Thursday, 5 June 2014

Nurburgring Nordschleife - 3rd June 2014

Nurburgring Nordschleife - 3rd June 2014

It was another early start on Tuesday: 7am at the track ready for the safety briefing. The day was a private track day organised by Pisten Club: a German motorsport organisation. In total there were circa 100 cars who had exclusive use of the Nordschliefe for the day. As many laps as you like. The vast majority of the other drivers were experienced on this track and had some serious hardware at their disposal. Three quarters of the cars were either M-Series BMW or GT/RS Porsche with a few AMG Mercs and a 1.5m Euro Koenigsegg factory test car thrown in for good measure. 
The mandatory safety briefing was at 8am in German and English then we collected our numbers, transponders and L plates (all novice Nordschliefe drivers have to wear them) and we headed back to our cars to prepare for the track opening at 9am.
The next few hours were a blur of adrenaline and petrol fuelled excitement. The track is awesome in the "Shock & Awe" sense of the word. If you don't know the circuit (17km and 43 corners) you approach almost every bend not knowing which way it will take you and normally with a third dimension involved: either banking, negative camber or a blind crest. Add to that some rain, high kerbs and no run-offs and you have one of the most difficult and dangerous tracks in the world. Jackie Steward christened it "Green Hell".
But what a sensation. My wife and I in my little garage built GBS, head to head (albeit briefly) with a 1.5m Euro Koenigsegg on a world class race circuit. That's another one ticked off my Bucket List.
Even though the majority of the drivers were veteran on this circuit the rain still took its toll. Racing was stopped three times whilst Porsches were prised from the scenery and the damage repaired. Whilst the day ended prematurely due to the bad weather, our spirits were high. What a day.

My first attempt at a lap of the ring – the GoPro didn't get past the scrutineers….

A slow wet lap with Graterham riding Shotgun

A semi wet lap

In spite of all that was going on around them, Bernd's crew provided superb hospitality throughout the day: strong coffee and cake during the morning session and an excellent BBQ for lunch - thank you.
In the evening we went back to Centre Parcs and found one of the restaurants did an "all you can eat and drink" tariff - perfect!! We went to bed satiated and exhausted on so many levels.

Wednesday was another early start, but this time to trek home. We did the whole journey in one stretch this time - 12 hours driving in the pouring rain most of the way. When we got home my car was saturated inside and out. Motorway spray from the 550 miles had been pulled in through the open rear. But, nothing a good clean and some early summer sunshine couldn't fix on Thursday. She put up a great performance and came through with flying colours.

Nurburgring Trip - 2nd June 2014

Nurburgring Nordschleife - 2nd June 2014

The day had finally come. After 6 months of thinking about it, it wss now time to put the thoughts into action. A good friend of mine kindly loaned me his car trailer (thank you once more Garry) and I loaded her aboard and strapped her down. With the doors and half-hood in place, the majority of the car is watertight (or so I thought, but I will come to that) with only the rear quarter lights each side open to the elements and a gap between the hood and the boot cover. The trailer plus the car equate to approximately 2/3rds the weight of my wife's Rav4 that I was using to pull it. With a double axle trailer (with braking), this is well within legal limits but the Rav4 (2.0L petrol) was not really up to the job. The brakes and clutch took a pounding and I had to use all of the gears to get up some of the hills. 
Stafford to Nurburgring is circa 550 miles and pulling a trailer that meant 12 hours of driving - a long way!! So we broke the journey on the outward leg with a stay at a hotel in Maidstone on Sunday night and an early crossing (8am) on Le Shuttle. We arrived at the Ring at 3:30pm to some sunshine and a warm welcome from our German host Bernd Backes. We then set up a "GBS area" across the road from the "Devil's Diner" and the entrance to the Nordschliefe. 
Bernd has an old Fire-Truck that he uses to transport the catering equipment, supplies and an essential mobile workshop for the cars. 
Once we picked a suitable place, we offloaded the cars and supplies. Don't they look good!!
With the essentials in place it was time to recce the track. There was a "tourist" session going on which means that the Nordschliefe is treated as a German toll road. Anyone with a licence and a road legal car can pay the toll (27 Euros) and do a circuit. It was mayhem. There was everything from top end Mercs and BMWs to old battered Golf GTIs and everything in between, plus hundreds of bikers. It wasn't long before the red flags appeared and the track closed whilst they cleared up the remains of another smash. I thought to myself - what have I let myself in for?
With that thought left in my mind and after a long day of pulling the trailer across England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, we headed to our hotel. Bernd had kindly provided a web site for local accommodation. On it, was Centre Parcs Eifel just 7 miles down the road - ideal. 
Having used Centre Parcs in the UK many times when the children were smaller, we knew roughly what to expect. The "comfort" accommodation can be booked by the night and is clean but basic i.e. room with TV and bed, and bathroom with shower. Although we didn't realise that bed linen WASN'T included - the German website didn't seem to mention it. Not to worry, Reception were glad to supply some for an additional fee.
The catering was similar to the accommodation - simple yet satisfying: steak, chips and ice cold German lager - what more do you need??