Around these Nordschleife-themed pages, you’ll find hundreds of references to the Nuerburgring’s Industrie-Pool. But, can you believe, I’ve never explained what the hell it is!
What is Nürburgring Industrie-Pool?
The “I-Pool” is a none-public-facing (some might say secretive) self-regulating organisation of manufacturers, tire and parts suppliers. Permanent members include most of the major car and tyre manufacturers, plus many OEM parts and systems manufacturer (lists below!). The organisation has been running since at least the mid 1980s, and it’s still running strong today.
When does the I-Pool run?
Together, the ‘Pool’ will block-book the Nordschleife for 16 to 18 “weeks” per year. A week for I-Pool is a 4 or 5 day session starting on either a Monday or Tuesday. The hours are fixed; starting at 0800 each morning, and running until 1715. You can easily spot an I-Pool week in the calendar by checking the Nürburgring’s own Touristenfahrten calendar (public driving calendar). If TF begins at 1730, instead of 1715, that’s probably an I-Pool week. There are often half-days bolted to the beginning or end of each block, as the Nürburgring operators like to use Monday mornings to catch-up on track maintenance, and Friday afternoons often give-way to race events. At the very early Spring or late Autumn sessions, outside of Summer-time clock changes, it’s not unusual for I-Pool to displace TF sessions completely, running until the last light of 6pm.
Another sure sign that I-Pool is underway will be a collection of photographers at the roundabout leaving Nürburg, closest to the Tribüne-13 (T13) pitlane. Officially taking photos and videos during I-Pool is forbidden, but taking photos of the mules arriving on the public road is relatively risk free.
How does “Industry Pool” operate?
Every Industrie-Pool car carries a sticker in the rear window with its number for the day, as well as a radio to report problems or incidents on track. Cars are allowed to enter T13 from the public road in Nürburg, where their sticker and driver is checked by a Marshal. At the entrance to the actual circuit, each driver’s ID card is scanned by one last marshal before driving each lap. (Famously a French guy in a Megane once drove straight in to an I-Pool session, completing several laps before being asked if he was part of the Renaultsport team!)
All cars driving on Industry Pool days start and stop from the secretive T13 pitlane. It’s almost impossible to see into this pitlane from any of the public access areas. Though daring spy-shotters have been known to rent a room on the top floor of the Dorint Hotel (nearly 750mtrs distant!), there are now folding barriers along the T13 pitwall that can block even this view.
Each lap starts on the exit of T13 pitlane, and finishes at the beginning of the pit straight. Traffic cones are placed on the track, and a 30kmh zone dominates the actual straight-away, as well as the pitlane. On busy days, or if the manufacturers are trying to maintain some distance from each other, the actual straight-away will also be used as parking too.
With several major manufacturers rubbing shoulders in a small pitlane, all forms of video recording are officially forbidden from the cars. Timing is also not allowed. Publishing onboard footage from an actual I-Pool lap is a big social faux-pas.
Timed sessions are now regular feature, which is why the second Wednesday of many 2-week I-Pool sessions is now closed to public driving in the evening. For actual lap records, the circuit operators ask manufacturers to buy the “package”, which including filming and licensing rights, notary ceritification and 1 hour of track time, can often cost over €15,000!
Industry Pool training
If you see a car, or line of cars, sporting a large yellow ‘L’ on the read screen, you’re looking at new drivers being trained for the I-Pool. Learning all of these rules AND learning the Nordschleife requires some sort of syllabus. Manufacturers and members nominate which drivers they’d like to have trained, and then pay for their place on a training program. Ostensibly there are two separate training agencies who can certify that a manufacturer’s driver/engineer is ‘ready’ for the 20.8km North Loop: the Joe Weber Training School (founded by Georg “Joe” Weber, who passed away in 2012), and Topline Development (founded by Dirk Schoysman, retired, famous among Nissan GTR circles!). But the reality is that both companies have been very closely aligned since 1999, and you’ll see that industry stalwart Hans Willem is the director of Topline, and also de-facto top instructor at Joe Weber.
Who’s in the Pool?
Most of the major automotive manufacturers maintain membership to the Industrie-Pool. These include:
- Mercedes Benz (and AMG)
- BMW (And BMW M)
- Volkswagen (including SEAT, Skoda, Bugatti, Lamborghini etc..)
- Jaguar Land Rover
- Aston Martin
- General Motors
Some tyre manufacturers also hold memberships, such as:
Other members include OEM parts designers and manufacturers such as:
- ZF Sachs
That’s not a definitive list, as the official list isn’t public knowledge. But you get the idea. Typically membership is around 30 firms at any one time. Smaller manufacturers often ‘borrow’ passes from other companies, such as Lotus borrowing slots from Yokohama, or SEAT using VW allocations. Other times, a manufacturer might press hard to be part of the gang – the rumours are that Tesla went from outsider to insider in just a month…
Why do manufacturers choose the Nordschleife for testing? Check out this cool Car and Driver story!