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There are a few places that transcend nationality, that are revered by petrolheads everywhere. Think of the Sarthe circuit in the French countryside around the village of Mans, the Isle of Man TT course, Monza, the Brickyard at Indianapolis and, of course, the 20.8km North Loop of the Nurburgring in western Germany.
Each has a history going back close to a century, they're all dangerous (that's part of the mystique) they're all state-owned and they're all under threat.
None more so than the Nurburgring.
Having sunk more than €400 million (you really don't want to know how much that is in rands) of taxpayers' money into a shopping mall and hotel that are too far away from major towns or tourist attractions to pay for themselves, an unsuccessful interactive driving simulator that is merely a pale shadow of the real thing and a roller coaster that has never ever run, the state government of Rhineland-Palatinate has appointed a liquidator, one Jens Lieser, to sell off the whole works.
From more than 50 enquiries, he's winnowed the list down to 'five or 10' serious buyers, with offers of about €125 million on the table.
For that the lucky buyer will not only get the white-elephant hotel/mall/roller coaster complex (the track actually runs through the buildings!) but also a MotoGP and Formula One-certified Grand Prix circuit, built in the early 1980 where the South Loop used to be, and the original North Loop - the iconic Nordschleife.
The irony of it is that, although the new buildings would cost more to demolish than the ground they stand on is worth, the old circuit itself makes money - lots of it.
A number of motor manufacturers, including Porsche, BMW, Nissan and Jaguar (who actually have a test centre at the 'Ring) are happy to spend big money to hire the Nordschleife for testing, and many more - notably Renault, which holds the lap record for a front-wheel drive car, run their sports models 'from bridge to gantry' and use the resulting times in their advertising material.
Motorcycle and car clubs, advanced riding schools and wealthy enthusiasts hire the circuit and charge members/students/mates a fee to scare themselves silly on what Jackie Stewart called the 'Green Hell' - the most difficult and unforgiving purpose-built racing circuit in the world.
And on some weekday evenings (depending on the weather) Saturday afternoons and Sundays, the North Loop is open to the public as a one-way toll road with no speed limit, and anybody with a valid driving licence and a roadworthy car or bike can go round as fast as they dare for €26 (R310) a lap.
And there's the rub; if the whole complex is sold to a private buyer the legal status of these 'touristenfahrten' will be cast into doubt - as long as the 'Ring is state-owned it is, by definition a public road, even if it is closed to the public for 'high-speed testing' a lot of the time.
And that will wreck the livelihoods of dozens of businesses - driving schools, performance car hire, sports photographers, even rescue vehicles (there are a lot of spectacular crashes during touristenfahrten!) - that have grown up in this remote area of western Germany to cater for the enthusiasts.
Residents of Nurburg and the surrounding Eifel mountains are, frankly, scared. If public access to their only tourist attraction is curtailed or, worse still, the Nordschleife becomes an industrial park - which is what happened to the legendary Brooklands circuit in England - it will mean, at best, an economic disaster, and at worst, the loss forever of one of motorsport's most hallowed grounds.