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Nürburgring Insurance. An inconvenient truth.

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It's a common myth that when confronted with danger an Ostrich will stick its head in the sand. This is simply not true, Ostriches don't do that. They're not that stupid.

But drivers of the Nürburgring might be sticking their heads in the sand when it comes to ignoring the risks of driving the Nordschleife's famous tourist sessions.

For Germans it's 'easy'. Upon entering the Nürburgring Nordschleife there are multiple signs explaining that German traffic law applies. Perhaps the most blindingly obvious is below:

Yep, upon the very barrier that hovers in front of your nose are the important words; 'Es gelten Stvo'. Stvo is Strassen verkehrs ordnung - or traffic law. During public hours the Nordschleife is a public road. In many ways this is no different to driving on to a privately owned toll bridge or into a supermarket car park. You wouldn't expect your insurance to be invalidated inside a Tesco or Walmart car park, would you?

Unfortunately non-German insurance companies, the English in particular, seem to be of the opinion that they aren't obliged to cover the Nordschleife. They like to pick and choose when their particular cover is valid or not.

They hide behind two particular paragraphs, one an exemption and one a binding agreement with the policy holder. The first is that Nürburgring Nordschleife, even during public sessions, is a 'prepared course', a race track or even a circuit. I don't know what they all mean exactly, but I CAN tell you that the UK Insurance Ombudsman did come to a final decision about the Nürburgring Nordschleife and its public sessions. He said that the track is a prepared course.

So that means, unequivocally for the English, your insurance company has an escape route from the liability. They don't want to pay.

But what about the EU laws? They HAVE to pay, don't they?

Yep, under German High Court Rulings and also under EU provisions, an insurer cannot escape the third-party claims arising from locations such as a race track under touristenfahrten (public driving) rules. However... What they can do, back home, in England for example, is delve back into the contract. The contract you agreed to. In there will be a simple paragraph explaining that IF they are forced to pay out for something that they wouldn't pay out for under the terms of your contract that YOU will be personally liable. You will have to pay them back. Or words to that effect.

The solutions

I'll be honest, I've not found that many so far. I suspect at least 50% of UK drivers who profess to having water-tight cover simply don't. The other 50% are very reluctant to share the secret.

  • Some very specialist brokers have secured cover for their clients on occasion. For example Mannings, a specialist Porsche and TVR insurance broker, did at one time provide written cover for the Nürburgring's public sessions. When I attempted to purchase a policy for my 1989 Mazda however, I was utterly stonewalled. Not really a solution at all for 99% of people. Let us know if you have any success.
  • Drive on private events and trackdays. Some events do still require third-party cover (e.g. Scuderia Hanseat), but some events do not (e.g. Destination Nürburgring). Now that a 25-lap ticket for public sessions costs almost the same as a private trackday, it's a lot more realistic to spend that money on a trackday.
  • Rent a Nürburgring hire car from a company such as Rent4Ring. Yep, I know, I work there, but still it's a serious consideration, isn't it? A €2500 excess payment and normal third-parties being covered without hassle isn't such a bad deal when you consider the alternatives.
  • Get German insurance for your car. This is the route I'm taking - however there are significant hurdles. Firstly you must have a residence here in Germany. Secondly your car must be registered in Germany. Unlike France, German insurance companies will only insure German registered cars. The only exceptions are for military personnel. If you're buying a car here in Germany, it's relatively straight-forward. But if you're importing a car then it needs to be standard, preferably with a Certificate of Conformity (COC paper). If it's modified you need the ABE and TüV documentation for each and every part.
  • Don't drive the Nürburgring any more. The insurance company doesn't want you to. Apparently they'd be happier about you driving like an arse on a public road - at least that's the result of their God-awful policies... :(

If you want to know more about UK insurance on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, I recommend visiting solicitor Andrew Thompson's page here. He's also been reading other peoples policies and providing his analysis (for free) just here.

   

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