Nürburgring (15-17 April 2006)
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SaturdayI'd changed the front brake pads of the Ibiza to Ferodo 2500 to see if they would deal with the conditions at the Ring better than the standard pads. As you can see in the picture below the standard pads don't tolerate the way I use them very well.
It was a bit of a challenge to find out which type of pad would fit the Ibiza, so I took the easy way out and went to Biesheuvel Autosport. Han called Ferodo, and after a bit of back and forth picked two candidates off the shelves and went to my car to compare the standard pads with the Ferodos. We exchanged pads and money, and a quick detour to Rennsport later the car was ready for the Easter weekend.
This time round I managed to forget less than on the previous trip. Maybe this was due to Helen cooking a full English breakfast before leaving. Or, it was because Matt (who'd flown into Schiphol this time and spent the night at our place) forgot his jacket. Regardless, after stuffing the boot of the Ibiza with camera bag, overnight bag, gadget bag, food-and-snacks bag, jerrycan, funnel and hiking boots, there was just a little room left for Matt's overnight bag.
Along the way Matt picked up his steed for the weekend. As luck would have it is wasn't a really big car (like a BMW X5), but a rather anonymous A4 in funeral-black. One of those cars that you just don't notice, even when you're standing next to it.
My navigation system decided that the fastest way to get to the Ring included cutting right across most of Düsseldorf.
Once on the highway/motorway we made good time to Nürburg, collected two sets of keys at the B&B (excellent service, that), dropped off the overnight bag, gadget bag, food-and-snacks bag, and Matt's overnight bag, and made our way to the Zufahrt. Lots of cars were parked on the side of the road, almost all the way into Nürburg itself. We found some spots in the muddy field across the road. Naturally, certain people insist on parking their car in the worst possible spots.
As luck would have it we arrived in the middle of a closure, which gave us time to wander around a bit. I spotted the Speedster of Jeppe and Kim, but as they weren't there I moved over to Döttinger Höhe to have a look at the newest addition to the carpark.
We had a chat with Ben, Fabian, and some assorted others: Ben was explaining how he managed to go through two cars in one day. He'd started out with a Sylva Striker. For some reason I associate a name like that with a character (blond and female) in a particularly bad Burt Reynolds movie. Anyway, the car had blown the headgasket. I have some experience with blown headgaskets, and I can assure you that a blown headgasket is Not Good. That was car #1.
Car #2 was a diesel-powered Golf. Obviously Ben isn't very fond of diesel-powered cars, and he tried to convert it to regular petrol by refueling with Otto-fuel. This might smell less and produce less black smoke, but it also didn't provide the poor little diesel engine with much oompf. Exit car #2. By this time I was expecting to hear that Lucky was buying a Diet Coke at the petrol station at the time Ben did his refueling, but this turned out not to be the case.
The conversation was cut short by the annoucement that the track was opening again, and I jumped in for some laps with Ben. It was nice to be in the Golf again. It's a fun car to drive/ride in, thanks to the firm suspension and the noise. The design philosophy of modern cars seems to be aimed more at isolating the occupants of the car from the driving experience than to involve him/her and to communicate clearly what's going on under the wheels.
It took me a while to get used to seeing Ben in a full-face black (no surprise there) helmet instead of his usual white open-face one. The fact that the sunroof was open wasn't unexpected, though.
At Maddock Bend a temporary speed limit was signposted (70km/h) due to a rather large hole in the armco. A Porsche 993 had gone off and went into the armco nose-first. Which in a slightly bizarre way is a credit to the Porsche engineers, who worked so very hard to ensure that people didn't crash arse-first into things.
It was slightly weird not have an Easter weekend and not see Anders in his yellow GT3. Luckily there were several other Swedes going round at good speed trying to make up for his absence.
Ben was doing a nice pace, showing how capable a well-prepared Golf can be by overtaking a Scooby at Hohe Acht.
From Eschbach onwards we were held up by one of those boikers without any sense of self-preservation (or brains, for that matter). Both Ben and I saw him checking his mirrors repeatedly, but instead of throttling back for a second or two he insisted on taking "interesting" lines through most of the bends. He must have been very brave (or deaf): if I had been in his boots, I'd have been happy to see the back of that squealing Golf instead of having it sit behind me with the indicators on.
