While we were discussing the ‘Things To Do Before You Die' theme I mentioned that a hot lap on the Nordschleife was one of the things that should be high on everybody's list. It is something you just have to experience once in your life to truly understand how grueling this track is. I have been there several times in recent years and I have even driven the track myself twice.
The track is three hour drive from where I live so it is fairly close by. You enter the track at the ‘Touristenfahrt' center alongside the long straight. Once you enter the center you need to find a parking spot; and often that's easier said than done. If you can't find a spot in the above parking place then there is another one on the opposite side. But to be honest that one is also pretty much packed the entire day! So I always park my car at the unpaved section on the other side of the entrance.
Once you are settled and have parked your car you first need to take a look around and get yourself in the comfort zone. I'm always pumped because of the sights and sounds. So I always grab a bite to eat first and get one or two tickets for a hotlap.
This sign is at the entrance of the circuit and tells you a little bit about the weather conditions. On this particular day it wasn't that good. If you are not familiar with the track at all and its your first time, then days like this probably aren't the best for a hot lap!
The conditions didn't stop this gentleman from Switzerland in his Nissan GT-R. You need to buy a ticket at the ticket office on the right of the track entrance. After that you are all set to give it a go on the 20km-long track.
But beware, no matter how much you practiced on the Playstation or Xbox nothing can prepare you for the real deal. The track is unforgiving and has almost no run off. The scariest bends are those just after a crest. I always take my foot of the gas but the seasoned veterans will overtake you even in the blind corners.
But there is more you will need to be careful of. Even when you think you are the greatest driver in the world there's always things that can make or break your day at the track. Just think about what would happen if you go full throttle around a blind corner and suddenly you are confronted with this!
But those slower cars are an exception so most of the time you'll come across cars like these, and you can use common sense to overtake them in the right spot.
The first time you enter the Karussell is, quite frankly, frightening. Do you take the outside line or the inside? The outside is a paved section while on the inside are concrete slabs. Your speed entering the Karussel is crucial; when you go too fast you will be pushed to the outer section but when you get it just right you will be treated with something I can't describe in words. You will have to experience this for yourself to truly appreciate this one of a kind corner.
When everything goes according to plan you can enjoy the track in your own car or you can rent one at the many rental companies dotted around the Nürburg village.
I suggest going with a group of friends rather than by yourself. That way you can enjoy the day there together and tell your stories about what you experienced while driving the track.
After around 12 minutes (less if you're really fast), you will return unscathed and ready for another go.
You might even get lucky and see a local celebrity like Sabine Schmitz driving around in a BMW. Although I have been told they ditched the M5 in favor for the M3 this year.
I hope I have fueled some of you to go there once in your lifetime. The Nordschleife is a track rich in history, and is known as one of the biggest tests of car and driver. I, for one, will definitely be back again this year. And I hope you guys will one day experience it from the behind the wheel as well!
- Jeroen Willemsen