Nürburgring (30/31 July 2005)
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SundayTo cover all bases I'd asked for breakfast at 9.00. That way I could peek out the window at 7.30 and decide to get up and do a few laps on a deserted track followed by a leisurely breakfast. And if it rained, I could turn over and sleep a bit more. Luckily the sun was shining, and I was at the track at 8.04. Despite the early hour, my usual parking spot was already taken.
I figured that Ed would be halfway through his first lap of the day by now, and decided to hang around near the gates for a minute or 10 to wait for him. After this I saw no Ed, so I went out for some laps myself.
The track was indeed mostly deserted. On the first lap I didn't see anybody except for a small group of boikers at the start. The sun was shining through the trees, the track was mostly dry, and every time I checked the rearview mirror there was nobody there. Perfect, really. It's a good thing that lots of people prefer to stay in the bar and drink beer until 4 in the morning: it makes the track that much quieter during the first hour.
Lap two was nice too, though a 4-car convoy of Porsches was slow enough to hold me up, and too fast to make me want to push harder to start overtaking them. The Audi A4 that I was catching up to had no such inhibitions: at one point he finally made it past two of the Porsches, only to be re-overtaken on the next bit of straightish track. I went into sightseeing mode for a few corners to make a bit of space, and then went back to my regular speed. I underestimated the capabilities of the Torquemobile a bit, as I caught up to them again at Brünnchen. From there we finished the lap in a 6-car group.
With the fuel light on I decided to fill up the tank (taking care to put diesel in), and get some breakfast. Jochen was also enjoying a late breakfast. With a good meal under my belt (the Germans really do know how to make bread) I gathered up my things, stuffed them in the boot of the Ibiza, and went to the carpark in order to do some more laps. Even though it wasn't 10 in the morning yet, the track was closed. OK, it'll be one of those days, then... Time for plan B: take some pictures.
Before this trip I'd spent a bit of time thinking on what kind of shot I was looking for, and I suspected that Hocheichen in the morning would do very nicely for that.
The weather was still nice and sunny, which made the hike through the woods even better than it usually is.
The track had only just opened when I arrived next to the armco. I'll try not to bore you with too many pictures. Having said that, I think I at least need to include some Porsches, BMWs, the Ringtaxi, some boiks, ..., ... :)
Sabine gave me a friendly wave the first time she came by, and treated me to a nice big powerslide on the second pass.
Keith was having fun with Jeroen's Golf...
... and this boiker managed to go off the black stuff right in front of the Streckensicherung.
Anders and I seem to have similar preferences for photo locations, as we keep running into each other without arranging anything beforehand. This time however he was on the other side of the track.
"I never get my knee down"-Stelvio seemed to be enjoying himself out there.
Somebody who clearly wasn't enjoying himself was the driver of this Porsche 964. He'd been honking at the Mercedes to get out of his way through the latter part of Hatzenbach, and pulled alongside it immediately after the bend. Anders took the following picture:
Problem was, at the same time the Merc swerved to the left to get on the racing line. This left the 964 no other choice then to take evasive action onto the grass. No fun at all, especially when you realise that in this particular spot the stretch of grass next to the track gradually tightens. I was in an excellent position to capture the action on compact flash.
The cars didn't touch, but the 964-driver wasn't a happy bunny, and he made the Merc come to a stop in the middle of the track to tell him very clearly what he thought of the situation. In the meantime I'm waving like crazy to warn oncoming traffic that they'd better slow down as two cars are parked in the middle of the track so that the drivers can have a good slanging match.
When the track closed I went back to the car to drive back to the carpark. The reason for the closure was a bad crash with a BMW 3-series at Schwedenkreuz. Ben was there to help.
On my way back to the Zufahrt, I got sidetracked by a sign that said "Truck trial". On a whim I decided to follow it and see what that was all about. From a distance it looked interesting: big trucks lumbering through narrow gates and over big obstacles. However, they wanted 10 EUR admittance fee, which I thought a bit much for the 15 minutes I intended to spend there.
After parking across the road from the Zufahrt I noticed a funny looking little car. It looked like a Japanese version of the Peugeot 206 CC.
With the track closed I was content to get a cold drink from the Grüne Hölle restaurant and sip it on the balcony while watching the clouds drift by.
With an eye on those clouds I'd selected a seat under one of the sunscreens. Just in case. This proved to be a good idea as 10 minutes later droves of people came to the restaurant to keep dry. At a table behind me a boiker was giving a detailed account of a court case that result from crashing his boik. A highly entertaining story, and well-told.
