Mark Walton on franchising the Nurburgring, CAR+ June 2016

Published: 01 May 2016

in the near future – as cars are inevitably replaced by self-driving electric pods, and human beings gradually lose the use of their legs and their teeth as they become overweight adult-babies, saturated with social media and sucking on protein shakes as they’re wheeled around by personal robot butlers – in this near future, race circuits will become very important to you and me.

Because car enthusiasts like us – people who insist on actually driving old BMWs and Caterhams just for fun – we won’t be allowed to drive on public roads any more. Humans will only contaminate the perfect hive-mind of those 200mph pods, so manual driving on the road will become outlawed as well as outmoded.

Instead, we’ll be relegated to old circuits to carry out our antiquated pastime, in the same way that greyhound racing began in the open fields and green forests of medieval England, and now it’s reduced to tatty oval stadiums on the outskirts of Doncaster. Sad, I know, but I’m afraid we face the same fate (apart from the mechanical rabbits).

Thus our relationship with circuits will change, and we’ll see them not as places to spectate, but as places to congregate and drive our cars, to thrash our manual, rear-drive V8s in peace (buoyed by the sensational drop in petrol prices that will accompany the adoption of nuclear fusion).

Which is why I was so surprised when I learned that Silverstone was for sale at such a stupidly low price. Jaguar Land Rover is lining up to buy the home of the British Grand Prix for a paltry £33 million! Yes, there are complications surrounding payments to Bernie Ecclestone and the contract to host the GP, blah blah blah, but even so, that seems cheap for such an epic track.

So cheap, in fact, I started to wonder if I could put in an alternative bid. Seriously, I thought, circuits are the future! Imagine what an investment that would be! So I looked at cashing in my pension, pooling my savings, remortgaging the house and leveraging the whole lot with some helpful Nigerian money lenders I met online. In total, I raised £1500 (though my business partners in Lagos owe me £200,000).

Quite a shortfall, I admit, and many would be put off by a setback to the tune of £32.8 million; but I’m an entrepreneur and I’ve quickly moved on to my next brilliant scheme. Consider this a business pitch – I’m looking for investors.

Let me start by posing a simple question: ask any car enthusiast around the world which circuit they would most like to drive, and the answer will always be THE NURBURGRING! Ah yes, the legendary Green Hell, ‘die grüne hölle’. However – drawback! – there is currently only one Nordschliefe, and it’s in Germany. Which (if circuits were coffee shops) is like finding out that there’s only one place in the world you can buy a triple venti caramel machiatto, and it’s 500 miles away.

So, what we need to do is copy the coffee-shop model, and franchise. Yes, franchise the Nürburgring. Think about it – there probably isn’t another place on Earth that’s been measured, scanned and photographed to the same degree as the Nürburgring. Back in 2014, when game developer Turn 10 launched Forza 5, they claimed their online rendering of the track was millimetre precise. Every drain, every blade of grass, every bump had been laser scanned in extraordinary detail –  right down to the graffiti. All that data is just sitting there, waiting to be deployed in the real world.

Now, I admit, I’m no civil engineering expert. Nor am I a 3D CAD-CAM expert. Nor, indeed, am I a financial expert. Or for that matter a business expert. And I’ve never franchised anything in my life, especially a coffee shop. But I am an enthusiast! And I’m driven by that vision of the future spelled out above, when circuits will become the hub of our shared passion for cars, just as horse courses are for horses and golf courses are for golf. And frankly, I can’t see ANY REASON why we can’t franchise the Nürburgring and build multiple, exact copies of the entire circuit in new locations all around the world! Think of it! Americans could visit ‘Nürburgring Miami’; the Chinese could drive around ‘Nürburgring Shanghai’; and we would have the ‘Nürburgring Milton Keynes’.

Who’s in? Serious investors please apply to PO Box 23, Lagos, Nigeria. 

Read more from the June 2016 issue of CAR magazine

By Mark Walton

Contributing editor, humorist, incurable enthusiast