Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has put in a bid to buy the famous yet financially troubled Nuerburgring circuit, it was revealed on Wednesday.
The race track has gone into administration after local politicians loaded it with debt equating to around 50 years worth of profit and the famed and feared track is now looking for a new owner.
Sources tell Reuters that Ecclestone had submitted an offer for the circuit which at 20km is the world’s longest race track but which has not hosted a Grand Prix since Niki Lauda crashed there in 1976.
The adjacent modern F1 track, which is 5.1km in total, first hosted Formula One in 1984 but now shares the German Grand prix with Hockenheim.
Completed in 1927, the original Ring was built to showcase German auto engineering and racing prowess, and now the country’s deep-pocketed carmakers have been cited as potential bidders.
The assets include the track and adjacent amusement park that features a rollercoaster designed to mimic an F1 car.
An official for the administrators refused to comment on Ecclestone’s bid, saying: “We do not comment on any specific bidders. But everybody who has an interesting offer is warmly welcome.”
“We’re in the final stages of the process and want to conclude it in Q1, so that the new owner(s) can start the season in April.”
The 83-year-old Ecclestone himself told two German publications on Wednesday his move was aimed at keeping a Formula One race in Germany in the coming years.
“We made an offer and we now wait for it to be accepted,” he told Handeslblatt and Wirtschaftwoche publications.
“We believe that we can do more than anyone else for the circuit. There could be a decision as early as in the coming weeks.”
The news comes at a time when Ecclestone’s Formula One future in doubt amid bribery allegations. Yet, one of the most influential team bosses said the series’ prosperity relies on him remaining in charge.
Christian Horner, team principal of reigning constructors’ champion Red Bull, believes Ecclestone is “the only guy” who can ensure F1 maintains its global reach as the premier motorsport series.
The 83-year-old Ecclestone, who has built his F1 powerbase since the 1970s, is awaiting the outcome of a $140-million bribery trial relating to F1’s sale in 2005.
Evidence was heard at London’s High Court at the end of last year about the measures Ecclestone allegedly took to maintain his grip on F1, claims the billionaire denies.
The banker Ecclestone is accused of bribing has already been jailed in Germany for taking a payment from the billionaire, who is also waiting to hear if he will have to stand trial in Munich on charges of bribery and incitement to breach of trust.
Regardless of those legal fights, Horner still strongly backs his long-time friend, dismissing any fears the cases are damaging F1’s image.
In fact, Horner fears the series could be damaged if Ecclestone was no longer serving as its commercial chief.
“Bernie is absolutely the best and only guy to do what he does, to take Formula One to the global reach that the sport has achieved, introducing races in Russia this year, going back to the Austrian Grand Prix,” Horner said after speaking at a Leaders Sport Network breakfast in London. “It’s a massive calendar that he’s pulled together (for 2014) ... it’s in all our interests that he’s around as long as possible.”
Horner was tipped by Ecclestone in November to eventually succeed him after a transitional period, but the Red Bull boss has no plans to leave the winners of the last four constructors’ championships.
“I have a long-standing commitment with Red Bull, a multiyear commitment,” Horner said. “I’m very happy in doing what I do. I have a very good friendship with Bernie. I have no interest in getting out of my contract.”
(Files from the Associated Press were used in this report)