Nürburgring (18-21 August 2006)
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FridayThe advantage of working somewhat longer hours than usual for the previous weeks paid off by allowing me to sneak off by 15.00 hours. Which is both good and bad: it's good, as it allows me to arrive at the Ring at a decent time. It's bad, because I got stuck in some traffic jams. At least the weather was nice. Adri was supposed to join me, but he'd encountered a little setback in his home-improvement program when he drilled through a gas pipe. During the repair of that, the plumber drilled through a water pipe...
A Brit 996 Turbo insisted on overtaking over double lines. He then proceed to try to kill himself by overtaking other cars on the B-258 where even Bren on his boik would decline to overtake. After about 20 minutes of this we came to the Ring, and he was only 2 cars in front of me.
My preparation for the trip consisted of swapping the front and rear tyres, as the fronts were approaching wear limits. I noticed that the POS Dunlop tyres not only squealed loudly, they also lost entire chunks of rubber. Ah well.
Despite the traffic hold-ups I still managed to get to the Ring by about 18.42 hours. After a very brief "hi, hello" to Matt, Keith, Jon-who-breaks-tyre-pressure-gauges, Euan, and assorted other familiar faces I went out to do a lap. The 6-week absence had made me a bit rusty, and I appreciated the quiet track to get used to driving the Nordschleife again.
Lap two was again nice and quiet, and I concentrated on the little things like turn-in points and apexes. A Streckensicherung car (an Opel Vectra stationwagon) had started ahead of me, and I decided to follow him round for a bit to see what kind of speeds the officials do. Into Bastard Bend a Caterham overtook us, but the marshall was doing a nice pace and I decided to follow him round a bit longer. I wasn't disappointed: he slowed down a little before Flugplatz, but we did about 190km/h over the crest into Schwedenkreuz. At that point I expected the Opel to brake, but he didn't. The rear of the car was jumping around a bit mid-corner, but he didn't seem to mind that :-)
I enjoyed the leisurely drive and the opportunity to look around more than on a busy weekend. At the end of the lap Ben spotted me coming out of the cones, and jumped in for 2 laps. Thanks to being away for so long (sorry, couldn't resist) I wasn't entirely back into the groove yet, but the weekend was only just beginning. I did make a mental note that I'd need to take Ben out later that weekend for a proper lap. While exiting the track we were fortunate: the marshall waved us through right before he put the barrier in place. The knowledge that there were only two boiks behind us and nothing else was very relaxing. As the boiks hadn't caught us up when we came to Flugplatz I relaxed even more. Having the track more or less to yourself is a great feeling. According to Ben that's one of the highlights of doing a training course on the Nordschleife. I must admit that I'm tempted to try it out some day.
As I hadn't had time yet to check into the B&B I scooted over there to collect keys for Matt (who was staying at the same place) and me; in return Matt would reserve a spot for me at the Pistenklause. Thanks to my Quest I didn't take any wrong turns, and I was back at the PK in no time.
The evening's diners arrived in relays: Ben, Matt and Keith were already there, but in short order Kevin and Jill joined us, and so did Norm. Not much later Thorleif appeared, and Steve Gill with Debbie. (Apologies if I managed to get names and/or partnerings wrong...). Ben downloaded a video of Norm piloting a slightly tweaked GT2 on Sebring, passing GT3 cups as if they were standing still. OK, maybe the term "slightly tweaked" isn't entirely accurate: IIRC the GT2 had more than 800hp...
Matt was having a play with his latest gadget: a Garmin Quest. Despite some delays getting updated maps, he was still mighty pleased with it. Naturally: it's a very sweet little machine that performs its navigational duties very well.
In the meantime Ben was downloading his pics to a laptop using what's most likely the world's most expensive cardreader: a Nikon D200.
Thorleif was still not too pleased about finishing second in the BMW course, but he'd brought some architectural drawings to distract him (and us). An impromptu vote was taken, resulting in a unanimous advise to Thorleif as to which of the two drawings should be built.
Despite a bit of jetlag Keith still remembered the important parts of the Pistenklause menu: Weizenbier and Steak-am-Stein.
Ben had organised an aerial sightseeing tour of the Ring, and we all spent some time looking at the resulting pictures and video. Incidentally, there should be a law against showing high definition footage in public. It makes innocent bystanders want to buy a new camcorder...
By this time Keith had been awake for close to 36 hours, and his jetlag was catching up on him. No doubt he'd outpaced the jetlag while doing his laps in the Speedster, but there comes a time when you have to slow down, and then it hits you. Not long after Keith had left, Matt and I went to our B&B, leaving Kevin with his miniature fan (quite literally a cool gadget) behind.
SaturdayIt was a bit of a challenge to do another early start, but thanks to some sunshine through the window I managed to be ready for breakfast a little after 7.30.
