The old Hockenheimring in 2016
Tuesday July 26, 2016 I visited the circuit of Hockenheim. The following weekend the German Grand Prix Formula One would be driven on the new circuit. But I came mainly for the old circuit.
After I leaved my hotel in Rüsselsheim in the morning and visited the Rosemeyer Parking (See my blog post Opel Test Track & Rosemeyer Parking) I arrived around ten AM at Hockenheim. Because of the coming German Grand Prix it was quite busy.
Through a road behind the grandstands I arrived at the tunnel where you enter the infield of the Motodrom. Here I want to do some filming. It was already fourteen years ago since I was here (See my blog post My experience at Hockenheim). In 2002 it was no problem to enter the Motodrom, but this time it was different.
For the tunnel was now a barrier and a doorkeeper. The doorkeeper told me I could not enter the Motodrom today and I could better come back another day. I made an U-turn and drove back behind the stands, looking for an open gate to the grandstands. But unfortunately they where all closed. So I went to the old part of the track.
I parked my car near the "Bernie Ecclestone-Kurve", the second corner on the current circuit. I couldn't come closer to the old track in a legal way. It was a very warm day so I took a bottle of water with me, before I started the long walking tour around the old Hockenheimring.
It started on a narrow asphalt road called "Ameisenweg". On my left hand were trees, but on the other side was the current circuit so it was open and the sun blazed on my skin. I longed to be in the forest in the shadow of the trees.
The first point of recognition was the Jim Clark Memorial, which is now exactely on the site where the old track run into the woods. But the road parallel to the old track turns left a little further. To be sure that I stay to the old circuit I decide to follow the track counter-clockwise.
After another long walk in the blazing sun I arrive at the remained part of the old Hockenheimring. I was approximately at the point where they start braking for the Ayrton Senna Chicane. From here I walked filming and photographing in the direction of the Ostkurve. Still in the blazing sun and bothered by insects.
The exit of the Ostkurve is still recognizable by a white line coming from the woods. After the demolition in 2002 they reconect here the old "Dreieckskurs", the oldest version of the Hockenheim circuit. So just like before 1938 the track runs here straight.
A few yards behind the white line is a narrow path between the trees. This path leads to the former grandstand of the Ostkurve. The site of the Ostkurve (German for East Corner) is recognizable for a connoisseur. But an unsuspecting hiker will not realize that here was a race track once.
At the Ostkurve I do some filming and photographing. I also make a kind of a mini-vlog. Actually I found it an unreal place. I saw this site so many times on TV when there were races. And now it is a lonely open space in the woods.
I continued my way on a narrow trail through the woods on the inside of the old circuit. Finally some shade. At each side path, I looked if I could find some traces of the old Hockenheimring. But unfortunately, all I found were trees.
It was already a few hours later, after I started my walk around the old circuit, and my water bottle was already for two-thirds empty. I walked lonely through the woods and didn't know exactely where I was in relation to the old track. Then I suddenly saw a car in the woods and some people who were watching on a map. Maybe they could help me to find the last remains of the old circuit.
I told them what I was doing. It turned out that I was not far from the Jim Clark Chicane. But to enter the site I should walk through the bushes. They showed me on the map where I was and told me how to get on the site of the Jim Clark Chicane.
After I wade myself through the bushes I saw to my delight a narrow asphalt road. That must be an old service road of the Jim Clark Chicane. I start the camera and continued my way. Than I enter a wider piece of asphalt. My first thought was that this was a remnant of the chicane itself.
This strip of asphalt came out of the woods on one side and disappeared into the woods on the other side. On closer inspection it seems too narrow to be a part of the old circuit. A later study of old footage learned that this was a remnant of a parallel-road of the circuit.
I go further through the bushes and arrive on an open space, compare to the site of the Ostkurve. It was immediately clear to me that this was the site of the Jim Clark Chicane. There was also a kind of a pond which they created here. The people who showed me the way talked already about that.
Actually this place was a bigger schock for me than the site of the Ostkurve. Here I also made some photos and videos of the site. Unfortunately something went wrong with one of the videos, so I have less footage of this site than intended.
From the Jim Clark Chicane it was about one Mile back to where I parked my car. Along the way I drank the last bit of water that had become hot. It's already early in the afternoon when I arrive by my car, after a long walk. I'm quite hungry and decided to look for a restaurant.
After a meal and some rest I return to the circuit. Form here I want to ride the old Dreieckskurs with the camera behind the windscreen. I start with the section through the city of Hockenheim, which was actually the last part of the race track. It was used untill 1963, but because of the construction of a new freeway replaced by the Motodrom in 1964.
When I'm in the last section and almost at the point where the road ends, I encounter an unexpected scene. Suddenly there are fences along the road and I see a gatehouse with some people in front. It appears to be the entrance to a campground, built on the former race track.
I stop and someone comes to me. I tell that I'm filming an old version of the circuit that runs over their property. "It ends here", the gatekeepers said. And so the movie capture of this section ends in a strange way.
For the next shot I need to make a huge detour to the braking point of the Ayrton Senna Chicane. Because this section was driven in both directions (They changed the driving direction in 1964) I start the camera immediately when I enter it.
This road has the status of a "Waldweg" (Forest Road), which means it is only open for license holders. So actually what I did was illegal but I was willing to take the risk of being fined. There are a single cyclist and a roller skater, but because it is very wide here I don't bother them. With very low speed I ride on the old race track.
A few minutes later, I arrive at the spot where I had been walking earlier in the day. Here's an entrance to the current circuit which is closed. I make a U-turn and drive back to film the "Dreieckskurs" (Triangle Track).
At the end of the "Waldweg" I turn left to the public road. This was an old 1.75 Mile straight at the most eastern part of the circuit. But short before the village of Oftersheim the public road turns right and leave the old race track. After a short detour I arrive at the last part of the long straight, which is a residential area now.
One more time I turn left where they need to brake very hard in the old days. A little more through the residential area before I enter the forrest. The old race track becomes here a "Waldweg" again. But compare to the other part it's very narrow here. Moreover, there are cyclists in both directions here.
Enter this part by car would cause me a lot of problems, in the first place with the cyclists and probably also with the Police. I stop here and do the last shot outside the car. The old "Dreieckskurs" connected a few Miles further to the part of the old Hockenheimring that has been destroyed in 2002.
So, the job was done for today. It was time to go to my hotel in Mannheim where I should spend the next two days. The next circuit on the route was the Solitudering near Stuttgart. But more about that in my next blog post.