Nürburgring (9 May 2004)
Links marked with a * require a password.
|Having to fix the internet connection at my parents' place provided me with the perfect excuse to drive a bit more in a southeasterly direction. Two hours later I was at the Ring, ready to make the SquealMobile squeale.
The parking area was only about 80% full, which hinted at the lack of traffic out on the track. I was expecting to see at least Martin, Ross, Joerg and Keith, but there weren't many familiar faces around when I came back from a slowish first lap during which I was passed by the Ring Taxi (driven by Sabine at her usual pace) and two Caterhams. Bren came, saw, and left after a short chat, announcing that Ross was out on the track somewhere. Before I had the time to send text messages of the "I'm here, where are you?" variety Ross showed up. Uncharacteristically he seemed to think it was cold. I wonder why, as he was wearing leathers while other people stood around in T-shirt sleeves.
After a bit of hanging around Martin showed up in the Boxster. As Ross did have a point with the low temperatures, I gladly accepted Martin's offer to ride along and feed his Jahreskarte into the ticketmachine.
The track was still a bit damp and slippery in places. Cruising down Lovejoy Lane we discussed what speed over the Breidscheid bridge would be prudent, and decided to stick to the speed limit. It's a good thing the Boxster has the power to get up Ex Mühle without having to dump ballast overboard. Up Kesselchen a silver Porsche 993 came up behind us. It was moving at a brisk pace: always nice to watch. It was a very busy lap: at Brünnchen we made room for a Scooby, and we also encountered a big BMW.
The second lap traffic conditions were back to normal (i.e. hardly anybody else around). It was obvious by the amount of dirt on the track that some people had had some trouble during the wet weather of the day before. Apart from a bright yellow Elise we only encountered a Cayenne (that was going rather slowly).
After these two laps I squealed Martin round on a moderately paced lap, demonstrating that the SquealMobile has very benign handling characteristics. Lifting off mid-corner doesn't produce much of a reaction. Slightly less impressive is that the car doesn't really turn in when you turn the wheel. It needs just the right amount of braking to make it turn in. Which does make it easier to get a long squeeeeeaaaaaaal going from turn-in all the way through the turn. On downhill turns at least, the SquealMobile doesn't have the power to squeal during the exit of a turn.
Meanwhile, a group of French drivers and co-drivers were having fun, both out on the track and in the parking lot. One of the female co-drivers switched places with her driver in a yellow 964RS. The harness was tightened, and off she went. I did feel for the clutch of the RS, because she made very sure not to stall the engine. Which resulted in a very noticable smell of burnt clutch. Something else that had a funny smell to it was a 996 that was blowing out lots of oil when the engine was revved. The brave driver revved it up a few times to demonstrate the car's smoke-screen generating capabilities. Afterwards he drove off with a happy smile?!
A car that looked a lot healthier was Keith's new Speedster. He'd parked conveniently next to a Turbo Speedster with a knowledgable owner.
As soon as the car-comparing and what-needs-upgrading discussions were done, I cornered Keith and jumped in his passenger seat. At least all the practice at getting into and out of Speedsters and Elises during previous trips came in handy. The track was still very quiet, allowing Keith to drive smooth lines and concentrate on the track ahead. All in all the package of a highly involving car and having the greatest track in the world to yourself made both of us grin a lot.
The second lap started just like the first one, with not much in the way of other traffic. Apparantly Martin had gone out just a short bit in front of us. By the time we came to Hatzenbach Keith had caught up to the Boxster, and Martin indicated right to let us past. Keith figured it would be much more fun to follow him for a bit, to get a closer look at how a well-driven Boxster behaves in the corners.
Our refusal to pass him provided Martin with an excellent excuse to pick up the pace a bit. The Boxster was gaining ground in the high-speed stretches, but the Speedster clawed it back bit by bit in the twisty bits.
Breidscheid was interesting, with Keith demonstrating some weaving to keep the tyre temperatures up while staying below the speed limit. Up Ex Mühle and Kesselchen the Boxster had a clear power advantage, but the Speedster was surprisingly quick too. Which of course brought more grins to our faces. Even more grins were caused by the perfectly coordinated tyre squealing from both cars through certain corners, such as Brünnchen.
All this high-speed fun did leave a bit of a mark on the front tyres, though.
A good way to make people appreciate their car more is to invite them for a lap in a much slower car. Which is exactly what I did for Keith by taking him round in the SquealMobile. It goes without saying that the first comment from both of us was "It could do with some stiffer swaybars". Sometimes it's difficult to recall what happens on a lap, but Keith was a great help in that respect. Right out of the gates a red BMW E30 out-accelerated us (not that hard to do), but by the time we got to Bastard Bend we managed to overtake him again. Apart from the E30 the track was deserted, bringing out the grins again. At Flugplatz a 996 Turbo overtook us. He was going quite fast, almost as fast as Sabine who overtook me at nearly the same spot on my first lap of the day.
Going down Fuchsröhre more fast traffic appeared in my mirrors: first a red 964RS, and then a red GT3, both with Luxembourg registration. They made for a great picture disappearing towards Metzgesfeld.
All the while the red E30 was still behind me. Obviously he had more power, but he didn't appear to want to overtake me. This changed when we went up Kesselchen. Thanks to having repaired the blocked catalytic converter I no longer needed to downshift into third gear to make it up the hill. Still, a little over 150km/h is rather slow. The advantage of being slow is that you don't have to think whether or not to brake for some corners, such as Mutkurve. Judging from his lines he didn't know the track very well yet, which allowed me to catch up again by the time we came to Eiskurve. All in all a fun lap with lots of tyre squeal as befitting the SquealMobile.
Without wasting too much more time standing around and talking to people (fun though that can be), I went out for two more laps. The first was another nearly trafficless lap: very nice. The second was even better: at the start I let a white Porsche RS by, figuring that even if it had a stone-cold engine it would be miles faster than I in the SquealMobile. By the time we came to Tiergarten I was starting to regret my choice. It was quite obvious that the driver of this RS wasn't familiar with the track herself, but was being coached by a passenger who was. After some time spent close to her rear bumper she let me past on the approach to Schwedenkreuz. I must say I had a short moment of deja vu all over again, but managed to avoid doing a 360 at Schwedenkreuz right in front of them. At Metzgesfeld she was starting to come closer again, but I gained another 10 meters through the fast lefthander by doing a nice long squeal all the way through. I continued to gain ground all the way to Ex Mühle, but Kesselchen allowed her to catch up again. She followed closely through the fast righthander after Mutkurve, and all the way through the Karussell and the first fast lefthander immediately after it. This was also the last time I saw her in my mirror; after squealing through the second lefthander and Hohe Acht, she was gone. By the time I was going through Brünnchen 2 she still hadn't exited Brünnchen 1. Exiting Galgenkopf I had to wait quite a while before she appeared in the rearview mirror.
It was a pity that I had to leave after such a fine lap as it would have been nice to do some more, but on the other hand it was a perfect way to finish yet another trip.