At the end of the lap we used the new barrier on Döttinger Höhe to go out for another lap. Immediately another boiker gave rise to the assumption that lack of a sense of self-preservation is common to boikers: without looking he came out of the cones and pulled to the left, cutting across our path. It's a good thing that Ben saw him coming. Maybe he hadn't quite cottoned on to the fact that there is a chance of other traffic already on the track?
The track was getting a bit busier now. Particularly the number of boikers was increasing.
More traffic means a bigger chance of strange things happening, and this lap proved that theory. However, we first had to go round a suprisingly slow Golf. I fully appreciate that people need to learn the track before they go quick, but this particular car was really slow, even at the very end of the weekend.
At the approach to Metzgesfeld we saw a Mercedes C180 Kompressor giving every impression that the driver had lost his way. He was in the middle of the road while breaking a bit before Metzgesfeld proper, and turned in early. A big yank of the wheel and lots of ESP action later he barely managed to avoid going off the track.
Things settled down after that, and we enjoyed being overtaken by a 997S with an Evo on his bumper.
After overtaking a Dutch Caterham/Westfield/Donk on the approach to Hohe Acht we only saw a single car during the rest of the lap.
The C-Car needed refueling, and Ben suggested going down to Breidscheid to fill up. After his previous refueling adventures I thought it might prove entertaining to come along. On this lap, as on the previous one, we were treated to some more excitement: an accident at Wehrseifen caused a bit of a traffic jam.
At the Aral in Breidscheid Ben carefully selected a nozzle. The Germans, being Germans, had thoughtfully provided labels to draw attention to the differences between petrol and diesel fuel. No doubt this helped Ben in his decisionmaking process no end.
While I was waiting for Ben to pay the bill, I witnessed the boiking equivalent of full service: you just park next to your buddy, let him fill up your tank, and let him pay the bill.
A familiar car came into Breidscheid as we were leaving the petrol station.
We encountered a slight delay at the Breidscheid entrance: an E30 stalled right in front of the barrier. Which is not the best place for such a thing to happen if you don't want to draw attention to yourself.
The remainder of the lap was uneventful, despite an increase of traffic. Pulling into the carpark we had an interesting moment. We were stopped at the entrance to the office carpark, giving pedestrians a chance to cross. A little black UK-(fake-)registered Jap box decided that he'd been waiting long enough (all of 2 seconds, more or less) and jumped the queue to overtake us just as we were about to turn into the carpark. His driving on-track was less than impressive too. Later in the weekend I saw him on the back of the recovery truck.
My first laps of the weekend were done with Ben in the passenger seat. I wasn't too sure of the conditions yet, and a bit rusty. After all, it was nearly two weeks ago since I last drove on the Ring. The first lap was a cross between a sighting lap and a brisk lap; the second lap was a bit faster. Fuchsröhre was dispatched with without lifting, which feels a lot more impressive than when you take it with a slight lift. The most entertaining parts of the lap were going faster round several bends (Adenauer Forst, Metzgesfeld, Wehrseifen) than an Evo. Not only that, I seemed to be carrying more exitspeed (cue Ed) than he did. Luckily he let me by on the approach to Breidscheid.
At the end of this second lap the track was closed. After hanging around a bit I went to take some pictures at Brünnchen-2. Naturally when I arrived trackside traffic was just starting to die down thanks to another closure.
Some assorted shots:
Time was getting on a bit which prompted me to go back to the Zufahrt in time to do 2 more laps. These were a bit more satisfying: not only were they a good bit quicker, they were also (and more importantly) a lot smoother. Visual highlight of the weekend: getting out of the way of ThoRSten on the way down to Pflanzgarten and seeing him fly over the crest. And I mean fly: I could see quite a bit of air underneath the rear wheels. Watching the way the car slammed down on the tarmac upon landing was something to remember. An excellent way to finish the day.
