The Nurburgring - the real Nurburgring, rather than the modern pale shadow of its former self that is - looms large in motor-racing folklore. Few circuits in the world hold the appeal of the 'Green Hell', where some of the greatest drivers in the history of racing have made their names...and in some cases met their fate.
Since holding its first race in 1927, some of the greatest drivers in history have attempted to tame the mighty track. But few have become true greats of the Nurburgring.
AUTOSPORT has looked back over more than eight decades of racing at this magnificent track to pick out its 10 greatest legends.
10. HANS-JOACHIM STUCK
Hans-Joachim Stuck's racing career started out driving a BMW 2002 on the Nordschleife in 1969. It came to an end only a month ago, sharing a Lamborghini in the Nurburgring 24 Hours with sons Ferdinand and Johannes. In between, he became synonymous with the Ring, winning major races there in the 1970s, the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s!
Hans-Joachim, BMW 3.0 CSL © LAT
His first victory there came in the inaugural 24 Hours in 1970, sharing a BMW 2002 with Clemens Schickentanz. He won the twice-round-the-clock classic again in both 1998 and 2004, but his biggest win at the Ring came in the 1000kms in 1981.
Sharing a Sauber-built BMW M1 with Nelson Piquet, Stuck took a shock victory, albeit helped by the race being cut short by barrier damage caused by Herbert Muller's fatal accident.
Aside from the major wins, Stuck started a huge number of races on the Nordschleife. Check out the race resume on his website to get a feel for his extraordinary career.
Once you've done that, check out this take-no-prisoners qualifying lap, and reaction after crossing the line.
Major wins: Nurburgring 24 Hours: 1970, 1998, 2004; Nurburgring 1000kms: 1981
9. TAZIO NUVOLARI
The legendary Mantuan would surely have won more at the Ring had he not spent so long driving Italian machinery at a time when German metal dominated. But aside from numerous against-the-odds charges in uncompetitive machinery, he did win there twice.
Tazio Nuvolari, Alfa Romeo 12C © LAT
The first came in the 1933 Eifelrennen, but that was just a precursor to the incredible 1935 German Grand Prix. Driving an uncompetitive Alfa Romeo P3 after his attempts to land an Auto Union drive for that year came to naught, Nuvolari was giving away well over 100 horsepower to the two big German manufacturers. He shouldn't have had a chance.
After charging into an unlikely, but narrow, lead by the halfway point of the race, Nuvolari suffered a disastrous pit-stop during which a fuel pump problem forced the team to refuel using gravity-feed churns. The Italian stood alongside the car during the stop, gesticulating furiously and doubtless helping the process no end, and when he rejoined the race he was down in sixth place.
But Nuvolari did not accept being out of contention. On his first lap out of the pits, he moved ahead of Hans Stuck, Rudolf Caracciola, Luigi Fagioli and Bernd Rosemeyer to run second. But Mercedes driver Manfred von Brauchitsch was still over a minute up the road. He was quick too, although Nuvolari was able to carve into his lead.
On the last lap, Nuvolari was over 30 seconds behind and looked set to finish second. But von Brauchitsch had taken too much out of his tyres trying to keep the Italian at bay and a rear tyre burst on the last lap. This gave Nuvolari arguably the most remarkable win of his career.
There should have been other wins at the Ring, as Nuvolari always flew there, but even once he moved to Auto Union his luck just never seemed to be in.
Major wins: German Grand Prix: 1934; Eifelrennen: 1933
8. STIRLING MOSS
Moss 'only' won the German Grand Prix once, in 1961, but it was in sportscars that he truly excelled at the Nurburgring. From 1956-1960, Moss was close to unbeatable in the Nurburgring 1000kms, winning four times in five attempts.
Stirling Moss, Maserati 250F © LAT
The first victory came in 1956. Moss led early on, but after handing his Maserati 300S over to Jean Behra, the car developed a rear suspension problem. The team called in Harry Schell's Maserati, which Behra took over, and when Moss returned to action in the sister car, he was over one minute behind Juan Manuel Fangio.
He slashed the gap to his old Mercedes team-mate and when Fangio had to pit for fuel, Moss surged past into the lead.
His second victory in the 1000kms came two years later. Doing the lion's share of the driving, he triumphed for Aston Martin sharing with Jack Brabham, winning again the following year sharing a DBR1 with Jack Fairman.
His final 1000kms victory came in 1960. Driving a Maserati Tipo 61 'birdcage', he pulled out a big lead during the wet early stages of the race. After handing over to Dan Gurney, a broken oil pipe forced the car into the pits, but despite losing time the American was soon climbing back up the leaderboard.
On a charge in the fog, he handed the car over to Moss, who moved up to second when Wolfgang von Trips retired his Ferrari. Moss started closing in on leader Jo Bonnier and when the Porsche pitted, he had victory in the bag.
Later that year, he took his Lotus-Climax to victory in the German Grand Prix. But who knows what more he might have achieved at the Ring had he not suffered his career-ending shunt at Goodwood in 1962?
