Nürburgring (2-4 August 2002)
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|"Traffic" would be a good subtitle for this report, but we'll get
to that later. The itinerary for this trip was a bit on the hectic
side. Some might call it crazy :-) But is wasn't my fault, honest ;-)
Lenny hadn't managed to scare me off, so I was staying at Sliders
again, on Saturday night. Which was really useful, as Saturday was
going to be a long day. So far so good. The only problem was that
Euan, Chris and Nick were arriving on Friday afternoon and suggested
we meet at the Fuchsröhre. There's no way I was going to say "no",
right? As a result I drove over on Friday afternoon, then back again a
bit after midnight, up again on Saturday morning, and back again
Thanks to roadwork after roadwork (for a change at some of those sites actual work was performed) I got to the Ring just in time to buy a Jahreskarte at the reduced rate for the rest of the year and do three laps, saying "hi" and not much else to Euan, Chris and Nick in between laps. The car-of-the-day was my workhorse, the Alfa 147. Not enough horsepower, but real easy to drive on the Ring. Also, I now understand what Ben meant by having to learn the Ring again after upgrading to a faster car. In the 147, a corner by corner characterization of the Ring would be "flat in 4, flat in 2, flat in 2, flat in 3, flat in 4, flat in 3, ..." Taking the same approach in the 964 would result in "flat in 4, flat against the armco". Still, the 147 is good fun, as long as there's no steep incline involved. Up Kesselchen I maxed out at 150 km/h indicated. A marked difference to having to lift a bit in the 964 :) On the other hand, the softer suspension allowed me to go fast enough round some corners to have to lift because a bike was in the way. Or a Porsche 944 :-) (framegrabs courtesy of Euan).
I used the time between doing laps and dinner for a quiet and private visit to Pflanzgarten III, where Jørund had crashed. Bren had put some text on the track. The armco and the hut next to the track were marked too. Somebody else had nailed print-outs of Jørund's guest book to the hut. Somehow standing there looking at the peaceful track really drove the reality of it home. We'd be coming here after the Ringers dinner, but I was glad to have the place to my own for a few minutes.
Friday night involved dinner at the Fuchsröhre. I don't know if there was a reservation or not, but even though the place was packed we got a table. Tom and Trish were there with the ever questioning John (nice guy, even though he hates spinach). I delivered my first load of CD's, blowups and video tape to Euan, and borrowed enough things from him to make me glad I had the 147 instead of the 964 with me. Among the CD's was a copy (strictly for back-up purposes, mind you) of Odyssey Number Five by Powderfinger, which Sabine promptly nicked and put on the stereo.
A bit later we were joined by Niek, who had been at the Pistenklause. As the evening was getting on for midnight, Euan and I invited Sabine to our table to present her with a tasteful thank-you for the ride in the Ring Taxi in July. We thought a bottle of Blue Nun would be highly appropriate. It was clear she appreciated the gesture (and the humor), but she still hit me. Twice :) Niek was kind enough to capture this historic moment on film. After another coke I decided this was as good a time as any to take off for home. According to the trip computer, I made it back in 1 hour and 59 minutes, an average of 149 km/h including parking the car. It must be mistaken though, because large parts of the trip have speed limits that are significantly lower than that ;-)
To come back to an old theme: the weather forecast for Saturday was showers of all kinds and durations, so I had high hopes for lots of sunshine. At home it was raining hard. So hard I nearly decided not to take the 964 with its worn front tyres. A bit of perseverance, reduced speed and a light grip on the steering wheel got me through the worst of it, arriving at the Ring sometime during the afternoon. It had been raining at the Ring, too. The slipperyness had caused Simon some grief: he spun his Scooby at miss-hit-miss (a.k.a. miss-spin-hit a.k.a. miss-hit-miss-hit). Crashing your car is never any fun, but Simon had to deal with more than the usual hardships. Nothing was leaking out, so he drove the car off the track at Breidscheid. Thanks to some misunderstandings, Mr. Policeman came looking for him, accusing him to leave the scene of an accident. It took some time to sort things out, but it all ended well. Except of course that crashing your car AND being a famous Ringer makes for perfect ingredients for some impromptu carpark fun: some helpful people made sure Simon got some safety leaflets.
Nick and Chris being condemned to doing passenger laps, I took them out for some back to back laps, starting with Chris. The track was still damp and this was my first lap of the day, so I took it easy. The second lap was much faster, with Ex-Mühle to Mutkurve being interesting: I had to work quite hard to overtake a Seat Leon there. I sure hope that it wasn't a 1.6 :-)
Nick was next up for the passenger seat. We were following Francis in his BMW, aiming to keep him in shot until Flugplatz and overtake him there, as he said he hoped to be able to keep up. Yeah right. I was barely able to keep up with him until Hatzenbach, which he took quite a bit faster than I. Add some traffic and it took quite a while and some waiting on his part before I saw him again. Some of the traffic included sidecars. It looked spectacular with the passenger hanging out, but it wasn't very quick. On the second lap Sabine came blasting past on the approach to Hocheichen, exiting it sideways. A white 944 had done the typical Schwedenkreuz crash, damaging both left front and left rear. The approach to Karussell was interesting in that a Volvo estate tried to run me off the road. I was using the horn enthusiastically enough for the horn button to fall of, so I was glad to have Nick there to fish it up.