At the end of the day, despite several pleas to grace the Pistenklause with my presence (or more accurately, to provide some entertainment with today's pictures) I had dinner at a secret location, together with Jochen, Sofia, Jeppe, Soren and Kim. You might ask "Why secret?", and if you did I'd tell you that it's secret because part of its unique charm is the fact that not everybody knows about it ;-) Anyway, we had a great time, and in the process I learned some new sign language involving grand gestures with one hand, either in front of your head or to the right. I also learned that a Triumph motorcycle can be much faster than a Gixxer 1000 when ridden by someone who speaks French. And that Jochen takes great pictures. And that a small Enter-key sucks if you're used to a big one. And vice versa. And that the batteries in my Ixus don't last forever.
SundayThe only nutters to request a 7.30am breakfast were Matt and I. The weather showed us why: it was cold and wet outside, but we were at the track at 8am regardless. At least it would provide a chance to catch up with Ed, I thought, except that he didn't seem to be around. Quite strange, seeing an empty wet track at 8am without Ed around.
With no front tyre tread to speak of, I decided to let others dry the track a bit before going out myself. Which is why I found myself in the passenger seat of Matt's Anonymous4. We did lots of laps back to back in the wet, with only a handful of cars overtaking us.
At the end of the second lap we spotted a cone in the middle of the road. Matt took pity on it and put it back with its friends.
The carpark didn't appear to be too busy, apart from Jeppe in the 318is.
Matt's funeral car was equipped with that most elusive of luxuries: seat heating. When turned up all the way it felt a bit like wet pants, but at a more moderate setting it was quite comfy. Ulf (the other one) treated us to an impressive display of car control in his Focus C-Max. His speed through Miss-Hit-Miss was high, but his drift up Ex-Mühle was even better. The Ringtaxi on the other hand disappointed us by doing only the smallest of drifts out of Adenauer Forst.
It seemed a pity to waste the empty track, so we went out for some more laps. This time it was the turn of a 5-series to hold us up for quite a while before he floored it from the gantry to the cones. Poor brakes.
By now (a little after 9am) more people were going out, and not all of them were as lucky as Lucky. One example was a red E36 that had gone off at Hatzenbach. The front bumper was embedded in the armco, and the car looked like it needed more than a little time in a body and fender shop.
On the next lap the marshalls were busy securing the site and recovering the BMW.
During the rest of the lap Matt used the superior power *cough* and traction *cough* to overtake several cars, including an Evo.
We then left the track, but saw two Sierras go out. Something told us that it might be entertaining to turn right around and follow them round for a bit.
The white one proceeded to drift nicely onto T13, whereas the blue one was a bit less smooth. Matt and I both concluded that it might be a good idea to overtake the blue one and follow the white one instead. This turned out to be a good move, as the white Sierra drifted round Aremberg very smoothly. Christer, in his recently acquired GT3, could watch this drift in his rearview mirror.
At Adenauer Forst the show came to an end: the white Sierra saw his mate in the blue Sierra spin out and decided to wait for him. Matt and I picked up the pace again and finished the lap.
On the next lap we were watching two Elises (a green and a blue one) going through Hatzenbach, and I noticed that the blue one wasn't using his brakes in the places where you'd expect, so I kept a close eye on him. As it turned out this enabled me to warn Matt very early on that the blue Elise was going off: first a big dose of oversteer on the exit of the Hatzenbach esses, followed by some fishtailing that ended with him parallel to the armco on the left side of the track.
Back in the carpark Matt sought out the guy in the green Elise to bring him up to speed on what had happened with his mate.
A short break later it was time to do some sliding with the Ibiza. Or, as Jeppe called it, my shopping trolley. Christer was still enjoying his GT3, wet track and all.
The Ringtaxi was still very careful putting the power down on the exit of Adenauer Forst. A bit disappointing, really.
At Hatzenbach we spotted Achim in his pickup Mini doing some spectating.
Of course the carpark was completely full by now so we went across the road to park in the mud. Somebody figured that the ground could do with even more fluids.
Back in the civilised world I spotted Caz and Clare, promoting Motorbikes Today.
