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Russian billionaire buys Nurburgring - Good Oil
Generally speaking Russian billionaire tycoons only invest in heavy armaments, super-yachts and football clubs. But one has recently completed the purchase of the famed Nurburgring racing complex in Germany.
Viktor Kharitonin, who co-founded Russia’s largest pharmaceutical company Pharmstandard, had been negotiating to buy the German complex for over 12 months. He has bought a 99 per cent stake in the business, with minority shareholder GetSpeed retaining a symbolic 1 per cent stake.
Forbes Russia has reported that 43-year old Kharitonin paid US$87 mllion (NZ$126m) for the world famous sports complex, which includes the 20km-long Nordschleife track consisting of 73 turns (some say more, the track is so indescribably twisty).
The track, which enjoys a challenging and deadly reputation among racers, is a central focus for many carmakers who insist on proving the worth of their latest performance cars with timed runs around the Ring. Everyone from Subaru to Ford to Mercedes-Benz and Porsche regularly congregate to push their latest metal to its limits, with PR teams at the ready to disseminate the lap times. Hyundai even has an enormous permanent European Tech Centre facility at the track, constructed using reflective tiles and costing the Korean manufacturer almost US$13m to build back in 2013.
Despite the support of major automotive corporations, the complex has been in financial difficulties for some time, leading to the cancellation of the German Grand Prix round of the 2015 Formula 1 Championship last year. It is hoped with the injection of Kharitonin’s roubles the Formula 1 circus might return to the Ring in 2017.
Clapton goes down to the crossroads ... at 169km/h
He might be known as “Slow Hand” in some quarters, but septuagenarian songsmith Eric Clapton certainly still has a fast foot.
Surrey Police refused to confirm whether the driver of a Porsche 911 stopped for doing 169km/h was the beardy guitarist, but as chance would have it, he was pulled over in the forecourt of a service station where a crew were filming scenes for a new movie.
Clapton was allegedly caught speeding on the A3, a dual carriageway that connects London with Portsmouth, south of the capital.
A member of a 40-strong film crew working on a scene from the forthcoming movie After Louise told the Daily Mail Clapton arrived halfway through a scene being filmed in a service station forecourt. “It was very funny because we all thought he was there to be part of the film, but then a police car pulled up. Eric had to sit in the front seat with the policeman. He was in there for ages and was clearly getting a good telling off.”
Clapton is well-known as a car fan and owns several performance cars and supercars. In fact this isn’t his first, er… interaction with the law for speeding. In 1988 he lost his licence for six weeks after a police officer followed him doing 178km/h in a Ferrari. And iIn 2004 he was banned from driving in France after being caught doing 215km/h at the wheel of a Porsche 911 Turbo.
No love between Putin and Rosberg
Vladimir Putin is depicted on commemorative T-shirts. Picture / Supplied
Speaking of Russian oligarchs, not only did Russian President Vladimir Putin mysteriously appear on commemorative Russian Grand Prix T-shirts at Sochi last weekend (the design of which rather heavily implies he is a Formula 1 driver), but he was also at the centre of a weird icy exchange with current season frontrunner Nico Rosberg.
The staging room where drivers retire after the race is an odd otherworldly space at the best of times. Competitors who have been dicing with danger at 300- plus km/h are all of a sudden required to squeeze up on couches amidst potted plants and water coolers before wasting inordinate quantities of perfectly good champagne on the podium.
It can be the scene of awkward body language, the odd outburst and the occasional second-place-getter cap-throwing incident.
Add a hyper-macho president to the mix and anything can happen. Even icy silence.
Things didn’t start well when, after race winner Rosberg entered the room, he quickly skirted around Putin like the leader of the Russian people was a sponsor’s lackey, in order to shake hands with Kimi Raikkonen, who came third.
Then, rather than acknowledge Putin, Rosberg then proceeded to take off his racing gear before the required post-race weigh-in, leaving an obviously bemused President standing with his interpreter watching from the sideline under darkening brows.
Finally, after Rosberg had sorted his wardrobe he shook Putin’s hand. Amazingly even at this point the racer thought that would be enough, as flesh-pressing complete, he started to back away. But no; Putin’s interpreter hauls him back over for a brief conversation, in which Putin issued the last laugh: “You and your colleagues, sincere thanks to you,” Putin said through his interpreter. “People take pleasure in watching you do your job… if you can call it a job.”
The personality-free German/Monegasque hybrid laughed nervously, but Putin didn’t break character with a smile. The lesson? You might be on the up this season Nico, but don’t mess with Vlad, especially on his home turf.
1925 YEAR Nurburgring complex built
73 BENDS Number of corners the track features
1000 FEET Separate the highest and lowest points on the track
6.48 LAP TIME Record lap time in a Radical SR8LM ‘production car’