Raising Green Hell – joesnow describes his Nurburgring visit
I set off on Sunday from Derby to catch the Eurotunnel around lunchtime, and got to the circuit for registry before 7:00 PM. Once I got into France, the sun came out, so it was top down, music up and sunglasses on. Excellent start. As I entered Belgium the car had that lovely silky feeling that you get when everything is hot and running smoothly. Cruising at around 130kph, I saw a tunnel approaching. It was more of a bridge with the underneath filled in, so dropped a couple of gears and nailed the car through the tunnel, fantastic noise, followed by a sudden flash! There was a bloody car pulled up on the grass bank on the other side of the tunnel. Entrapment! We’ll see if anything comes of it.
I made it to the circuit with 10 minutes to spare, and was amazed how radically the buildings around the GP circuit have changed since I stopped there in 2005. There is a huge exhibition hall, exhibition, shops, hotel and casino. There was lots of fast road cars floating about, and Porsches and BMWs aplenty. After the registry, which was all but deserted by 7pm, I made my was to the village of Adenau where the hotel was. To save a bit of cash, I went for Hotel an der Nordschleife instead of the swanky trackday package. The hotel was great, with an open air balcony that gave views of Ex-muhle complex of corners, and of course you could hear the cars lapping, mainly Scirocco’s and BMWs on Sunday evening. I was amazed at the amount of commerce in all of the villages around the ‘ring. After a brief walk, I sat down for a wurst, pommes and a pils outside a cafe and watched the last of the ring traffic leaving for the day, then had an early night, knackered from the driving.
Up early to the sound of rain, crap! I knew that the forecast was for showers, but this was heavy, and the view from the bathroom window showed the steepness of the curves into the tight left hander hidden by the barriers. I began to feel a bit nervous. Because arrival started around 7:30, I had to skip breakfast, so had nothing to keep my stomach from feeling nervous. A banana and a couple of kitkats had to suffice. I went out in the damp, and affixed my car’s numbers, and removed the covers for the towing eyes. I may be needing those I thought.
The drive up to the Nordschleife was uneventful, save from the switchback roads which allowed some skids in the rain! I arrived pretty early, and watched the other cars arrive. Pretty soon there were cars parked next to me, a Porsche 997 Turbo and a Subaru STI hatch both belonging to folk from Jersey. Since I had travelled on my own, I was glad to have some company.
After a comprehensive briefing, we headed out for some sighting laps behind pace cars – no overtaking. As I mentioned above, despite knowing the shape of the circuit, actually driving it is a whole different kettle of fish. I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but the cambers, topography, dips that crush you into your seat, many blind over crest corners and margin for error were starkly different to how they are perceived in video, let alone driving games. The concentration was absolute, and the feeling out grip levels and trying to find the right line into each unknown corner, whilst attempting to remember my mind’s map of the circuit was incredibly engrossing. On the first lap there was a casualty, a Seat Leon braked into a corner around Hatzanback and put it in the barrier, and a corner later an immaculate E30 spun right in front of me through too much throttle. Thankfully, I had some new rear tyres on, and the S2000 was pretty progressive, but still hazardous in the wet. Not a car to bully in these conditions then. I was finding that I had to hang back from the cars in front to allow myself to feel out the corners and take the correct(ish) lines.
After two laps of intense concentration equating to 40km of as fast as you dare wet driving, I took a break as I was feeling fatigue, and headed for ‘Devil’s Diner’ for a huge plate of scrambled egg with chives, bread and tomato, and a pot of coffee. Feeing much better, I found my new friends who were pretty much clueless about the ‘ring. They couldn’t believe the length, diversity of corners and the nearness of the barriers. Mike, the Porsche guy was harping on about LeMans where he tracks his Porsche. Apparently theres room for 5 cars a breast, so vastly different here then!
Despite being a private day of an estimated 150 cars, some race cars had turned up making around 200. One advantage to this was that they soon carved a dry line – so there was more grip, but also a line to follow. Great. I headed out again, and managed to attack a bit more. There were a couple of moments where I was switching from under to oversteer as the road changed below me, but I was starting to enjoy it.