The next lap was seriously good fun, utilising the quiet track to the max: Dave (black loud Elise), Matt (still in the Anonymous4), Soren (318is, with Ben in the passenger seat) and I did a convoy lap. We managed to do a decent pace while still keeping the 4 cars together for nearly the entire lap. Matt was setting the pace in the A4, followed by me in the shopping trolley, Dave in the Elise, with Soren and Ben bringing up the rear in the 318is. A great way of sharing the fun of Ringing :)
Jeppe thoughtfully provided some pre-lunch entertainment by taking me round for several laps in the Speedster. With the roof up it was a bit of a challenge getting in, and I wasn't looking forward to trying to get out again. Anyway, more about that later...
The track was reasonably dry now, and Jeppe was making the most of the available grip. According to him the ABS was crap, causing a hard pedal and not much braking at the most inconvenient of moments (such as when braking for Aremberg).
Naturally the pace was fast, as it usually is with Jeppe behind the wheel. A Belgian BMW was passed quickly, followed quickly by a red Elise and the 200bhp TTE-prepared Golf .
The track was getting dirtier and dirtier, thanks to several off-track excursions.
Apart from a lone dutch Mazda that was keeping a close eye on faster traffic (thanks!) nothing much happened. Except that Jeppe claimed that he didn't do drifty things now that he was a sensible person , i.e. a family father. Somehow the grin on his face made me doubt him...
Using the express lane we went straight out for another lap. Which was fine by me: the more laps such as these the better. And it gave me a good excuse to delay attempting to lever myself out of the car again.
At Adenauer Forst Jeppe showed his true colours by provoking the Speedster a bit, but it didn't have all that big an effect. A bit like Kurt in April 2004. Jeppe's running commentary is something I'll still remember when I'm old and grey (or bald) and dozing in my rocking chair.
We turned off at Breidscheid to have lunch. The original plan was to meet up with Soren and Matt there, but Soren was nowhere to be found. Kim was riding along with Matt. Riding in a Speedster emphasizes how huge modern cars have become; Matt and Kim were quite literally looking down at us.
Lunch was at Christa's restaurant. Of course there was one snag: in order to have lunch, I needed to get out of the car. It was suggested that a blowtorch might be needed to get it done in a reasonable amount of time, but I didn't quite fancy that strategy. Matt helpfully demonstrated how easy it is to get in, and then even more helpfully demonstrated how easy it is to get out. If you're midget-sized, that is... ;-)
A bit of cursing and squeezing later I managed to alight from the car. I didn't win any elegance contests doing it, but I got out nevertheless. Hunger is a great motivator. Matt helpfully documented the process:
Jeppe showed that it could be done more gracefully, even if you're larger than the average midget. During my antics Soren had driven up and we all went in to get some much-needed food.
While waiting for the food somebody had to show somebody else some pictures. For some reason this seems inevitable whenever more than 2 Ringers sit down at the same table. Coincidentally, after having shared a table at the Grüne Hölle with Ulf (the other one) and Christer the day before, they now sat down at the next table.
After admiring the classic computerless cash register we continued our way using the Breidscheid entrance. The convoy spread out going up Ex-Mühle and into Bergwerk, but bunched up again as we all slowed down for a crashed Saxo at Maddock Bend.
As expected the track was closed to clean up the mess, and the few cars ahead of us at the barrier insisted on honking their way backward. Despite having the entire width of the Döttinger Höhe at their disposal, reversing and/or turning seemed to be a rather big challenge. In the end it worked to our advantage, as we were now first in line at the barrier.
Having managed to get out of the Speedster once without dislocating any major joints I played it safe and decided to remain in the passenger seat. Jocke was in the queue a few cars back, and he came over for a chat. Going round the Ring in a car was still a slightly strange experience for him.
At this point the battery of my Ixus gave up the ghost, and I didn't have a replacement on me. Not that I needed a camera to appreciate some more Speedster laps. However, all good things must come to an end sometime, and I managed to lever myself out of the car again in reasonably good order (and quite a bit faster than the previous attempt).
