Nürburgring (23-25 May 2003)
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FridayTo start off with a familar theme: the weather forecast was bad. As in rain. Lots of it. Because of that I decided to take the 964 instead of the SquealMobile. Bad forecasts usually mean sunny weekends, you see. Apart from the usual traffic jam at Köln-Bocklemünd the drive to the Ring went smoothly. It was a bit strange to open the front door at Sliders and not hear Lenny bark (he was put down because of cancer) :(
Thanks to some careful timing I arrived at the Ring exactly at opening time. The official opening time, that is. The track was still closed, and wouldn't open for at least another hour. Rumour had it that some industry pool cars had had a little accident, requiring some time to clean things up before the track could open. It was a real pity that the track didn't open at the scheduled time: the parking lot was very quiet.
In keeping with my habit of parking next to fast cars, I located a yellow new-generation GT3, easily recognisable by the different design of the rear spoiler. This one had come from the factory very recently: it's American owner (Gary) had picked it up himself to take it around Europe before shipping it to the states. A quick look at the tyres confirmed that the car had been driven in the proper way: hard :-)
While I was waiting for the track to open, some of the usual suspects showed up: Sir B. in his BastardWagen, Robin T. in his S2000, Tom & TrRRish (this time with the M3) to name just a few. Euan texted me to tell me that the ferry had broken down in the middle of the Channel, resulting in a delay of about an hour. I let him know that he didn't need to hurry, as the opening of the track was delayed by about the same amount of time.
Sir B. used the delay to pay yet another visit to Ring Racing. His front tyres were a bit worn... Robin T. introduced me to an American friend of his (Chris, with a hired BMW Z-4) and showed me how he'd decorated his silver S2000 (with keyscratch) with matching silver gaffa tape after a little incident at Flugplatz in the wet.
Chris was interested in doing a passenger lap with me, so he accompanied me on my first lap of the weekend. As first laps go, it wasn't the smoothest I've ever done, but at least some of the corners went as I intended. All in all a rather uneventful lap to get used to driving the car on the Ring again, and to feel the handling of the car. I was impressed by Chris's track knowledge: h eknew which way the track was going and also knew all the bend names. Very useful when you're discussing a lap.
Back in the car park I dropped the tyre pressures to more manageable levels (especially the rears had heated up quite a bit). Sir B. was parked next to me, and he wasn't very happy with the handling of his BastardWagen. Apparantly he'd asked Ring Racing to put a little more pressure in his tyres. Which RR had done. But now the car handled like a pig. And Sir B. didn't have a tyre pressure gauge with him. With the weather sunny, the track open and a nice lap under my belt I did the honours for Sir B. on his tyres, dropping the pressures. Of course Sir B. went out to try his new settings, with me following him.
Apart from some interesting line choices, highlights of that lap are a locked right rear wheel at the entry to Wehrseifen (apparantly normal in the BW), Sir B. trying to wave me past him (no way, I was having to much fun seeing his BW bounce all over the place. Paraphrasing Christer: the BW seemed to be suffering from incontinentia: every third corner it lifted its right rear leg, obviously trying to dump some suspicious substance on the road, but equally obvious was that it suffered from constipation because nothing came out), Sir B. going sideways over Sprunghugel, and being overtaken by Paskal in his red Peugeot 205GTI.
I ran into Christer in the parking lot. He was showing off his race license and some snazzy new racing shoes, and bringing me up to date with his plans for the rest of the season, some of which involved the CHC. Plans that would make many a Ringer jealous, no doubt.
Before dinner there was time to do one more lap. This time I followed Tom in his M3.
At times the M3 acted a bit like the BastardWagen. It turned out that tyre pressures were too high and that the car was running a bit of positive (!) camber. Despite that, the middle part of the lap went smoothly, with Tom out-accelerating me going up Ex-Mühle.
By this time I spotted Euan's car, being driven by Mike. It was still on normal tyres, but a switch to the 18" wheels with R-compounds was planned for Saturday morning. Thanks to some accidents the track closed early (about 18.45 hours), which left us with the difficult choice of where to have dinner. A small group decided on the Pistenklause, hoping for quicker service and a better selection of vegetarian food.
