying. And if their accident closes the track for an extended period, that’ll cost them or their estates, too.

But despite Sir Jackie Stewart’s Green Hell description, nobody beats Aussie Frank Gardner (1931-2009) who was one of the world’s most under-rated race drivers. It was Frank Gardner who said that “Nürburgring was the circuit that Hitler designed for Jewish racing drivers.”

After he retired he said, “Everybody is convinced that you can’t move unless you’ve got five engineers, computers, a trainer, an adviser, a bloody manager, a solicitor, a Protestant Pope and an Irish king! The basics haven’t altered, but the cost has just gone through the roof.”