With the rain drying up it was time for another carpark walk. Almost immediately I ran into Keith, who had to back up from the gates as he couldn't find his Jahreskarte. Luckily it had just fallen to the ground instead being blown out somewhere between Antoniusbuche and Galgenkopf.
In the meantime the track had opened again, and Keith took me out for a lap in the Z4. Before turning onto the queueing area in front of the barriers, we waved Sabine ahead: she always has the right of way, even when she comes from the left :-)
Lots of people wanted to go out after the closure, and before the rain.
Despite the long queue, the track was relatively quiet. Keith had put the hood down when he picked up the car, and hadn't put it back up yet.
The Z4 feels very nice suspensionwise. A bit on the soft side, maybe, but it seemed to turn in well enough. The engine could do with a bit more power (this was a 2.2l), but it ran sweetly. A not-so-standard 350Z was one of the few cars to overtake us.
At Breidscheid a black Scooby insisted on entering the track a relatively short way ahead of us, which put him right at the apex of Ex-Mühle when we caught up to him. Of course he then proceeded to use his power advantage to pull away from us toward Lauda Links, but let us by before Bergwerk (which had a nice little puddle right at the exit of the corner).
Up Kesselchen a few drops of rain started to fall. Nothing much, but you never know what the conditions are around the next corner, and I made sure to tell Keith that these tyres didn't have any grip whatsoever in the wet ;-)
A car was stopped on the grass at the exit of Brünnchen-II. Yellow flags were being waved to slow people down. A silver Merc behind us appeared to think that this was a nice opportunity to overtake us. From the double-time waving with the yellow flag and the shouting the marshall wasn't best pleased with that.
Two minutes later we're out for another lap, and the gates of heaven are opened. It's a good thing that Keith closed the hood (for the first time!) while we were leaving the gate. At Bergwerk the track was now really slippery. Some hardy spectators were still there, even though it was pouring down.
And to drive the point home that conditions on the Ring can be extremely variable: 2 minutes after the downpour at Bergwerk we're approaching Hohe Acht on a perfectly dry track under a blue sky.
Of course at Brünnchen it was raining again, and we gingerly overtook Alex in his 928 before slowing down for the recovery that was still going on before Eiskurve.
Less than a minute after that it was time to put on the sunglasses again. Döttinger Höhe was still damp, but was getting wetter further on up the road.
I'm usually not a fan of two-tone paintjobs, but the one on this Elise was very nice. It was also well done, down to the colour of the rims being repeated in the stripe that separates the red from the white.
Also interesting was the badge on a blue Golf.
While the Z4 cooled down, Keith and I went for some laps in the Torquemobile. Conditions were changing from one corner to the next, just like most of the time I'd been driving on Saturday. As a result we went round at a decent pace, and despite the dry sections we managed to close up to the GT3 that had left the gates directly in front of us. By the time we came to Brünnchen we were within overtaking distance. It's not everyday that a GT3 is holding me up, but this was one such occasion. A lowered Polo that I'd just overtaken was starting to catch up to me again because of it. The GT3 made it quite clear that he didn't want me to overtake him. I managed to get a nice run on him going into Brünnchen-II, but he just floored it up the hill. Jochen captured the situation with his camera.
Of course, the conditions weren't exactly in his favour, but if somebody catches up to you, that means they're faster. To complicate the situation a bit, a fully stripped and fast 5-series was closing on all of us. I figured that the best solution was to go back to the right, let the 5-er have a go at the GT3, and wait for another opportunity to overtake. Through Eiskurve and Pflanzgarten I followed the GT3 closely. When we approached the braking zone for Schwalbenschwanz things got interesting: I took my usual 964-line, which is a straight approach from the right side of the track to the turn-in point. The GT3 took the outside line, choosing to brake and do a bit of cornering at the same time. From where he was sitting, my line might look like a dive up the inside, particularly since he braked quite early. I don't know if that was the reason, but on the approach to Galgenkopf I finally managed overtake him.
Keith (who has a 2-lap stomach) was good to go out for another lap. We left the GT3 one or two cars ahead of the GT3, but the track was getting noticably wetter and we didn't see the GT3 during the entire lap. Not surprisingly, as it isn't all that easy to make a powerful rearwheel drive car go fast in the wet. Much easier in a FWD car.
Jochen was still at Brünnchen, with his camera at the ready.
At the end of the lap something silly happened. A faster car made a moderately aggressive pass exiting Schwalbenschwanz, only to slow down right in front of me, almost forcing me to overtake him again before Galgenkopf?!? Weird.
Back in the carpark we noticed that some people had obviously been doing some suspension upgrades, judging by the parts left next to the rubbish bin.