Thanks to some of us showing up timely, we managed to claim a reasonably big table, which was becoming way too small in a matter of minutes. All in all it was a very enjoyable dinner, shared mostly with Jeppe, Euan, Mike and Adrian E. Even though Adrian spent more time on his mobile trying to arrange for some obscure spare part to make its way to somewhere halfway there and here, in order for someone to take it from halfway there and here to here, or failing that, to taking it somewhere else where Adrian could get at it. Apparantly this kind of thing is considered quite normal when running a Caterham.
Sometime during dinner Euan found out how to operate his mobile phone: all of a sudden he started phoning people. Like Jocke. Who was passed around between Euan, Jeppe and me, because Jocke was trying to get a message across that nobody seemed to want to understand. By that time my table mates had had one or two beers, and they figured that maybe I, as I was a Terminator (don't ask, I don't understand how they arrived at that conclusion), could understand what Jocke was trying to say. In the end I did understand, but I don't think that was much help to either Euan or Jeppe, as it had something to do with pizzas :-)
Settling into the natural rhytm of a weekend in Nürburg, most of us walked over to the Fuchsröhre to get some more drinks and to say Hi to Sabine, Guido and Puffi. Puffi told us some great stories, some of them in English, some of them in German, some of them in a combination of English and German, some of them with a little translation by the Terminator, some of them entirely without translation. As it turns out, Puffi likes to drive fast, and he has some evidence of it. Such as a speeding ticket (more than 190km/h over the local speed limit). Or rolling his car 6 times (in one accident). Or by putting a slightly more powerful engine in his car (a BMW at that time), finding that he needs a limited slip differential, which is solved by welding the existing diff shut :-)
Being a non-alcoholically minded person, I missed out on some drinking-related experiences, such as the Bananen-Weizen (Weizenbier with banana juice) and the Tequila Bomb Bomb (tequila with 7-Up, shake it, down it). We were also shown how to drink Schnapps even though the glass is upsidedown on the table (with the Schnapps still in the glass).
SaturdayOn the way from Sliders to the Ring I ran into Arjan (964 owner from Rennlist) at the BP filling station.
Sometime during the day I did 5 laps with Jeppe in his Civic Type-Ring. Very entertaining and very fast. Highlights of those laps were overtaking the Noble and getting intentionally sideways at Sprunghügel.
Then it was time to do 2 laps on my own, during one of which I overtook Arjan. Afterwards we compared 964's in the parking lot.
After a suitable break I went out for 2 laps with Euan as passenger. The first was pretty decent, the second started well but ended badly. Schwedenkreuz went nicely, about as good as it gets with my rather large margin (about 170km/h indicated, accelerating through the turn to about 180), on a good line into the braking zone for Aremberg, hit the brakes, pedal goes down about the same amount as it always does (with the same pushing effort), but only delivers about 30 to 40% retardation. Release pedal, brake again, same story, pushing harder doesn't help much.
At this point we're about 20m from the turn-in point, and I tell Euan that the brakes are gone. By then he had that one figured out for himself, I think. Speed at the turn-in point is probably about 30 or 40 km/h more than normal :(
I figured there were 2 options: either say "to hell with braking, let's turn in anyway" or go straight, try to reduce as much speed as possible and try to turn to the right a bit.
I didn't really think of it at the time, but went for option 2, as option 1 in a 964 would automatically result in a total loss of control for me (maybe Ulf could pull it off, but I certainly can't). Losing control at that point of the track would probably have resulted in going sideways into the gravel, and I didn't much fancy rolling the car at 100+ km/h, or going backwards into the armco at that kind of speed.
Option 2 worked reasonably well: the gravel didn't slow us down as much as I had hoped (Euan told me later that he was already bracing for a head-on impact with the armco), but I did manage to alter course slightly. The grass verge between the gravel and the armco was almost wide enough and provided enough grip to get away with it without hitting anything. Keyword being "almost". We hit the armco with the left rear, but somehow I managed to avoid hitting the armco with the left front. Came to a stop about 40m after hitting the armco. Got out, examined the car, left rear bumper section FUBAR, center section looked pretty bad, right section fouls the exhaust, armco mark on the left rear quarter panel, gravel marks on left side skirt, but no dents in the bodywork, seams around the rear lid not distorted, engine still running, nothing leaking out, didn't hit the left rear wheel, just the bumper.
