Nürburgring (17-18 April 2004)
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|Friday evening: Niek calls to see if I can give him a lift to the Ring as
Søren's Boxter is apparantly incapable of carrying 3 people at the same time.
As Anders would say: you really want a 911. Anyway, Niek would go by train from
Maastricht to a more suitable pick-up point: Venlo.
Saturday morning: Niek calls he's late, due to a problem with the train. I throw some gear and clothes in the SquealMobile and head towards Venlo. The local roads are a bit of a mess thanks to some kind of blossom parade. No problem for me as I'm heading in the other direction. Niek calls again: the scheduled train to Venlo isn't running, and it looks like there's not going to be one in the foreseeable future. After a short examination of the map I find a way round the blossom thing to head directly south and pick Niek up in Heerlen. From then on things went smoothly all the way to the Nordschleife, driving in excellent weather.
The parking area across the road at Brünnchen has some interesting cars on display, ranging from Jeppe's favourite car to something, ah, different.
Søren and Tijs are already somewhere at the Ring. Niek and I head for Brünnchen to get some Currywurst mit Pommes, do some spectating and take some pictures. A 911 billowing huge clouds of oily smoke came by, probably blowing its engine to bits in the process. More pictures of this day can be found on the photography pages.
The Alzen Turbo Porsche was still running strong, though it would retire later on.
Meanwhile I check in with Søren via SMS and find out that Tijs and he are at the bottom of Fuchsröhre. They're on the way to Adenauer Forst and would appreciate a ride from Adenau back to Quiddelbacher Höhe where their car is parked. A little later we're all at the Imbiss at Quiddelbacher Bridge, replacing the fluids we lost sweating in the sun with cool Cokes. Apparantly Søren and Tijs had run into the same problem as Jeppe and I: there's no Currywurst mit Pommes to be had at the bottom of Fuchsröhre.
On to Hatzenbach we went. The Audi TT from Ecurie Europe was still running strong. Niek was timing the laps. Near the end of the race we got a little worried, as it was more than 15 minutes since the last time they had gone by. Shortly afterwards we spotted the Audi with the emergency blinkers on, but still going. Some short clips can be found at the Bits & Pieces page of the RingBunny.
From Hatzenbach we all moved to the Fahrerlager to see if we could find the team. Thanks to large sponsor logo's on the trailer the team was easy to find.
The reason for the slow last lap turned out to be a powersteering failure just before Miss-Hit-Miss. Christer (the driver at the time) had had some exciting moments trying to wrestle the steering wheel to make the car turn in the proper direction while at the same time avoiding running into some Porsche GT3's that were just overtaking him.
Next stop is Sliders Guesthouse to drop off my overnight bag (not much in the way of gadgets this time). Bren is busy changing the rear tyre on his boik, on account of it having had intercourse with a rather large nail.
At Ring Racing I pick up the C-Car to do some laps during the evening session. When I go out Job stops me to ask me if I can take a team sponsor out for some laps. No problem; I do a sighting and warm-up lap, then pull in to the parking lot to strap the guy in without having to hurry. As it turns out he's quick with all the belts, and we're off without much in the way of delay.
The brakes feel as if they're lacking bite, and the C-Car is quite unstable during braking. The previous drivers noted similar behaviour during Easter. There's also a quite noticable wobble, which disappears when braking harder. As you don't need much in the way of brakes in the C-Car anyway, I drive around the little issue. My passenger is having a good time, and instead of getting out after his first lap we continue for two more. By that time I've shown him where exactly Christer lost his power steering, while talking a bit about the bends, the qualities of the C-Car, the Audi TT on LPG, and cars in general.
Meanwhile Christer and Christian have been entertaining other sponsors at higher speeds, but even they have to come off the track when the red light appears. The team goes to pack up the truck while I go and take a much-needed shower before heading over to the Pistenklause. Job managed to persuade Sabine to wear the Official Pitbabe T-shirt. It certainly looks good on her.
Sunday morning: the weather looks a lot worse than yesterday. Instead of sunshine there's a lot of clouds. Raindrops on the window prove that it's been raining during the night.
At breakfast (I manage to be there at the appointed time this time, surprising Bren a bit) Izzy comes by to get acquainted. According to Bren the dog is still a puppy. It's a rather large puppy, suggesting that it might turn into a dog even bigger than Lenny.
At Ring Racing I'm about to transfer my helmet and gloves to the C-Car when Keith arrives in the Kaul & Will Smart. Christer's 1.5 cars are parked there too.
I tell Keith about my experiences yesterday, and we decide that Keith will drive the C-Car to the Ring and do a lap or two to get a feeling for what people have been talking about. He does a few brake tests along the way (after warning me with his emergency indicators; thanks for that), has a look at the brake pads in the parking lot at the Nordschleife, and we head straight back as the pads seem nearly completely gone. That'll teach me to take a car out without checking the brake pads first...
Back at Ring Racing the usual people make an appearance, including Ed who has some much-needed new brake pads fitted to The Rag.
In no time Keith has appropriated two hydraulic jacks and we have the front end of the C-Car up in the air. With suitable tools at hand, Keith makes short work of the front wheels. The brakes are definitely quite worn. The wobble is easily explained by looking at the right front brake disc: it has a crack in it. A large one. It's interesting to see the difference such a crack makes to the brake pad wear: the pad on the side of the crack has completely worn, while the pad on the other side is thin but still serviceable.