All this passengering stirred up my appetite to do some laps myself. To add to the fun Jeppe would be following me round in the Speedster, giving me flashbacks to the time Keith glued his Speedster to my rear bumper in August 2005. We did two laps back to back, and this time I gave speed a higher priority than on most of my laps. Despite that Jeppe (with Ben as passenger) stuck to my bumper all the way through. Well, almost, as there was one exception.
On the second lap a slow car was holding up another not-so-quick car through Hedwigshöhe. The first car, a red Ibiza, didn't move over and didn't seem to be watching its mirrors very much (if at all). A typical case of exercising patience, let the car ahead overtake him, and then find a safe place to get by. The car that was between the red Ibiza and myself went past after Wippermann. I made sure to have a nice run on the Ibiza going into Eschbach, and went past quickly and without much ado. Now, during this Jeppe was still following me, albeit at a somewhat greater distance for added security. As soon as I start braking for Eschbach, I see the red Ibiza cross the track behind me, right into the path of the Speedster. Ben used his right arm to almost literally push the Ibiza aside: quite a sight. I couldn't see what happened next as I needed to go round Eschbach, but luckily there were no huge dustclouds or large bangs, and both the Speedster and the red Ibiza made it round Eschbach without touching or crashing. All in all a bit too close for comfort.
Jeppe seemed pretty impressed by my shopping trolley: it didn't roll much during the entire lap, with the exception of Miss-Hit-Miss. I must admit that I was pretty impressed myself. Apart from the brake pads the car is completely standard, and it was going round at decent speeds. The Ferodo pads were a lot better at dealing with the conditions than the standard pads, and seemed to handle my braking style for nearly two full back to back laps without problems. Once they start to overheat a little they provide warning signs: the left and right sides don't retard evenly, which causes a bit of yawing back and forth under heavy braking. At that point the sensible thing to do is go for a short cooling down, park the car and let it all cool down properly. Anyway, the Torquemobile was quick enough to be held up by the M5 drift taxi while it wasn't drifting. It took more than a few turns of nibbling at his rear bumper through the braking zone and to the apex before he moved over and let me by. Of course he then re-overtook me going up Kesselchen, only to start holding me up again from Hohe Acht to Schwalbenschwanz.
In the carpark it was good to see Ross up and about again. Uncharacteristically he was complaining that it was cold?!? Definitely still a bit of recovering to be done, then. I recommend lots of beer to rebuild the sorely lacking insulating padding round the waist and upper body. As usual Lucky had some good stories to tell, such as his recent experiences as a passenger in a crashed BMW.
Late afternoon I took some more pictures. Quite a few, actually, but I won't bore you with them all.
At the end of the day I did two more laps. They turned out to be highly entertaining, as an Opel Astra OPC left the gates directly ahead of me. Performancewise we were well-matched: he had more top speed and a weight advantage, I had a bit more torque. We stayed together the entire lap, which ended with a thumbs-up on the final straight. We both went out for another lap, but this time I overtook him between Flugplatz and Schwedenkreuz.
Those two excellent laps were a fitting finish to the driving part of the day. The carpark was emptying quickly at this hour. Not surprising, given the rather cold and damp conditions that still prevailed.
It didn't take too long then to arrive at the conclusion to pack up and move to Adenau for dinner. For a change we went to a Chinese restaurant. I hadn't been there before, but the service and the food were both fine. They also didn't have any trouble rearranging the restaurant a bit to seat our rather large group. Jochen, Sofia, Steve, Ben, Soren, Robin, Dave (who can definitely drive), Till and Matt were all there, and I might have forgotten some others. Jeppe and Kim didn't join us as they were already on their way home by now, quitting the game while still ahead.
Naturally there were some slideshows of the day's pictures. As both Jochen and I hadn't culled the raw take there were some nicely out-of-focus shots being shown. Luckily there didn't seem to be too big a difference in the amount of OOF shots. And if there had been, I can always claim to be using an ancient, obsolete and now out of production camera ;-)
Shot of the day definitely went to Jochen, who took a great picture of Jocke making a face in the rear seat of Matt's A4. Another allegedly interesting picture of an allegedly interesting picture on someone's mobile phone wasn't shown, IIRC.
