For petrolheads, a visit to the Nürburgring is a must on any visit to Germany. With the ‘Ring reopening again, we catch up with Marc Müller, one of the founders of Rent4Ring. Rent4Ring is a specialist hire company that rents cars to customers who want to experience the Nürburgring, whether that’s tourists or seasoned pros from out of town. Rent4Ring runs a fleet of cars that are honed to perform at the infamous track. Think of it as like Hertz for people who love to drive.
Is the Nürburgring open again, Marc?
Germany has kind of solved the corona situation pretty smartly given the circumstances. It’s getting back to normal. In this federate state, there’s no more lockdown but social distancing is highly recommended. Even so, the Nürburgring is still affected. The first three races of the local endurance series have been cancelled and the N24 has been rescheduled. The Nürburgring reopened the first weekend of March after being shut for the winter, but it shut again soon after when Germany went into lockdown. It reopened about six weeks later, but it’s all contactless. You have to pre-order your tickets online and there’s a maximum of two people per car, and only if they’re from the same home.
How is business? Are you getting back to normal now?
Rent4Ring is heavily reliant on the international market. Our customers are 95% non-German speaking. As a result, our company has suffered a 98% loss of revenue. We’ve started working again, but up to last week we only had the German market. Most Germans that come here have their own car. And it’s pretty hard to justify a trip to the Nürburgring if your income is down. We thought that all these people who have been stuck at home for weeks with their families would be eager to get out. Surprisingly, that was not the case. We don’t see the same number of German cars we usually see.
Surely now would be the best time to go to the Nürburgring?
That’s what we are trying to tell people. This is the perfect time to get some calm, easy laps in. The track is pretty much deserted. During high season, there’s 150 or 200 cars on track and, when people aren’t familiar with the ‘Ring, that can cause problems.
You’re a rental company for the ‘Ring. How did the idea come about?
It all started off with an idea by one of my partners. He has a history in CanAm in America. He was looking for something new to do and said: “I need a rental car to practice with at the Nürburgring”. He was searching the market for companies but had a feeling he was getting ripped off. So, he decided to set up Rent4Ring. I joined six months later.
How does it work? Customers arrive, hire the car, take it out?
Exactly. Customers can pre-book their car, arrive at the shop and, after we’ve done the paperwork, there’s a video safety briefing. Then, usually they go out on track on their own. If they’re not feeling comfortable, they can book track guidance. The main target here is not to push people to a certain pace, but to give them a good, safe, secure feeling and minimise their chances of crashing.
Are most of your customers novices?
We have a huge range of customers. Lots from Asia who’ve never been on a racetrack and don’t know how to use a clutch. We put them in the BMW 1-Series, with automatic transmission and an instructor. We’re also an official supplier to Honda R&D. Whenever they have guys who need to do the ‘Ring licence, they hire one of our cars. Same for Bentley. We’ve done events with Michelin, Continental, and get lots of international racing drivers hiring our cars when they come here.
It sounds like you have a mix of very experienced and inexperienced customers. What’s the accident rate like?
Rent4Ring has the smallest crash rate for all rental companies at the Nürburgring. We have a crash rate of less than one percent. We have a decade of experience and a customer and safety-first approach. We run a limited fleet of cars and these are the models that have proven to be kinder, bullet-proof and idiot proof. We’ve tried faster cars in the past, like the E92 M3, Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Toyota GT86 and VW Scirocco. These cars were all prone to crashing. A car like an M3 or GT3 in the wrong hands can be lethal. We have a responsibility to keep not just our customers safe but everyone out there on track, too.
So now you’ve got a fleet of two models, a Suzuki Swift and BMW 1-Series. What makes them perfect for the Nürburgring?
The Swift has proven to be super reliable. It never breaks down. The engine and gearbox is bullet proof and, given the fact the car is lightweight, we barely have any wear and tear. Honda R&D insists on the Swifts when they come to the 'Ring. We also have racing drivers coming over often from the US and they all want the Swift. They do a Swift train: four or five drivers, drafting and tearing up the track. We also have the BMW 1-Series. They’re very good cars with an excellent chassis. The 1-Series is about the same weight and dimensions as an E36. It’s just a brilliant car. And the facelift models are all reliable.
What difference does Motul’s lubricants make to the longevity of your cars?
We have a sponsoring partnership with Motul. They give us full supplies for all racing activities and our rental fleet. We have a very high standard of maintaining and servicing the cars. Every one of them gets a full fluid change at 3,000 miles. We’re very grateful we have this opportunity with Motul. We mustn’t forget about the racing heritage and technology that Motul has. We’re super happy with the partnership and the competition oils are simply brilliant!
©Pictures: Rent4Ring, Robert Kah