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The Südschleife

on October 2017

The forgotten circuit

Hiding deep within the shadows of the forest, a little known part of the original Nürburgring circuit lays quietly - resting in ruins after some 50 years of usage  and modern day replacements tore the majority of the circuit itself into pieces.

The Südschleife (“Sood-shly-fuh” / Translation: South loop) circuit, originally 7.7km long (4.7mi) with 30 corners and formidable gradients, suffered from only one major flaw - it was placed beside the Nordschleife. Always considered to be the “poor cousin”, it was treated as a club circuit with a motorcycle race on June 18th 1927 being the first official race on the track.

The circuit itself was a survivor - not only did wartime neglect damage and decay much of the track, parts of the racing tarmac were also chewed up by M4 Sherman tank treads from the advancing US forces in 1945, as part of the response to the ‘Battle of the Bulge’; the surprise German attack in Belgium in 1944. Post war the French Government rebuilt the track, facilities and surrounding roads as a morale boost for the region - over 300 workers finished in 1947, the areas first post-war event being a motorcycle side-car race on the Südschleife with spectators receiving food and drink coupons alongside their admission fees.

But it was the late 70’s call to safety and the Nürburgring (More specifically the Nordschleife) loss of the Formula One that brought about the final demise of the circuit, as a modern safety level circuit was now required, and fast.

Extensive remodelling of the area occurred, giving birth to what is now known as the Grand Prix Circuit, which opened in 1984, hosting its first German Grand Prix in 1985. The level of change was dramatic - whereas the Südschleife circuit used to pass underneath the public road (the B258), the current Grand Prix track passes over top of the equivalent stretch of road, removing the Südschleife’s original danger of passing through a tunnel at speed.

Parts are still visible and visit-able of the circuit, a must for any true racing buff, giving an idea of what the Nordschleife was also like ‘back in the day’ - not the “safe” version that we run around now! The current downhill section of public road K72, starting from the Lindner Eifeldorf hotel, heading past Camping am Nürburgring towards Müllenbach is placed directly on top of the original circuit, albeit widened slightly for two lanes of traffic. Looping back at the bottom much is now replaced by industrial estate, but if you look through the trees back uphill as you drive up the L93, you can still see the original circuit as it remains.

Perhaps the best way too see the circuit up close is to follow up the road that leads between the two Fahrsicherheitszentrum / Driver Safety Centres. Behind a barricaded road on the right is the original track, still lined with trees and covered in leaves. Tread lightly though - as this formidable circuit still slumbers, brought briefly to life only in memory and the fear and disbelief of what “real” racing was all about.

- Jonathan Chan, RSRNürburg

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