Nürburgring (23 June 2007)
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With a decidedly iffy weather forecast in the back of my mind and some
merchandise for a fellow Ringer in the back of the car I set off on
yet another trip. The weather forecast was very accurate for a change.
However, this was achieved by forecasting "variable" weather
conditions throughout the day. Isn't that cheating? The weather in the
Eifel mountains is always variable. Maybe the weathermen have finally
cottoned on to that :)
Anyway, when I arrived it was more or less dry, and I went out for a lap to sample the conditions. The first bit was damp to wet, and the area around T13 and Hatzenbach was very slippery. The ESP in the Ibiza is mostly useless, but even more useless on a track. If you forget to switch it off the Karussell at the latest will remind you of that when the ESP cuts the power for a bit. But I digress: I'd switched the ESP off. This allowed me to test the griplevel quite easily: a bit of throttle in third gear resulted in wheelspin and the associated understeer. Bastard Bend was more than a little greasy too, and the entry to Hatzenbach proper felt as if I was driving on a skid plate.
By Flugplatz the track had already started drying nicely, and the rest of the track was mostly dry and grippy. Excellent driving conditions really, except for Galgenkopf and a wet Döttinger Höhe. However, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here. At Brünnchen-2 I noticed a boik had gone down, and a car had gone off a bit further up the hill, leaving the track covered in loads of kitty litter. The marshalls had that area coned off and were busy cleaning it all up.
With so much of the track dry I decided on doing another lap straight away. At the start I noticed a familiar red 944 Turbo: the one that never has the owner near when I see it in the carpark. After I out-dragged a Cayman out of the cones (I guess he wasn't givin' it some) we did the first bit of the lap in convoy. Somewhere along the way some really annoying boiks insisted on blasting past, inserting themselves firmly between the 944 and myself. After a few corners they realised that doing the non-straight bits fast was more difficult than it looked, and they let me by again. By now the 944 had all but disappeared at the horizon: time to Give It Some! Which I did, making up ground in the turns, and not losing too much on the straights. Tip: if you need a reasonably quick shopping trolley, the Ibiza Cupra is hard to beat when it comes to value for money. The following picture is courtesy of Gary from Northloop.
This time I already knew what was going on at Brünnchen, which gave me a bit more time to see what was what. Which resulted in a word (four letters, at least PG-rated) that I'd better not repeat here. The boik being hoisted onto the recovery truck was yellow, and Jocke and Caz were standing there watching the proceedings :-(
With the track closed due to several other accidents I followed the 944 across the road to park in the overflow carpark. At that point the weather changed yet again, pouring down lots of rain in a very short time. Better text Jocke to enquire if everybody was OK from inside the car then...
Literally six minutes later the sun was shining again. The Rennsport 944 was again without its owner.
Dave had parked his Elise at the head of the I-want-to-get-back-on-the-track-quickly queue. For a minute I was worried that his wasn't a proper Elise, as the roof didn't seem to leak. Dave quickly showed me that it most certainly did leak.
A few minutes later Jocke texted me to say that both Caz and he were OK, though his ego was a bit bruised. Meanwhile the sun had come out in full force. The track was still shut though, which meant that a big bus had to park in the entrance road. After a while somebody came to his senses and let the bus through the barrier allowing it to wait in a less in-the-way spot.
Gary was around too.
Jocke wasn't the only one to have a more expensive day than expected. A white Boxster had become a bit more intimate with the armco than intended.
Jochen's 997 Turbo experience hadn't spoiled him: I saw him going out in a rather ordinary A3. The big grin was easily explained when I saw the driver: Ulf T., a.k.a. "the other Ulf".
As is usually the case after a longish closure, everybody and his uncle wanted to go out at the same time.
The dark skies looming nearby might have something to do with the urgency some people felt.
A presenter on DMotor mentioned that the chances of seeing a Wiesmann were more or less equivalent to winning the lotto. I guess I should have bought some lottery tickets then... This picture shows only about half of the convoy.
