Nürburgring (30 July - 1 August 2004)
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Despite careful planning and quite a bit of phoning around I didn't manage to find a bed in Nürburg. Fortunately Ed came to the rescue by offering me a spare bed in his house. If I didn't mind being woken by the local church bells at 6am... Now, people who know me know that I'm not particularly fond of getting out of bed early. However, they should also know that I like being at the track before the vast majority of other people shows up. And since Ed's place is about an hour of brisk driving away from the Ring, getting up at 0600 wasn't such a silly idea after all.
Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself here.
FridayBefore I could leave I needed to
Most missions were accomplished: I only forgot to print the directions to Ed's place.
On the way to the Dutch-German border I hit a traffic jam. For some reason a lot of big trucks had decided to use this petrol station to fill up. Naturally there was an impatient white van behind me who tried to jump the queue, figuring that even if I couldn't squeeze through, he would have no such problem in his big van...
At the Ring it was business as usual, spiced up with some interesting machinery such as an AC Schnitzer 6-series, Tom's new car, an Audi RS6 from a TV-presenter, an Ariel Atom, and an Ultima. The audience around the Ultima remarked that the TV-presenter looked much better in the Ultima than the owner himself.
The matte black GT2 was around too.
On the other side of the carpark BMW was trying to generate bad publicity by blocking most of the parking lot with cheap-looking tents. Apparantly it had something to do with a new boik or other.
Even though the SquealMobile is getting on in age and seems to be feeling a bit tired I went out for some laps. There was hardly any traffic about, enabling me to do 3 for the most part relaxing laps. Notable exception was when a UK-registered Audi-TT made room for me to overtake him on the way to Galgenkopf and a Swiss-registered Opel Astra decided that going three abreast into Galgenkopf was to be his brilliant move of the day. I didn't quite agree with that and made sure that he didn't weasel his way in between the TT and myself. Beats me why you would want to try something you probably wouldn't get away with during a race in Touristenfahrten at the last corner of a 20-something kilometer track...
Back in the parking lot I met Ed who had passed me on the track. I also had a chat with the fellows who had run into a spot of trouble with their E30 BMW. Apparantly a mate had driven it round, parking it without letting it cool down, with a blown-off coolant hose as a result.
Before the track closed there was time to do a passenger lap with Tom to sample his new Mini. It didn't only look great in dark blue, it also handled quite nicely. We noticed that someone had managed to knock over most of the cones at the beginning of the track. Ed was following us round for a bit in his Clio, overtaking us just before Aremberg. He gave a big wave to a black GT2, thinking it was another GT2. Pflanzgarten was interesting: the back didn't only go really light, it also started to step out a bit. Looks like this car likes to go over crests with lots of power on :)
Afterwards Ed introduced Montoya's little brother to us. A small world indeed. He also told me in 2 or 3 words how to find his house, which is in the middle of nowhere. After another chat with the boys of the E30 (who hated the Fireblade they'd rented: crap brakes, didn't turn in, broke spanner when trying to adjust the chain) I made my way over to the barbecue.
The BBQ came with a built-in mechanism to raise or lower the food. This mechanism was over-engineered to the n-th degree. And still it had trouble staying in the same position. I suggested wedging a sausage in it, but common sense prevailed and a stone was used instead. PMRs proved not only entertaining, but also useful to communicate between the BBQ proper and the kitchen/balcony.
Martin was playing with a familiar camera, which was duly shown to Richard. Meanwhile I took a picture of Astrid standing on the BBQ-bench. The strange-looking silvery thing is a cooling bag to transport wine.
The food was excellent, just like the weather and the company. Despite that, I decided at 23.15 that I'd better start finding my way to Ed. Combining the directions from my GPS, Ed's route description and one or two SMS messages I arrived at his doorstep at 00.30, parked the SquealMobile next to the Clio, and introduced my bag to the resident monster: a tiny kitten.
Then it was time to hit the sack to catch some sleep before the 6am wake-up call.
SaturdayThe local church did what it had been doing for half of forever by ringing two slightly dissimilar bells at the same time. Loudly. More than 100 rings. At least that way you don't need and alarm clock.
In particularly fine weather we made the drive through a green countryside over entertaining roads, arriving at the Ring around opening time. Without wasting time I parked the SquealMobile and hopped in the passenger seat of the Clio. The track was pleasantly quiet: it felt as if we were the only people on the track.
At the beginning of the second lap, a Dutch 911 started ahead of us, looking good in its natural environment. A Honda sedan thingie was the next car to be overtaken. And then we saw a red Golf in the distance. Would it be? Could it be? It was! The one and only BastardWagen, out for some early laps. Ed stepped up the pace a bit and started to reel the BW in. This proved to be a nice challenge, as Karl seemed to have found some more speed to carry, particularly through Pflanzgarten where he was really flying. Then again, Ed "I don't brake before the jump" Healey isn't too slow through there either. All in all a lot of entertainment and a great start of the day.
The right front tyre of the Clio was already quite worn before we started, so Ed pulled off to have a quick look at it. Overnight it hadn't grown new tread, and it was still looking a bit bald. Well, maybe a bit more than just a little bald.
