Nürburgring (14 August 2004)
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The weather forecast for this trip was bad. Actually, it was worse than bad. Which is a good thing, because that usually means that the track won't be too busy, and the weather will be great. Of course it may also mean that it will be pissing down with rain all day...
I started the drive down in beautiful weather: nice temperature, dry and sunny. However, every minute the weather became slightly less nice, until it was raining quite heavily. Miraculously the sun started shining again when I turned onto the B-258. A short distance beyond Müsch I saw a recovery truck heading the other way, with what looked like a familiar car on the back. As I know its driver to be very careful I figured it was someone else's car.
The weather seemed to be holding, so I took advantage of it by heading straight out for some laps. It looked like a big crash had happened at Quiddelbacher Höhe: the armco truck was standing on the left side of the track, and a large section of the track had been coned off. A bit further up the hill some tyre barriers had been erected in front of some damaged armco.
The first half-lap seemed to provide reasonable grip, but the uphill bit from Karussell to Hohe Acht was quite slippery. Naturally, Wippermann didn't have much grip either.
It was still dry, and I didn't want to let good track go to waste: time for lap two. The track was drying a bit, traffic was still very light, the SquealMobile was running fine (if you didn't rev above 6000rpm in the bends, and if you made sure not to drive over the bumpy bit in the compression in Fuchsröhre), and I had a great time. I had some fun with a Lotus Elise (based on other trip reports it might have been "John"): he had superior handling, grip and power, and I knew the track better. As a result I followed him round for a bit during the first half in the dryer conditions, and passed him in the second half of the lap where things got a little slippier. After that he stayed behind me for a while, doing a similar speed until I lost him somewhere near Steilstrecken Kurve.
Pieter van Impe took the following two pictures (thanks!):
There was a bit of a queue leaving the track, and I heard the not-so-nice sound of metal-on-metal. Given that the rear brakes of the SquealMobile have no wear indicators I thought it prudent to check them out. It turned out that they were rather thin, but definitely not completely worn yet. Time for some more laps, then :-)
The weather gods decided that it was time to water the plants some more, and started a little drizzle. Nothing much, and certainly not enough to stop driving. It did necessitate a lot more caution in that the conditions were changing very much from lap to lap, and also within a single bend. During one lap Hocheichen was very slippery, with the front tyres rumbling instead of squealing. During the next lap Hocheichen would be back to it's usual squealy delight. At Bergwerk the opposite would be true: fine (or at least, not worse than the lap before) during one lap, and very slippery during the next.
Highlight of the day was a boik that had managed to crash before the first corner. It was down in the grass a few meters after the cones ended. A Streckensicherung car was standing in front of it, with several amused-looking marshalls watching the proceedings.
Immediately afterwards I experienced one of those moments that make you enjoy the Ring so much: a fast yellow 964 was coming up from behind, I made room for him at T-13, looked at him while he passed me and the passenger and I stuck our thumb up at roughly the same instant with a big grin.
After a little while I saw the Elise again. As grip levels were decreasing markedly and somewhat unpredictably he'd dropped his speed a bit, allowing me to overtake him down Fuchsröhre. Not my favourite place to overtake, but after seeing his driving for the best part of a lap and a half I felt I knew him a bit. He also made sure that I could get past before the compression. An easy pass thanks to his cooperation, therefore. During the remainder of the lap he followed round until Kallenhard.
With the conditions becoming worse rapidly now, and having done 5 laps on the trot (apart from the 2-minute rear brake inspection) it was time for a break. This gave me a chance to send Ben a text message to find out where he was; from the looks of it his 944 hadn't moved at all during my 5-lap stint.
Gary was there too, with a bunch of VW and Seat mates. They were having a good trip, despite two spins (without hitting anything) and a VR6 engine that gave up the ghost after a lap and a bit. Some of their machinery looked decidedly purposeful.
A quick walk round the parking lot yielded a picture of a GT3 I'd overtaken going down to Pflanzgarten.
A quick chat with Kurt, Ricky (red Speedster Turbo) and Mario (red/black Barchetta) told me that the silver car I'd seen on the recovery truck was the familiar car after all. I won't mention his identity here. I also heard about the cause of the cones at Quiddelbacher Höhe: an M3 had had a very serious crash right in front of Jochen. The car had rolled multiple times and gone over the armco. Jochen made sure that adequate help was mobilised ASAP. From the accounts both occupants were lucky to get out alive.