After a break to have something to eat I took Chris out for another two laps, following Euan for a short while on both laps. The first lap was pretty much uneventful except for lots of traffic to contend with. The brakes started to vibrate a bit during the second lap, and I had a nice sideways moment on the approach to Wehrseifen thanks to a bit too much brakes in combination with a bit too much steering. Those are the times you're grateful you learned the handling characteristics of your car before going out on the Ring.
Between laps Simon (who can fix anything) was kind enough to assist in copying the now famous Ring Taxi lap Euan, Francis and I did last time onto a VHS tape. Simon provided the DV-camcorder with the correct lead to connect it to my el-cheapo full-size VHS-recorder in the back of the 964. We were going to give the VHS tape to Sabine later.
The final two laps of the day were with Euan as passenger, starting out right behind Simon who was behind the wheel of Euans car. (Brave man, Euan.) Both laps were reasonably quick (9.45 and 9.43 BTG).
The Ringers dinner was rather busy, both with people and with gadgets. I delivered another enlargement and some vids to Ben and left the dinner earlier than usual to walk up the track to Pflanzgarten III. Laurens was leading the way with his exemplary knowledge of holes in the fencing. Among the other walkers were Simon, Euan, Mike O. and Francis, if memory serves, something you (or more precisely, I) can never be too sure of :-)
Along Döttinger Höhe we encountered a sign Simon might have found useful earlier that morning. I also recall some very involved discussions about the use of the gantry. I think we didn't reach a conclusion because we were interrupted by a UFO. I took a picture of it, but it's kind of hard to spot. For the best description of the UFO incident: find Simon's trip report. You should be able to find it on Smartgroups.
In the meantime Niek had been ferrying people to Pflanzgarten III in Euan's car (after putting some gas in the tank; it was running on fumes). Everybody met up below the hut near the actual crash site. There was quiet, darkness, laughter, silence, Laphroaig and Lucky Strikes. Nuff said.
Having walked all the way up there, a ride back seemed like a good idea. Particularly with 6 (six) people in a 328i, one of them with his head out the window, the stereo blasting AC/DC and the engine revving towards the redline. I think I saw the sign that indicates your speed trying to tell our driver (I won't mention you by name, Niek) that he wasn't going fast enough ;-) We ended up in the Fuchsröhre (where else), with Euan and me presenting Sabine with yet another gift: the carpark copy of the Ring Taxi lap. Which earned the entire table a round of Tequila. I, being a total wimp when it comes to alcohol, settled for a Coke (much to Sabine's dismay).
Day two started out with breakfast at Sliders where I met Gary. The weather was nice and sunny again, so I packed my things and drove to the Ring. At about 55 km/hr, thanks to some geriatrically driven cars on the B258. There are moments when even I would like to be on a bike...
The first laps of the day were with Francis in the passenger seat. We were being held up by a Ferrari 348, driven by a guy in clothes that matched the car. Matching clothes either means bloody quick (Schumacher matches his clothes to his car) or bloody slow (as was the case with the 348). Still nice to see comparisons that are made in car tests come to life: yes, a 964 will out-accelerate a 348 :-) Lap two saw us overtaking a 996 just before Hohe Acht. I noticed the front sliding a bit more than usual in Wippermann, so I took it a bit easier into Brünnchen. Which was just as well, as the nose turned in markedly less than I asked, resulting in some nice video footage of me putting the outside wheels onto the grass with the inside wheels on the rumble stones. Oops... Yet another moment to be grateful for big margins. I gently eased the entire car back to its proper place on the track and slowed right down. The 996 overtook us again before Schwalbenschwanz, giving us a front row seat to a nice display of the Porsche Stability Management in action: he braked over a bump while turning in, causing the back to step out big-time. It's a pity I had to slow down on this lap, as there had been relatively little traffic: 9.47 BTG with T13 closed.
I did some passenger laps myself as well: some really enjoyable ones were with Francis (picture taken by Gary; pity we were held up by the Merc from hell), Tom (my compliments to his precise placement of the car on the track) and Ben. Tom also demonstrated some of the idiosyncracies of the BMW's automatic gearbox: it sometimes takes a full two seconds to comply with a downshift command. Weird.
Some carpark highlights:
With suitably long pauses and less cornering speed I took three more passengers round: Niek finally got his passenger lap in an ordinary C2 (as opposed to RS's), John (still not liking spinach) had a pretty good lap with us overtaking the F348 with a large speed differential up Flugplatz (glad my headlights are in better nick than his mirrors), resulting in 9.36 BTG. The final passenger of the day (just before he was leaving and just before I was leaving) was a fellow dutchman and Porsche enthusiast, Mike. By this time T13 was open again, making things a bit easier at Hohenrain.
The drive home was timed to perfection: it started raining halfway, but by that time I was on roads that tolerate water pretty well. Which is just as well, as my front tyres are now overdue for replacement. The insides still have some thread left, but the outside thread is about gone. Maybe some more negative camber next time :-)
All things considered this was another good trip. Hardly a clear lap in three days, though, but I had a lot of fun anyway.