In fact it was so bald that a marshall had a quick chat at the gate to tell us that slicks were not allowed. Ed explained it wasn't a slick, it was just a well-worn regular road tyre, and the official explained what that meant insurance-wise. Ed told him that Ring Racing had a new tyre for him, but that they weren't open yet. Fortunately he was a decent chap, allowing us to do one more lap. Unfortunately the Ferrari Challenge Stradale we intended to admire from close up was long gone by now. Instead we made do with a very fast Swiss Opel Vectra.
Despite being handicapped by not wanting to stress the right front tyre too much, we still stuck with him for a bit at the beginning. However, the Clio was no match for the high-powered Vectra up Quiddelbacher Höhe. During the rest of the lap we admired a Lotus Elise and some fast Porsches.
Then it was time to head to Ring Racing, where we arrived a few minutes before 9. Moni was just coming round, promising that the boys would finish breakfast in a few minutes. We killed the time by admiring the repairwork carried out on Christer's and Soren's BMW, looking at our new C-Car 2 (with G60 under the hood), and noticing Wayne's E30 still outside.
C-Car 1 was also sitting outside, propped up on some old tyres. A sad sight indeed. A much happier sight was Ben's 944, ready to be taken out on the Ring. Apart from a piece of trim that was falling off, but Ed expertly repaired that, making the car good to go.
In the meantime the Kleen-clan had started balancing Ed's spare set of wheels when Ed noticed that one of the wheels wasn't his! Three wheels were obviously Clio wheels, but the fourth was a Megane wheel. As the Clio only needed a new right front it wasn't much of a problem, but it sure was funny.
Equipped with a shiny new tyre on the right front we headed back to the Nordschleife. Traffic was still light, but we encountered some interesting vehicles nevertheless, such as a Caterham with a labour-intensive colourscheme consisting of little squares in all kinds of different colours. Apart from the usual number of impressively quick boiks there was of course a number of slower riders out, but most of them kept a close watch of their rearview mirrors.
By 10.30 the first closure occurred. Ed headed home to play with the kids and do some gardening, and I hung around enjoying the sun and the general athmosphere. In the meantime Ben showed up with the 944, and Karl thought it a good idea to follow him in case the car broke down. Eager to help I got in the BastardWagen. The 944 seemed to be behaving itself, even though (when looking at it from behind) it might benefit from some of those fantastic M030 swaybars.
Ben decided to pull off at Breidscheid because he wasn't impressed with the tyres and wanted to adjust the tyre pressures. Karl continued up the hill, making mincemeat of a host of other cars.
While Karl went home to pick up his uncle Lucky, I spent the early afternoon hiking up to Adenauer Forst to take some pictures. When I arrived the track was closed because of an accident with a boik right in front of us. The rider needed medical attention and was driven off the track in the back of an ambulance despite his assertions that he was alright.
Once the track reopened one of the first cars coming through was the Ring Taxi, having a lot of sideways action to entertain both its passengers and the small crowd that had gathered at Adenauer Forst. Also entertaining were the people who went grass-tracking. Top marks went to the Seat Leon who scraped his front spoiler right in front of the Streckensicherung. And if that wasn't enough, Richard had brought a Monster Truck to amuse the interested watchers.
Having had my lunch and having taken a load of pictures I decided to fold up my chair (yes, I learned from Ben, Birgit and Keith during the 24h race) and move on down the road a little towards Metzgesfeld. When I got there, the track was closed again. No problem when you have a nice folding chair, a good book and something to drink.
As soon as the track opened I took some more pictures.
Time was flying, and I wanted to be back at Ed's place at a reasonable hour (for a change), so I texted Soren to arrange a time and place to meet. At the appointed time I was there (the carpark), but the track was closed once again and the white BMW was nowhere in sight. The red Viper was showing of its engine at the no-parking zone before the barrier. As usual, a few other cars had the hood up, including the M4.
I found Soren when he drove past the Grüne Hölle, jumped in the passenger seat and adjusting the harness as the queue was moving towards the barrier. Out on the track Soren showed that he had gotten used to the lack of front suspension in the BMW by moving at a fair clip. As is usually the case immediately after a closure, traffic was quite dense.
On the second lap we encountered a bit less traffic. There were still quite a few boiks going round, some of them in large groups. Highlight of that lap: a Challenge Stradale downshifting right next to our open window. Whew!
At Adenauer Forst I spotted Martin taking pictures, and I texted him to alert him to our presence on the track, with the following picture as a result (thanks!).
Cooling down with a well-deserved Coke (at least in Soren's case) we found a quiet spot to discuss this, that and the state of the world. However, things didn't stay quiet for long as Ben and Birgit came to tell their story: Birgit had rested a camcorder on the armco to get some nice action pics when an Evo had come by. Sideways. Into the armco. Where her camcorder was... Birgit runs up the track to warn oncoming traffic, but this turns out to be rather superfluous as the crashed Evo decides to flee the scene of the accident (and avoid a rather hafty armco bill, presumably).
