Nürburgring (18-20 September 2004)
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SundaySunday morning started with a slightly later start than usual, as the Ring wouldn't open before 8.30h. The weather was rather damp, but didn't look too bad.
During the night it had rained a lot, but when we were finished with breakfast it was dry. The 964 was still wet, though.
A short drive down the hill (no traffic jam at this hour) later and we were in the parking lot. Within minutes we were joined by Adam in a very nice Ruf, and Kees in a very nice 944S2.
In what seems to be becoming a trend, the track didn't open at the appointed hour. In the meantime the natives were getting restless to go out on the track.
Adrian was getting ready to go out too. His glasses had some trouble dealing with the damp conditions though: they kept fogging up.
Finally the people who had been delaying our start came off the track. Given the car/van they had to drive I'm not surprised the track opened late.
By this time there was a queue to get on the track. I decided to wait a little longer before going out. Ed didn't want to take the risk that the track might close within minutes and went out with a loaded-to-the-axles Clio.
With a shorter queue at the barrier I invited Jon for some laps in the 964. The track was still very damp when we set out, and the car was still cold from the very short drive from Nürburg-North to the Nordschleife. Traffic was very light, which was a very welcome change from the day before. Having gotten a feel for the lack of grip we went out for a second lap. The lack of a 500m long queue before getting off the track made continuous lapping a lot easier.
I pointed out some of the useful reference points to Jon while we were going round. Traffic was still agreeably light. Most boiks had chosen to stay in the parking lot a little longer until the track dried out, and with only a few cars overtaking us we had a nice and gentle lap. One of the overtaking cars was of course Jeppe in the Civic Type-R. We were going down Fuchsröhre at what I considered to be a reasonable speed when he came zooming past.
As there was nobody behind us at Adenauer Forst I figured it might be nice to provoke the back end of the 964 a bit. With not much grip and more than enough torque this was easily accomplished. Correcting it was also a doddle.
Jon didn't mind doing a third consecutive lap. It gave me an opportunity to point out some other useful landmarks and turn-in points. It also gave me an opportunity to make the back step out again at Adenauer Forst, as there was again nobody behind us. This time I provoked it a bit harder, and the response was very rewarding. A serious correction was needed, which was good fun. The short wheelbase of the 964 makes things very interesting when the back starts stepping out. On the cooldown run we spotted a Ford Focus of the offical Ford event.
The slightly increasing traffic combined with the dry weather helped to create a dry(ish) line. This seemed like an excellent time for Jon to go out in his 996C4. I went along to give him some assistance with regard to which way the track was going, where to turn in, and when to brake. An Opel Corsa was stopped at Schwedenkreuz, but didn't appear to be damaged. Apparently there was some kind of Clio gathering that day, as more and more Clios came out of the woodwork. A red E30 came past us doing very optimistic speeds on the approach to the Karussell. When we came to Hohe Acht two spectators warned us that something was amiss. Not very surprisingly we found the E30 parked ass-first against the armco. The driver seemed to be waiting for us to pass so that he could continue his journey, so we didn't stop. His spin hadn't affected his speed, and he overtook us again going into Eschbach.
Coaching somebody around the track gave me a new perspective on driving there. It made me realise the huge amount of decisions you make while going round, and that you make most of them in a very short amount of time. After this bit of entertainment it was time for some more chatting in the parking area, and looking at the assorted machinery. Naturally a Ferrari was blaring its alarm horn. Fortunately the owner (wearing matching bodywarmer and driving shoes) showed up quickly to shut it off.
In the other parking lot Jeremy Clarkson was attracting attention. Or was it Sabine who was attracting attention? Anyway, the general idea seemed to be that Jeremey would be trained by Sabine to do a sub 10 minute lap in a Jaguar S-type Diesel. Alan decided to ask Jeremy to have his picture taken. Matt duly obliged after figuring out how the camera worked. Both Jeremy and Alan put on their friendliest face for the occasion, but one of them didn't quite pull it off.
Then it was time for some faster-paced entertainment in the form of a lap with Anders in the GT3. He warned me that it would be a slow lap. Yeah right, I know he can go faster, but it was definitely not a slow lap. And even if it had been a slow lap, a ride in a GT3 is always fun.
Though traffic on the track was still quite light, the parking lot was filling up quickly. Near the Imbiss in the corner Adrian had set up camp with his Caterham. Apart from entertaining some visitors (and some locals) he was doing some dark things to his car and his helmet. The helmet bit I think I understood, but the crawling under the car bit was beyond my mechanical comprehension.
Meanwhile, Jeremy was still holding court in the other parking area.
The track was still relatively quiet: time for another lap, then. Adrian was busy, so Jeppe went along for the ride. Despite some traffic, yellow flags and the speed limit at Breidscheid we went round at a decent speed. Not as fast as the last time I'd driven the 964, but still fairly respectable. On the way back I adjusted the tyre pressures: the fronts needed to be deflated by about 0.4bar; the rears had crept up approximately 0.7bar. While doing this Kim sent me a message telling me that Kurt's Beetle Convertible was loaded with Ringers and ready to go. Time to drop Jeppe off at the Zufahrt and for me to find a decent position near the track to take some pictures.
