The first of April is quite an momentous day for motorists in Europe, because that’s when it’s time to bring the track toys out of their winter sleep and onto the road. Keeping this in mind, Speed Industries organized a trackday at the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife. Since I still don’t have a driver’s license, my photographer friend Martin from Switzerland took a detour to pick me up in his Subaru Impreza GC8 the afternoon before.
The weather wasn’t really playing along at the beginning, but knowing the Nürburgring it could change any minute.
After just a few minutes on the road, three Seat Leon Cupras blasted past us on the fast lane. These are guys from Switzerland, and the cars are modded to slightly north of 300 horsepower. With semislicks on the Nordschleife, these cars are hard to catch.
After about an hour, we turned off the Autobahn on onto the round 20 kilometres through the forest leading to the Green Hell.
As the sun was just about to go down, the light was amazing so Martin decided to head straight to the parking space at Brünnchen to see if we can get a few photos of his car. On the Nordschleife, Brünnchen is possibly the most embarassing place to crash because almost all photographers flock there.
Martin is still a student and this is his daily driver. Not bad for a student car I think!
We drove on further to the Nordschleife main entrance, the weather still looked like it couldn’t make up its mind.
The crew hadn’t gotten there yet, so we tried to kill time by driving up to the Burg Nürburg. I asked Martin how awesome it’d be if we could get down the hill and he responded by simply turning off the path and just driving down the grassy valley, trying to avoid the little molehills in the meantime.
We then got a call from the crew saying they had already arrived at Pinocchio, we headed there through the twisting roads around the Eifel. For those who plan a visit to the Nürburgring, Ristorante Pizzeria Pinocchio is one of those major pitstops for petrolheads, after Pistenklause and the famous Cockpit Bar at the Dorint.
As we got to Pinocchio, Mr. Speed Industries had arrived there already. It’d be one of those rare trackdays at the Nordschleife where slicks are allowed and Döttinger Höhe (the main straight of the Nordschleife) would be left open for flying laps and there would be a couple of endurance racecars attending along with the regular guys, so a lot of planning had to be done to make sure no one stuffs a million dollar LeMans racecar for instance.
As we got to the entrance of the ‘Ring in the morning, the weather was a little less than awesome. It was wet everywhere and freezing cold.
We started off with a track walk. Since the Nordschleife is so incredibly long, learning the track is vital. Two pros from RSR Nürburg had offered to coach the drivers since we had a multi lingual group. Ron Simons would be coaching the German speaking group and Dale Lomas would be dealing with those who prefer English. Between Ron and Dale even on a worst case count, they have atleast 10,000 (not a typo) laps of Nordschleife under their belt.
Our first stop was Hatzenbach, and standing on the track I could easily tell why the Armco on either sides of the track were brand new. Dale tells me that the little bits of paving in the apexes didn’t used to be there, but as the drivers kept trying to find the ideal line over the years, more and more grass in the apexes got clipped and instead of fixing the grass, that bit was just paved.
The look down to Hocheichen was marvelous. In the peaceful morning hour it was hard to imagine that during the 24h race, there would be two hundred or so racecars thundering down this exit on full throttle.
Next stop was Aremberg. What looks like a peaceful right hander is never to be underestimated, says Ron. I looked at the run off area and the gravel pit and thought that Ron was just trying to scare the drivers a little bit and keeping them in check…
…when I saw these at the side of the track close to the Armco. This gives you an idea just how much deceleration is needed coming into Aremberg.
After dropping some more wisdom, we all jumped into the cars and moved on to the next spot – Breidscheid.
As all the drivers walked up to Ex-Mühle, I checked out some of the rides. This R8 was a nice addition, considering that there would be two Audi R8 LMS’es on the track as well.
RWD section was also well catered for, with this 997 GT2.
Anyone else noticed that the exhausts exit at an angle on a GT2? I didn’t…
The Swiss Leons were in the pack too…
I broke away from the crowd to check out the outside wall at Breidscheid.
What looks like a worn out painting is actually a contact patch from cars slamming onto the wall and trading paint and rubber…
Shaking that off we headed to the next section, where I wandered off again distracted by the scenery.
Not for long though, there was an armada of high performance BMWs with us. Apart from these, there were two other M3s at hand.