Another interesting car, albeit a bit smaller, was this one. It bore a license plate that said "ant", which I thought was quite suitable for a car like this. Darran Shepherd identified the car as a GTM Libra. Thanks!
With the worst of the traffic jam over I went across the road to do some more laps myself. I guess that a Czech plated Evo is even more rare than a Wiesmann.
Getting out of the overflow carpark was a bit of challenge, as it had overflowed quite literally. Luckily I'd parked the car in such a way that I could drive downhill onto the gravel "road". From there I still needed a bit of a run up to make it up the hill, but with the ESP off it went fine.
While waiting in the queue to get onto the track I spotted the other Ulf and invited him to join me. While I slowly made my way to the barrier he went to get his helmet, getting in shortly after I'd cleared the barrier.
The track was reasonably dry, but still quite greasy in the usual spots. The trick of course is to figure out which bits have grip, and which bits don't, preferably before you get there. There was a dryish line through Tiergarten onto T13. After overtaking a Porsche, a Mercedes, one of the Alfa 75 Experience cars, and a handful of assorted others we had the track to ourselves from Bastard Bend to the approach to Schwedenkreuz. Both cars we encountered there were watching their mirrors very well, and indicated quickly that they'd seen us. Makes a world of difference when you have a decent closure rate on a slightly greasy track.
Ulf leaned over to check the speedo. According to the datalogger we were doing 198km/h just before braking. That's a bit slower than on a clear, dry track without passenger, but still pretty decent for a diesel-powered shopping trolley with the aerodynamics of a brick. The brakes are pretty decent too, once you put the factory front brake pads where they belong (in the bin. Or rather, at the chemical waste disposal unit, to be politically more correct).
The downhill part of Fuchsröhre had a more or less dry line, but the uphill bit looked quite damp. A typical case of a little lift giving a lot of peace of mind.
A Mazda MX5 (with the top up! Ben! Do something about it!) was the next vehicle we encountered. We went past on the way to Spiegelkurve, enjoying a mostly dry track. Breidscheid was a bit of a mess due to somebody having dropped a shitload of fluids in the middle of the track there. Having to start the climb up Ex-Mühle from almost a standstill isn't much fun, even with the decent amount of torques the diesel engine provides.
Thanks to the cover of the trees, Bergwerk tends to remain damp a lot longer than other sections of the track. This turned out to be the case now too. Even though most of the width of the track looked fine to the naked eye the car had a bit of an understeery moment just before we came to the apex. Still, that's why you leave yourself a bit of extra margin when you can't be sure of the exact grip levels.
Having done lots of laps in the lesser-powered Squealmobile I still need to get used to overtaking cars up Kesselchen. It's nice to be able to do that, though.
On the way to the Karussell we were overtaken by a pair of white GT3s: a 996mk2 and a 997 by the looks of it. The 997 decided to go round the outside, and I couldn't resist almost re-overtaking him by going through the banked section of the Karussell at a decent speed.
On the approach to Hohe Acht we were warned nice and early that there was a problem a bit further ahead. As it turned out a BMW stood on the grass next to the track with lots of steam coming out of the engine bay. An excellent opportunity to use those torques again to get up to speed before Hohe Acht.
At Brünnchen-1 I missed the apex, probably due to a bit too much trailbraking and/or not getting the lock on progressively enough. Again, that's why tourist driving is worlds apart from racing: you should have enough margin to deal with these things. In racing that same margin means that you're slower than the rest.
Pflanzgarten should have pleased the crowds: we were carrying a decent speed, and did no braking before the crest. An overtake of a GT3 in Schwalbenschwanz rounded the lap off nicely. Apparently the other Ulf has a strong stomach, as he didn't have to think long before agreeing to do another lap.
Ulf's car still had "all season" tyres on it. Actually, they were "M&S" tyres. According to him they squealed a lot more than mine. I guess it's a good thing that the weather wasn't too hot and dry most of the time...
At the start We were overtaken by a pair of 911s: a GT3 with one of the regular 964s in pursuit. Tiergarten, T13 and Bastard Bend were quite slippery, but Hatzenbach was fine. Having updated my mental grip levels database on the previous lap I pushed a bit harder this time round. The approach to Schwedenkreuz was marginally faster, but I slowed down a bit more for the bend itself.
