Renan Do Couto is visiting the Nürburgring GP as Brazilian journalist and besides the track action he got curious about SAVE THE RING and asked me for an email interview. Which I’m happy to give! I think these are really good questions and he allowed me to post here as well, as it might help others too.
As always I’m happy to hear your feedback on Facebook.
1- When did you create the Save the Ring? What was happening at that moment that motivated you?
I created Save The Ring December 9, 2010. We were struggling heavily under the Richter/Lindner regime, who took over Nürburgring operations in May 2010 - and yet the international community wasn’t really aware. In German I document the Nürburgring since over 10 years (http://20832.com with chronicle, forum, blog, etc.) and it was not an easy decision to take on the international challenge. I knew it will be heavily time consuming, but I have to admit the feedback is really rewarding. This article I wrote for Jalopnik the month before kicked it all off, as it gained much attention and good feedback: jalopnik.com/5684589/save-the-nurburgring
2- Since then, what goals have you achieved? And what has been more difficult?
Despite all the frustration, for me it’s absolutely mind blowing to see the reach we’ve got. I’ve been in Le Mans the other week and the first person I met in the paddock was Lorens from Hong Kong based KC Motorgroup. We never met before, yet he knew everything about STR. Things like that happen all the time. The complexity of the subject - which I think is sometimes contructed on purpose - makes it difficult to keep up and explain, even in my mother tounge German, let alone in English.
3- Do you have political, financial or any other kind of support?
The only support I ask for is to spread the word. This is what keeps me going. And it’s great that I/we by now have massive support in that way.
4- I’ve spoken with the Ring’ managing-director, Mr. Schmidt, and he said that there is no other way around, the track has to be sold, and the best thing to do right now is to focus on finding the right investor. Do you agree?
This is the talking line of the politicians involved and it’s plain wrong. Nobody is forcing the sale, except the local Government, who owns Nürburgring. It is correct that Brüssel investigates illegal state aids, but they are far away from a final decision. An ownership change like this - given that the Ring has been public property since it’s start in 1927 - should be handled with all possible care, but we face a hectic and not properly thought through sales process. One can only speculate about the reasons, but the insolvency administrators apparently only earn their money at the time of sale and Mr.Schmidt you talked to has already been head of operations during the horrific Richter/Linder regime.
5- Can you imagine the scenario above happening?
Unfortunatley yes, and it frightens me a lot.
6- For you, the construction of the NüroDisney and the other things was needed to make the Ring’ (more) profitable?
Everybody you talked to thought right from the beginning that the leisure park - so called “Nürburgring 2009” project - is the most stupid idea ever. At the time they approved 215 million Euro investment, which would be way to much for the Nürburgring to recover. Let alone the 550 million Euro it is now. Way before any official approval we organised protests and open letters, but government didn’t listen at all, in fact they only reacted arrogant and government as well as Nürburgring operation (under Walter Kafitz) made us look silly.
7- Are in favour of government spending on race tracks? (I also ask you this because in Brazil, most of the tracks belong to state or city governments, and most of the tracks badly managed, so there is some debate about this point)
I personally think governments should spend their tax money budgets wisely and infrastructure for culture and sport for me is clearly a part of that. So, a definite yes!
8- The Russian Time is running a Save the Ring livery here at Nürburgring this weekend. Can you tell me more about this deal?
The best thing about it: it came as total surprise to everybody including me. Loving it a lot. We’ve seen things like that - surprise car designs - in the past too and it jumps right into the heart of us racing people. Like Schubert’s beautiful STR BMW Z4 for endurance racing. But we’ve never seen it at a Formula 1 program and I hope they release it as model car too.
9- 4000 followers on Twitter, 80000 likes on Facebook… how useful are social networks being to you?
Honestly, that reach of information around the world would not be possible without Social Media. It needs a homepage though as it’s base, which is savethering.org. It’s only a “one pager”, but serves the purpose well.
10- Are you from Nürburg?
I grew up near by in Andernach and the first 24 Hours race I visited on my own was back in 1981. Since then I spent a large portion of my time at the Nürburgring. And what a great time that was - until 2007, when they started NüroDisney and we all had to witness the Nürburgring driven into bancruptcy.