The mess that has surrounded the Nürburgring is now beginning to be cleared up, following a settlement in recent days between the various parties involved. The Rheinland-Pfalz regional government provided large sums of money to Nürburgring GmbH, a company which it owned, five years ago, with the goal being to increase the earning potential of the venue with the construction of an automobile theme park. The company was supposed to provide equal investment in the project, but failed to do so, leaving the government in the embarrassing situation of having to pay for the remaining work to avoid an embarrassing scandal. When the estimates for the number of visitor proved to be wildly inaccurate, the whole affair moved into the public domain and the local finance minister Ingolf Deubel had to resign. He was recently put on trial for alleged embezzlement relating to the affair.
In the middle of 2010 the state government decided that it had had enough and handed over the entire business (including the debts) to a new company called Nürburgring Automotive GmbH (NAG), which took over the running of the circuit, the hotels, restaurants, holiday homes, theme park, shops, convention centres and arenas on a lease that was due to run until 2040. Oddly, the new company was run by the same people who had previously been managing the old company. They raised prices for all activities run at the circuit, causing something of a backlash in the racing community. They failed to pay their lease fees and the Rheinland-Pfalz announced earlier this year that the lease would be terminated. NAG launched a legal action to protect its position. A settlement has now been found between the two parties with the administrator of Nurburgring GmbH, which owns the circuit, agreeing to allow the tenants to remain in place until the end of 2015, after which the circuit will be put up for sale. A financial settlement has also been found that involves the payment of lease fees and the waiving of some taxes by the state government. This clear the way for Nürburgring Automotive GmbH’s Jörg Lindner and Kai Richter to go back to the negotiating table with Bernie Ecclestone. In recent years the Ring has paid only $13 million per race, but the money has been spread over two years thanks to the alternation of the German GP with Hockenheim, which means that the Nürburging only had to find $6.5 million a year. The word is that FOM has even offered to run the race for free on the understanding that it takes the revenues of Grand Prix Rheinland-Pfalz GmbH & Co. KG, the company that has been set up to run the race. Nurburgring Automotive GmbH says that in the longer term it intends to bid for the ownership of the circuit, which they believe can make a profit each year with its hotels and restaurants, fairs, conventions and, of course, race meetings.
Elsewhere European promoters are worried about comments made by Bernie Ecclestone about needing to axe more European races and the Hungaroring is reported to have just signed a new five-year deal that will take the race to 2021. The race in Budapest has considerable backing from the Hungarian government. The track will be resurfaced and it is hoped that some modifications will be made to improve overtaking possibilities.