Major wins: German Grand Prix: 1961; Nurburgring 1000kms: 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960
7. JACKY ICKX
Jacky Ickx's first participation in a world championship race came in the 1966 German Grand Prix. While not an official "F1" start, he starred driving an F2 Matra. Astonishingly, he was third fastest overall in qualifying, behind only Jim Clark's Lotus and Denny Hulme's Brabham.
Jacky Ickx, Brabham BT26-Ford © LAT
Despite the fact that the F2 cars lined up behind the F1 pack, leaving Ickx 18th on the grid, the Belgian charged up the order to run as high as fourth. He didn't finish after suffering a suspension failure, handing F2 victory to Jackie Oliver, but the point had been made.
Two years later, driving for Brabham, Ickx won the German Grand Prix. This was despite slipping down to ninth in the early stages. Over the next three laps, he fought his way to the front, passing Stewart who was struggling with gearbox problems.
Three years later, Ickx won again. It was his final world championship race win and was done in utterly dominant style. He set pole position, led from start to finish and set fastest lap, winning by almost 50 seconds from Ferrari team-mate Clay Regazzoni.
Despite a third place in the 1973 German Grand Prix, it was in sportscars that he went on to excel. That same year he won the Nurburgring 1000kms sharing a Ferrari 312P with Brian Redman and a decade later he triumphed again, this time sharing a Porsche 956 with Jochen Mass in the final running of the great race using the Nordschleife.
Major wins: German Grand Prix: 1969, 1972; Nurburgring 1000kms: 1972, 1983.
6. JOHN SURTEES
The 1964 F1 world champion won major races on both two and four wheels at the Ring. But it is for his achievements in F1 and sportscar machinery, rather than his 350cc and 500cc bike victories in 1958, that he makes this list.
John Surtees, Ferrari 158 © LAT
His first victory came in the 1963 German Grand Prix. Driving a Ferrari 156, Surtees qualified second and battled with Jim Clark for the lead as the Lotus driver began to suffer engine problems. It ended a two-year victory drought for Ferrari in world championship races, but his win the following year was more emphatic.
From pole position, Surtees slipped behind Lorenzo Bandini, Jim Clark and Dan Gurney. While the Scot took the lead, Surtees passed the Italian and Gurney to run second before passing Clark for the lead. In the end, he won by almost 80 seconds from Graham Hill's BRM, the margin of victory crowning a dominant performance.
Surtees also excelled in the 1000kms, winning in both 1963 and 1965, both for Ferrari.
As Chris Nixon points out in his book Kings of the Nurburgring "In a four-year period at the Nurburgring, from 1963 to 1966, he won pole position for the 1000kms and made fastest lap every year! He also made fastest lap in the German GPs of 1963, '64 and '66 and won pole position in 1964. He started eight races in those four years and won four of them. In the mid-1960s, John Surtees was indeed, King of the Nurburgring."
Major wins: German Grand Prix: 1963, 1964; Nurburgring 1000kms: 1963, 1965
5. JUAN MANUEL FANGIO
The 1957 German Grand Prix is the five-time world champion's trademark race. So well known are the details - the mid-race pit-stop that left him over a minute behind Ferrari pairing Peter Collins and Mike Hawthorn and the record-breaking charge to victory - that they don't need repeating here.
The Maserati driver himself admitted that "I was convinced that I would never be able to drive like that again," and it proved to be his final world championship race victory. But he had mastered the Ring before, and on several occasions.
Juan Manuel Fangio, Lancia ferrari D50 © LAT
His first victory came in 1954 driving the Mercedes W196, for the first time shorn of its streamliner bodywork. Fangio took pole position, but slipped to second behind Jose Froilan Gonzalez early on. Soon, Fangio took the lead, but to everyone's surprise team-mate Karl Kling caught and passed him on lap 15.
Kling's disregarding for team orders was not without reason, as he was losing fuel. So when he slowed a few laps later Fangio was back ahead and had his first Ring win in his pocket.
A year later, he won the Eifelrennen in May 1955, leading a Mercedes 300SLR one-two-three. The following season, now driving the Lancia-Ferrari D50, he dominated the German Grand Prix, taking the lead in the world championship from Peter Collins in the process.
But it's the 1957 win that looms large on Fangio's Nurburgring CV, a race that will forever define the legendary Argentinian's greatness.
Major wins: German Grand Prix: 1954, 1956, 1957; Eifelrennen: 1955.
4. JACKIE STEWART
Jackie Stewart, Matra MS10-Ford Cosworth © LAT
Was ever there a circuit better suited to showcasing the remarkable skills of Jackie Stewart than the Nurbugring?
He won the German Grand Prix three times, with his victory in the wet 1968 race hailed as one of the all-time greatest F1 drives. Further wins in 1971 and 1973, both from pole position, cemented his status, while he also won the 1969 Eifelrennen against a very strong Formula 2 field in 1969.
