Nürburgring (30-31 July 2005)
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SaturdayA leisurely start saw me arriving at the Ring at about 14.30 hours. Driving leisurely was a good thing too, as the Polizei had set up a speedtrap in the 70km/h zone on the B-258 near Ring Racing.
A quick look at the carpark convinced me that the sensible thing to do would be to go straight out onto the track. Right behind the barriers I spotted Stelvio, who was standing around looking at the world going by.
The track looked rather damp and slippery here and there. The braking zone for Aremberg and the exit of Bergwerk proved that a slow sighting lap was once again a sensible thing to do. At Spiegelkurve (or Chicane, in Jochen-speak) (the left-right before Miss-Hit-Miss (or Dreifach rechts)) there was an enormous load of oil-absorbing dust. Apparantly a 911 had rolled and hit the armco in two places. During the rest of the day a local speed limit of 50km/h was put in place.
Despite the leisurely start of the day, I managed to forget to bring a bottle of juice with me. Time for a trip to the local supermarket, then. Oh wait, there's no such thing in Nürburg. Better pop down to the nearest town. Using the fastest route, of course. On the way there I spotted Jochen at Mattzgesfeld. Luckily he spotted me too, resulting in the first ever picture of the Ibiza on the track.
Having scored a 2-liter pack of orange juice (allegedly with juicy bits in it, though at the time of writing I haven't found any yet) and some nibbles, I made my way back to the carpark, again using the quick way. Having a decent amount of torque available definitely helps when you have to enter the track at the bottom of Ex-Mühle after a standing start.
The plan was to do one more lap and then do a walk around the carpark. Regular readers of my trip reports will probably already suspect that things didn't quite go as planned. First of all, it started raining. Nothing dramatic, but a respectable amount of wet stuff came down nevertheless. This made the track very treacherous in some places, while other places were nearly as grippy as normal. Naturally a boiker was caught out by the sudden lack of grip at the beginning of the Hatzenbach complex. A cardriver had already stopped to warn oncoming traffic.
The wetness of the track tempted some people to do powerslides. Maybe it's something that comes natural to BMW E30 drivers (Sideways Soren comes to mind); in any case a black E30 was sideways in one direction when I approached Adenauer Forst, then sideways in the other direction when I turned in for the left-hander, and then he lost it. He recovered quickly, but it was interesting to see how fast you can close on somebody who's showboating.
Anyway, at the end of the lap I went for a little cooldown, and came back to the carpark. Which was full. OK, walking around the carpark can wait: better do some more laps. And I did laps 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the day on the trot, under very variable conditions. Sometimes I had the windscreen wipers on continuously, sometimes on interval, and sometimes not at all.
Birgit managed to take the second ever picture of the Torquemobile, at Quiddelbacher Höhe.
By now I was becoming accustomed to the way the Ibiza reported what was going on under the wheels, and I increased the pace a little. This resulted in overtaking a BMW M6 and a Scooby. And a 911. And some assorted other cars. The track was mostly wet, part damp, and dry surface was pretty much non-existent. The laptime surprised me a little, as I nearly beat Jeremy Clarkson's time of 9.59. The torquey Ibiza managed to haul me round in 10.02. Not bad, considering that my fastest time in the Squealmobile was 9.57 in the dry.
On lap number 6 I was provided with some entertainment of the less welcome kind. The section between Flugplatz and Schwedenkreuz was pretty much dry by now, and I kept it nailed all the way until after the crest before Schwedenkreuz. Brake hard and turn in two carlengths after the sign, and in front of me I see several cars and boiks braking mid-corner and trying to tighten their line. The reason for that is that a black Scooby was traveling down the track at a 90-degree angle, with the nose pointed directly at the armco on the righthandside of the track. It then spun the other way, fishtailed out of control for a bit, and then spun onto the grass on the outside of the bend. For a moment or two it looked like it was going to hit the armco quite hard, but it just managed to miss the hard stuff. As they were about to continue their lap I didn't stop.
The final lap of the day was the best by far: a black VW Transporter van was starting a couple of dozen meters ahead of me. Now, this is no ordinary Transporter. This one has a lowered and tweaked suspension, and it has a bloody big engine. On the way to Tiergarten it pulled away from me quite easily. By the time we came to Hatzenbach I had closed the gap to the original distance, but from Flugplatz to Schwedenkreuz he opened the gap up again.
The Ibiza is a totally different car than the 964 or the Squealmobile, but by now I was reasonably comfortable with the way it handles. This allowed me to push quite hard in the safer sections, closing the gap very slowly again. But then we came to Ex-Mühle, where he stormed up the hill as if it was level ground. I managed to close the gap a little by braking later for Bergwerk, but by the end of Kesselchen the gap had gotten a lot bigger. During the rest of the lap I pulled back a little ground, but not much. At Döttinger Hohe I pulled alongside of him to exchange some thumbs-up. As luck would have it my watch had accidentally timed this lap: 9.21 BTG.
After the second cooldown of the day I parked across the road and had a quick look round the carpark. Within minutes I'd located Job, Ecurie Europe mechanic Jeroen, Anders, Jochen, Gary, Ben and Birgit.
In the carpark I spotted the Finnish M6 that I'd overtaken earlier, and an Ariel Atom that actually worked.