This turned out to be either too late, or too early: when Matt and I arrived at the track at 8.22, the track had just closed. While it's definitely not a record, it certainly is bloody early. The marshall stationed near the roundabout exit had brought a portable teatray that could be clamped to the barrier.
As soon as the track opened I jumped in with Matt in his 320d for some wet laps. The track was reasonably slippery. Especially Ex-Mühle unexpectedly so. We were just poodling round really, and when Matt fed in just a bit of power the back stepped out. At least I now understand how Soren had his little mishap in the E46 M3 way back when.
On the second lap we encountered the same Streckensicherung car that I'd followed the day before, and when we came to Ex-Mühle some spectators were jumping up and down, pointing round the corner. And yes, there was a crashed car up on the embankment on the inside of the exit of the turn. An MX5 by the looks of it, piloted by a Stig-lookalike.
In the carpark I noticed that Keith had brought one of his spare 'mericun plates and stuck it to the back window of his Speedster.
Of course we had some in-depth conversations with Ross, focusing on beer & milk, crashes, braille, boiks, what it's like not to feel lucky but to actually be Lucky, and how it is to have a picture of your torso all over the internet.
The conversation was rudely interrupted by Job calling me to say he'd broken down in the Mercedes racecar and that he needed a tow. Karl kindly agreed to lend me his towing rope. Karl left first in the ST220, taking the Nordschleife down to the Breidscheid exit. By using a parallel universe I left later, but managed to arrive at his doorstep before him, evoking a "How did you do that?" comment from Karl :-)
Meanwhile Job told me exactly where he was, and I set off to fetch him. With the aid of Karl's rope we quickly got under way with destination Ring Racing. Which turned out to be about 50km away. I learned that the Ibiza's cruise control didn't like the elasticity of the tow rope: progress was much smoother without it.
Even though Ring Racing was closed, the place was very much alive with people who needed their exhaust fixed or were doing other jobs on their car.
By then my shower was long overdue, so a quick trip to the B&B was in order.Not longer after that Helen arrived, and I went back to the carpark across the road. Paskal was there with a small group of Dutch Ringers, including Aernoudt with his new E36. The access road was nearly completely blocked by people who didn't quite understand the meaning of the "No Parking/No Stopping" signs.
The roundabout was a bit of a mess too.
We met up near the ticket office, where I spotted Karl going through in the Mondeo. There seems to be progress on getting the 944 back on the road, but for Karl this was another DRT-less weekend. He kindly invited me to come for a lap, but I figured it'd be a bit rude to leave Helen within 2 minutes of her arriving.
Ten minutes later I did go out with Karl, which provided him with an excellent excuse to do a lap and a half instead of the planned half-lap back to Adenau. A black ST220 had left ahead of us, and we were looking forward to an interesting lap. Before we came to the other 220, a boiker or two tried out for a new job as hood ornament on Karl's Mondeo. Karl turned them down, despite the sparks flying off the kneesliders.
Exiting Hatzenbach we caught up to the other Mondeo, but it was clear that his presence wouldn't make the lap any more interesting as it was going very slowly. As opposed to Karl, who was still being held up by the hood ornament wannabe.
At Adenauer Forst we spotted Jef with his track-prepped Kadett, but we couldn't catch him.
The next boiker without mirrors was caught at Bergwerk. It's amazing how certain people do not change their behaviour during the weekend.
A bit further down the track (once we'd managed to get past the boik) we caught up with Karl's next company car: an Audi RS4. We gradually caught him until we came to Pflanzgarten-3, where a car was being recovered. The flag-waving marshall wasn't best pleased with the rate of decelleration of the RS4, but from where we were sitting it was quite obvious that there wasn't much more braking to be done: when you carry an X amount of speed, it takes Y meters to slow down. Yelling at the driver isn't going to change that, so instead it might be better to increase the available braking distance by walking up the track a bit further.
Things were getting a bit more hectic in the area near the track entrance.
Next on the agenda was a bit of picture taking, but it started raining almost immediately when we arrived trackside.
We then went to Ring Racing to meet Job for a little sightseeing tour of some of the more scenic spots in the immediate area. Before we left, Job had to pay some bills. Helen had never seen a 500-euro note before. Neither had I, come to think of it :-)
The original idea was to pile Job, Jeroen, Helen and myself in a single car, but as the only available cars were an Ibiza and a Lupo, we decided it might be better to take both cars. Along the way we detoured by the Lindehof and Pistenklause to sort out where to have dinner, meeting with Jochen and Matt on the way. The scenic drive took us to several interesting places, and with a little detour via our B&B we ended up at a Chinese restaurant.
Job had reserved a large table (about 20 people), as Jochen had asked us to include room for his band of 6. However, it was only Jochen that turned up, so there were more than a few unused spaces at the table. Naturally this gave rise to some back and forth ribbing between Job and Jochen, which ended in a draw.