Traffic was reasonably light, and everybody was paying attention to what was going on behind them. We encountered a Dutch Clio at Steilstrecken, but pulled away from him through the Karussell. The boiling BMW was still trackside, this time accompanied by another BMW.
Wippermann posed its usual (for me) dilemma: do I use the kerb or not. Ulf mentioned that he always uses the second kerb, even in a Porsche. I haven't quite settled on one particular option there.
Brünnchen went a bit better this time round, making it all the way to the apex. The rest of the lap was nice and quiet, but the red light was on when we finished the lap. Naturally the roundabout near the entrance was jammed.
In the carpark people were making the most of the closure, sometimes in a rather individual way. Take this boiker for example: I can't imagine that it's very comfy to talk on the phone why lying on the cold wet ground. Maybe it's a boiker thing?
The boiled BMW exited the track on the back of a recovery truck. And then it started raining again.
Thanks to the marvels of text messaging (made even easier when using one of those fancy XDA Execs) Jocke and I arranged to meet at snackbar Hannes in Breidscheid. On the way to my car I spotted the silver Cayman I'd outdragged on Döttinger Höhe earlier.
When I came to my car I was very glad I hadn't gone to the trouble of washing it before coming over. Someone probably parked behind me, and spun a wheel when driving off again.
Figuring that queueing up for just half a lap wasn't very sensible I opted to do a lap and a half before turning off at Breidscheid. The full lap was mostly dry, and good fun. The half lap after that was, ahhh, more than a little wet. Actually, I got soaked just from opening the window to hold the transponder near the sensor in the barrier.
Sliding all over the place I was quite happy that I was in the Ibiza, and not in the 964. This way I could carry decent speed, and pass lots of other cars in the process. The number of boiks overtaken during that lap was also quite high.
By the time I came to Breidscheid most of the rain had stopped again, and the sun had started shining once more. Jocke, Caz and Phil were where they said they'd be. Phil (not Givin' It Some at that point) couldn't help resisting showing off yet another gadget: a rather small laptop. Or a huge handheld. Or something in between. From what I could see it was good for your memory, even though battery life left something to be desired.
Caz easily squeezed into the back seat of the Seat (an impressive feat; if you don't believe that, you're welcome to try it. It's easier than getting out of an Elise with the roof on, but not by much), and off we went on a reasonably dry track. Next stop: the Grüne Hölle restaurant. Driving into the carpark I had a bit of dejavu all over again: a Brit Civic was coming straight at me. And it wasn't just any Brit Civic; it was the exact same silver Civic who'd insisted on a small game of chicken on the access road of the carpark across the road. I guess it's not easy to remember that on the continent people drive on the right side of the road...
In the Grüne Hölle Jocke had a well-deserved beer. I stuck to a nicely chilled Coke. Phil stopped by too, complaining that he couldn't distinguish wet from dry. For some reason he believed that changing the visor on his helmet would help. It did look a bit like a Darth Vader helmet with the dark visor on.
Caz and Jocke showed me the difference between the old (and IMO much prettier) and the new logo. Maybe the new logo was designed by the same guys who did the logo for the 2012 Olympics...
A new bunch of showers passing through the area confirmed my "enough laps for today" feeling. Caz once again squeezed into the back seat of the Ibiza, and we made our way over to have a look at Jocke's boik. It was sitting in a garage all by its lonesome. At least it had had a beer in the meantime.
The side of the boik didn't even look too bad. But hey, what do I know about boiks? :-P
At least the crash protector thingies had done a good job. Here's a comparison of a used (Jocke) and an unused (Phil) item.
Of course Jocke had to show off his new Macbook. Please note the carbon fiber Mac logo for added speed.
On the way back I noticed a rattle that became gradually louder. A quick roadside check confirmed my diagnosis of a loose heatshield near the exhaust. It's been tightened once before, but it looks like it needs replacing now due to worn mounting holes.