Instead of joining the small impromptu Ringers dinner which would result in another late night, I drove down to Ed, had some dinner there, and proceeded to install a rather complicated surround sound setup with matching DVD-player. After accomplishing that mission we had to test the system. Which we did by watching the excellent BMW video from Mike Frison, comparing the driving styles of the three drivers featured in that DVD.
SundaySunday morning went roughly the same as Saturday morning, except that one of Ed's daughters had figured out how to change the time on his alarm clock. This caused us to miss the opening of the track by a few minutes. The procedure was again to park the SquealMobile and hop into the Clio. Again traffic was pleasantly light. At Adenauer Forst we happened upon a yellow VX220 with black wheels. The black wheels look very purposeful on that car.
Another trip to Ring Racing to switch the front brake pads was necessary after a lap of three. On the way there we noticed that the DTM traffic was increasing quickly. To kill some time Soren offered me a test drive in his Boxster-S. Very very nice car. I liked it much better than I'd expected. It's quick, having the roof down is great, it sounds fantastic, and heel and toeing was a doddle. The only thing I didn't like was the position of the steering wheel. It was too low for me, causing the same problems as I had in my 964 before fitting a steering column extension.
After returning to Ring Racing Soren managed to pry me from his car, and I switched over to Ed's Clio again. We took the same road to the Ring as I'd just taken with the Boxster: B-258 towards Blankenheim, and then the twisty road over the hills to Adenau where we entered the track. The Atom was going round too, and it was doing so at good speeds.
For some reason the track seemed to be getting less busy, which left us without other cars to play with. To try to remedy the situation I texted Karl to ask if he wanted to come out, but sadly he was otherwise engaged. A little later the problem was solved by an orange Mercedes 190 in full race trim. At first we were catching up to him quickly, but I guess he saw the blue Clio approaching in his mirrors as he stepped up the pace noticably. Despite that Ed clung to his rear bumper all the way to Döttinger Höhe. I later found out that the 190 had a 2.5 16v engine.
A few laps later, still enjoying the markedly better bite of the fresh brake pads, we noticed a blue Scooby ahead of us at the diversion at T-13. From what I could make out of the license plate it was Ruud. Ed starting taking the corners even quicker, and we came close enough to make a positive ID. I also noticed that Rene was the passenger. Ruud also seemed to notice who was behind him, as the Scooby started to work harder and harder. Ruud was pulling away at the straights, where the superior power of the Scooby came into play, but Ed kept closing the gap through the twisty bits. Flugplatz, Wippermann and Pflanzgarten were examples of sections that were really fast. At the final straight Ruud indicated right to invite us to pull alongside of him, and big grins and thumbs up were exchanged all round.
With the track still open, tyres OK and fresh brakes, there was no excuse to stop lapping: out we went for yet another lap. We'd had the pleasure of hearing (and seeing) the grey Ferrari Challenge Stradale come past once already, and at Steilstrecken we were treated to a repeat performance.
Just before Brünnchen a car had gone off the road, causing a yellow flag situation. We braked hard to get the speed down to a more suitable pace. The car started wiggling about a bit under the hard downhill braking, and the marshall started wiggling his butt in time to the wiggling of the Clio.
The next lap was rather eventful: a well-driven black VW R32 was ahead of us. Behind us was a silver Clio, also very well driven. We were keeping pace with the R32, and if the silver Clio behind us had to drop back a bit because of traffic, he closed right up again. Ed invited him to pass so we could enjoy his driving from behind in stead of having to watch it in the mirrors, but he kept following. In the meantime the three-car convoy had gone through the Karussell, up to Hohe Acht and through Wippermann at high speeds.
And then we came to Eschbach, where a marshall was standing in the road with a yellow flag. The R32 slammed on the brakes, and Ed stuck to the right side of the road while locking the brakes. The marshall jumped out of the way, we came to a stop, and Ed went up to the marshall to apologise for nearly running him over. Truth be told, the entire incident would have been avoided if the yellow flag had been visible before Eschbach.
After all this excitement Ed went home again as the track was now closed, and I went to blag a passenger lap in Ben's newly repaired 944. The blagging went pretty well, but getting the car out of the cramped carpark proved to be a bit bothersome as the BMW folks had put the biggest of their tents in the middle of the road, effectively creating a series of dead ends.
While Ben navigated his way out of the cramped confines without bowling over rows of boiks I tried to adjust the seat belt of the harness. Without much in the way of success. After the cones Ben gave me a quick rundown of how these easy-to-adjust belts were to be adjusted, but I couldn't get it to work. Fortunately there was still the ordinary three-point belt that I could wear.
The 944 felt much like a 968 (no big surprise there). To me it felt a bit soft, but that's probably a matter of taste. It certainly felt well-balanced, even on the crappy tyres it was (unintentionally) running.
I said goodbye to the Ring by doing a slowish final lap (with Rene in the passenger seat) and went home before the DTM crowd blocked all the roads in the area.
Executive summary: despite driving only 4.5 laps myself I had huge fun doing pax laps, taking pictures and enjoying the roads in the greater Koblenz area.