I have blogged at length about the preparations for the trip, so now for the trip itself…
Wednesday 23rd July
Naomi didn’t get back from work until nearly 7pm, and by the time we have finished sorting everything out, we didn’t leave until 21:15.
Coming down the road there is a bungalow with windows that I can see my car in, and I thought my headlights looked a bit dim, but sent Naomi out to take a look, and she said they were ok. Drive a bit further, starts to get a little dark, headlights definitely look dim. Pull over, and they are on sidelights. This is something that has happened before, sticky headlight relay.
It is 21:30, and ferry check-in is at 05:00.
Time for daytime running lights – these are just about as bright as headlights, but angled a little lower.
Thankfully, when I try the headlights a bit later, they work fine 🙂
The drive didn’t go smoothly either. Down M5, A417 to Swindon, got up Birdlip hill, and the road to Swindon is closed! No warning at all on the M5 or the approach, just road closed. Detour appear to go via Oxford, but we cut through back roads to Cirencester, and get back on track.
Next issue, Shell garage in Bracknall – closed at 11:00. Have to fill up with BP Ultimate just down the road. I spend all year running my car, which is tuned for high octane fuel on V-power, and on the way to the Ring I have to keep filling it with 97 Octane BP fuel. *sigh*.
Next issue, approaching M25 along M3. M25 entry closed to go South, so we have to go North and turn back at the next junction. Great stuff…
Arrive at overnight stop at 12:30, getting up at 3:30…
Thursday 24th July
Manage to sleep for just under 3 hours, and then head off to meet the group at Ashford.
Approaching Ashford travel lodge, miss a speed bump which is poorly marked/lit, and go over it at 30mph. Poor suspension. Not only am I running low-octane fuel, I am trying to kill the car…
Meet up with the group, and we set off with the sun rising to Dover. Some of them peel off for fuel, Darren gets pulled by customs, so only Steve (the organiser) and myself enter the queue together. Some other cars there on an organised trip following a brightly coloured van.
Norfolk line ferries much bigger than Speedferries, and despite following Steve in, we get directed upstairs, to what looks like just about the last spot to unload from…
I meet all the group, they are:
Steve (organiser) and Kate – Blue single-turbo Supra
Si – Red single turbo Supra
James & Jo (Si’s brother and sister)
Andy – Fast import Impreza
Henk – Silver BPU Supra
Darren – Dark coloured Supra
Jon – Dark coloured Supra
Chris (Jon’s brother) – Jon’s spare MR2 Turbo
Joe – Toyota Yaris
Paul (Joe’s mate)
We spend a good bit of the crossing outside getting sun and fresh air.
Arriving in France we are indeed last off, but all the other cars have managed to pull over and we join at the back of the convoy.
Kate does a good job giving directions over the radios, and we make our way onto the autoroutes east.
It isn’t an easy drive, lots of traffic, roadworks, tricky to keep together, but we managed it. Passed a major accident on the other carriageway which had 11 miles of traffic behind it…
We have a couple of fuel/food/rest stops. Roads improve after we get off the motorway, and we manage a great convoy overtake on a straight stretch of road, but by the time we finally reach the track I am glad the driving is done.
We decide to stop by the car park to see what is going on (not much) and buy some tickets (but office closed).
We then head over to the hotel, Pension Mulenhardt.
As a couple, we get one of the balcony rooms which is most good, and a nice place for Naomi to read. The room is furnished in a German style, with an interesting, and rather dark, shower in the bedroom.
Here is a video I found which covers most of the drive from Hersbroich to the Ring – it starts just before the turn-off to Hersbroich, and then heads off-road just as it reaches the ring, but shows the nice twisty section as you climb out of the valley. We always drove it at least this fast… The video goes on to show a backwards lap of the Ring – something different.
We head over to the Ring just before it opens for the evening session. Car park is really rather busy, so I give it a while, and when the queue at the ticket office dies down, I head in to purchase my 8 laps for 135 euros. We have 5 days there, but even so I decided 15 might be a bit ambitious for me…
Many of the guys go straight out (Si and Andy shown below), but I give it a while for the traffic to die down.
Steve who was going to passenger with me and give advice is busy since his Supra is playing up, but Jon, who hasn’t lapped before, bravely agrees to passenger. Helmets on (I decide to try wearing Naomi’s open-face helmet which is a bit tight), we head out.