Comic relief was provided with a GT3 in Deutsche Post colours, with an "Eilpost" (Express Delivery) decal on the doors.
The quick chat grew a bit longer when Ben finally surfaced, detailing his experiences of a RingTaxi lap in the wet. Read all about it in his trip report. Pity I missed that one.
Ben was giving the 944 a rest, so we went out for some laps in the SquealMobile. The weather was improving a bit. It's funny how quickly the track surface gets tricky when it starts raining, and how quickly it dries out again once it stops raining and the sun comes out. Conditions were very variable, with some turns providing decent grip, and others providing no grip at all. Particularly interesting was Mutkurve: on the first lap it was decent, but on the second lap the SquealMobile started understeering almost immediately after turning in. Ah well, that's why you leave some extra margins in the wet.
All in all those were two satisfying laps, both because it provided a good opportunity to have an uninterrupted chat, and because it was nice to sense the grip levels and go round at a decent speed under difficult conditions. Another car that was making the most of the traffic-free conditions was a gorgeous blue 911 of early 70's vintage. He was behind us leaving the track after the second lap, which gave Ben the opportunity to jump out and corner the driver, helmet in hand, to blag a passenger lap.
With the weather continuing to improve I figured I'd do another lap to see the 911 in action. I figured he'd be on my tail in no time, but apparantly I wasn't going as slow as I thought :) Before the 911 overtook me, I was overtaken by a white GT3. And I overtook the Swiss GT3 again, this time by getting a nice run through Flugplatz.
After that, I had the track to myself again. Until I came to Adenauer Forst, where the white GT3 seemed to have developed engine trouble, as it was hugging the right kerb and going very slowly while sounding distinctly un-GT3-like. Traffic picked up a little from then on.
This worked quite well until I saw the 911 approaching in my rearview mirror exiting Pflanzgarten. Ben seemed to be enjoying himself in the passenger seat.
As I was enjoying myself too, I went straight out for another lap, making sure that I was ahead of the 911 to watch it go by another time. This was just as nice as the first time. Even nicer was watching it go through Hohenrain and onto T-13. Coming out of Hatzenbach it made mince-meat of some slower traffic, where I got stuck behind an oil-barfing Scorpio and a not-so-quick fully stripped race-prepped Scooby. By the time the poor little SquealMobile had regained a bit of momentum the 911 was already approaching Schwedenkreuz.
Having lost sight of the 911 I had some fun with a few UK-registered Alfas. They seemed to be a bit more committed to go fast than I was, but after letting them by going into Bergwerk I decided to see if I could follow them for a bit. This worked rather well as I stayed with them all the way to Döttinger Hohe.
Despite the by now brilliant weather, the parking lot was half deserted. Having done 9 laps divided over only two stints I went to Pflanzgarten to take some pictures of the remaining drivers/riders. The parking lot opposite the road of Pflanzgarten was even more deserted than the parking lot at the entrance.
The full set of pictures can be viewed here (unless I need the storage space for something else...). Among them are pictures of a GT3, Ben in the 944, the blue Elise, a fast 964, ThoRSten flying through in a Merc,
Of course Gary and his mates were going round too.
Two blue Clios were having fun with each other. Getting good boik pictures at Pflanzgarten is a bit difficult as you're quite close to the track and the speeds are high. Regardless I got at least one pretty decent shot. The blue 911 was still going round and round and round, giving me multiple opportunities at taking his picture.
The recovery truck came through carrying a beaten-up 3-series. Kurt and Ben made the most of the drying track by alternating cars and drivers. Not everybody was having that much fun though: the girl in the red E30 looked decidedly bored. The oil-barfing Scorpio was laying down a proper smoke-screen. After I got back to the entry it was on the back of a recovery truck...
As usual there was no shortage of nice cars. The light fog that enveloped Pflanzgarten gave the track that little something extra that we all love so much.
However, all good things must come to an end eventually, leaving me to take a picture of a deserted Ring and start going home. For a change I decided against a Pistenklause dinner to get back at a reasonable hour. Though Ben's attempt at empting me with a Steak am Stein almost worked...
On my way home I encountered two Golfs from Gary's band. The rear one was kind enough to create some room to allow me to turn right at the traffic lights. The nice weather only got better the closer I got to home. Traffic was pleasantly light, making for a smooth and quick drive home.