The town of Nurburg is named for a famous castle that sits on the edge of the town. And I don’t mean outskirts when I say edge, because it is literally within walking distance of the track and is one of the most visible structures around that area. You have to walk up a cobblestone path and past the ruins of a church. When you get there, there isn’t much to see, but you can walk around and go to the top of the tower, which was used by the original planners of the circuit to map out where they wanted the road to go. This town is literally overflowing with history, but there is only so much that can be covered in one day. We walked back down the path after not being able to see much because of the fog covering the area, and went back to the track.
It had rained fairly heavily when I wasn’t on the track, and was starting to clear up as the day went along. I was happy to see the car was back from its other excursion that day, but our guide was out at the moment. That was fine because that would allow the track to continue to dry in places and give me a better run at the end of the day. Now, because this was probably going to be my only trip to this place, and because we had found the Brunnchen corner area to watch cars, I told my dad that it would be cool for him to take a picture of me driving around that corner. What a memory that would make! Before that could happen though, we were given the car and told to fill it up with gas. I drove the little VW down to the famous filling station and pulled in behind some other, much faster, machinery. We put in the premium fuel and were back on our way to the track. After my dad left for the corner, the guide told me that I was much a much better driver than the guy who had taken the car out after me. I was glad to hear this. He also went on to say that if I felt up to it, he would be comfortable with me taking the car out on my own. I didn’t want this to happen though, because I didn’t feel that comfortable.
I set out on the third lap of the day, with my guide next to me eating potato chips and taking it easy. I was out to set the world on fire that lap and finally started to feel comfortable finding my way around the track. That was that first lap that I managed to pass another car! Sure it was filled to the brim with tourists, and was a station wagon, but it was still all mine. I overtook that car and felt great. The one corner that I haven’t mentioned driving through, so far, is the Karusell. Mostly this is because I wasn’t allowed to drive through it – or rather, I wasn’t allowed to go down on the concrete. This is for two reasons; the first being that it is extremely hard on the suspension. When I went out on the lap in the passenger seat, the guide drove through the Karusell on the concrete and I can say that it was bumpy, jarring, grating, harsh (choose your own adjective) and that it could easily break something. The second reason was that I was told not to by the guide, for the sake of the car overall. So we went around the top of Karusell, although, by going around the top, I was passed on the inside by an STi in full WRC regalia. It was one of those great memories that will always stick with me.
From Karusell you blast your way up through the forest and then down through Wipperman and up and to the right toward Brunnchen, which is a left hander down a hill that turns right at the end and then goes back up to the right and into the forest again. I could see my father as I came down the hill and made a great turn through the apex and on for the rest of the lap. That was it! We had it…or so I thought. I was excited to see the picture and how it turned out, but it turns out that dad didn’t get the shot. Luckily, I had one lap left and sent him back out to make sure that he got it this time.
The day was coming to a close for my last lap, and the track had had time to dry off a little more. This was the lap that I would really start to go for it. Of course I made a few mistakes along the way, but overall, I was extremely pleased with my final lap and the progress I had made in just one day.
Right from the start I was on it. Down under the bridge at Tiergarten and up toward the Grand Prix circuit I flew. The car was beautiful and there was a drying line for me to follow. I tried to focus all my concentration on the task ahead instead of the amazing scenery for this lap (which is particularly hard), but it all came together. I could feel the tires biting through Hatzenbach and tore through Quiddelbacher-Hohe. Off the gas and ready for the bump at Flugplatz then straight back on the gas and down around Schwedenkreuz. Fuchsrohre is a hairy, downhill slightly curving straight that leads into a corner that many people get wrong; Adenauer-Forst. But I got it right. A quick stab down a gear and then a very fast and tight left right is what is needed to get through this corner. 7 kms down and 14 to go then.
Things start to get tricky around Metzgesfeld and Kallenhard because the track is predominantly downhill until you get to Ex-Muhle and the bridge over the town of Adenau. From there it is uphill past the curve that catches many Porsches out because of their ability to oversteer – and in fact, there was a nice yellow one in the wall when I went past. Then it is up through the forest and down the extremely fast straight that leads through Bergwerk, past the infamous spot where Niki Lauda had his big accident, and then past Kesselchen and Klostertal (where you need to lift off slightly to get round the corner) and then around the tight right-hander that widens out for the run up to Karussell.
After the 180, you continue up a steep hill that leads to Hohe Acht and my favorite part of the track. From Hohe Acht through Brunnchen, the road is constantly moving and there are some great uphill and downhill corners that really test what you are made of. One wrong move through any of them, and you will probably end up writing off your car (not to mention paying for all the expensive guardrails and turf that needs to be repaired).
If you remember, I had sent my dad out again to try and get a picture of me coming down from Eschbach and down through Brunnchen. As I came down the hill I could see him again and really flung the car into the bend. The wheels screeched and squealed and I flew around the corner and up over the next hill a little too fast. Luckily for me, the little car was so easy to balance, that a quick application of some opposite lock saw me catch the slide, and get a nice compliment on that from the guide. Whew! From there, you venture down into Pflanzgarten and catch a little air before dabbing the brakes and turning right to head up a small hill and enter the mini Karussell. The car when through without a hitch and then all that was left of my lap was the long right-hander through Schwalbenschwnaz and then under the bridge at Dottinger Hohe.
If you are wondering how fast I went and if I kept track of the time, the answers are: 100 mph+ on the straights (really not too bad for a car with only 88 bhp and me and another person to carry around) and no, I didn’t keep track of my time. But I will say that no matter how slow you go around the track, it is over way to quickly and you want to do it again and again. It’s sort of like the motoring equivelant of crack – or so I’ve heard.
We arrived back at the pits and started chatting while waiting for my dad. He arrived and joy of joys he had a picture of me! And you can even tell it’s me and everything! On the ‘Ring! Woot for that! Then, because we still had some time left – obviously I was much faster than I thought – I tried to convince my dad to drive around the track at least once, but he wasn’t up for it. Our guide was nice enough to take him around the track one more time and so I wandered through the car park again…only to find that a not to well disguised pre-production Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione was ready to take a lap or two around the track. I was close enough to take a bunch of pictures and some video and even get a peek inside the car. Man, that thing has some tail pipes on it that really make a great noise. Plus it was red.
That night, we stayed at the hotel where we rented our car from. Like I mentioned earlier, the place lies just a few hundred feet up the road from the ‘Ring and was once used by the Mercedes Benz racing team back in the 1930s. Some very famous racing drivers of years past like Rudolph Caracciola and Manfred von Brauchitsch were on the premises and probably even stayed in the room I did (or at the very least walked past it). There is such a rich tradition and history at play in this town that you don’t even realize most of it until you start reading up on it.
That was the end of my Nurburgring driving experience, but not the last at the ‘Ring itself, because my father and I would travel on through Europe, but return later in the week for one last visit.