While Matt was waving his arms about, I was trying to find a more spicy dish than the last time I ate there. That time I'd asked for the spiciest dish on the menu, and Primus and I agreed that it wasn't even remotely spicy. Keith had independently selected the same dish, and asked for "extra spicy". This made my ordering process a little easier, as I didn't have to explain from the start that their so-called "spicy" dish didn't really have a spicy reputation.
Keith solved the lack-of-spice issue of his starter course by pouring most of the little pot of instant hot stuff over his plate.
Jochen showed some hilarious pictures of some terrified (and terrifying) passengers. If they'd been on a plane it would have turned straight back.
He then went on to demonstrate that even a professional digital photographer sometimes can't do without big stacks of prints.
Ben's traditional group shot was this time taken by the restaurant staff.
After a little while, people started to copy their respective body languages.
No Ringers dinner is complete without gadgetry, and this one was no exception. Keith had gone over to the dark side, trading his trusty Canon Digital Ixus for a Sony. Admittedly, the Sony had a really nice and big touchscreen on the back which was also drool-proof.
The competition element of the evening was a slideshow race. I managed to win it due to Jochen not making it to the start because of a dead battery. Ringers are generally helpful people, and to prove that Keith offered Jochen the use of his battery. Unfortunately Keith's battery was about as big as Jochen's entire laptop... We didn't check if the battery had the secret "sudden explosure" feature only recently discovered by Dell themselves.
Other stories dealt with how to register a greyish import boik (Honda), which isn't recognised as a Honda in Belgium. Which meant that it could be registered as a Jochisuki, or a Jochamaha, or anything really.
Job joked about the reliability of TVR (aka tow vehicle required), which was a bit rich coming from someone who'd been towed 50km earlier that morning. But, as he pointed out, his car only failed after 21 years, whereas the typical TVR tends to be off the road by then.
In the darkness we all went out separate ways.
SundayWe managed another early start, and after a leisurely breakfast went to the Ring. Thanks to the DTM traffic on the roads surrounding the Ring was becoming a serious pain, and I made a mental note to take an alternative route on the way back.
A quick goodbye to Helen, and I jumped into Matt's passenger seat for some warmup laps. The track was still very quiet. The only cars out there seemed silver in colour.
To break the silver-cars-only trend Matt then came for two laps in the Ibiza. A Brit VW had gone off at Schwedenkreuz, but a spectator was providing very early warning: as soon as he saw someone exiting FLugplatz he'd start waving, giving everybody who looked ahead a chance to slow down gently. Despite that the pace was increasing markedly. The tyres are still crap, but they're good at teaching you how to gently ease into a bend and slowly loading them up. They're also quite rewarding of the feint technique, a miniature version of the Scandinavian flick.
After two fun laps I dropped Matt off and went back to the B&B for some refreshing, followed by some picture-taking at the outside of the Karussell. I was hoping that it would stay dry this time, but of course it didn't.
Within a few minutes after I'd started taking pics Jochen arrived too. He hadn't brought an umbrella though...
Despite the crappy weater, a reasonable amount of cars kept circulating.
After a while the rain got a bit boring, and when the track closed I went back to the car. To avoid the DTM-traffic I used the Breidscheid entrance to get back to the main carpark, where I spent some time chatting and hanging around. The police were taking special interest in a UK-registered BMW. That might have been because itnically wasn't UK-registered: the "GB" bit of the license plate had been taped off. I've no clue why anybody would want to do that, but it looked like the local Polizei weren't impressed with it. Based on the typeface used, it might be because the "GB" part didn't read "GB" but "D", which isn't entirely proper for a UK-registered car.
Of course there was a Ferrari present, looking a bit forlorn in the wet.
As Soren hadn't passed the lunch location on to me (possibly as part of a conspiracy to hold on to my PMR-charger a bit longer), I was left to my own devices. Luckily I'd brought a good book, which I read while waiting out the rain in the carpark.
As soon as the weather cleared I went for some laps with Matt in the 320d. One car was parked on the Döttinger Höhe, and the car before us pulled up beside it. We were tempted to stop too, making it a three-car pole position, but decided to get going instead. Lasse was following us in the 318is.
As often happens, the weather changed dramatically after a few kilometers. Going down Fuchsröhre the sun was shining.
The sun was still shining when we came to Eiskurve. A brave boiker was doing a lap too.
We also verified that Hohe Acht isn't the highest point of the track. According to the GPS T13 is several meters higher.
Dave was promoting wheat in the carpark. Maybe because he likes Weizenbeer?
I took advantage of the spell of decent weather to take some more pics, this time at Quiddelbacher Höhe.
