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The old straight forest at the Hockenheimring

Hans-Dieter Seufert
The old straight line in the forest at the Hockenheimring
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M an never really knows when eternity begins for which records are set. Usually much earlier than expected. At the old Hockenheimring it is on Sunday, July 26th, 1992, around 3 p.m. Or exactly: in the 36th round of the German Grand Prix. Riccardo Patrese needs a minute, 41 seconds and 591 thousandths of a second in his Williams-Renault FW14B.

Long straight straight through the forest - perfect for braking and acceleration measurements

With it, he manages the fastest lap, the should ever be driven on the old Hockenheimring. What, of course, nobody suspected at the time and Patrese did little in the race: On the last lap he spun while trying to defend his second place against Ayrton Senna. In any case, no Formula 1 driver is faster in the following nine F1 races on the old 6.825-kilometer circuit - whatever else is stuck around there, STW or DTM, anyway.

Then the one appears in 2001 Course no longer modern enough. The long straights in the empty forest and the short curves in the Motodrom are not attractive enough for the spectators, they say. But it is often said 'is it' when it is actually about something else. In this case it is about the fact that a Grand Prix distance in Hockenheim has 45 laps. From which clever controllers can determine that the cars only drive 45 times past each advertising sign, which is only two-thirds as often as it would be the case with 67 laps.

Such shocking discoveries like to be that lead to the greatest upheavals. In the case of the Hockenheimring, they mainly affect the trees standing in front of them in the Hardtwald. They got used to the fact that someone rushes through the dark fir tree from time to time - as early as 1932, motorcycles were roaring over a twelve-kilometer unpaved track. Mercedes also likes to use the route for testing - as we do at sport auto und auto motor und sport, by the way.

Because after the route renovation in 1966 (before that, the southern tip of the A 6 is in the way, the here allied with the A 61) there is next to the Motodrom the long forest straights - perfect for braking and acceleration measurements. And rather not so perfect for slalom and evasive tests, because the guard rails, when they are there, leave little room for errors. We used to meet on Mondays around eleven to take measurements on the straight. It has not existed since the 2001 renovation. But of suchWe don't let insignificant details prevent us from looking for them and call the forestry department.

Engines only roar in our memories

One would never have been surprised if, in addition to foxes and rabbits, unicorns and bears said good night in sleepy Hockenheim. But they have also been able to do this on the old forest straights for almost 14 years. The northern one was completely renatured from the entrance to the Parabolica to the east curve. It was supposed to be kept, but someone is always against it. The southern straight has only been dismantled and as a forest path under the administration - you guessed it - the forest office. It allows us to take photos in a friendly way and to drive carefully on the stretch to the old east curve.

We drive behind the hairpin. The Ayrton-Senna chicane used to be where an iron grille seals off the racetrack from its past. She has now found a new task, is now part of a cycle path that leads 14 kilometers to Heidelberg and 1.5 to the old east curve, which the forest overgrown behind a wall.

The engines only roar in our memory. Do you remember how the Renault 5 tumbled through the east curve in the Cup race, how the spray got caught in the treetops when it was raining and dusted back onto the track? Do you sometimes think of the slipstream duels at 330 km /h on this very narrow lane between the trees when the drivers didn't have an ERS or DRS.

Somehow, this section of the route back at the east end of the circuit is always a bit the wild West. There are countless bumps in front of and in the east curve, the best known is the one from 1982, whereupon Nelson Piquet and Eliseo Salazar fought. The old Hockenheimring is just a circuit from the old days. Back then, eight, ten, eleven corners were enough for a route, if they are connected by spectacular straights like the forest straights at Hockenheim, the start-finish in Monza or the Hangar Straight in Silverstone until 1990. Yes, there used to be more straights, but today it is possible it keeps turning.

All courses look as if they were designed by the same man. Which is known to be due to the fact that it was designed by the same man. Hermann Tilke from Olpe, who is responsible for the GP routes in Malaysia, Bahrain, China, Turkey, Abu Dhabi, India, the USA and Russia as well as the conversions of the Österreichring, Imola, Fuji and Hockenheim. The 60 million euros for the new route are to be financed by higher numbers of visitors and more expensive tickets for Formula 1 races. What does not succeed - in 2015 probably not insignificant because there is no Formula 1 race.

Meanwhile, the trees next to the old straight forest continue to grow into the sky. At least until Ulrich Müller, an expert in tree care, tree felling, special felling and deadwood removal from Walldorf, arrives with a chainsawto cut a few fathoms of wood. Nothing is forever.

The forest stands still

There are races in the Hardtwald as early as 1932 - initially on unpaved roads. In 1938 the Kurpfalzring was built with the characteristic forest straight lines. Because of the A 6, the route has to be rebuilt from 1964. The Hockenheimring with the Motodrom opened on May 22, 1966. Because of Jim Clark's death in an accident, the course gets a chicane on every straight. After Patrick Depailler's accident in 1980, a chicane defused the east curve. Because the ring at 6.825 km is too long for Formula 1, it will be shortened to 4.574 km in 2002. The new F1 racing distance: 67 instead of 45 laps.


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