Until 1966 Hockenheim was a very fast 4.78-mile circuit in the rough shape of a kidney bean. It had opened in 1939, 15 miles from Heidleberg, and was used for German national car and motorcycle racing. In 1965/6 it was uprated to a design by John Hugenholz because one end was needed when an autobahn was built. The resulting 4.206-mile circuit remained blindingly quick for most of its length, with a slow section in the 'stadium' (ie grandstand) area.
Hockenheim achieved notoriety in 1968 when, at one of the first major races held at the circuit, Jim Clark was killed in a Formula Two race. While the exact cause of Clark's accident has never been established with 100% certainty, it is almost certain that he crashed as a result of tyre failure. His death was caused, however, by the fact that his car was not restrained from hitting a tree.
While the Nurburgring was being made safe, Hockenheim staged the 1970 German GP with a layout made slower by the construction of three chicanes. It was not a popular choice of venue but, following Lauda's accident at the Nurburgring in 1976, Hockenheim became the home of the German GP apart from 1985 when the new 'Nurburgring' had the race.
The Hockenheim circuit was radically updated ahead of the 2002 German GP, and in the opinion of many the legendary track has lost all its character.
The super-fast runs out into the country, and back again, have been lost. Although they looked impressive on TV, the thick forests meant that it was not feasible to build grandstands. Therefore, the track was effectively cut in half and a new section added, linking the (now) heavily shortened straights.
It goes without saying that Hermann Tilke was responsible for the 'new' Hockenheimring, just as it goes without saying that the new layout is not popular. That said, it looks OK on TV and the race promoters have been able to add more grandstands, which means more money.
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Since 2007, organisers elected to alternate the German round of the world championship between the Nurburgring (organised by ADAC in odd-numbered years) and Hockenheim (organised by AvD in even-numbered years). Due to a disagreement over naming rights, 2008 saw the first German Grand Prix to take place since 2006; 2007’s Nürburgring race was called the European Grand Prix.