Having run the battery of my 10D dry it was time to go back to the car to do some more laps myself. Excellent plan, lousy execution. A minor problem was that I twisted my ankle climbing down the hillside of Brünnchen. Didn't feel too bad at first, but operating the stick-out-of-the-floor Beetle-clutch was getting a bit of a challenge to operate. Which put an end to track-driving for the weekend. Not that that mattered very much when I came to the Zufahrt, because the track was closed again. Time for something to drink, and have a chat with Kees, Juliette, and Jon among others. Subjects: cars, lines, lines, alternative lines, good lines, appropriate lines, and whether or not to use the kerbs in places like Fuchsröhre and Wippermann. Some do, some don't, and both groups contain highly respected fast drivers. Highly interesting, and food for a bit of experimenting.
The closure didn't last too long, and Kees invited me to come along for a lap in the 944S2. Despite the fact that lots of people wanted to get more laps in, we had a reasonably clear run. The S2 runs very well, and grips like mad with the R-compounds. Kees had had some fun with a white Golf, and we encountered him again on this lap. He was certainly fast. Among the other fast cars were Christer's Sternrubin 964RS and ThoRSten's red 964RS. Always a pleasure to see them coming through. There was still a little queue to get off the track, but it wasn't so stupidly long as it had been earlier in the weekend.
If you can't drive yourself, the next best thing is do passenger laps. Jon had been busy adding laps to his tally, and he was my next driver. The weather was absolutely perfect: dry, sunny, a few scattered clouds in an otherwise blue sky. Picture courtesy of www.carfreaks.net:
On the track we were passed by some nice cars, including an Ultima with a huge wing, but without a roof. I'm sure Ben would approve of the concept. Naturally the usual collection of Porsches and M3's was out and about too.
In the parking lot Jon introduced me to two fellow 'mericuns who had made the wise decision to include the Ring into their itinerary. We chatted a bit about tracks and other things in the USA, and Jon's most recent lap of course. Jon seemed to have found my comments useful, as he insisted that David should take me along for a coached lap. It's not my habit to jump into the passenger seat with people I don't know, but a few simple questions later I figured he wouldn't do anything silly, so out we went.
David looked like he was enjoying himself very much, and the Smart was doing its usual thing: shift slowly, but grip firmly. David's track experience made it easy to achieve a lap that flowed pretty well with minimal remarks. Having learned from earlier coaching experiences I changed my directions at Adenauer Forst: no matter how insistently you ask people to turn in really late, most of them go in too early anyway. The "don't turn in until I tell you to" approach worked perfectly in this case.
While we were out on the track the police showed up in a white Volvo. The car definitely looked authentic, down to the slightly out-of-true "Police" sticker on the boot.
When the sun went down the temperature dropped very rapidly. A very easy way to warm up is to do some laps. This time Matt was driving, and the vehicle was the G-car. The fully prepped C-car is still out of commission, and the G-car hasn't been prepped yet. At the moment it's still a 13-year old bone-stock Golf II with a G60 engine. It even has the beautiful Recaro seats still in it. Matt had been driving it because driving an unprepped G60 is a hell of a lot better than not driving anything at all. Even better, once you get used to the relatively soft suspension of the G-car, you can shift along at quite decent speeds, even with two people on board. This was illustrated by two very fast boikers who overtook us going down Fuchsröhre. Matt managed to stay very close to them all the way from the compression to the exit of Adenauer Forst.
After that they disappeared from sight, of course, but it was good fun seeing what a bog-standard G60 can do in the hands of a capable driver. Traffic was getting very light by now (approximately 18.45h), giving Matt lots of opportunities to pick his own line without having to worry about other traffic.
At Steilstreckenkurve we came up on a Mini. Matt was on his tail going into the Karussell, and the Mini went round the outside. Even though this looked like a "please overtake me" move, the Mini closed the door and pulled ahead exiting the Karussell. Matt proceeded to hang off his rear bumper until Pflanzgarten III, where the Mini finally moved over.
After this bit of excitement we went straight out for a second lap. The first scalp was one to be proud of: a GT3RS. He pulled away quickly out of the gates, but a bit of comfort braking at Tiergarten gave away the game: we were going to get us a GT3RS. At the exit of Bastard Bend we were on his tail, sticking there until the exit of Hocheichen where the sight of the track disappearing at Quiddelbacher Höhe caused the RS to reduce speed where Matt kept it flat, resulting in an easy overtake.
We overtook a good many cars during that second lap. Sadly, some of them were standing still on the grass or, as was the case for a Ferrari 355, had been parked into the wall at Breidscheid.
Among the overtaken were a pair of Focuses (Foci?), an American barge (sorry, I have no idea of the model/make), a Polo, and Michael's purplish A-class.
The sun was mostly down now, so it was high time for dinner. With the big crowds gone getting a table wasn't too difficult. As a change of pace we went to the Lindenhof this time. Service was excellent, and the menu came in two languages for those who did not speak German. Mind you, some of those who did not speak German came prepared with a Palm with a dictionary.
Alan and Matt were having fun the old-fashioned way with a paper map of the Nordschleife. Unfortunately the names of certain bends aren't mentioned, e.g. Bastard Bend, Maddock Bend, Lovejoy Lane, and Maddock-II. A merry time was had by all, especially with Matt explaining what the various configurations of letters on the trunk of a Scooby meant. Despite the good time, Adrian made an executive decision to get up and leave. This was more than half an hour after we'd all decided it was time to get going, and after we settled the bill, which Adrian did in a most interesting way by first confusing the waitress, then asking her to pick out 20 cents from the loose change in his hand, then telling her that she gave him too much change. In the end everybody was confused except Adrian.