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Comment on the new Nordschleife rules: Choice between plague and cholera

Robert Kah
Comment on new Nordschleife rules
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D he terms racing and speed limit mark maximum contrasts: In motorsport you drive as fast as you can - that's the point. A speed limit forces you to drive slowly - that's the point. So if both things are mixed up on the racetrack, then that is maximally illogical. The DMSB knows that, the manufacturers know that, the teams and the drivers know that. They all sat at the round table that the DMSB had convened for Tuesday of this week (April 7, 2015) after the horror crash on the Nordschleife. They are all racers, they loathe speed limits on the racetrack. Then why did they decide anyway? Because they had no other choice.

Changes to GT3 cars not feasible in the short term

Or in other words: You had a choice - between plague and cholera. Looking at it soberly, there were only two options: Either you close the Nordschleife for the current season for all GT3 cars and then logically for all GT-like cars. Or you can continue to allow it, but limit the risks to such an extent that a repetition of the events of March 28 is impossible.

Why were there only these two possibilities? Because at short notice - i.e. for the current season - neither the track nor the GT cars can be modified. Construction work on the Nordschleife would also require time, as would changes to the aerodynamics of the GT3 cars. Both are not feasible in the short term, that's a fact.

When evaluating the DMSB decision, it is essential to separate two things: the immediate measures that have now been taken and the medium-term measures that have to take effect from 2016 onwards To correct undesirable developments. Those are the two storylines. What did the DMSB decide as immediate measures as a consequence of the accident?

DMSB with three measures

1. Checking of all spectator areas and, if necessary, blocking them if they are on dangerous sections of the route. I hope you don't want to seriously discuss that.

2. A performance reduction of 5 percent for all vehicles from the top classes in the VLN and the 24h race. Since restrictor plates are used in these classes, this can be done relatively quickly. The measure does not combat the likely reasons for the accident - like the excessive aerodynamics of the GT3 cars - but it doesa sign.

3. Speed ​​limits for vehicles from the top classes in those sections of the route where danger threatens. The round table has defined three danger areas (airfield, Schwedenkreuz and Döttinger Höhe), where the combination of high speeds and bumps or crests meet. The pilots will have to maintain a fixed top speed of 200 or 250 km /h (Döttinger Höhe) for a certain distance before these critical points.

Immediate measures will probably serve their purpose

I have pointed out that the term speed limit will put off many motorsport enthusiasts and fans, and I fully understand that. You could have set up permanent caution phases in front of these critical points on the route, but then the field would have shrunk massively every time, the risk of rear-end collisions would have increased. With this measure, the speeds in the sections rated as critical decrease, so the risk of an accident like that of March 8th being repeated again drastically. The immediate measures probably serve their purpose, even if they are unlikely to be popular.

Why does the DMSB make such unpopular decisions? Two reasons: First, the umbrella organization had to prove that it acted quickly and took action. Otherwise there would have been a risk that others would act and take action. Take politics, for example. Then the topic would have left the motorsport space, and who can know what would have been decided then? Maybe the end of motorsport on the Nordschleife?

If the DMSB hadn't reacted and a similar accident had happened again in the 24h race, what would have happened? The non-specialist media would have rushed to the topic and accused motorsport officials of blindness and idiocy. Probably rightly so.

Everyone wants to prevent a disaster

A disaster in the 24h race but would definitely mean the end of motorsport on the Nordschleife. The DMSB and EVERYONE (!) Who sat at the round table wanted to prevent that. Second, there are of course interests behind every decision, often commercial too. The manufacturers want to continue selling GT cars to Nürburgring teams, the teams want to keep driving up there because they earn their money with it.

The Nürburgring wants to keep renting out the Nordschleife, the drivers up there earn money, the ADAC will continue to hold the 24h race. This has nothing to do with bad intentions, these are real influencing factors. After all, they mean that EVERYONE involved is working on a solution that will continue to make motorsport on the Nordschleife possible in the future.

Three working groups for2016

The immediate measures were perhaps even the 'easy' part, because the DMSB and the round table also have their sights on something fundamental for 2016. Since quick shots are not suitable here, they set up three working groups for the areas of technology, the racetrack and the behavior of the pilots. Here, the Nissan accident is to be processed and solutions for 2016 are to be developed. But this also requires the involvement of other parties involved, such as the FIA, for example in order to enforce and implement regulatory changes in the technical area. So drilling thick boards is inevitable. But again, there is no other choice.

To scold those involved who made these decisions is relatively easy. I did not notice that the critics had developed alternative courses of action that would have been better than what has now been decided. There are counter-proposals, but they ignore important aspects of the decision-making process, for example political intervention. And to be completely honest: Do we want to leave the decision to the politicians as to whether there will still be motorsport on the Nordschleife in the future? That is perhaps the only question that I can answer clearly and unambiguously.

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