Then it was time to compare company cars: Job had a look at my Ibiza, and I had a look at his new Merc. It's some kind of AMG thing that runs on diesel. Should be pretty nippy, I think.
Across from the Merc I spotted Jeroen's DRT (formerly Job's DRT), which had the lights on. Of course they would go out all by themselves, but it would be a shame to kill a brandnew battery that way, so Job took advantage of the racewindow to switch off the lights.
On the way back we encountered a rare sight: a short wheelbase Audi Quattro.
There are no doubt thousands of ways to earn your famous 15 minutes of fame. If you are an honourary marshall, one way is to park your boik in a no-stopping zone and block the traffic that's trying to make the turn out of the carpark.
Combining Stelvio's frustrated look and Ben's trip report, I deduced that I'd arrived shortly after a long closure. We didn't suffer many closures during the remainder of the day, but several people did buy armco.
To add another high to an already excellent day I went out for a passenger lap in Anders' GT3. Anders had left his helmet at home, but a fellow Ringer was kind enough to lend him a slightly used helmet.
Despite having some experience in riding along in GT3s, the sensations don't seem to lose their impressiveness. For some reason the sounds, vibrations and the way the suspension transmits bumps in the road are all just right. Maybe I need to save up for a GT3 instead of an M3CSL after all? Anders certainly seemed to be enjoying himself.
Somewhere around Metzgesfeld we overtook an Alfa 75 that was moving at a fair clip. He managed to stay on our tail until Ex-Mühle.
At the end of the day I went to Schwalbenschwanz to try to take some pictures in the fading light. On the way I encountered a Ford Sierra being towed away, and a dog that was riding in a boik's sidecar.
Hiking up the hill I realised I'd missed the photographer's shuttle (i.e. Birgit's Merc), as it was already parked there when I arrived. And sure enough, when I got to the track Jochen and Birgit were just leaving. Dunno why, it wasn't even 19.00 hours yet, and the rain wasn't about to start in, oh, 2 or 3 minutes.
Despite the fading light I managed to get some half-decent shots, including Keith in his Z4, 928-Alex, Ben riding with Jon, "I saw you!"-Stelvio, and Ulf (the other one).
Some of the slow-shutterspeed high-risk shots turned out fairly well too, considering that I was using about 1/60s and a focal length of 120mm (with a 1.6x crop factor of the digital SLR)... That's way out in Jeppe-territory.
The damp air was perfect for rainbows. Here's Stelvio riding off to a pot of gold at the end of it.
Of course I couldn't resist taking pictures of the sky and the trees when the track was empty.
Ben had booked a table at the Pistenklause at 20.00 hours. Having left Schwalbenschwanz at 19.30, it was a bit of a rush to get there in time and claim a seat.
Jochen had cleverly reserved his seat by remote control by sending Ben a pleading text message.
Before the laptop-fest got well and truly under way, I saw a very rare sight. About as rare as Ben driving a convertible with the roof up: Birgit was using an external card reader that was connected to the computer WITH A WIRE! :-)
To entertain the crowd before the main course arrived the high-tech end of the table put on some slideshows. With Jochen, Birgit and myself taking pictures, there was an ample supply of pictures. And laptops.
For some reason I needed to get for something or other, and Ben jumped at the chance to volunteer me to take the traditional Ringers dinner group photo. Given the Ixus-density at the table, I was soon busy juggling about 3 or 4 of them around taking shots in pairs.
It was nice to notice that the Ixus 4 (like I have) has a much better display and easier controls than the older Ixi. (That's my excuse for cutting off half of Birgit's face on the pic taken with Ben's camera.)
At some point an Asian-looking guy entered the restaurant, and Job (who knows everybody who's in any way connected to motorsport) pointed out that that was Ho-Pin Tung, who might well be the first Chinese F1-driver. As a picture of such a potential star might become a very valuable collectors item, we positioned Jochen near the exit of the bathroom (into which mr. Tung had disappeared) to signal us when he was coming back. The signalling bit didn't quite work, but several pics of our star-to-be were taken nevertheless.
Naturally, only Job had a clue how to spell "Ho-Pin Tung", so he entered it into Ben's PDA to be used as input in Ben's trip report. Those trip reports tend to be online long before I write mine, so I just waited until Ben was ready and then copied the correct spilling off his page.
To continue with the note-writing theme: Birgit borrowed the notepad and pen off the waitress to write something down. While highly effective, it did have the unintended side-effect that the rest of the table couldn't order any drinks while she was hogging the pad. Ringers being Ringers, once one of them noticed this, the rest of the table quickly chimed in with their own drinks orders.
Some of the slide-show software was less sophisticated than average, requiring manual intervention
In keeping with age-old traditions, I took a picture of a relaxed Job...
... and Ben and I took pictures of each other taking a picture of the other.
Ringers being Ringers, this inspired other photographers to take more pictures too.
Meanwhile Keith was fighting off a serious case of jetlag...
... while Birgit persuaded the entire table to have icecream that's prepared in the oven.
For additional entertainment Ben took a picture of the blue LED of my T68i as it was flashing. No doubt it seemed like a good idea at the time.
There is something about new gadgets that begs people to use them. This was certainly the case with the sleek new D70 that had blown a hole in Birgit's shoe-fund.
When she stated that the lens she had on the camera was too long, several Ringers (being Ringers) offered to help her hold it :)
After the biggest collection of bad "how many