While his achievements at the Ring speak for themselves, to truly grasp the depth of understanding, check out this fantastic video.
Major wins: German Grand Prix: 1968, 1971, 1973; Eifelrennen: 1969
3. BERND ROSEMEYER
The Nurburgring is inevitably a big part of any pre-war great's story, but for Rosemeyer it is the track that made his career. In October 1934, already a successful motorbike racer, he was invited to the track to participate in one of Auto Union's regular driver assessment tests and used his masterful car control to set laptimes that astonished all those in attendance.
Bernd Rosemeyer, Auto Union C © LAT
In 1935, he was a works Auto Union Grand Prix driver. His second race was the Eifelrennen at the Nurburgring. Driving an Auto Union Type-B, he caught and passed Rudolf Caracciola in the wet and only an early gearchange on the final lap cost him victory.
But the following year's Eifelrennen was the defining race of Rosemeyer's career. On the seventh lap of the race, he passed Tazio Nuvolari's Alfa Romeo, but it was when fog shrouded the track that he truly excelled. Even the legendary Italian had to ease off in impossible conditions, but somehow Rosemeyer kept going flat out.
He also won the German Grand Prix that year on his way to the European Championship, winning the Eifelrennen again the following year despite the dominance of the Mercedes W125.
This was his last win at the Ring, for in January the following year, at the age of 29, he was killed in a catastrophic crash during a speed record run on a stretch of autobahn between Frankfurt and Darmstadt.
Major wins: German Grand Prix 1936; Eifelrennen 1936, 1937
2. VIC ELFORD
The Nurburgring was a track made for the remarkable talents of Vic Elford, one of the great drivers on this style of road course. His strongest qualifying performances in Formula 1 came at the Nurburgring, twice starting on the third row, but it was in sportscars that he made his name.
Vic Elford, Cooper T86B-BRM © LAT
So successful was Elford at the Nurburgring that his tally of six top-line victories at the Green Hell is second only to the great Rudolf Caracciola. From 1958-1971, he started 11 races there, kicking off his amazing record by winning the Marathon de la Route sharing a Porsche 911 with Jochen Neerpasch and Hans Herrmann. This was an 84 hour race and Elford specialised in driving the night stints because of his rallying expertise. He contributed an astonishing four seven-and-a-half hour night stints to the victory.
This was the start of his remarkable run of success. He won the Nurburgring 1000kms three times in four years and twice won the 500kms race in the same period.
In 1968, sharing a Porsche 908 with Jo Siffert in the 1000kms, Elford drove the key stint to extend a lead of over 50 seconds that laid the foundations for victory. The following year, Elford finished third in a Porsche whitewash, adding a further two victories in 1970 and 1971.
But Elford himself rates his the 1970 500kms victory as his finest drive at the Ring. Behind the wheel of a Chevron B16, which was underpowered compared to some of his rivals, he flew in the many twisty bits to finished over a minute clear of Arturo Merzario.
A year later, he won the 500kms again, his final race at the Ring.
Major wins: Nurburgring 1000kms: 1968, 1970, 1971; Nurburgring 500kms: 1970, 1971; Marathon: 1967.
1. RUDOLF CARACCIOLA
Carraciola was the original Ringmeister, winning the main race on the opening weekend of the Nurburgring in June 1927. That day, he was driving a Mercedes S-type around the 17.56-mile configuration that combined the north (nordschleife) and south (sudschleife) circuits, but that was the least of his incredible nine major victories at the track.
Rudolf Caracciola, Mercedes-Benz W125 © LAT
What marked Caracciola out from the crowd was the style with which he attacked the ring. While other greats of this remarkable era of pre-war grand prix racing would hustle the cars around the Ring, Caracciola was silky smooth. Jackie Stewart once pointed out that he never completed a lap at the track without at least one mistake, but you can imagine that the great German did many such perfect laps.
Caracciola's first great win at the Ring was in the 1931 German Grand Prix. Driving a Mercedes, he pulled out a massive lead over Louis Chiron's Bugatti and was uncatchable once the track dried out. Legend has it that it was in this event that Caracciola became the first to use the banked inside section of the Karussell, although there is debate over whether he really was the first.
Caracciola's career-threatening shunt at Monaco in 1933 interrupted his career, but two years later he was back on winning for at the Ring. While remembered as Bernd Rosemeyer's breakout race after he charged into the lead in wet conditions, it was actually Caracciola who won after capitalising on the Auto Union young gun's fluffed gearchange on the final lap to triumph in the Eifelrennen.
Despite no longer being the fastest act in grand prix racing, Caracciola won the German Grand Prix for a fourth and fifth time in 1937 and 1939 despite his powers declining in the face of the rise of a new generation of pre-war greats. The first of those final two victories at the Ring came after a characteristically measured drive and the second after a faultless performance in the wet.
Major Nurburgring wins: German Grand Prix: 1928, 1931, 1932, 1937, 1939; Eifelrennen 1927, 1932, 1935.
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