Using a very nifty tool, Keith proceeds to push back the brake caliper to make room for a new brake pad. However, the question is, where do you find new brake pads? And new brake discs? Easy, in the Ring Racing stores, of course. Ahhhh, righto, they haven't got any Golf-2 brake discs or pads left... We do find the fire extinguisher and life hammers I managed to forget to pick up at least three times. To add to the excitement Ecurie Europe arrives with the Audi TT on a trailer, on their way to a show in Leipzig. Keith hooks up Job with an expert on engine management and throttle controls, and shows off his well-deserved team jacket.
Time to come up with plan B. Which Keith does: there's this red Golf-2 standing outside with a broken gearbox. That one's not going anywhere. As we happen to know the owner (Sir B.), we put his car on a lift, rip off his front discs and pads, replace them with the shagged items from the C-Car, and put his nearly new discs and pads on our C-Car. (We did call Sir B. to ask permission first, even though it was doubtful he'd notice, as he doesn't brake anyway). While Keith is negotiating the deal, Ed has a closer look at Johan's new toys: a sexy carbon-fiber rear wing and some very light panels. The BastardBrakes that come off the BastardWagen are in excellent condition. Not surprising, as they only had 7 laps of use...
As we have two jacks handy anyway (and Jochen to assist Keith), a democratic process is used to decide to swap the front and rear wheels of the C-Car. Again, thanks to the air gun this is a job of only a few minutes. After backing the C-Car out of the garage, two heaps of brake dust remain on the floor. Keith sees his chance and drives a mobile broom over it to clean everything up.
By then it's about 11.30, and the program for the day is revised: Keith does a single lap in the C-Car to check it out, followed by me doing two laps to see if the car's behaviour has improved when compared to Saturday. Keith and Jochen will share the C-Car between them for the rest of the day.
Keith's single lap is spiced up a little because Karl spots us in the parking lot. With the BastardWagen out of commission he's giving the BastardBus a workout on the track. Being the kind Sir that he is he invites me to come along, and I hop in without so much as a second thought. We leave the barrier a short way before Keith, waiting for him after the cones. It doesn't take Ed long to figure out that we're waiting there for a reason, and he swiftly joins the queue. When Keith passes us both Karl and Ed start following him. There's quite a bit of traffic, but that only adds to the entertainment. Exiting Adenauer Forst Keith (and Karl and Ed) catches up with Jochen, who's taken the Alfa Sportwagon out for a lap.
Coming into Breidscheid we catch up to a biker who isn't entirely aware of where he is, where the track is going, or what's going on behind him. Not that much of a problem, apart from the fact that he didn't understand that if somebody catches you up, they are going faster than you. A bit of the "boik accelerates like a bat out of hell on the straight, then holds car up in the turn" followed. Karl gave a highly entertaining running commentary on the poor bloke's driving. Ed decides to overtake the procession up Kesselchen, with us in the BastardBus following suit. Going into Karussell a Porsche 996 is slowing us down, but Ed has a neat solution: overtake and outbrake him with a huge speed difference right before diving into the Karussell. A very swift and very safe way overtaking the Porsche. Karl also makes short work of the 996. Going into Eschbach Ed repeats the Porsche-move on the biker who's still holding everybody up.
Back in the carpark we relive the lap with the four of us: one of the things that make Ringing Ringing. This spirited and light-hearted conversation forms a stark contrast to the flashing lights on the public road outside the Ring, where another biker died by crashing. The local limit is 50km/h, visibility at the time of the accident was unimpeded. In the parking area the police were exhibiting another crashed bike, warning people of the dangers of riding or driving the track.
The Audi TT of Ecurie Europe might have gone to Leipzig, but several people associated with the team were still enjoying themselves at the Nordschleife, for example in Job's track-prepared Golf. I did two more laps myself in the SquealMobile, before giving Anders a ride to Ring Racing to pick up his GT3.
Thanks to the Scuderia Hanseat that was scheduled the next week, there were quite a few Swedish Porsches around, including Tobias' track rocket and Anders' old 993RS (this time without the tyre marks over the length of the entire car). While Anders was taking 3 others round in his Mondeo, I arranged a passenger lap with Christian sometime during the afternoon. I was going to go out with him sometime last year, but for various reasons that never happened.
Before that treat it was time for another treat. Anders didn't mind me coming along for his first lap in the GT3 this year. Despite a long absence from the driver seat he had some nice heel and toe action going very quickly. I could go on for a long time trying to describe the feeling of riding in a GT3, but I'm afraid that's beyond my capabilities as a writer. I'll just leave it at corny cliches like "awesome", "fantastic sound", "brutal acceleration", "impressive grip", yadayadayada :) Thank you very much, Anders. Having climbed out of the passenger seat I met Tor Helge, and we agreed thoroughly that the GT3 is a brilliant car, and that we would buy one (each, of course) if we had the money.
Then it was time for the grand finale of the weekend: two laps with Christian in his Mk.2 GT3. We started with an easy lap to warm up the car and the tyres. Which proved that "easy" is a term that's very relative: Christian's "easy" was about as quick as my "fast". His easy warm-up (in traffic, starting with cold tyres, was about 8.52BTG, on a par with my 8.50BTG on an almost traffic-free fast lap. The second lap was even more impressive, particularly as it was starting to drizzle a little. The result of the dampness combined with a serious pace was a few slides here and there, which didn't seem too serious until you realised the speeds at which they occurred. Talking about speed: despite 3 or 4 occasions of traffic at very awkard spots which slowed us down significantly, the bridge-to-gantry time was 8.18. All in all the perfect way to wrap up another great weekend at the Nürburgring.