Nürburgring (29 May 2006)
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Trip number 57 started with a short delay. Within a few kilometers of
where I live there's a nice twisty back road that's actually shorter
than the more obvious route. It's also slightly quicker, especially on
a Sunday morning. Well, on most Sunday mornings, as on this
Sunday morning some cows were crossing it. And it was more than just a
few cows, too. Luckily my mate Adri had come along for the day, which
allowed for an in-depth analysis of the state of the cows, their
handlers, and the Golf that almost went for a full-throttle overtake
while we were stopped to let the cows do their thing.
When we arrived at the carpark the track was closed and a marshall was directing traffic to the carpark across the road. A guy in a GT3 started arguing that he had a Jahreskarte and wanted in, but that didn't work. Pointing to a free parking space saw the marshall relenting.
In contrast to last time lots of familiar faces could be seen. One of them (Sabine) even tried to run me over, more or less. Jeppe and Kim were there too, driving a Speedster.
Jeppe couldn't resist drooling all over my new tiny camcorder. It's tiny (about the size of a pack of cigarettes), weighs next to nothing, and it records onto SD cards. Quite neat, really.
As always there were lots of things to see in the carpark. There was plenty of evidence that some people had had an expensive time.
Others were using the most expensive drinks trolley I'd ever seen.
Wandering over to the other carpark I noticed Bob's Elise and Nigel's Mazda. Neither of them were near their car, though. Pity, as I'd loved to hear what the decal on Bob's car was all about.
Jeroen was there too, as was Euan, Chris Hellegers, Dave (Malings), Johannes, Soren, Dave (who can drive), Andy, and various other Ringers. Shortly afterwards the track reopened. Adri had gone walkabout, and my first mission was to meet with Johan to pick up some driving shoes. They'd been transported from France to Stockholm to Nürburg in record time, just in time for the end of last season. For various reasons I hadn't been able to pick them up yet, but now they managed to complete the trip by being chucked in the back of my car.
With the day's shopping done, it was time to do some laps. I'd promised someone a passenger lap, but couldn't find her on my way out. To avoid adding to the parking chaos I selflessly went out for some laps on my own.
I like to start off with a nice and slow sighting lap to check out the condition of the track, see if there are any roadworks in progress, and stuff like that. This eminently sensible plan got slightly sidetracked courtesy of Andy in his M3 who spotted me while going out. As he'd waited for me after the cones I thought it rude to go really slow, and went a bit faster than I'd normally do. On a perfectly dry track this wasn't a problem. It did highlight that even when cool the new Dunlop tyres are crap when compared to the Pirelli P-Zero Nero that were on the car previously. Lots of squealing at moderate speeds, and loads of understeer.
At the end of the lap Andy was low on fuel. In true Ringers fashion this was solved by a quick driver change to let his wife get some fuel (and presumably to do some shopping), while Andy jumped into my passenger seat. He seemed to be enjoying the bouncy ride and the braking abilities of the Ibiza.
The track was reasonably clear, which provided ample room for tyre squealing. Especially with the crap Dunlop tyres. It also gaev us a chance to chat about this, that, and what-have-you. A not-so-quick CSL overtook us at Flugplatz, only to hold us up a bit by yhe time we came to Aremberg.
Fuchsröhre was dispatched with without lifting, and we were still with the CSL at the exit of Adenauer Forst. After Kallenhard we encountered lots of traffic, trying to make their way round several boikers. The boikers were certainly paying attention, which made things a lot easier for everyone concerned.
On the way from Steilstrecken to the Karussell a boiking regular passed us as if we were standing still. Always an impressive sight, seeing a fast boiker in action on the Ring.
Through Wippermann we caught up to a tricked-up Audi A4. Custom exhausts, wide tyres, lowered suspension, the works. Still, the little Ibiza kept up with him quite easily. The speed difference wasn't enough to overtake him though, so we just sat back and watch him go through Pflanzgarten, Schwalbenschwanz and Galgenkopf while cooling the car down a bit.
