Planning some Touristenfahrten? Then you can all go to (green) hell. The Nürburgring is a massive draw for petrolheads all over the world. Rightly so, the track is enormous and you can legally drive it like it’s meant to be driven: fast.
Here are some tips I’ve gathered from my own experience at the ‘ring.
1. Learn it First.
They say it takes 50 laps just to know where it goes, then the rest of your life to master it. Gran Turismo 4 was the first game to feature the Nürburgring back in 2003. Being the resourceful lad that I was back then, I procured myself a copy of the Japanese demo disc that featured the ‘ring months earlier. Lap after virtual lap for 14 years taught me where it goes.
Today? My picks are iRacing for out and out realism and GT for a close to life interpretation of the track. Forza flattens it out too much. Just make sure you’re practicing with a proper force feedback steering wheel like a G27. Controllers are a waste of time here.
There are many articles written by Nürburgring professionals to the contrary. That you can’t learn it in the game. Rubbish to that I say. I approached the ‘ring with those sentiments echoing in my head, however the gaming experience saved me years of learning and I was able to jump in at a reasonably decent level. Even a lot of the bumps are dead on right in iRacing. You do need to make small adjustments to your rhythm, so don’t go hell for leather right away. If you’re planning a trip, get on a game and start learning your Adenau from your Aremberg.
2. Choose Your Ring Tool Wisely
This one might sound like a bit of a no brainer but there are plenty of guys who turn up first time and take out a Porsche Cayman thinking they know what they’re doing. Unfortunately due to a lost luggage situation, I didn’t have my GoPro at the Nürburgring but the sheer number of rental Porsche Caymans that I carved up with my 125i was beyond counting. The other guys from Rent4Ring in their Suzuki Swifts were doing an equal amount of Porsche serving.
The point is the ‘ring is all about line and momentum. Pick a car that is underpowered with a great chassis. You don’t get to do the full Döttinger Höhe straight anyway. My recommendation while driving the world’s most demanding race track is also to pick something of the two-pedal with paddles variety. If you’re spending too much time thinking about driving a car you don’t know, you’re not spending a lot of time thinking about driving the track – which is what you’re there to do in the first place.
3. Take out the Bloody Insurance
Yes, I know it makes your trip to the ‘ring cost more and it might mean you can’t do as many laps you might have liked. But let me tell you one thing – general insurance companies will run for the hills as soon as they hear the word Nürburgring. When you rent your ring tool, take out the insurance option. If you get it a bit wrong and it does happen, the Armco is close. Very close. Armco is also expensive. Very expensive. Like “make sure you’ve got at least €5,000 spare” expensive.
The response I got at the counter when they noticed I’d taken out the insurance was concerning. Surprise, relief and commendation. Yeah, not what it should have been.
4. Do a Mid-Week Session
I’d heard this prior to going but when I looked at the schedule, all of the midweek sessions were only a couple of hours in the evening. I started to look at my holiday schedule to try and fit a weekend in to get a full day, however the best time for me to fit it in was to turn up on a Tuesday.
I needn’t have been concerned. The mid-week session did have some traffic, more than the average track day back home. However, there was none of the dreaded line-up, no tour buses and minimal slow tourists. The people who were there were there for a reason – to go fast. I managed 8 laps in just under two hours. It might not sound like much but that is a hell of a lot of driving at the Nürburgring. It’s also one lap more than the bloke I was talking to later in the week who did a full day track day on the Monday.
5. Record It!
Unfortunately my bag decided it should go on a world tour. While I was at the Nürburgring, it was flying from Heathrow back to Dubai. I have no plans to go to England. This meant I didn’t have my GoPro, my SLR or any mounting hardware with me.
Thankfully Rent4Ring had a photographer out on track so I can bring you some pictures of my time out there. Sadly, I have no video of my own laps. I did, thankfully, put my AIM Solo in my carry-on so I did have lap timing. Since the sale of the ‘ring to Capricorn, they have loosened up on the no recording/no laptiming rules. These days it’s basically open slather, so make sure you get some memories!
6. Make Sure You Get Close Enough to the Entry Gate to Tap Your Lap Ticket.
This might sound like a total no-brainer. As someone who is used to driving a right hand drive car it’s way too easy to pull up too far away. Buckled into a left hand drive, low-set race setup with a 4 point harness, it’s hilarious when you’re trying to reach for the card-tap device. Hilarious for everyone watching that is.
7. Watch Your Mirror.
Pretty standard track day advice really, but it’s amazing how many people don’t seem to realise you’re there. Or possibly amazing how many people driving Porsches cannot believe they’re about to be overtaken by a 4 cylinder BMW.
8. Respect What’s in Your Mirror and Indicate Right
Don’t assume what’s in your mirror is going slow. Just because it’s a VW Corrado doesn’t mean it can’t do 7 minutes Bridge to Gantry. It’ll likely be on your ass as soon as you can brake from Schwedenkreuz into Aremberg. Move over to the right and indicate your lane change – use your blinkers! Beyond just being courteous to other ringers, it is a German road after all, normal road rules apply!
9. Don’t Be a Pansy, Drop in to the Karussel
I’ve read a few articles that mention it and even observed this behaviour. Going around the top of the Karussel is for pansies. Drop it in, get all four wheels on the concrete section and enjoy that sweet, sweet banking as it rattles your fillings loose and holds you in to the corner. My first lap I took the Karussel at a sedate 60km/h. Later I pushed it up to around the 80-90 mark. Just awesome and totally unique, there isn’t another corner in world motorsport like it.
10. Have Fun! Then Get Home Safe
Should be a simple one, right? Probably, however on just my first lap a Peugeot 205 went in at Hohe Acht and an S2000 remodelled some Armco at the Kleines Karussel. The rest of the session would be reasonably incident free but it serves to show it doesn’t take much to duff it. Build up speed, drive well within your limits and you’ll go home safe with an intact spleen and a (mostly) intact bank account.
Did I miss anything? Got some tips of your own? Then fill us in in the comments below!