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Interview: Ron Simons – RSR Nurburg & The Nurburgring
Ron Simons is founder of the RSR Nurburg racing school and provides thousands of petrolheads a year with cars and instruction on race tracks around Europe. In recent years a lot has changed around the once so peaceful Nurburgring. In December 2010 RSR Nurburg was banned from the famous Nordschleife but recently the High Court ruled that Nurburgring GmbH broke important German Anti Trust laws by banning RSR Nurburg while offering similar services on the track that they own. Enough reason for us to head down to the town of Nurburg and have an interview with Ron Simons about RSR Nurburg, the Nordschleife and the current situation.
About Ron Simons
Ron Simons founded RSRacing in 1995 in The Netherlands as a company specialized in suspension systems for track- and sports cars. New systems were tested and optimized by Ron Simons during the many races in which he participated with his GTV6 racer and Ferrari 308 GTB GULF. During the ’90s Ron also started instruction for Porsche and Ferrari among others. After running the 75Experience at the Nürburgring Nordschleife Ron started the racing school RSRNurburg in 2002. The company is based just a stones throw away from the entrance to the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife and supplies track car rentals and driver instruction.
Since 2002 RSR Nurburg seen steady growth and some of the highlights include hosting the Nissan GT-R launch event in 2008 and the organization of various events for Dunlop and Lotus. In 2009 RSR Spa was founded to be less dependent on the Nurburgring for the long term future of the company. RSR Nurburg has a fleet of over sixty cars from Renault Clio Cups up to LMP2 cars and everything in between.
In April 2011 RSRNurburg was the first company to win a court case against Nurburgring Automotive GmbH in a battle for justice that continues since business experiments around the Nurburgring started in the last decade. The experiments under supervision of former CEO Walter Kafitz have brought not just the new business ventures but the whole Nurburgring in jeopardy. In 2009 two German businessmen, Joerg Lidner and Kai Richter became the new operators of the track, but instead of making things better, many locals and car manufacturers claim they only made things worse for the Nurburgring.
What is your opinion about the current management of the track?
Ron: Nurburgring Automotive GmbH has made things more expensive and lower quality. They use their monopoly to push competitors out of the market. Nurburgring Automotive GmbH not only manages the track but also runs hotels, restaurants and companies that provide services like track instruction and car rental in the area. They use package deals and restrictions to force their clients to use their other services. One good example is track instruction, clients who rent the track are only allowed to hire their instructors, not just leaving us empty handed but they can determine their own price and there’s no incentive to maintain or improve quality. On top of that prices for track rental have raised significantly the last few years, to such an extend that important clients leave the region or come less often.
The Minister of Commerce claims the whole region benefits from the developments and the management under supervision of Joerg Lidner and Kai Richter, what is your opinion about that?
That would only be true if the forecasted visitor numbers would become reality but as we all know those numbers are far, very far off (2,000,000 annual visitors forecasted with less than 400,000 actual annual visitors). Currently the state funded development provides a lot of over capacity in the region and with illegal package deals and misuse of their monopoly Nurburgring Automotive GmbH takes away business from local businesses that worked hard to provide a service for the visitors to the areas over decades. On top of that recent price raises already forced long-term ring users like Pirelli to leave Nurburg in favour of other testing facilities.
What is your goal regarding Nurburgring Automotive GmbH on the short term?
We want to achieve equal opportunities for everybody that is involved with the Nurburgring Nordschleife and Nurburgring Automotive GmbH should give clients of the track free choice when it comes to choice in secondary services like hotels, hospitality, car rentals and instruction.
A first step has already been achieved when you won a court case against Nurburgring Automotive GmbH?
Yes, the German High Court ruled that our ban enforced since December 2010 was an abuse of German Anti Trust laws. I’m glad that justice still exists and even the Nurburgring is not above the law. Many companies are affected by the questionable dealings of the new regime. I truly hope that this is inspiration for all of them to raise their voices and take on the fight. We have another court case in July 2011 regarding compensation for our business losses incured between December 2010 and April 2011.
Will your victory in court mark a turning point for the Nurburgring?
I do hope so! We notice the attitude at Nurburgring Automotive GmbH has changed a bit and hopefully they finally realize they are on the wrong path but a lot needs to be done to secure the future of the Nurburgring. For us its great to be back on the Ring. After we won the court case our first two clients were Nicola Larini & Fabrizio Giovanardi who will participate in the Nurburgring 24 hours with the Glickenhaus Ferrari P4/5 together with Mika Salo.
Is there a solution for the current problems and a way to secure the future of the Nurburgring and businesses that depend on it?
That’s a very tough question. There’s not an easy solution here but there’s a few things we can do to make things better. First of all the companies involved should work together, thanks to SaveTheRing.org we have a public face for our battles for justice but many of the locals and companies around the ring are still very fragmented. Secondly the Nurburgring race tracks should be seperated from the Ring park and continue under new management not affiliated with the former stake holders. Lidner and Richter have always received support from important politicians, but our support is growing, especially Die Grünen and European Commissioner Joaquín Almunia have a good heart for our case, support them to help our case.