Nürburgring (21 February 2004)
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|Instead of having to wait until early March, the powers that be (in cooperation
with the weather gods and the contractors who did the roadworks) decided to
open early this year. Given the crowds of 2003, I figured it might be a good
idea to take the opportunity and do some quiet laps: the chances were remote
that a huge crowd would turn up, as
The drive through the Eifel mountains (yes, I know, but by Dutch standards a decent-sized molehill can easily claim "mountain" status) indicated that it was still quite cold. Heaps of snow by the side of the road still hadn't melted.
It also confirmed that Karneval was still in progress, as witnessed by a tractor pulling a rather dreary looking cart made by the Karneval club "Hümmel". Maybe it was on its way to a procession somewhere. Would have been entertaining to take it round the Nordschleife.
Upon arrival I spotted some of the usual suspects: Sir B. and Christer. They encouraged me to get rid of 700 euros, somewhich I duly complied with by visiting the Ring office to get a Jahreskarte. This time I'd taken the trouble to fill out the form at home. Which meant that apart from bumping the door into Puffi (sorry, didn't see you through the dark glass) things went smoothly. The marshall scanned the picture from my old Jahreskarte, printed up a new card, took my cash, and I was ready to go.
Apart from Karl and Christer the place was nearly deserted. The small parking lot next to the office was mostly empty. The bigger lot on the other side of the Grüne Hölle contained a grand total of three cars...
By then it was time to sample the track. I offered the passenger seat to Christer, but he politely declined stating that the track was slippery. For those who didn't have their own track scout at the ready, a large sign at the cones behind the barrier stated the same thing.
To make a long story short: there was a lot of dirt everywhere. The run-up to T-13 looked very impressive, though the final bit of Döttinger Höhe looked a lot worse than it was. The opposite can be said of the entry to the Schikane: it looked reasonably clean and harmless, but was very slippery.
The entry into Hatzenbach (the fast righthander after Bastard Bend) looks very promising: the big bumps near the apex have gone completely. It does need a bit of rubber to improve grip, but I think it's a big improvement.
The snow on the sides of the track looked very scenic. There was quite a bit of it at Flugplatz, for example.
Several roadworks hadn't been completed yet. Among them were sites at Metzgesfeld, Bergwerk and Schwalbenschwanz.
Despite the dirty track and the roadworks I had a really good time. After a lap or two I had a reasonable idea where the grip was decent and where it was lacking. Even better was that there was hardly anybody about, with the exception of Chris Hellegers. He was taking pictures at various locations from Hohe Acht to Karussell. Each time I came past he was in another location, sometimes even on different sides of the track.
This was by far the quietest I've seen the track. Ever. No bikes, and hardly another car. All in all a perfect environment to do 5 consecutive laps. On the final two laps Christer was behind me. He would give me a nice big head start, and then try to catch up. He must have given me quite a big lead both times, as he only caught up to me after I'd exited Galgenkopf. Apparantly Christer did about 9.13 BTG in the 318i, and my best time in the SquealMobile is 9.57 BTG. And given the conditions and the roadworks, I'm pretty sure I didn't go that fast.
The day ended with a passenger lap with Karl in the BastardWagen. Karl had had a few close laps with Christer, continuing last year's trend of making the BastardWagen go round faster and faster. The little old lady who owned the BW before Karl bought it can be proud of her (now ex) garage queen. Christer left the gates behind us, gaining on us ever so slowly. Karl had spotted him up Kesselchen, but on Döttinger Höhe I got my first view of the 318 in the rearview mirror.
For entertainment purposes I took a slightly different way home, taking the track to Adenau and using the back roads to connect to the B-258. Karl left the gates a second or two ahead of me, and I didn't see much of him after going through the cones.
I caught up with him when leaving the track at Breidscheid. In Adenau he pulled
off to give the BW some well-deserved rest and to get some well-deserved beer
himself. I on the other hand made my way home to get a well-deserved Coke.