And many minutes later we come back in.
The car does fine, the track is more difficult than I remember it, since 2003 I have only seen it on Forza. Get passed quite a few times, only pass one thing, a British BMW 5-series.
I am on this video, where I am passed rather rapidly in the Kallenhard area, first appearing at 2:05. Never mind, much more speed to come.
Car park becomes a little quiter as the evening progresses and the initial rush to lap dies down.
I meet some of the Northloop members I had contacted before the trip, F-Stop Junkie, Chilled, Nige and Juanjo.
Nige kindly takes me out in his Ring-ready golf. I am now wearing my full-face helmet. Nige’s son Matt helps me sort the 5-point harness out, and we are off.
What a lap… such a contrast with my driving and my car. So much grip, great brakes, all the lines spot-on. Always a cheery wave to cars that let him past. Hopefully with lots more experience, and either a lot of work on my Saab or something more sporty, my driving can approach these standards. I return very happy.
Lapping done for the day, we return to the hotel, then off to the Pistenklause for dinner. Edgar, the hotel owner, kindly drives us over there in 2 groups. I have the fillet steak on (very hot) stone, and a few beers. The steak really is amazing.
Friday 25th July
Good breakfast from 9-10 in the morning, cheese, meats, egg, breads, Nutoka, tea/coffee/chocolate/juice. Feel soo much better than I did after yesterday’s long day, but still didn’t get to be till late, and a lot earlier than many of the group who were working their way through a crate of beer…
Since the track doesn’t open until the afternoon, Na and I decide to head over to Bruunchen to photo whatever is going round.
Fast looking Mercedes
Also some 4×4 in camouflage…
And many other cars.
We also drive to a car park, and then walk up to Hohe Acht, which is very pleasant. Really tranquil up the hill, and great 360 degree views from the tower on top.
Only the tiniest bit of track visible.
We then bought some food for lunch in Adenau, returned to the hotel, and headed back for the afternoon session.
Made contact with Chilled, who took me out for a lap in his M3.
I hadn’t been in an M3 before, and I was impressed. Faster than the Saab, power keeps going into the high revs where mine tapers off, but the handling really was excellent. His skills as a driver showed, we passed many cars/bikes and nothing caught us.
Chilled then bravely decided to join me for a lap as a passenger…
This 350Z went through the barriers a couple of cars in front of us.
This was a much better lap. Having driven yesterday, had the couple of passenger laps, and with Chilled’s advice, I went much faster. Passed many cars, passed by little. Annoyingly the 350Z held me up all the way from Kallenhard to the Carousel, where it (and 2 others cars) went round the outside and I passed them all. He didn’t seem to want to move over for the Saab. Once passed, he dropped back nicely.
Nige’s wife manages to photo us mid-lap:
I returned very happy, and especially grateful to Chilled when he mentioned that passenger laps made him feel a bit ill… He even had nice words to say about the handling of the Saab not being as bad as I made out…
I then went out as Passenger in Henk’s Supra.
This is a very nicely sorted car, and Henk did a good drive, although harassed slightly by overtaking traffic pushing him off line a few times.
Later, having spoken to Chilled again, I thought he might be a useful introduction for Naomi to the track. I’ll happily admit that my driving on the Ring is a long way behind his, so if she is going to go out for her first lap, it might as well be with someone good. Her other reasoning was that, since she was quite uncertain as to whether she would enjoy being a passenger, she might as well go out with someone fast.
I waited around, checking my watch for her to return…
Unsure as to her reaction, I approached the car once it had parked…
“That was the coolest thing ever”, were her first, words. She seemed to have enjoyed the lap, and Chilled was good enough to check that she was ok while going round, which I think she responded to with more giggling.
Thanks to Chilled for taking us both out 🙂
My Saab had been resting in the overflow field since the main car park was a bit busy.
I went out for another lap, this time with Naomi in the passenger seat. Henk followed, with Jon in his passenger seat.
I went out a bit faster, and, gradually Henk fell behind, but not before he decided that:
1) My car has a lot of body roll
2) I move off my line a bit less/later than he would when faster cars approach, although he didn’t phrase it quite that way.
