The Chance of a Lifetime
Recently, member adrs2k had the opportunity to drive an S2000 at the Nurburgring while traveling to Germany. To say that I’m jealous is an understatement, but fortunately he put together a vivid account of the experience so we can all live vicariously! -SF
I met 34witt in the CR forum. We both own Apex Blue Pearl CRs. We started talking about a year ago when I learned he was stationed in Germany with the Air Force. I knew that, through my job, I had a chance that I could go to Germany for work someday. We kept in touch. About four weeks ago, I was asked to go to Germany. I quickly started emailing 34witt (Nathan) and we put some plans together. He was extremely awesome and let me stay at his house, eat his food, and use his car. I paid for some things here and there, and the laps. When he gets back stateside, he is attending one of my group drives so I am going to be covering the majority of the associated costs in an attempt to somehow repay him for his amazing hospitality. I would estimate it would take around $2,000 to do this on your own; I would certainly budget more though.
I spent a week in Germany, and made three trips to the ‘Ring. The first time, we made it on Thursday night, in the wet. I ran straight up to the office and bought four laps for €95, or $125. We made it with about a minute to spare and were the last car allowed on track for the day. Being run by Germans means 7:15 on the dot is when the track closes! We were in a Miata that had Kumho XS tires, TR Motorsports wheels, Carbotech XP8s all around, ATE brake fluid, and some H&R springs. The track was cold and wet. Nathan has over 100 laps around the ‘Ring so I trusted him and felt comfortable. We ended up sliding sideways through the first ten corners, and slid wide and almost into the gravel. My heart was racing. It was intense. I could feel the car struggling to find grip! Hundreds of laps in video games around the ‘Ring doesn’t even come close to what it’s really like. I tried to justify and say that I knew to some degree where the track went, but it was almost a blur. Video games are nice and helped only to allow me to recall where the track went left and right. Elevations, track surrounds, and corner speed did not correlate from the games to real life. So we finished a lap. I was honestly scared and nervous to go back. The place is scary as hell with no runoff room and tons of elevation changes and bumps. It was unlike anything I have ever seen or done before! My brain was so overloaded, it took me a few hours to come down from the high and recall the lap and really process what had just happened. I was excited, but nervous to go back and try it myself.
Saturday was a beautiful and sunny day. We changed engine oil, belt tensioner, new front calipers, new rotors in the front (the old rotors were cracked), bled the lines, swapped in race pads, and put on the good rubber. It was time to take the 1999 JDM-spec S2000 to the ‘Ring. The car had AP2 17″ wheels, 215/245 Kumho XS tires, Carbotech XP10/XP8 pads, ATE Super Blue fluid, and Swift Spec-R springs. Saturday was a VLN day, only a few each year so I was LUCKY to be there for it. A VLN day means you use the GP (Formula 1) track and the full north loop. There was a four-hour enduro race during the day so when we showed up at 4:30, the place was packed. Easily a hundred cars all waiting to get on the track. My nerves were high. We saw flatbed after flatbed of destroyed race cars coming off the north loop from the race. Cars utterly destroyed from contact with the walls, tires, and other cars. The parking lot was like a Cars and Coffee meet here in the States. The most exotic and expensive cars in the world, all here at the ‘Ring to be beaten and driven. I think every model of Porsche, Audi, and BMW were present. A couple of McLaren MP4-12Cs, a bunch of Ferraris, you name it, it was there.
The track opened about thirty minutes late. The plan was for me to get at least one lap in right off the bat to ensure I got to drive. If there are accidents or any fluids dropped, the track day is over. It is very common to drive all the way to the ‘Ring, get in line to go out, then an accident happens and the track is closed and you’re done. Knowing this, I planned accordingly and gave myself three days to attempt a lap. So the track opened and I am in line, surrounded by amazing cars. The smell of fuel, the squeal of cold track pads, engines revving as clutches are slipped. It was surreal. I was excited but nervous.
My wait was up. Nathan held up my lap card, the toll gate opened, and we were off. Below is the video of my first lap. Notice pretty early on I get passed by a McLaren MP4-12C, then a BMW M3, then a Porsche GT3 RS. The only way I can describe this place is just PURE MADNESS!!! The only real rule, which is a guideline, is stay to the right and let cars pass. Throw on your right turn signal to let people know you see them and are moving for them. I did a few times, but typically I didn’t have time!
You will notice I’m driving RHD for only the second time in my life… not to mention as we just found out, there are some problems with the clutch and the car did not want to go into third gear, so I struggled with that. I also am very used to driving a F22C, so going by sound and feel, I kept reaching for the shifter then realizing I still had almost 1,000 RPMs to go! I had a tough time knowing where the left side of the car was so I dropped a wheel into the dirt, and clipped some curbs unintentionally.
Overall, my first lap was fairly quick. I hung in there. I took it easy and was conservative as I tried to learn the lines and just feel things out. We didn’t record the second lap.
I pushed a bit on the second lap and had more fun. Overall, it was a much quicker lap. I freaked myself out a few times. The track is really fast. I think I used second gear eight times, but could have stayed in third for half of them. The scariest section was Fuchsrohre. From Road and Track:
Fuchsröhre to Adenauer-Forst: Exiting Aremberg is a steep downhill plunging to the famous Fuchsröhre, the foxhole. Brakes and stability get a workout on the undulating pavement as the car cuts speed by 100 mph before entering a relatively slow patience-requiring Adenauer-Forst section that’s the second-slowest part of the track.
I did about 120+ MPH through the Foxhole. The car compresses like crazy. I pushed into the seat, and down into the door only to get shot back up and then standing on the brakes. HUGE head rush. I was lightheaded and slightly discombobulated. It was like a roller coaster, but faster.
The most fun corner was definitely the Carousel.
In second gear, you threw the car in and the banking catches the car. It’s rough as hell and punishing. The car is just getting beaten through there. Go back and watch the shifter in my video. You can push it and the faster you go, the more fun it is, but to a point. Go too fast, and the carousel spits you out.
I got two laps in. It was absolutely incredible, the best car experience of my life. I decided to let the car cool, give my brain a chance to calm down, then we would go back out. I decided to jump into the white S2000 that was highly modded, but the track closed because of fluid down, so that ended the day. Luckily, we got two laps in!
Sunday we woke up at the crack of dawn. I packed my suitcases and headed to the ‘Ring for a few more laps before I had to go to the airport. I rode with Nathan for two passenger laps. I have to say, he is an excellent driver. I have never seen or ridden with an S2000 driver as skilled as he is. Incredible driving. He just knew the car and the track, and just PUSHED IT. Four wheel slides, tires howling, hounding cars in front of us! Just insane. We flew. His fastest lap is only about eight seconds off the lap officially set by Honda back in the development days. For being self taught, he is incredibly fast! It made me have a whole new appreciation for the S2000. I have pushed my cars on the track and in the canyons, but it’s what I would call a conservative fast. To feel what the car can really do at 10/10s was awesome. It completely changed my mind about the car and modding it. I think I’m less interested in modding it now, and more interested in just spending the money to get it on track and learn to drive it at 10/10s.