The graffiti on the track is a big part of the Nordschleife culture. I am tempted to get a big stencil and air spray Speedhunters onto the track…
We headed to the Carousel, one of the characteristic bits of the Nordschleife. The entry to this corner is blind, but I’ve heard stories of Juan Manuel Fangio advising drivers to “aim for the tallest tree”. Despite being one of the slowest corners on the Nordschleife, taken properly, the “Caracciola Karussell” can make the difference between a swift exit or a flight to the trees. Dale tells me stories about a Mitsubishi Evo that tried tree climbing not too long ago.
Anyone wanna guess what exactly these lines are? Most cars actually dive into the Carousel on entry marking the spot with a line of rubber and a foot off the inside is apparently the ideal place to hit it.
Contrary to the common belief, the slabs are not flat – they curve towards the inside of the corner and knowing the shape of the concrete, drivers can usually match their line to their camber.
Walking back to the group, I found this on the Armco
Since I had actually planned to film, Ron took me to the RSR office/garage/workshop right up the street from Nordschleife, where they had this GT3 Cup car.
While I was checking out where I could possibly mount my cameras, I noticed the rear wing. Turns out this car had originally gone into the wall at Spa Francorchamps and then the parts were transferred into a GT3 body.
Ron offered to take me around the Nordschleife in this Prosport Spyder equipped with a Cosworth V6 round the Nordschleife. That should be one hell of a ride!
After checking out the workshop I headed back to the track, this Cargraphic GT3 was just leaving the track as I got there.
The track was wet in most places, so the AWD toys were leaving the RWD cars in the pits.
Watching the R8 LMS blast down Döttinger Höhe is something you can never get tired of.
I retreated into the parked Impreza for a while till the track dried out when I heard this. Yep, that is indeed a Ferrari 599FXX, over two million Euros and none will ever be raced, just a testbed for future Ferraris. The car was driven by Ferrari test driver Raffaele de Simone and the its sound can barely be described using words. If you can imagine a thousand angry Italians shouting at you at the same time, it’d get close.
The guys at the admin were having fun.
I spotted the Stig!
Even though the track was dry, it was windy and incredibly chilly. Our man Zach from Atlanta was having a good taste of the Eifelwetter.
Martin convinced me to trek to the different track locations, so we headed out to Breidscheid, one of the easiest corners of the Nordschleife reachable by car after perhaps Brünnchen.
One of the more interesting cars we had is the new Porsche GT3 R Hybrid.
Diving into Breidscheid the front splitter grounded every single time. While the regenerative braking and occasional power boosts to the front wheels are impressive, I wonder how calm one can be sitting just a couple of feet from a flywheel spinning at 40,000rpm in near vacuum.
This little stripped out Polo went like wasp on attack mode.
The David and Goliath effect was quite amusing on the track.
The sound of the R8 echoed all the way till Ex-Mühle and beyond…
The 599XX wasn’t on the track for a long time, but when it did, it was easily quicker than the Audi R8s through Breidscheid. The engineer told me that since the track was dry in some areas and rainy in others, it was difficult to get any good benchmarking results.
The Swiss Leons were sparring off each other, it was a wonderful sight to see.
Then along came this Westfield. This is the same car that I went into the tire wall in in France a month ago.
There two Scirocco GT24s on the track, and both of them were painfully loud.
They were properly quick too. To give you an idea of how much front end grip they had, check out the front slicks!
The RSR Porsche was making its rounds with Ron at the wheel.
I love this rear end!
There were some JDM toys too, here’s Bernd from Seifert Performance putting his S14 through its paces.
Fellow photographer Thomas was here this time with his S13. I think it is about time I did my drivers’ license…
This guy had two Corvettes, the other one being a blue race prepped C5, and he was driving them back to back for comparison.
John Moffat from RSR Nürburg was instructing one of their customers in this M3. John is yet another ‘Ring junkie I know of.
The driver of this 996 GT3 Cup car was a little bit frustrated by the lack of rear lights on the 599XX since on the 599XX the rear lights are replaced with air channels.
Speaking of the 599XX, we waited for it to come round one last time and then we headed back.
The weather looked beautiful, showing little indication that in less that an hour there would be a major thunderstorm followed by an even bigger hail storm. Ask anyone and they will give you the same answer.
The Nürburgring has it’s own weather.
– Alok Paleri