MondayMatt managed yet another early start (must be one of the advantages to having a living alarmclock set to 0-dark-early at home; a 7am start feels like sleeping in). Soren and I had conspired to start slightly later at the more civilized hour of 9am. With perfect timing Matt swung by the B&B to pack the bags, load the cars, and head off to the Ring.
The carpark was still reasonably empty, allowing me to claim my favourite spot in the corner. While checking and topping off the oil, Matt noticed I still had to prop up the hood the old-fashioned way: no fancy hydraulics for the shopping trolley.
Shortly after we did the decent thing by going out. Matt was using the C-Car, which felt a bit different than the Anonymous4.
Two fun laps later it was time to hang around the carpark for a bit. Judged by the amount of duct tape not everybody was having a good weekend.
The duct tape theme was continued while Dave, Ben, Jocke and I were having some coffee in the Grüne Hölle. A BMW E30 exited the track with steam billowing from under the bonnet. Most corners of the car were severely damaged. Naturally the car attracted quite a crowd of spectators. It took quite a bit of arm-waving from a marshall to get the guy to turn into the office carpark. There has been a lot of discussion about the intentions of the driver specifically about whether or not he intended to leave the Ring. It's nearly impossible to accurately gauge someone's intentions. However, if you need a marshall practically jumping on you bonnet to make you turn, and if you're already mostly past the turn-off into the carpark (see picture below), you do give the impression that you want to hightail it.
I'd like to point out the following, kicking in some open doors in the process:
Jocke was exercising his new boik, a BMW-something-or-other. It looks a bit like a bee. Being notoriously bad at recognizing boiks, I have no pictures of him on the track. Which is partly his own fault, because he didn't tell me his current helmet looked quite different from the one I was used to.
The variable conditions were starting to take their toll. You didn't have to go looking for damaged cars anymore: it was hard to miss them.
Some drizzle had been falling for a while now, but it started raining in earnest quite suddenly. Figuring that the Grüne Hölle would be packed with damp bodies I sheltered in my car until it was over.
Given the conditions it was more sensible to do some more laps in Matt's rainmobile than to slide around on bald tyres in the shopping trolley. The winter tyres were coping reasonably well with the wet track. Certainly better than my own rubber.
Not many cars passed us: Matt and his Anonymous4 proved to be a match for many of those brave enough to go out on the slimey track. Some of those took a bit longer than others to realise that the A4 was really quicker than they. Either that, or they just didn't notice the car.
Between Schwalbenschwanz and Galgenkopf you could clearly see the mess left behind by the crashed E30.
The weather was still nothing to write home about, but it didn't deter an older Ferrari to go out.
Lunch was at the secret place again, this time with Jochen, Sofia, Matt, Dave, Ben and Till in attendance. I also met Jochen at the Team Schwedenkreuz homebase to get my copy of the Frozenspeed 2005 Yearbook autographed.
Back in the carpark I couldn't resist taking yet another picture of somebody who parks in a unique and highly personal way (and this time in a very silly spot).
It was a pity that Jocke and Caz were already on their way home, as I spotted a couple riding past me on Jocke's old boik and Jocke's new boik respectively.
I then took Robin out for a lap in the Torquemobile (a.k.a. the shopping trolley). After a bit of cooling down Dave came along for a lap. It started out as a repeat of yesterday's convoy lap, but it didn't take too long before the dryish line seduced me into going a bit faster than some of the others. At the end of the lap Soren (in the 318is) and I had a nice little race. I was really trying, but he kept pulling away ever so slowly. A great way to finish the lap.
In a lazy mood I went to Brünnchen again for a bit of piccie-taking.
The day ended with two more laps, this time with Soren in the passenger seat. Most people had already gone home, and we made the most of the near perfect track conditions. According to a little bird the laptimes were comparable to the fastest I've been in the Ibiza. Except that this time I had a passenger on board. The passenger complained that I should show a bit more commitment when braking. Funny, as I seem to recall I gave the brakes a decent workout ;-)
At the beginning of the weekend the front tyres didn't have all that much tread. Twenty or so laps of Norschleife fun later the situation hadn't improved...
A short lap round the carpark allowed me to take a final picture and give those still present a wave. See you next time!