I should point out I am a considerate driver, and let cars through at the first sensible opportunity…
Only passed by 3 cars on this lap, the Ring Viper, and Orange GT3, and a Caterfield, which I let though before Flugplatz, lost down the hill, caught back up when ascending, and then it gradually pulled away from me towards the end of the lap. Felt quite happy with my driving.
Having had a lap with Nigel yesterday, today was Naomi’s turn.
Matt helped her get into the 5-point harness.
and they were off.
and back not too many minutes later
Naomi was very impressed with the drive and the handling of the Golf, and decided that maybe the Nurburgring was a good thing after all…
I had done my 2 laps, so it was back to the hotel, then we walked to the Blau Ecke in Adenau.
Steve described this as being “just past the blue “Aral” petrol station. I knew this would take about 15 mins from the hotel, so that was ok.
1) It isn’t just past the Aral petrol station
2) Adenau is very long!
Met Nige outside the Comfy Corner, and after suggestions we should eat there, he told us it was much further.
The food was good, but since we were 20 late they didn’t let us have starters as the kitchen closed at 10. Seems fair enough.
Food (schnitzel) was very good, and a few beers welcome after the walk.
After dinner bumped into Juanjo and discussed getting a passenger lap the next day, then taxis back to the hotel, ready for Saturday’s early start.
Saturday 26th July
7am breakfast to let us get to the Ring before the 8am start.
At 8am the Ring was very very quiet. I headed straight out with Steve as passenger.
This was a good lap, only passed by one car, and very smooth drive. Steve was useful, since his advice gave me the confidence to carry more speed through sections where before I had braked or hesitated unnecessarily.
After giving the car a short while to rest, I went out with Henk as passenger. Again I passed more cars than passed me, and it was a good drive, carrying more speed into certain areas, e.g. 130 before Schwedenkreuz, and 120 into the Foxhole. My lines were getting better, and as we finished, Henk told me it was a 9:46 BTG. While I don’t agree in timing in general, I was interested in this. Given we were held up by a bit of traffic, I think that’s ok for a Saab.
I then found Junajo, and although I really wanted to go out in his Impreza Sti, I thought that Naomi should go since she wasn’t getting as many laps in as me.
She came back very happy again, this time noting the difference in the way the Impreza handles compared to the Golf and M3, and also Juanjo’s speed through the corners.
I hoped to give Juanjo a passenger lap in return, and maybe go out as passenger in his car, but our paths didn’t cross again in the trip, so maybe next time 🙂
While Naomi was out, Si offered me a passenger lap in his single-turbo Supra, running well over 400bhp, roll-caged, track tyres etc.
This was a seriously quick lap. Scything through traffic for the first part of the lap, over 150mph approaching Schwedenkreuz, All very impressive. The car has lots of grip and nicely balanced handling. Again, another lap where nothing passed us, and we passed many cars.
Here are links to some of Si’s videos:
We popped into Adenau for some lunch, and booked Pinnochios for dinner, then went to Bruunchen to spectate.
We went back to the hotel, and the weather started to look a little ominous…
Pinnochios was interesting… they couldn’t really fit our table of 14 in, and the food arrived completely randomly. I would have rather they said they couldn’t do a 9pm table for 14 rather than try, and fail to accomodate us. We also had the loudest group of Brits sat right behind us. I’ll admit our group wasn’t particularly quiet, but it was a bit much. Most people rate Pinocchios, so this must have just been a bad evening.
More entertaining was Si’s choice of beer. We were the 2nd group down in the minibus, and when we arrived, the first group had lots of litre-sized beers. Si asked what sizes beer came in, and the waitress said “half-litre, litre and bigger”. When asked how much bigger, it was revealed they did 2 and 3 litre beers. Si ordered the 3 litre beer. She gave him a chance to change his mind, but he wasn’t having any of it… When we explained just how big his beer was, I think he felt a little cautious, but we waited with anticipation. We weren’t dissapointed. First photo courtesy of Henk.
We had a pleasant walk back to the hotel, then slept ready for another 7am breakfast…
Sunday 27th July
Misty morning from the hotel…
Went out with Jon for my first lap, and took it very gently, working on getting the lines right. Coming down to Breidscheid it was very misty, and there were flashing yellows so I was holding back.
