Nürburgring GmbH facing bankruptcy
The company which manages the facilities at the ‘Ring, Nürburgring GmbH, is facing bankruptcy after the European Commission blocked a €13m German government bailout package, Pistonheads reports.
It’s a little bit tricky trying to follow this story from Australia, but we’ve done our best to piece together various information to bring you up to date.
Importantly, it is worth noting up front that the Nürburgring is not expected to cease operations in the immediate future. Indeed, Dale Lomas, from bridgetogantry.com, advises: “Don’t panic and keep on lapping.”
That’s not to suggest the immediate concerns aren’t serious, they are. Nürburgring GmbH is a publicly-owned holding company which owns the assets of the Nürburgring. Management of the Nürburgring is assigned to a privately-run company called Nürburging Automotive GmbH (NAG). It’s been a highly controversial arrangement and NAG’s original 20 year lease was torn up earlier this year, but despite this they remain in control of day to day activities.
Due to its failure to secure that €13m in funding it’s almost certain Nürburgring GmbH will go into receivership; carrying €413m in debts will do that. However, you would expect that receivers will keep the Nürburgring running as a going concern.
While some assets may be sold off, the core assets of the Nürburgring, the GP track and the Nordschleife, remain in high demand. Lomas states, “Trackday and event organisers all over the world would kill their friends and sacrifice their own young for a nice summer’s day at the ‘Ring. And public driving is as popular as ever.”
The period of NAG’s management saw the building of the Ring°werk complex and its failed roller coaster. Despite promises of increased revenues and huge tourist numbers, the failed development is often impolitely referred to as NuroDisney.
Astonishingly, under NAG’s watch, the Nürburgring has received as much as €524m in state funding. That has raised the ire of the European Commission, which has been investigating the legitimacy of that funding since March.
Who is to blame?
Mike Frison, long-time Ringer and the face of the Save the Ring campaign, has covered the events in English on his personal blog. Frison suggests the convenient villains from NAG, Kai Richter and Jörg Lindner, should not be alone in accepting the blame for the Nürburgring’s current malaise. “Kurt Beck (the RLP premier) is the main figure in that plot. Local and county politicians come next along with all these greedy suits,” Frison says.
Kurt Beck is the Minster President of the German state Rhineland-Palatinate (RLP), which owns 90% of the Nürburgring. The Nürburgring has remained in state ownership since it opened in 1927. Frison is adamant the Nürburgring’s track operations should be run by a publicly-owned body and not by private management as we saw with NAG.
Frison adds: “Two things need to happen urgently: separate the tracks from disastrous NuroDisney and get rid of the private operators. The rest can be sold or otherwise taken care of, but the tracks need to be run by a public company in benefit to the public. Run by management not looking after themselves, but looking after a solid future for the ‘Ring.”
What does the future hold?
It is expected the calendar of events for 2012 will continue unaffected, but it is unclear what will happen into 2013 and beyond.
The Nürburgring 24 Hour Race, for example, could be in jeopardy. The motoring club ADAC organises the 24 Hour Race and they are trying to negotiate a new contract after the current arrangement expired after the 2012 race.
Mike Frison explains: “Time is running out, as FIA/DMSB have deadlines in July. ADAC president Peter Meyer has published an open letter addressed to Kurt Beck complaining about the situation. Since then nothing seems to have happened. ADAC does not see any point in signing a contract with NAG. So bottom line: we don’t know [if the race will go ahead].”
It is the opinion of AUSringers that the 24 Hour Race will go ahead, but that is based on nothing other than gut feel.
The 2013 German Grand Prix is due to be held at the Nürburgring and that may be under a short-term threat. You’d expect Hockenheim to be willing and able to step in if required. We’ll keep you posted when the GP picture becomes clearer.
More generally, Dale Lomas remains optimistic over the ‘Ring’s long-term future: “The track will still open and so long as we’re willing to pay money and arrive in our thousands, so it will continue.
“Yes, the nature of how you drive the track might change over the next few years. A private owner could face problems keeping the track’s status as a true public road during TF, for example. But these are mere details compared to the scary headlines you can read all over the internet right now.”
So there you have it, thanks for staying with us, we hope that has gone some way to clearing up the situation and we hope to be reporting on good news stories from the Nürburgring in the not too distant future.