The next lap there was more traffic to contend with, including some cars and boiks with mirrors tiny enough not to notice us approaching. At Adenauer Forst a boik had fallen off, and the car ahead of us was a bit slow in noticing the yellow flags. We'd been doing a similar pace, and as a result the gap had widened noticably. By the time we came to Bergwerk we'd pulled back some of it, but up Kesselchen he was pulling away again. At Brünnchen a car had crashed into the armco. We completed the lap without further incidents.
Lap three started with Karl ahead of us in the Mondeo. He must have been in a hurry, as he was using his go-fast lines. This includes hitting apexes, even. At Flugplatz a twat in an M3 started flashing his headlights, as he (thought he) was way faster than Stuck in that section. On the approach to Schwedenkreuz he was honking his horn at Karl because he (Karl) refused to run over a couple of boikers to make room for the M3.
Thanks to traffic we managed to stay reasonably close to Karl, but when the track was clear he pulled away inexorably, despite me delaying braking to the absolute last moment at several corners. The mess at Brünnchen hadn't been cleaned up yet, but once beyond that Karl really put his foot down, flying through Pflanzgarten while we were being held up by Pug GTi.
After another lap the car got a well-deserved rest in the carpark across the road. I topped up the tank and went with Andy to sample his M3 from the passenger seat. For some reason it had been a long time since I'd been in an M3. I think Soren's red M3 was the previous one. And to continue the parallel a bit: Andy too didn't much like the DSC, switching it off before we were in sight of the barrier.
Traffic was picking up a bit, but not to the point of being bothersome. Mind you, traffic is a lot less bothersome if you're in an M3. Just before Lauda Links a large group of specators had gathered next to the armco. The group was big enough that I wondered if a bus had dropped them off.
Up Kesselchen Fabian came flying past. Andy wasn't alone in being suprised when learning that that yellow boik with the white boots that just blasted past was "only" a 600cc. A good way of demonstrating what 1000+ laps of experience can do.
Some Irish guys were there too, throwing what looked like rental barges around the track.
A crash at Eschbach slowed us down. Luckily the flagger had chosen a good location, making it easy to spot him before entering the braking zone.
During the next lap I pointed out where I took a different line. I find it's always interesting to learn the different lines people use. Compared to Andy, the biggest differences were at Bergwerk (where I turn in earlier), Steilstrecken (turn in a bit later and harder), and Wippermann (where I stay on the right side of the track for a good bit longer). Traffic prevented trying out "my" lines, but it was fun nevertheless.
After three laps the track was closed.
It was now Andy's turn to show off the boot of his car. It was immediately obvious that you could fit a lot of stuff in there. Quite a bit more than in my shopping trolley.
During the closure Adri turned up again. He'd been off to Galgenkopf and Schwalbenschwanz to do some spectating. Stelvio had claimed pole position with his boik.
Shortly after the track opened I did 2 laps in convoy with Jeppe. Adri rode along with me, and Dave had claimed the passenger seat of the Speedster. A good thing too, as on the Dunlop tyres (did I mention I really dislike them?) and with a passenger on board I'd be holding Jeppe up more than a little bit. With Dave with him he'd at least have someone to chat with.
Right at the beginning of the first lap a Golf insisted on wedging himself between Jeppe and me. For some reason the passenger was grinning at us. I let him by, hoping that he'd disappear in the distance. Unfortunately he wasn't all that quick, and managed to go dirt-tracking at Hocheichen. Luckily he didn't hit the armco.
Another Golf then didn't look behind him, followed by a Merc A-class. After overtaking the Merc I went into Schwedenkreuz offline, but with enough tarmac to take an alternative line.
On the way down Fuchsröhre Jorrit saw (and heard) us coming from a long way off. Thanks to him making room at the right moment I didn't even have to lift.
As I'd expected Jeppe was even faster than last time, and I was a bit slower. At several corners I was very certain that I couldn't brake any later, but Jeppe always made up ground through the corner quite easily. Maybe I need to switch tactics and drive it less like a 911 and more like a Squealmobile?
