Nürburgring (13-16 September 2002)
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After two flash visits it was time for a more substantial trip. This time I managed to get some packing done on Thursday evening before setting off for the Ring on Friday morning. I intended to do quite a bit of photographing during the weekend: the weather looked promising, lots of nice cars were coming to the track (including a group of 17(!) Porsches and 2 M3's from Sweden). I even remembered to charge a load of batteries for the camera :) All the pictures are in their familiar spot.
The weapon of choice for the driving part of the weekend was the 964. It had new brake pads in front and new front tyres. The bedding in of the brake pads had for the most part been done before setting off. The front tyres still weren't gripping like they should, though. Other than that, the front discs are on the way out and the aircon is knackered. The e$$ential bits will be sorted during the yearly service next week.
FridayA few kilometers before arriving at the Ring I had a short break for lunch and cleaning of the windscreen. The Ring had just opened when I arrived, so I went straight out for a sighting lap. This confirmed that the front tyres were still short of grip, and that a 964 is a totally different animal than an Alfa 147 :-) It was a bit strange to have gorgeous weather and still have hardly any spectators and a half empty car park. That's the nice thing about a weekday, I guess. On the cooling down trip off the track I spotted Euan at the filling station. He flashed his lights to indicate his eyes were working fine and he'd spotted me too :-)
There were familiar faces all around the car park (including Niek, Euan, Jocke, Caz, Soren). There were also some soon-to-be-familiar faces: I shook hands with Anders, found out which of the Swedish GT3's was driven by Ulf. I then staked out Ulf's car to give him a blow-up of the Podium Racing GT3 in action during the 24H race last June. It turned out that the driver in the picture was Ulf himself :)
While we were talking the track was closed. Time was passed by chatting to all and sundry, including Joel who spotted me. Joel had come over all the way from the USA and rented an SLK for the occasion, a somewhat underpowered subsitute for the 996 he has back home. Jocke assured me he had his ears with him.
Ulf liked the picture enough to offer me a passenger lap, which was my aim, of course ;-). As a result I quite rudely interrupted my conversation with Euan and brushed off Bren when the track opened again and Ulf made good on his offer. Sorry guys, but a lap with Ulf qualifies as immediate and serious business in my book :-)) I'll try not to heap too many compliments on Ulf here, but I want to say one thing: I wish I could drive like that. He makes it look almost ridiculously easy. Saying that he's fast would be the understatement of this trip report. OK, I know I was only going to say one thing, but I can't stop myself. On the approach to Hohe Acht the back stepped out a bit, and the correction was so smooth that the back came back to where it belonged (following the front wheels) without so much as a twitch in the other direction. Impressive. It's a pity that there was so much traffic during the lap, because I had the distinct impression that everybody was holding us (ahem, I was just sitting there and enjoying the ride, Ulf was doing the hard work) up. Case in point was a UK-registered Caterham who either never looked in his mirrors or had decided early on in the lap that he wasn't going to be overtaking by no bloody big Porsche :( Still, this lap made this weekend a Good Weekend (tm). And it confirmed one of my deeper suspicions: I WANT A GT3!
After a pause to re-enjoy the GT3-lap in my mind I went out with Euan in the passenger seat. At Breidscheid a biker had had a serious crash, but help had already arrived on site. Eschbach is a corner I'm starting to like, thanks to Christer's pointers. Which causes a bit of a problem for Brünnchen I, as I can now approach it at higher speeds :) Due to the more than slightly worn brake discs I braked earlier and lighter than usual on the early laps.
Back in the car park I dropped the tyre pressure a bit: both front and rears had gone up from 2.5 bar cold to about 3 bar hot. After a suitable pause I took Soren round for a lap. I'm glad he liked the sound of the aircooled flat six better than his rented 1.8 turbo (which sounded a bit like a vacuum cleaner, apparently). By this time the front brakes were starting to vibrate quite a bit. I'd hoped that they would last a bit further into the weekend. From then on I only did single laps with lots of cooling time in between which seemed to help. Most of the time the brakes were not too bad until Metzgesfeld. After that they would vibrate more. No problem with stopping power, and the brake pedal was just as firm as it always is, just this annoying vibration.
