Nürburgring sold for £83m to German auto tech group (2014)

Published: 12 March 2014

The Nürburgring racetrack in Germany has been sold to German automotive and aerospace technology conglomerate, Capricorn Group, for a figure in excess of €100m (£83m), it has been announced.

The Capricorn bid narrowly beat a rival offer from HIG Europe by virtue of its ‘higher purchase price and good prospects for the region’.

What does this mean for the Nürburgring?

For now, it’s business as usual. Capricorn doesn’t take over the reins from beleaguered, 90% state-owned Nürburgring GmbH until 1 January 2015, before which the ’Ring has a full commitment of race days, manufacturer testing and live entertainment events to fulfil. Once the new owners get the keys next year, there are big changes afoot for the ‘Green Hell’.

What does the future hold?

A key aspect of the transaction is Capricorn’s promise to invest €25m (£20.9m) in further development of the Nürburgring , guaranteeing new jobs in the region. That might set alarm bells ringing (sorry) for Nordschleife fans – the reason the ’Ring found itself in its current mess was outgoing owner’s Nürburgring GmbH’s ill-judged plan to turn the Nürburgring into a theme park, with a super-fast rollercoaster, huge hospitality complexes and a membership ‘Ring card’ access system.

Around €524m (£438m) of state aid was donated by the German government to keep Nürburgring GmbH afloat, after the family attractions failed to draw in the expected visitor numbers.

That’s all being junked by Capricorn – the ‘Ring-Rider’ coaster will be dismantled, and though the site’s hotels will be kept open, the group wants to focus on turning the ’Ring into an ‘Automotive Technology Cluster’, rather than a Disneyland for race fans.

An Automotive Technology what?

The Nürburgring already has a dedicated network of manufacturer testing programmes – Jaguar Land Rover has a facility on-site, as does Hyundai. Everyone from McLaren and Porsche – the current road car lap record holders, with the 918 Spyder – to Vauxhall and Lexus conducts new model testing on the brutal 12-mile circuit. It’s a huge part of the modern car industry’s shakedown process, especially for performance cars.

Capricorn’s plan is to harness the Ring’s unique status as a byword for road car testing and build a hub of technical centres on-site. The scheme runs in partnership with German colleges and universities, working to train the next generation of automotive engineers. Road- and racecar development could be conducted at the Automotive Technology Cluster which will reportedly replace the current Eifeldorf Grüne Hölle centre, adjacent to the circuit’s start/finish straight.

Tell me more about this mysterious Capricorn group…

It sounds like a Bond villain’s organisation, but the group’s owner is more interested in racetrack honours than world domination. Director Robertino Wild (even that name sounds like it’s from the pen of Ian Fleming) likes a spot of elite racing: he won the Ferrari Challenge series in a 360 Challenge back in 2000.

The Capricorn group itself is made up of several Europe-based companies that research and develop new materials and tech for the automotive and aviation industry, and manufacturer car components. Around 100 of its employees are currently based at the Nürburgring, though this number is set to increase as the Automotive Technology Cluster takes shape.

>> The Nürburgring is safe once more. Are you jumping for joy? Add your thoughts in the comments below

By Ollie Kew

Former road tester and staff writer of this parish