Nürburgring (15 & 16 May 2004)
Links marked with a * require a password.
Ecurie Europe had managed to restore the Audi TT back to working order after the slight mishap of the previous
VLN race. An impressive job by the team. Another team is also making headway:
Team Schedenkreuz managed to get their race car ready and scrutineered. All of this was a promising start of yet another weekend at the most beautiful racetrack in the world.
I'd taken my camera (read: the SLR) along to take some pictures of the cars whizzing by. First stop was Hatzenbach, where the spectators had their radios on and their barbecues going strong.
Christer had an eventful start of the race, featuring a rough running engine, some gearbox trouble, and a broken-off emergency power cut-off switch. Read all about it in the race report of the 4th race on the Ecurie Europe website.
It took a very long time for the Audi to come by, and when it did it sounded rather rough, suffering from misfires. Hatzenbach is a nice place to watch the race, but after a while I decided to move to another spot anyway. Not wanting to walk too far in the heat I decided to go to Galgenkopf. The entry to the little carpark there was blocked by a broken-down BMW that was towed off the track. The closest spot to safely park a car was the Ed Tankstelle.
On the way to Galgenkopf I passed a crashed Civic that had been towed off the track.
By now we're about 2.5 hours into the race. Within 5 minutes of my getting into position at the fence, a very rough-sounding car inched its way up the hill. Unfortunately it was Stephane in the Audi TT. The engine was making barely enough power to tick over at idle, and Stephane had to pull off the track right in front of me. Our friendly little chat was interrupted by the marshals who needed Stephane to pilot the Audi to the nearest exit.
While Stephane was getting towed, I hiked back to the emergency exit and the crashed Civic that was now accompanied by the TT. Stephane was on the phone with Job, explaining where he was. Then it was my turn to talk to Job to explain how you reached that location via public roads :) Having to park the car after a mere two laps was a bummer for Stephane, who'd had a short night and a long drive to make it to the start. After a short wait, during which I learned that Stephane used to own a 964C2 too, the support vehicle arrived with Job and one of the mechanics.
Once Job & co were on their way back to the Fahrerlager I hiked back to my spot next to the track to take some more pictures. Afterwards I sampled the Currywurst mit Pommes at the Döttinger Höhe Imbiss next to the Ed Tankstelle. My subjective verdict: much better than the shack at Brünnchen or the little van at Quiddelbacher bridge. Even though the fries and sausage were quite nice, it still turned out to be a bad decision as there was more than enough very nice food left at the Ecurie Europe pit. Particularly the soup and the bread was excellent. And to stay with the water and bread theme a bit longer, Christer showed the new drinking system in the TT.
The Dutch neighbours were involved in youngtimer racing. There were quite a few interesting cars around.
When all the guests had left it was time to dismantle the tent. One of the (rather heavy) ramps doubled as a ladder.
The next challenge was to get the TT back into the trailer without much in the way of power. Christer's dad has a heavy goods license and drove the truck this weekend. To make pushing the TT back into the trailer easier he put the truck on a slight downhill slope.
Things went surprisingly easy after that: the TT was pushed to a suitable spot, we gave it a good shove (even the photographer participated, so no visual record or video), and up it went.
Having made some arrangements for my overnight stay I waved goodbye to the rest of the team and went to the Nordschleife to do some laps myself. The track was closed, resulting in the usual full carpark and a little traffic jam on the access road.
Apparantly a bad crash had occured, and the track had closed within 15 minutes of opening. As there wasn't much chance of the track opening again, I went to Ring Racing where I admired Johan's car (even the caps from the tyre valves had been removed in a quest for lightness) and had a quick chat with Kurt and Ross (who proudly demonstrated his new Jahreskarteholder).
A quick call with Johan confirmed the schedule for the evening, and presented a challenge: I was staying at Sabine's Fuchshof (with Johan and two of his mates), and she was celebrating her birthday. If I could come up with a little present? Please bear in mind that this is Germany. On a Saturday evening. Anyway, back to Ed Tankstelle to rumage around their collection. A miniature BMW Z3 in the correct colour would have to do.
Dinner at the Pistenklause went in the usual fashion, though the company was a bit more varied than usual. Apart from Johan and another Team Schwedenkreuz driver there were some people from StopTech, two participants in the Gumball Rally, and some assorted others. Naturally, this made for lots of interesting conversations on various topics ranging from cars, driving, racing, music, brakes, cars, driving, music, rock festivals, driving, cars, films, and back to cars again :)
I guess that this is as good a place as any to explain the subtitle of this trip report. We had two rooms at the Fuchshof. Johan & Peter had one, and Anders (not the GT3 but the B3-driving one) and I the other. I had already been warned by a little birdy that Johan was quite good at snoring, and the birdy had not been exaggerating... Despite that I had a good night's sleep apart from a wake-up call at 06.30 hours to my roommate. Nothing out of the ordinary therefore, which saw me arriving at the track at about 8.20 hours.
I did the decent thing by going straight out and was rewarded by a very quiet lap. There was nobody there to overtake, and I was only overtaken by a single red 964RS. By the end of the day that particular 964RS had become very familiar, as I made room for him on 2 other occasions.
