The Nürburgring is a legendary track, one that draws tourists looking for a once-in-a-lifetime driving experience and the track-equivalent of beach bums in equal measure. But casual drivers and dedicated Nürburgring denizens alike told Road & Track that safety on the ‘Ring is so poor on tourist days that some created their own app to try and prevent further tragedies.
The R&T story focuses on how Nürburgring mechanic Nikola Koprivica made the track his life. On October 4, 2021, he was killed when his MX-5 Miata was involved in a multi-car crash during a tourist drive (known in German as a Touristenfahrten.) R&T spoke to some of Koprivica’s fellow track pros — the mechanics, car renters, driving instructors and others who have created a cottage industry around the Nordschleife — and they told the publication that safety during such drives is incredibly lax. Many, however, are nervous to criticize the only game in this small alpine town.
To combat this lack of safety at the track, the community created their own app to alert drivers when track conditions are dangerous. What started as a WhatsApp channel, also started by drivers and not officials, is now a stand alone app called TrackSecure:
About five years ago, Ring regular Sam Neumann and some colleagues started a WhatsApp group called TrackSecure as a way for drivers to stay updated on conditions around the track. Since then, Neumann, partner Tillman Glaser, and a small team have developed TrackSecure into a standalone smartphone app. Drivers and marshals can report incidents or dangerous conditions via a simple interface, and those updates are broadcast to everyone else running the app nearby. It’s designed to work on any racetrack in the world, with or without cell signal, and it’s not reliant on Facebook.
The ad-hoc driver safety system was launched out of tragedy some five years ago. “If I remember correctly, it all started with another awful crash,” Glaser said. “Very similar to the one [on October 4], with seven or even more cars crashing. I don’t know if there was somebody who passed away, but it was an awful crash, and so Sam and some colleagues thought, ‘We need to do something to ensure more safety.’ Which additionally shows that in those five years, nothing has really improved from the Ring side.”
TrackSecure remains popular on WhatsApp, with over 5000 members split across over 20 groups. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook; when the social media juggernaut experienced a complete service outage on October 4, the messaging app went down too. It’s unclear what impact this had on the events at the Ring that day; one source said the accident happened so quickly, the WhatsApp group probably wouldn’t have been able to alert Koprivica in time, were he using the app. But the mere fact that a number of Ring drivers find themselves relying on a third-party app or a group chat for crucial safety updates speaks volumes. “The problem always was, and is now, the amount of marshals there during the week,” Neumann said. “I’d guess there are sometimes only five people, and fivve people can never see everything over 20 kilometers.”
The fact that it’s the drivers who are going out of their way to improve safety at the track is pretty disturbing, and says a lot about the state of things at the ‘Ring. As for safety upgrades, the Nürburgring told Road & Track there are plans for AI-powered cameras and other really wild technological doo-hickeys in an undefined future. Meanwhile, the ‘Ring lacks basics like enough marshals, a lack of safety lights (all of 13 for the entire 12.94 mile-long Nordschleife) and a lack of support vehicles for rescue trucks. This laissez faire attitude has led to a safety incident at the ‘Ring for every 809 laps driven.
The entire story from R&T is worth your time, but it is behind a paywall if you’ve run out of free R&T stories