The Karussell was entertaining: there was some traffic to deal with. Both some slower cars ahead of us, and a quicker car coming from behind. I let the faster car go by by taking the high road at the Karussell. Naturally I did drop into the banked part right after he'd overtaken me and in front of Jeppe. A little bird told me that Jeppe exclaimed something along the lines of "JW, you bad man you" when I did that. Of course Jeppe expected me to do it, which is why I did it. It's nice to drive with people who anticipate on what you're going to do.
Wippermann to Brünnchen-2 must have been a bit frustrating for Jeppe and Dave. At Hedwigshöhe Jeppe had let a GT3 past. However, the GT3 seemed have trouble closing the gap with me. As a result I didn't have to let him by until Eiskurve. It's amazing how fast the oilburning shopping trolley is sometimes.
Just before Schwalbenschwanz I saw Bren approaching on his boik. I just had time to overtake a Pug 205 before he came past. All things considered an eventful and more scrappy lap than usual. Very entertaining though.
The second lap was a bit smoother, despite my getting on the brakes even harder than on the previous lap. I obviously need to look elsewhere to find more speed. Hocheichen was a good demonstration that you can't be too careful around boiks. I'd been hanging back behind a boik going into the corner. It was obvious that he hadn't seen me yet. No problem so far, but when he exited the corner on the left side of the track and slammed on the brakes for no apparent reason I did remark something along the lines of "what the f*ck did he do that for?"
After that little moment there was a clear track ahead of us. Much better than the cluttered mess on the previous lap. Fuchsröhre was again done without lifting (there's nothing much to it the Ibiza really: you just keep your right foot down until you're through the compression).
Metzgesfeld went nicely, but going into Wehrseifen the brakes were starting to tell me that a bit of cooling down would be appreciated. However, there was a white GT3RS ahead of me, and we were catching up to him. After Ex-Mühle he decided that moving over would be better than having a black diesel-powered shopping trolley sitting on his bumper.
After the Karussell a yellow flag situation caused us to slow down, but from Hohe Acht onwards we could do the usual speeds again. Behing me Jeppe was keeping himself (and Dave) amused by trying to put the Speedster sideways.
While overtaking a Caterfield I noticed that the co-driver was looking at a map of the track and reading pace notes to the driver. On lap three we switched places: after Bastard Bend I moved over to let Jeppe go and do a lap at his own preferred speed while Adri and I followed at a slightly slower pace. Both brakes and tyres were grateful for the slightly reduced demands I was placing on them.
By now my stomach was starting to rumble: time for some food. This time we went to the ED Tankstelle, where (without having arranged anything beforehand) we met up with Jeppe, Dave, Soren and Lasse. Jeppe left early, so I gave Dave a lift back to the carpark. Adri and I then went to Schwedenkreuz to take some pics. While climbing over a little fence my jeans suffered a little tear. Or maybe not so little: maybe they can be made into shorts, but otherwise they're at the end of their useful life :(
This didn't deter me from taking pictures. The gate to the marshall's post at Schwedenkreuz was locked, so we had gone to a spot a little further down the track.
As is often the case when I'm taking pictures, somebody was unfortunate enough to go dirt-tracking. This time it was a Honda Civic. As I was later told by his mate (who drove a Civic Type-R) it was a company car... Meanwhile Adri went up the track to warn oncoming traffic, and to give a hand with the cleaning-up afterwards.
Most of the traffic slowed down a fair amount, but some of them either didn't see the waving or figured that they knew what was going on and kept their foot down. Not very pleasant when you're standing on or near the track dealing with things. Morty (from the USA, with a green 964RS: a rare sight indeed), Bob (green Elise), Tor Helge (yellow 964RS 3.8: another rare sight; with a widely grinning Soren in the passenger seat), Andy (black E46 M3) and Ben (the sailing one, in a grey (yeah right, looks black to me) Cayman-S) were amongst those still lapping.
A little while later the track was closed because of another incident,
and Adri and I decided to call it a day. When updating my
logsheet at home I noticed that I've now done more than 400 laps on
the Nordschleife. And you know what? There's still a lot to learn
about how to drive it quickly :)