Nürburgring (23-24 April 2005)
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SaturdayFiguring that the odds of three cancelled VLN races were extremely long I had planned to be present at the third (first?) race of the season. Both Ecurie Europe and Team Schwedenkreuz had their cars ready and were chomping at the bit to give them a proper workout.
The weathergods were trying to compensate for the crappy weather that caused the cancellation of the first two races of the season. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the temperatures were up. Some spectators had come in appropriate cars.
The carpark at Brünnchen was dusty and crowded.
A Finnish 997 was proudly wearing a very appropriate (for the time being...) license plate.
I still have a weak spot for the brutal power of the 993 Turbo, through.
There were lots of spectators around, but it wasn't too difficult to find a spot with a decent view of the track if you didn't mind climbing the hill towards Eschbach a bit.
The first car to come screaming through was (of course) the Alzen Porsche. The new colours look very nice, but make the car a bit harder to spot than last year's livery. Not that that's a problem, the noise it makes is really hard to miss. The Bilstein Porsche wasn't too far behind.
The Ecurie Europe Audi TT came through with Christer driving. The Team Schwedenkreuz M3 however was nowhere to be seen. As I learned later, it had broken down shortly after the start.
The race had attracted photographers with a wide range of cameras to capture the action.
Hiking up the hill a bit further brought me to another good spot for taking pictures.
Stuck's car of choice had burned to the ground in practice. As they hadn't found a cause yet, they didn't risk running their other cars so they switched back to something else.
Meanwhile, the Alzen Porsche and the Viper kept roaring. The Pohlen Bora had a flat tyre, though.
As Christer hadn't come past in a long while I suspected his car would be suffering from some mechanical problems. In order to find out I started down the hill to head to the Fahrerlager. Not before taking some more pictures, though.
A quick walk round the Fahrerlager posed a little mystery. I was looking for the big-ass tent with big-ass trailer attached to it that the Ecurie Europe was using last year. However, it was nowhere to be found. While phoning Job to find out where they were hiding, I did spot another sweet-looking trailer.
Having arrived in the correct box (shared with Stuck and Scheid), I saw the TT parked in a corner with some turbo problems. Apparently some bolts or stuff had sheared or something, and one mechanical thingy had come loose from another mechanical thingy. Before that had happened, lap times were nice and quick, with quite a bit of development potential left in the car.
Job proudly displayed the weight loss resulting from the stress of being the team manager of a race team. Below are a "before" and "after" picture :)
To continue the scary picture theme a bit, here are two highly succesful race drivers: Christer H. and Hans-Joachim S., and the chief mechanic of Ecurie Europe.
A result of the loose bits and pieces, hot air was entering the cabin. Really hot air. Hot enough to melt Christer's drink bottle. The drinking water was hot enough to burn your mouth on, which prompted me to suggest to add a tea bag for the next race. All in all Christer was overheating a little when they pulled him out of the car. At least he got to test his nomex suit, and it worked very well. After squeezing the sweat out of the balaclava it was time to do a final lap to avoid a DNF.
While the TT was doing its lap, I had a quick look round the pit box.
Scheid had had an interesting experience: after a pit stop one of his mechanics had found a centerlock safety lying on the ground. After Scheid had pulled away... Even better was that Scheid wasn't told about this, until somebody asked him about the little incident in the Pistenklause later that evening...
Another good story was that Stuck had broken down near Galgenkopf. His team didn't come to pick him up, so he walked back to the pit. Which is quite a long walk. When he approached the pit box, he was overtaken by a car of his team, towing the broken-down M3. Suffice it to say that mr. Stuck wasn't best pleased.
There was another good story going round: the Manthey Porsche had a French driver who got a bit confused how to get back into the pits for fuel towards the end of the race. So instead of going round the GP strecke and coming in the normal way, he turned right after the Tiergarten Chikane and went through the cones into T13 as would be the case of driving the NS on a public day.
He quickly realised he'd made a mistake, and that this was not the way into the pits. He wanted to come back out of the cones and go round the GP strecke. But the marshalls told him he couldn't do that, and would have to now complete another lap of the Nordschleife. And because he hadn't gone through the timing beam on the start/finish straight he not only lost a lap but also lost 8 minutes and nearly ran out of fuel. If they hadn't lost the 8 minutes they would have won.
Next stop was the pit wall, to see the finish of the race. Jeroen was still carrying his general purpose fix-anything tools.
Some of the cars passed the finish line close to the wall. Our neighbours from Schubert Motors climbed onto the fencing to get a better view.
After everybody had left, Jeroen and I were still on the pit wall, waiting for Christer to finish his lap. By now it had started drizzling a bit, and the temperature was dropping rapidly. Consequently we were very grateful to watch the TT cross the finish line.
We then made our way over to the parc fermé, where we couldn't find the TT. It later turned out that the officials hadn't let him in as he'd crossed the finish line too long after the race winner.
On the way back to the car I spotted a Hummer. A very unique vehicle in that setting, where you manage to walk past Porsche Turbos and Carrera GTs without glancing at them a second time.
On my way to the Pistenklause I spotted a familiar blue 968CS, so I called the owner to figure out where he was. A very sleepy voice answered, and a meeting in the Pistenklause was arranged. As usual the Pistenklause was busy, but I seemed to be the first to arrive of our little band. This gave me the time to throw away the pictures that weren't any good in preparation of a little slideshow later on.
Lots of good stories were told about what had happened to who in the race. Broken diffs, missing center-lock locking pins, burning cars, melting drink bottles, lost French drivers, the lot.
Apart from the Ecurie Europe team, Euan, Tor Helge, Joerg, and Alexander "The Vespa pusher" were there. Most of them watched the little slideshow of VLN-pics closely. Some of them even conceded that I'd improved from taking "total crap" pictures to just "crap" pictures :)
Then it was time for Christer to make an announcement. Everybody was all ears, anticipating either the worst (e.g. Christer emigrating to Australia) or the best (e.g. Christer emigrating to Australia). However, his announcement wasn't even his own announcement, but rather the non-announcement of one of his team mates who was getting married. Even worse, said person allegedly was going to buy a car with automatic transmission...
When all the excitement had died down, it was time for desert. At least for some of us. Job didn't even look at the menu, but ordered something with lots of chocolate straight off.
Fortified with Cordon Bleu (ordered with fries, but received baked potatoes) and the chocolate-and-something-desert, Job felt ready to attack my phone. According to him it has the best game ever in it. I wouldn't know, but when he showed which game he meant (Erix) it took me back to my Commodore-64 days. Job proved to be good enough at it to take it to the next level. The goal of the game is to claim pieces of the screen by crossing uncharted territory while making sure that the evil thingies that bounce all over the place don't hit your trail. Once you've covered enough ground, you advance to the next level.
Our next visitor was Torsten (no, not ThoRSten), sporting a very nice jacket with lots of car-related logos on it. He'd bought a nearly-new GT3, and showed us some pictures of what had happened to it during the 10 minutes of rain earlier that day after a short off-track excursion at Bergwerk. We had a very amiable conversation, but with breakfast ordered for approximately 8.00 and a deeply rooted fear of disappointing the cook I made my way back to the B&B.