Lap two was more of the same, but entering Wehrseifen the suspension started to make some weird noises, as if the right front wheel was rubbing against something. Left the track at Breidscheid, felt if there was anything loose, found nothing, and decided to drive back via public road. I only managed to reproduce a much reduced version of the rubbing once. Anyway, I opted for a short cooldown pause and another slowish lap on the Ring to see how it would react to that. For some reason the problem didn't recur. Maybe because the car realised how much fun it was to drive on a nearly deserted track. One of the cars I spotted was a Ferrari Challenge Stradale. Very sweet.
The next lap I overtook a silver Seat (Johannes). By this time the rear brake pads had all but disappeared, which made for some interesting rearctions under heavy braking from the rear end, which isn't that stable under the best of circumstances anyway. Traffic was still reasonably light, so we went out for another lap. Thanks to the rear brake situation and that morning's suspension noise I took it a bit easy. Traffic was starting to get a bit thicker though, forcing me to overtake some cars and bikes. Most of them were watching their mirrors very well and behaved courteously.
I intended to have a break, but spotted Sir B. going out. Even though the BastardWagen is much quicker than the SquealMobile I went out after him anyway. By the looks of it he was ferrying Matt to Adenau. Matt wasn't wearing a helmet which gave me the chance of seeing the BW disappearing into the distance at a slower than usual rate.
By the end of the lap there were some threatening clouds hanging over the Nürburg castle, which made a nice contrast with the sun that peeked through the holes in the clouds.
Back in the parking lot I was greeted by my former Porsche mechanic. Former, because the OPC where my car used to be serviced had gone broke. He'd rented an Alfa 75 for the weekend, and was in the company of a 964 that insisted on sounding its alarm.
As it was getting chilly outside I took Johannes for a lap in the SquealMobile to get warm again. Fortunately he's used to softly sprung cars. His Seat at least has wider tyres and more torque.
The police were there too, with the by-now regular crash display. This time they'd brought the remains of the bike that was involved of one of the two fatal crashes on the public road next to the Ring.
While we were standing there talking to the police officer the track closed. Which gave Ed an excellent chance to reiterate his encounter with a not-so-quick Brit boiker. Said boiker (with his girlfriend riding pillion) apparantly didn't know the track and did enough weaving to keep Ed behind him from Metzgesfeld all the way to Döttinger Höhe. Probably to the entertainment of various spectators around the track who could admire a bit of headlight flashing and honking. And swearing too, probably.
Being the kind gentleman that he is, Ed decided to educate the guy about the rules of the Nürburgring GmbH, and to explain the concept that however difficult it might be to imagine, some people actually are faster than you. The biker wasn't really receptive towards Ed's helpful tips, but Ed shook his hand anyway to welcome him to the Ring even though the guy was more interested in a fight than in shaking hands.
Matt had come prepared for sunny weather, substituting his Scooby jacket (the one that is windproof, waterproof, warm, fleece-lined, and folds up into a tiny packet) for a Scoobynet T-shirt. Bren and Ross were contemplating the night before over a Red Bull.
As is usually the case after a long closure, traffic backed up at the gates.
Not everybody was having a trouble-free day. A yellow 993RS came in with lots of smoke coming from the right-hand exhaust and wheelarch. Something was definitely not right: it was obviously dripping oil.
Johan had arranged passenger laps for his guests. Ed was one of the taxi drivers, which caused Niek to miss out on a passenger lap. However, timing is everything, and when Ed came back to drop off his passenger I happened to be standing right next to his now-empty passenger seat, and Niek was nowhere in sight. It would be rude to let Ed go out without someone to talk to, so I jumped in.
Traffic was getting thicker by the minute now, but the sun started shining again. A BMW touring, a Smart Roadster and a Mercedes estate were rapidly passed by a concentrated-looking Ed.
Thanks to the dry weather more and more bikers were going out too, including some of the yellow-vested marshals. In Steilstrecken we saw an Alfa parking before the gate at the bottom of Steilstrecken. What they were doing there wasn't entirely clear.
Going through Pflanzgarten it became obvious that the track was getting more and more crowded.
The second lap was less crowded, and just as much fun as the first lap. It was also a bit quicker. Apart from one extremely slow biker that we caught up to going into the Karussell. Fortunately he watched his mirrors pretty well and let us by immediately afterwards. Another biker from the same geographical area made room going into Eschbach. Ed got a nice run through Pflanzgarten I (which included taking the lefthand kerb to get some extra air) and made the most of not having ABS by flying over the crest and doing all the braking after landing. This time there was no traffic in the way on the approach to Schwalbenschwanz, and we squealed round the first lefthander absolutely perfectly. A fitting finale to two excellent laps.
Ed kindly dropped me off at the SquealMobile and went home to play with the kids. I fired up the SquealMobile and had to get used to its soft suspension again after two fast laps in a car with a proper suspension. Stopped off at Ring Racing to take some pictures of Johan's car. The car was a bit dirty, but that added to the ambience.
About 45 minutes and 28 shots later I went home
after yet another entertaining weekend.