Sometime during the day Trish and Tom arrived, and I gave Trish a recording of the lap I did with John (who hates spinach) during trip 5. Apparently John had had a really good time.
Next in the passenger seat was Ben. That's not unusual. However, with a bit of rearranging the furniture, Birgit found a way to squeeze into one of the back seats, next to the full-size VCR, 20m of cabling, an inverter, a power supply or two and some miscellaneous bits and pieces. Hats off to Birgit for accomplishing that. She remarked that she'd managed a similar feat (but without the VCR) in a 996, so she'd had some practice :)
It did take some getting used to, seeing someone so close in the
rearview mirror :) On the cooldown lap, Ben asked me to mail her to
him if she couldn't get out again. Which proved unnecessary, as Birgit
was perfectly capable of extracting herself from the back seat. I
think she needs a bigger challenge next time: I think a trip in the
back of a pre-'89 911 with a full roll cage is in order ;-)) If that's
still too easy, we'll add a VCR or two :-)
By this time Euan's engine sounded more like a diesel than the accustomed smooth ticking over of a 6 cylinder BMW. To take his mind off it he went out on a passenger lap with Ben, with me waiting at the barrier. Euan hopped out, I hopped in and made myself useful by holding on to Ben's sunglasses. I think Ben has been reading my trip reports, as he went more sideways than ever. Great stuff, and quick too.
The last lap of the day was interesting: by this time I had less vibration of the brakes, so I could up the speed a bit. Which was really useful, as I was following Ben (with Anders in the passenger seat). Usually the 'following' turns into 'I know he's a ways ahead of me', but this time I could stay on his tail (at a respectful distance most of the way) the entire lap. A first for me :) I had to do some catching up between the starting gate and Hatzenbach (I was a little later out of the gate), and some more between Karussell and Hohe Acht (because I suspected a Passat estate hadn't seen me, which he confirmed rather firmly by slamming on the brakes and easing into the Karussell right in front of me). BTG was 9.11 mins, very fitting for a 911. All this happened with Tony in the passenger seat, so he should now know fairly well how the back of a 968 looks :-)
All in all a really nice Friday: perfect weather, good conditions on the track, few accidents and closures, and beautiful well-driven cars around. Many of the Swedish drivers impressed me with their ability to carry lots and lots of speed into and through corners. Really nice to see little groups of two or three Porsches flying around the track. I hope I wasn't in the way too much.
On to a quick shower at Sliders and a change of clothes, followed by drinks, dinner and drinks at the Pistenklause. The usual gang turned up, including Karl (a.k.a. The Bastard) himself. I have to admit, he's a really nice bastard though. Maybe that's why by consensus we promoted him to Sir Bastard ;-))
The conversations with Soren and Jeppe were interesting. So was a rather nice looking shirt Jeppe was wearing: in very small print it said "No Fear". Actually, the print was so small he only found out about the "No Fear" bit after buying the thing :) In the meantime Niek was making sure that there were no breaks in any conversation by telling lots of interesting stories. He has an impressive array of them :) I'll try not to spoil too many beans, but one bean is quite funny: despite being at the Ring Niek couldn't wait to go back home again! Turns out he has a good reason: he gets to chauffeur Anders around in a 911. Lucky bastard. Definitely not enough to qualify for a SIR bastard though.
After dinner most of us moved to the Fuchsröhre, where more interesting conversations followed. Karl and Lars made an interesting bet: Karl thinks he can be faster round the ring in his silver barge (Omega estate, 2.2 liter) than Lars in a rented Elise S2. Euan told me he knew one of the people staying at Sliders (a Scott named Stewart) and asked me to give him a message. I naturally agreed to do so, if we were to meet at breakfast. Oh, the message was "You're a bastard".
Shortly after midnight I went back to Sliders, and lo and behold, who do I spot at breakfast: Stewart. So I told him Euan asked me to tell him he's a bastard. When he asked me to give Euan a message I of course agreed to do so, if we were to meet at the track. The message was "You're a f*cking bastard". :-)) Fortunately Stewart hadn't driven off yet when I tried to start my car: the battery was dead thanks to my forgetting to switch off the inverter/VCR combo :( But that's why I always carry jumper cables.