Back in the main carpark we noticed the arrival of a nice-looking Audi Quattro. It was a narrow-body, of which there were only 700-and-something made, according to the experts surrounding me. Keith naturally had to have a look under the bonnet (as you do), while the (justifiably) proud owner outlined his plans for the car.
Meanwhile we all had a good laugh at the girl who belonged to a Ferrari 355: the trunklid kept falling on her head. Don't say you haven't been warned, Ben.
While we were standing around admiring the Quattro and being amused by the public at large, we noticed something strange about the parking spot next to the Audi. For some reason nobody managed to park decently in it. People either parked at weird angles, or way off center in such a manner that it was nearly impossible to open the driver's door. That spot must have been jinxed.
I'm not an expert on VWs, and I probably missed something when Job explained the VW line-up to me way back when, but seeing an "Exclusive" badge on an older generation Passat struck me as a little funny. Yes, it's certainly a limited edition: they've stopped making them.
It was nearly 16.00 now, and Ben was going out for a last lap in the MC-Car. Keith and I decided to escort him round. We nearly lost Ben before Hohenrain because a boiker tried to commit suicide by means of a Z4.
Once we were past the boik we quickly caught up with Ben again on the way to Hatzenbach.
The sun was shining and Keith had opened the roof again. I must admit that there's something to be said for open-top motoring. It also makes it much easier to hear if the car in front of you backfires when shifting. There was still a speedlimit at Schwedenkreuz, but most people were doing close to their normal speeds there as the track was clear.
At Adenauer Forst an accident had taken place, involving some boikers. We had to slow down quite quickly for that. Despite the dark clouds the track was drying out nicely.
The Z4 seemed to have ample grip, allowing Keith to take some interesting lines that allowed us to have a better look at how the suspension of the MC-Car worked. When we pulled level with Ben up Kesselchen, he seemed to be enjoying his last lap of the weekend.
At this point a VW Vento nestled itself in our little convoy, and due to some slow boiks we lost quite a bit of ground to Ben.
From Hohe Acht to Pflanzgarten III the Vento was a bit in the way: Ben was faster, and so were we, but the Vento was between us and giving it all. At PG-III Ben waved him past so that we could finish the lap together.
At the end of the lap Ben ceremoniously transferred custody of the MC-Car into Keith's capable hands, while I stared disbelievingly at the jinxed parking spot: yet another car had managed to use it in a creative fashion.
Next on the agenda was two laps with Keith in the MC-Car. The driver's seat is quite high at the moment. It's more like a throne than a racing seat, but something will be done about that in the future. Again we came to the crossing at the same time as Sabine, and again waved her ahead.
The track wasn't too busy. Up Kesselchen we encountered a boiker who was afraid to leave the middle of the road (not the best strategy for making it up Kesselchen alive),
We also saw (and heard!) a TVR overtaking us.
At Wippermann a Punto had gone into the armco nose-first. The right front wheel had about 45 degrees of negative camber and most of the front end was badly damaged. I later learned that the engine mounts had broken off too, and that the car was almost certainly a write-off. Not that it takes all that much to write off a Punto, as Keith (who happens to be an expert in that area) reminded me.
On the next lap something was up at Schwedenkreuz: a GT2 sat stopped on the grass, but didn't appear to be damaged.
Near Metzgesfeld an Audi A3 was very impatient to get by us, but when Keith indicated right and made room for him, he didn't pass. He finally overtook us on the way down to Breidscheid.
The occupants of the Punto were still on the phone to arrange things. The bonnet of the car had come completely off, and was leaning against the driver's door. The track was more than a little dirty: I wouldn't want to be on a boik coming through without proper warning.
Before Galgenkopf another car was in the grass: this one looked to be a mechanical problem, as there was no damage visible.
Back in the carpark I had a chat with Fabian, who'd had a less than satisfactory day due to lots of wind and lots of closures. At one point he'd entered the track at Breidscheid only to have to stop and secure an accident at Bergwerk two corners down the road.
From up close the Punto looked in pretty bad shape indeed. For a change I knew more than Fabian about the case on account of having passed the accident area twice.
With the track closed and rain starting to fall I decided to start to head home again. On my way to the car I bumped into Robin, but as Keith had accidentally left his sweatshirt in my car and I'd agreed to meet him at the Ed Tankstelle to return it to him, I didn't have time for a chat. Sorry Robin, next time!
When I pulled the seatback forward the Ibiza suffered its first Ring-damage: the lever came off in my hand, and the plastic trim fell on the floor. It's a good thing I'm used to driving Alfa Romeos: things like these are nothing out of the ordinary :)
Executive summary: a great weekend with lots of quality track time, entertaining passenger laps, good photography, ample opportunity to catch up with people, topped off with the usual entertaining Ringers dinner.