By lunch the sun had come out, and Mike and I approached one of the complementary instructors who let us follow his Scirocco around. This gave a valuable insight into how to drive each corner. After this, we each had a passenger ride. He told me that he wasn’t going too fast as he needed to explain what he was doing, but it was a great display of driving. He passed a load of impressive machinery doing it.
Straight after this I went out on a pretty dry circuit with my phone mounted on the wind break screen and recorded the following lap, my 6th which was to be the quickest of the day.
Its around 10:00 bridge to gantry, but I had to let quite a lot of cars past, so could probably chop 30 seconds off. After this I was pretty happy, a pretty mediocre lap as it was my first in the dry, but I had been able to push the car to my limits. I also know there are loads of places where I could have kept it pinned, and not let the car overrun but been on the throttle or the brakes. This is addictive.
After I came in the track was shut for a 15 minutes or so whilst the recovery chaps rescued a bloody rapid Litchfield Impreza that had caught fire whilst being tested by the EVO boys. Meaden was there too driving a beautiful old Porker 908, but it broke down as well. Chris Harris was seen many times piloting a new GT2RS – very very fast down Dottinger straight!
I took the opportunity to take some snaps. When the circuit was opened again, Mike offered to take me out in his Turbo. I was thinking great, a while since I went in something really powerful. When he started it, some bizarre 70’s James Taylor alike music came on. It was quite obvious that he’d been listening to this during his previous laps. Quite hilarious. It was at this point that I was also wondering if it was a good idea to passenger with him. We got out onto the circuit, and it was clear that he didn’t know the difference between one corner and the next. The huge power of the car shot us from one corner to another, and the brakes hauled in the pace, while Mike chopped at the wheel to make the corner. Being a tiptronic, he was using the frankly awful +- buttons on the wheel whilst wearing leather driving gloves. At one stage he hit the radio button, and an angry german voice blarred through the cabin. I was wondering if it was the telephone button, and it was a lady from Porsche commenting on the driving! The main aim of Mike’s lap was to push the car on the straight, and see what it’d do. Of course this meant another lap. Later he went out, alone I might add, and clocked 175mph. The Turbo had lots of grip, lots of pace, and superb brakes, which by Mike’s own admission were far in excess of his skills.
It started to rain again, so on the next set of laps, a bit of caution was required. Still, lots of fun, but I felt as though I’d peaked, so took it easy. Whilst doing so, I was overtaken by the Ferrari 599GTO, also on a cooling down lap. What an incredible car. I upped my pace significantly and stuck with him for what must have been a few miles listening to the barely silenced V12. Possibly the highlight of my day, although there were many highs.
Sweaty and tired I made my way back to Adenau to shower and relax before meeting Mike and a few others at the Pistenklausse for dinner. Sabine Schmitz – ring taxi driver and racer extraordinaire was chatting to some folk outside, so we loitered and chatted with them whilst we were waiting for a table. She’s really nice and seemed up for a joke or two. I ordered the fillet steak on a hot stone, which was great. Good food and good company are a great combo.
The next day I got up a bit later and went and had a comprehensive continental breakfast before beginning the long drive home. The satnav took my a different way out, through a fantastic forest valley, with tunnels and good roads. It was a crisp but sunny morning, so again I enjoyed some opentop motoring. The trip back was uneventful, apart from the raspberry tart from the Eurotunnel terminal. Good pastries there.
The car performed faultlessly, and was great fun to drive on track. Fairly predictable with low limits and adjustable with throttle and brakes. A great all rounder for the outlay. Sounds good too!
So what of the ‘ring’? Well, its so rewarding when you get bits of it right, and every corner that is compromised through fear or the unknown you instantly want to drive again. I’ll definitely be back!
Based on an original write-up by joesnow.
NOTE: S2KI welcomes the opinions of its members on the S2000 and on all topics related to the S. Should you feel the creative urge to pen a few words then by all means do so and PM Energetic, Aashish2 or Onehots2k OR send us links to what you would like us to write about and we will feature you (or your community) on the S2KI Home Page.