The Temple of Speed | Inspire
The Temple of Speed

The Temple of Speed

The Nürburgring-Nordschleife is the ultimate proving ground for cars – and a place for drivers to confront their own mortality.

In November last year, the upcoming Mercedes-AMG GT R – Affalterbach's self-titled "Beast of the Green Hell" – set the fastest-ever time for a rear-wheel production car around the world's most challenging track.

That's this racecar-for-the-road's credentials sorted, but what about its hallowed playground?

Built in 1925 in southwest Germany as a track to showcase the country's automotive engineering prowess, the Nürburgring comprises a south loop (used until 2014 as a Grand Prix circuit) and a north loop – the fearsome Nordschleife. One lap of the latter runs over 20.8 kilometres, through 154 corners often with zero run-offs, climbing and dropping through the Eifel forest – hence the name "Green Hell" – and over 300 metres in elevation changes. 

The trademark graffitied surface is asphalt in some parts and concrete in others, and adding to its unpredictability is weather so fickle that it could be pouring and sunny at opposite ends of the track. With its blind crests, shallow sightlines and gut-crushing compressions, it's little wonder that since the track's inception, more than 200 lives are estimated to have been lost. It's hell, dressed as heaven.

The first-ever race held there was in 1927 and aptly won in a Mercedes-Benz Kompressor by Rudolf Caracciola. On the very last lap of 2016's 24-hour endurance race (which was stopped for four hours following a spell of hail, rain and fog), a Mercedes-AMG GT3 hunted down and overtook a competitor to take a white-knuckle victory.

In the relentless pursuit of speed married to handling perfection, high-performance manufacturers such as AMG hone their products at the Nürburgring. Afterwards a lap time is released either by the manufacturer or motoring media – and the faster the time, the greater the promise of awe. Speed is a serious business, with pride, reputation and sales all at stake. But to sell a fast car you no longer need a marketing budget – you need a fast 'Ring time and a YouTube video. Social media will do the rest. 

So who else from AMG has been smashing stopwatches over the past few years? Welcome to AMG's exclusive sub-8 minute club: 

7:25.67 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series (2013)
7:30 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT (2012)
7:35 Mercedes-AMG GT S (2016)
7:40 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (2010)
7:40 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (2004)
7:46 Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 AMG Black Series (2007)
7:46 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupé Black Series (2011) 
7:51 Mercedes-Benz SL 65 AMG Black Series (2009)
7:54 Mercedes-Benz CLK DTM AMG (2005)
7:55 Mercedes-AMG E63 S (2013)

Watch the Mercedes-AMG GT R on the Nürburgring track here. 

Satisfy your own need for speed – and set your own track record – with an advanced driving course at the AMG Driving Academy at Zwartkops.

By Braam Peens. 

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