Andrew Thompson & Co. Solicitors has experience of dealing with several insurance claims on the Nurburgring Nordschleife. You should contact the firm for advice as soon as possible following any potential claim arising there.
The Nordschleife is a race track in Germany that is open to the public at times advertised on the Nurburgring website. The Germans call this touristenfahrten, literally meaning tourist driving.
German road traffic law applies to the whole of the Nordschleife. A driver may only drive so fast that he is always in control of his vehicle. The driver must adjust his speed according to road, traffic, visibility and weather conditions. There are numerous advisory and mandatory road signs on the route. There are some speed restricted parts of the Nordschleife. In particular, a 30 kmh limit applies to the first 200 metres from the main entrance. A 90 kmh limit applies to the approach to the Adenau Bridge exit at Breidsheid and a limit reducing from 120 kmh to 30 kmh applies to the main exit. The remainder of the track is derestricted. In other words, there is no speed limit for the vast majority of the track.
The General Conditions for driving on the Nordschleife state that racing and speed record attempts are forbidden. Overtaking is on the left only and you must keep to the right when not overtaking. The police will investigate collisions and will prosecute where blame is found. Drivers of vehicles which are not registered in Germany must carry proof of insurance.
A UK insurer must not exclude minimum level cover anywhere in an EU member state in a place where insurance is mandatory. Any clause in an insurance policy seeking to exclude mandatory cover is of no effect. The cover required by law is minimum level cover. Therefore, third party only. Your insurance policy will very likely contain a clause which says that if the insurer is obliged to meet a claim it otherwise would not pay then the insurer is entitled to reclaim the settlement from the driver.
In 2010, the UK Insurance Ombudsman made a final decision regarding a case concerning the Nurburgring Nordschleife. He found that the Nordschleife is a circuit with all the characteristics of a 'prepared course'. The insured's policy excluded use on a 'prepared course' which was held to be neither unfair or unreasonable given the increased risks associated with driving in such places. The insurer agreed to meet any third party liabilities but this did not mean that the driver was driving within the terms and conditions of his policy. The Ombudsman said that UK and European law requires insurers to provide a minimum of third party only cover even if their policyholders are using the insured vehicle in a manner which invalidates their own-damage cover.
Insurance risks can be mitigated by hiring a car locally. However, large hire car companies such as Avis and Hertz specifically exclude driving during touristenfahrten. Therefore, the safest option is to rent from a Nurburgring rental company such as RSR Nurburg.
When the Nordschleife is closed to the public for a private trackday event then the above-mentioned rules do not apply. Trackday insurance is available for private events from specialist insurers. Trackday cover usually covers the driver's own car but with no third party or driver/passenger liability.
© Andrew Thompson & Co. Solicitors, 47 Park Square, Leeds, LS1 2NL, UK. Tel: 0113 3835314