The summer’s buzz about Nurburgring Nordschleife

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Nurburgring Nordschleife is not a name that comes up too often in American conversation. But references to the Nurburgring -- the fabled old “Green Hell” of German car racing -- are becoming more common as automakers vie for sportscar credibility.

If a vehicle program does well on the twisting 13-mile Grand Prix track, it might prompt corporate bosses to green-light a new model, or a marketing department to launch a new ad campaign.

This summer’s activity has ranged from the brassy to the tragic.

First, Nissan caused a flap with European ads trumpeting its GT-R’s performance at the Nurburgring, where it bested the Porsche 911 Turbo. Earlier this year, Porsche threatened to sue Nissan over ads that showed the Porsche logo.

Porsche itself has been busy at the Nordschleife. When its 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid concept vehicle surprised engineers by beating Porsche’s own speed record at Nurburgring, the company realized it needed to move the hybrid into serious consideration for global production.

Toyota also has been active at Nurburgring this year, testing a new high-performance Lexus model called the LFA Nurburgring Edition. Tragically, in June, Toyota Master Test Driver Hiromu Naruse, 67, died in an accident just outside the track while driving the LFA. Naruse, known inside Toyota as “the Nur-Meister,” collided head on with test drivers in a BMW vehicle, one of whom was also badly injured.

As the competition heats up for high-end sportscars, we can expect to see those words -- Nurburgring Nordschliefe -- in more headlines and car ads.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com.

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