I called the office, enjoyed two slow passes by Sabine waving her middle finger, filled out some paperwork, bought some armco (managed to hit exactly on the border between two sections :( ), arranged for the marshals to make a copy of my insurance papers instead of holding on to them, drove gently and slowly to Breidscheid, then on public roads to Nordschleife entry, dropped Euan off, let the exhaust cool down, then on to Ring Racing.
Ring Racing spent about 3 hours straightening the rear bumper by bending the impact absorbers back, performed a little trick on the center section to make it look and fit better, and sent me on my way again. By this time it was nearly 1900 hours, and I was hungry and pissed off.
Thanks to everybody who commisserated; especially those who took the time to visit me while I was at Ring Racing (Jeppe, Kim, Keith and Søren among others): it made a big difference.
Keith provided me with contact info for Kaul & Will; I made an appointment for them to fix the bumper the day before my June Ring trip. They can also have a look at the brakes: possible causes are pad fade (very unlikely: the symptoms seem to match, but my pads have about 10 laps on them without problems), ABS sensor failure or some other ABS problem, or maybe a problem with the vacuum assist? Either way I'll upgrade the brakes as soon as my budget allows.
While at Ring Racing Kim showed me his Boxter that had turned into a 911 cabriolet). Jeppe compared his Civic Type-R to that of a local, and Søren's reason for visiting Ring Racing was a worn clutch, Tom's car was sitting outside after a little mishap at the Ring, Johan's M3 was there too (being lightened). Also there was a very tricked-up Scooby (driven by Tony and partner, not on the Ringers list). The three of us had lots of interesting conversations about cars, driving, tracks and the like. Tony admired the droop on the 964 suspension, which is huge when compared to the itty bitty little droop that the rear suspension of the Scooby allows, and I admired his Motec system.
Before dinner I did one more lap to exorcise any demons that might harbour thoughts of starting to bug me. As it was rather late by that time, a move to the Lindenhof followed soon. There was only one table available, which we duly claimed. I can't remember the names of everybody present, but I'm certain that Tom, TrRRish, Rene, Gary, Charles (who shipped his BMW over from the states) and at least one other 'merican were there. There was lots of Ring talk, Porsche talk, racing in America, racing everywhere. Interesting to hear some stories from within American racing from people who have first-hand experiences. I also heard some great stories from the good old days, with pick-up trucks that were ran into because they were lowered so much that another driver didn't see it, cars rolling into garage doors because they're on rollers, and of course what a new GT3 feels like :-)
SundayBecause I still didn't know what exactly had gone wrong with the brakes I did only two laps, both at a slightly slower pace and breaking much earlier than normal. One lap was with Kim, on the other I took Søren. The funny thing was that on both laps (with a suitable cooling-off period in between) the car felt perfectly fine. Having done some more laps with the new suspension with the Red springs (H & R sport springs for a 964 Turbo) I can safely say that it's better than the setup with Green (ordinary H & R sport springs). There's a marked difference when absorbing the bumps of Kesselchen at speed, or when entering Schwalbenschwanz. My overall impression is that the current setup gets me a little closer to the precise and immediate feedback feeling a 964RS provides.
One little occurence during my two Sunday laps is worth mentioning: a car was slowly catching up on me in Miss-Hit-Miss. I normally take the Scuderia line into Wehrseifen (really late turn-in), and was about to do so again when I saw him move over to my left preparing to dive on my inside. Maybe he would have been out of the way by the time I needed to turn in, but I wasn't going to bet on it, so I took the racing line for a change. Undoubtedly it looked differently from his driving seat, but I thought it a strange place to go for an overtake, particularly with Lovejoy Lane right around the corner.
A bit more chatting, and before I knew it it was time to head home
again. A little early by my standards, but I'd had used my energy
supply for the weekend. After the usual goodbyes to the people in
sight I headed off, and promptly ran into Laurens on my way to my car.
He had large decals on his car telling the world that he'd done more
than 400 laps :-) Alas, all good things come to an end, and this
weekend was his last as a driver before moving to the USA. Fortunately
they have interesting motor sport there too, but that's quite
different from being able to drive the Ring whenever you feel like it.