The Nurburgring is a dangerous place. With hundreds of corners, limited visibility, and almost zero runoff, it presents a challenge unlike any other racetrack in the world.
And when things go bad, they can go very badly, very quickly.
Facebook's RE FS420 posted this video of an extremely dicey pile-up crash that occurred during a weekend of open lapping at the famed German track. While the incident occurred on November 1st, the video is just now making the rounds. It's terrifying.
, this chain-reaction pileup was caused by a Porsche 911 GT3 RS blowing a coolant hose going into Hatzenbach. Another 13 cars were involved in the chain-reaction pileup before track officials could get things under control. Two drivers were hospitalized, with one having to be cut out of his car and evacuated by helicopter.
Lomas reports that, prior to this major incident, the weekend had been going perfectly. Nurburgring organizers had decided to put track marshals out during this weekend's lapping, an unusual and encouraging improvement in the track's safety mechanisms. But apparently the marshals left their posts a little early—Lomas says this crash occurred on the last lap of the weekend, and that, while a corner marshal had been stationed at this exact location all weekend, there seems to be no flagger around at the moment of this impact.
I spoke with , a pro racer who's spent many years at the Nurburgring, to try to figure out exactly what went wrong here.
"When we're racing, we don't allow cars to run antifreeze because it's so ridiculously slick," he said. "Antifreeze is like ball bearings. It's worse than oil. There is zero grip."
Adding to the problem, the Porsche dumped its coolant in a particularly quick portion of the track. "You're probably in the vicinity of 100- MPH in there," Holland told me. "Because it's fast and slightly bendy, you're loading up the car. If you hit anything slick, you're gonna lose it."
The helmet-camera point of view of this video also highlights another particularly scary aspect of this incident. While the driver was fortunate to have enough time to stop his car and pull off to the side, Holland says he put himself in a particularly dangerous position—it's better to drive through the crash scene and park beyond it. "The same coolant you just slid in, everybody else is gonna be sliding in," he said.
And we see that unfold as the video progresses. Cars come around the blind corner at full speed, unaware of the crash scene just ahead. The driver who caught this video did the right thing by trying run back to warn oncoming drivers (and he was especially smart to get behind the fence, something we see other drivers in the scene neglecting to do), but his parked car became a target as later vehicles piled up.
Imagine what went through this driver's mind as he watched his car get pummeled.
I can't fault the driver for doing what he did—in the heat of a scary moment like this, you don't have time to think, and while parking his car in front of the crash wasn't ideal, his instinct to warn oncoming drivers may have prevented an even worse disaster.
Holland says that, thankfully, major incidents like this are rare. But this accident shows a major limitation of the Nurburgring: It's incredibly challenging to get full flagger coverage during lapping sessions. Holland told me every single blind corner needs multiple flaggers to watch the racing in both directions. Lomas estimates that, with more than 200 flagging stations, and two to three flaggers per station, a 24-hour Nurburgring race requires over 1000 flagging shifts. During track rentals and open-lapping "tourist sessions," there are almost never any flaggers.
According to Holland, plans are in the works to install a closed-circuit camera system and track-wide electronic warning boards to help alert drivers to situations like this. When it's completed, it will represent a huge safety improvement to the track. But until then, if you ever get the chance to drive laps at the Nurburgring, don't let your guard down: A disaster like this could be just around the next blind bend.
Update: This post has been edited to clarify that the incident occurred during open "tourist" lapping, not a private club session.