What’s the Indiana Nürburgring?
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Finding the perfect driveway is easy in California. It doesn’t take long after leaving Los Angeles or San Francisco to find a good one winding its way through the rolling countryside.
Doing the same in the Midwest isn’t that easy. There are a few hidden gems, but you have to be willing to travel to find them. One that’s worth putting on every enthusiast’s list is where I just spent a whole day frolicking in the BMW M3 Competition 2021: the Indiana Nürburgring.
Called the pork tenderloin by the locals, it is a series of streets in southern Indiana that are similar in shape to the German Nürburgring. The loop begins in Bloomington, winds through 275 miles of driving bliss and circles back to Bloomington. And the name pork fillet ring – it is derived from the numerous pork fillet restaurants that you can visit along the way. That’s Indiana, after all.
The route … and what to see
Logically, your lap on the American Nürburgring does not start where the start / finish line for the real Nordschleife is. State Road 45 (closest to the Kallenhard area of the route) is your entrance to the roller coaster and a perfect preview of what’s to come. After leaving the college town of Bloomington, this street gets downright silly. Small cars like a Miata or other sports cars are best here because the road is so full of tight corners that are suitable for cars with a smaller footprint and less power. This stretch of on- and off-camber turns is not ideal for the 503-hp M3 Competition, especially if you set off early in the morning when the road temperatures are still cool.
When you exit this area, you will come across an opening called the Bean Blossom Overlook. This is where the photo below was taken, and it’s hands down the most picturesque part of the loop. You would never expect to find such beauty in Indiana, but here it is.
From here you can go different ways. A route leads you along the official “Nürburgring” route to the east. I would recommend skipping that though. Instead, go straight south on a road called 135 towards a small town called Story. This 30 mile section is the most traveled section by Harley riders, moving at around half the advertised speed limit, so you may have to walk back and forth a few times to get a clear run. Here the narrow road with its almost constant curves, forest edges and many height differences best resembles the German Nürburgring. This road alone is worth the hike, wherever you’re coming from.
The story goes on
After this piece flows into Freetown, it is time to turn west again and undertake the long hike on the Döttinger Höhe of the route. It is the straightest part of this entire route, after the long straight on the Nürburgring.
If you’ve been counting churches with your fingers at this point, it is probably time to step on tiptoe. It’s just a result of being in Hoosier State. There’s enough along this route through seemingly nowhere that we can’t go much more than 10-15 miles without seeing another. Speaking of street observations, there is hardly a city that doesn’t pass by without at least a few houses still waving the Trump 2020 flags, often accompanied by a Confederate rag – but Indiana was part of the Union. One restaurant called SGT Rick’s American Cafe even has a “Trump 4EVR” flag.
There isn’t much to see or do in the southwest part of the loop. However, take a break and explore a huge valley at Shoals Overlook to re-energize as it gets extremely good once you turn north again. The road here follows a meandering river, and river following roads are always the best. You could end the day right after this route and be completely satisfied. There’s a lovely bridge called the Williams Covered Bridge (just don’t read the depressing graffiti on it), and the Salt Creek Brewery is just up the street for an after-work beer.
And it would be the right place to stop if State Road 43 didn’t extend the Indiana Nürburgring even further. This road complements any car, regardless of its power or size. Wide open straight lines lead into 90-degree arching curves. Arable fields quickly merge with forests and then turn back into arable land. If a car’s brakes are not up, they will be exposed on this road with its frequent braking sections downhill. It’s close to Bloomington but you feel far from the busy city out here. And don’t worry, there are plenty of churches too. Any car worth its brave (get it?) Will put a grin on your face at 43, and the M3 Competition has done a lot more that makes me cackle at how easily it chewed this street. It’s a mandatory stop if you venture out to the Indiana Nürburgring, and leaves you just a quick hop into town for a delicious dinner after a busy day of driving.
When should I drive the Indiana Nürburgring?
It works when it’s dry and warm, but an event called “tire squeal” occurs every year. It’s a special two-week period during which the event organizers encourage enthusiasts around the world to ride the streets, eat pork tenderloin, and donate to charity. This event has now been running for three years and the 2021 edition ends while we release this story.
You will have to wait until next year to join the Tire Squeal fun, but don’t let that stop you from going there and exploring some of the streets beforehand. I can promise that any driving or riding enthusiast will fall in love.
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