Then went out for a paster lap with Steve in the passenger seat, Henk following.
Henk had benefited from laps on Saturday and Sunday mornings with a professional instructor, and the difference was noticable. Despite driving faster than before, Henk stuck with me, and only dropped back a bit in the latter stages of the lap. Was a good lap, passed the Northloop MX-5 down into Foxhole, and passed a 911 with a roll cage after Bruunchen 🙂
Coming onto the main straight, and Henk had dissapeared… After cool-down, when we got to the car park, we found out why…
Henk’s front drivers side wheel had come loose. The heat cycling had worked the wheel nuts loose and just before the final bend the ominous rumbling started and he backed off. Luckily no damage was done.
Having driven my 2 laps for the day, I passengered in Jon’s Supra, and Na went out in Darren’s Supra (below).
With the track getting busy, we headed off to the Daun wildlife park. Nice drive out there, inexpensive entry, and lots of cute animals.
The falconry demonstrations which are held throughout the day are also good.
On the way home we decided to pop into the Pistenklause for an early dinner.
The rump steak wasn’t as nice as the fillet steak we had on Thursday night, but the service as a couple was a bit cheerier than when they were dealing with a group of 14 brits.
After dinner we had a walk round Herschbroich.
Then had an early night (9:30pm). We needed this, as the past few days had been lots of activity, and not much sleep.
Monday 28th July
A day with evening-only opening, so Naomi and I headed out to do some site-seeing, and maybe visit the Nurburg castle.
As we drove past the ring entrance, we noticed quite a few people around, so turned round and went into the car park.
There was a Black Falcon trackday on, but also some magazine were doing telemetry tests on some rather nice cars – Ferrari Enzo, Porsche Carrera GT, Koenigsegg CCX, Pagani Zonda and Maserati MC12. I phoned Steve and told him of this – he seemed interested 🙂 Not too many minutes later, everybody turned up and started having a good look at these rarest of cars.
Cars were doing flying laps on the track, tearing past the car park. One flying lap turned in *screech* *BANG* *screech* BANG* and then a cloud of dust headed our way. Heading towards the track, an M6 convertible was in a bit of a mess. Theories of a high-speed blow out were proposed.
Skid marks from the incident are visible
We headed to the Grand Prix track, bought some t-shirts in the shop, and since the DTM was finished, wandered about and found this next to the little cafe where we had lunch:
We then went to Pflanzgarten to take some photos, including the Enzo and Carrera GT
We returned to the car park, where it was nice and quiet.
Everybody was going out to have their photos taken by Henk. I went out with Darren, who drove a smooth and fast lap.
Si came out with me. Another good lap, but the afternoon heat reduced the boost, and the tyres got a bit too warm and lost grip. Si mentioned the time was 9:43, given there was a speed limit at Wipperman where roadworks were ongoing, and given the heat, this isn’t too bad. 135mph towards Schwedenkreuz seems fast enough…
Henk took this excellent photo:
The brakes held, but I wouldn’t have fancied doing back to back laps. I think I am reaching the handling limits of the stock suspension.
Wasn’t caught by anything until the Ring Viper and a bike just after Bruunchen.
We headed back to the hotel.
Dinner was Pistenklause again, and we decided the fillet steak is definitely better than the rump.
Tuesday 29th July
Yet another 7am breakfast as people have to pack to their ferry. However we are heading South and into France for the next stage of our holiday…
We say goodbyes to everyone, fill up with 100 Octane fuel at the Aral station, and head up the hill a bit just to spy on Steve filling his Supra, and watch a convoy of Porsches drive round Brunnchen.
The Saab has done brilliantly on this trip, it hasn’t missed a beat, the tyres and brakes have held up well, we have passed lots of “faster” cars, and it hasn’t used any oil or water 🙂
It was great to meet all the people in the group, and everyone had a good time, and all drove home with cars in pretty much as good condition, besides a few gearbox issues, as when they arrived.
The Northloopers were a great crowd, thanks again to Chilled, Nige (and Matt), and Junajo for laps.
And finally, but most importantly, many thanks to Steve and Kate for organising this trip, and sorting out so many things during the week. Without that precision planning, it wouldn’t have gone so smoothly 🙂
Until next year…