What can you write about the Nürburgring that hasn’t already been written? Not much. I’m going to try anyway. But how can one put into words an experience for which there are no words?
I’m writing this less than two hours after my last lap at the ‘ring here today to try and capture some of the adrenalin while its still fresh. The only thing between driving and typing, a nice steak dinner that I can highly recommend at the Pistenklause. Current mood? Reflective. Because every word that has ever been written about this place is dead on right. And then some.
Green Hell? More like Green Heaven
What of the Nürburgring? It’s the most massive, most extraordinary circuit I’ve ever driven. Or ever will drive. But here’s what hasn’t been said about it before. It’s actually quite compact.
I don’t mean compact as in small. It’s obviously not that. Multiple villages nestle in its midst. It’s compact in the sense the lens tends to stretch things.
Years of learning the ‘ring on Gran Turismo and iRacing help. At least to know where it goes. But just like a camera lens, the games smooth it out and open it up. In reality all the straights are shorter, the corners tighter, the track narrower. The undulations and inclines are more pronounced. The trees are closer to the track, in some places – especially between Ex Muhle and Bergwerk – it does feel like you’re in a green tunnel.
Rhythm learned from the games is muscle memory retained. It’s not long before I realised only small tweaks needed to be made to start really trusting what I already knew. You don’t push on your first time to the ‘ring, but after the second lap I had found my rhythm. Braking later, trusting the knowledge and the epic brakes on the 1er. Despite a slow zone for Armco repair at Wippermann, my AIM Solo flashed up an 8:36 Bridge to Gantry. I’ll definitely take that for first time out.
The scary parts of the track are not where you expect them to be. The Fuchsröhre isn’t so bad if you treat it with the respect it deserves, brake before it and get back on the gas through the compression. Flugplatz I also treated with respect, braking before the crest, the car still goes light and you have to wait for it to settle before the turn in to the right hander. The Karussel is bumpy, rough and half the radius you expect it to be. But once you drop the car in the banking holds you in the corner, the downward force is truly epic.
For me, the scariest or sketchiest corner was the Sprunghügel into the Pflantzgarten 2 and Stefan Bellof S. Sprunghügel is a reasonably open left hand bend, but the road drops away dramatically at the apex. A LOT more dramatically than any game has ever portrayed. The car lifts off the ground, while turning going sideways. No sooner do you land then you need to turn it in to Pflantzgarten 2 and the Stefan Bellof S, a right left right combination that is even bumpier and sketchier than it is in Gran Turismo. This corner has virtually spat me off so many times. The reality is it is just as crazy. I came up on a very slow moving M4 at this point on the track in one of my later runs, there wasn’t much space to get through there with 2 cars. I have no idea how the GT3 guys do it.
How I Drove the ‘ring
I booked my ‘ring tool with Rent4Ring. I had originally wanted to book one of their right hand drive manual Suzuki Swifts, however with more consideration and add the fact that if I lunched the ‘box or over revved it the expenses were on me, a step up to paddle shift was in order. Not to mention when driving the most demanding track in the world, multi-tasking was firmly off the agenda.
Their garage and pick up point is right in the middle of Nurburg. It wouldn’t even be a one minute walk from our stay at the Hotel am Tiergarten.
The guys were great with a simple sign in process. A short but informative briefing helped unravel the lie of the land and proceedings before going through it ourselves.
My ride was a BMW 125i, interior removed, KW coilovers, Michelin Pilot Super Sport Tyres and proper racing buckets. Nice. Rent4Ring have set this car up superbly. I cannot fault it, epic turn, super brakes and superb composure over the bumps and the jumps. You do jump here, without trying. The little 1 Series stood up to everything I threw at it without overheating or suffering brake fade. 8 consecutive laps, enough to drain the fuel tank.
I also did a midweek session. Some advice I received when I was planning this trip is that the weekend sessions are always crazy and the weekday sessions are a lot quieter. Not having done a weekend session, I don’t have the ability to compare. Yet the session was fantastic, with no line up so I was able to just keep doing laps.
The session was only open from 5:15pm to 7:30pm, so was reasonably short, however I’d done 8 laps and drained the tank of the 1er by just after 7. I was chatting with another tourist at Spa who’d done a track day at the ‘ring a day earlier and only got 7 laps in due to crashes and closures. The advice I can give from my trip is if you’re planning a Touristenfahrten (Tourist driving) session, do one (or several) of the midweek days and skip the busy weekends.
Great, you’re thinking. Another article that waxes lyrical about the Nürburgring. The thing is, if you’ve been here, you get it. If you haven’t then you don’t. No words do this place justice. My little piece here isn’t enough but no-one before me has done it justice either. I totally get how this is Mecca for petrol heads. For me, that’s one bucket list item ticked off and one bucket list item added: do it again.
Note: I have received no gratuity or incentive to write this article. The rental, lap tickets and travel to Germany were all paid for off my own dime. The businesses recommended are genuinely that, recommendations.