Not long after I got back to the carpark it started to drizzle again, and I invited Jochen for a slowish lap to avoid getting too wet. It was a decent lap, but when we came back the track was closed. By this time Johan and Thorleif had already left to pay Ed a visit. A bit of to-ing and fro-ing resulted in Keith, Matt, Jochen and I meeting up at Johan's house. I parked my car there, and we all piled into Matt's 320d for the trip down. Some of us used the opportunity to catch up on some Zzzzzzzz's.
The Autobahn was a bit of a mess, so we did a bit of cross-country driving while guided by Keith's local knowledge and Matt's GPS. This saw us arriving at a ferry across the Rhine just as it was about to leave: perfect timing.
Crossing a river had quite some novelty value for certain people: lots of pictures and videos were taken. No doubt the captain thought we were quite mad. A short drive up the hills (admiring the bend where Ed's Clio had been bent (not by Ed, mind you)) later we pulled up next to Ed's 944Turbo. As always we were greeted by several animals. Courteous Keith helped to put an example of one of the bigger species back where it belonged but didn't want to go, and was rewarded by being peed on.
Ed and Johan had already gone to the restaurant, which we found quite easily. The food was excellent and very much affordable, and the view over the Rhine was a nice bonus.
Lots of stories were told, one even more entertaining than the other. Some highlights...
If (or maybe I should say "when") you're stopped by the police in a certain oilproducing country far to the east of Germany, it's possible to tell them to "please go away" (or slightly more direct words to that effect), and even when they've blocked you in (except from behind) you can reverse, go round them, and do it all over again at the next junction.
When stopped by the police for speeding, it doesn't help to have a dialog along the lines of: Police officer: You were going too fast You: How can you say that? Do you know when I have my next appointment?
And along those lines, with enough conviction, it is however possible
to have a conversation quite similar to this after you've done speeds
on the far side of 200km/h while on the way to a ferry:
Driving a car with a Look-at-me look (say, a Mitsubishi Evo) can attract some unwanted attention too. Especially if you're a good driver who isn't afraid to change lanes quickly and overtake a handful of cars. Even if you drive within the speed limits afterwards, somebody might start following you, trying to provoke you into doing something illegal. When you're finally stopped, things get even more interesting when they find out that the car's not yours, but that it's been provided by the manufacturer for a drifting event :-)
Of course you can have experiences like these on a boik too. The main point there was that if the police officer in question doesn't have any hard proof and he needs to do something more important, you might get away with a lot.
Anyways, I think you get the drift of the conversation, even without me reciting stories about corruption in high places (be it stolen number plates or artificial limitations on trade) and how you deal with that. Or without me telling you that it can be very unwise to reach into a woman's car, even if you're a police officer: you do run the risk of being bitten.
Oh, and I learned that if you really try, you can manage more than 50 laps in a single day. Impressive, that.
MondayThanks to the track being closed in the morning, Matt and I had a slightly later start today. We killed the time by doing some touristy things, and then I moved to the carpark to read a book.
Jeppe had gotten a replacement Jahreskarte (as he'd left home in a bit of a hurry and left it behind), and was ready to go when the green light came on. We went out in convoy, and I figured it was time to return the favour and warn other people of the moving roadblock ahead of me ;-)
Two things to remember were one of the Rent Racecar BMWs closing the door on me through Pflanzgarten, and a GT3 that passed Jeppe going into Adenauer Forst, after which he slammed the brakes on right in front of him. I'm not quite sure how Jeppe managed to avoid buying himself that GT3 that he's always wanted, but luckily he did.
Gary, who knows his way around VAG cars, was my first and only passenger of the day. Some days it's hard to do a lap without a passenger, but today it was difficult to find somebody who was willing to ride along. Maybe it's something with my driving :-) Anyway, Gary was brave enough to come along for a lap in the Bouncemobile. With the track still a bit damp traffic was pleasantly light, and we went round reasonably quickly.
By now Keith had swapped his Speedster for a more sedate open-top car: a black Merc. Keith, Matt and I went out in a 3-car convoy. Keith tried really hard to get the Merc sideways, but it really didn't want to do that. After a lap and a half I left Keith and Matt to their own devices at Ex-Mühle and completed the lap by myself. I'd gotten pretty used to the tyres by now, and had figured out that with a really gentle and early turn-in you could go round the corners reasonably quickly. I also found out in Pflanzgarten that the back was a bit more prone to stepping out mid-corner than usual. Ah well.
With dark clouds on the way I went for another lap after a short
cool-down, and despite the roadworks (or more precisely, armcoworks)
at Wehrseifen it didn't take very long to complete the lap. Which was
useful, as it was just starting to rain again. Figuring that it'd take
a while before the track would dry out again I started off for home,
despite Matt's reasoning that now I was here I could just as well stay
a little longer and enjoy the even quieter track.