Ransom
Ransom PowerDork
8/2/11 4:24 p.m.

And yes, it was awesome. First, apologies. Due to logistics and running in circles (and the video camera rental kiosk apparently never being open), I've got nada for pictures or video. Apart from one shot of me sitting in a Rent4Ring Swift... Hardly scintillating. Moving right along... The drive from our hotel in Trier was stunning. The fields looked almost manicured, and the drive alternated between those and dense forest. This drive was also my first exposure to an autobahn... In short, I just wish everybody where I live would drive in a similarly attentive and orderly fashion. Over the course of three days we did have two slightly nervy moments wherein a vehicle on the right started to pull into the middle lane (or sure looked like it was about to), causing me to simultaneously reach for the left signal and look in the mirror. By flukes of timing, in both cases there was somebody coming up on us *way* faster in the left lane. I was usually cruising around 130kph, and would guess the cars on the left in each case was carrying an easy 25-30mph on top of that (sorry for the mixed units; 130kph is ~80mph). Fortunately neither the Czech truck nor the other vehicle finished the move into our lane and everybody lived. I imagine it was not fun being in the far left and seeing one left blink out of our Renault Scenic at that speed and timing. We arrived at Rent4Ring around 1:30 and talked to Ralph and Dale. Dale gave me a recap of the Nordschleife guidelines, and an pitch-perfect reminder about the key things to know; just enough information to get the important bits into the addled head of a holidaymaker who's about to drive the Nordschleife for the first time and who may not be at their personal peak for the retention of new information. Basic info about how to handle certain circumstances, and a reminder that while you're out there sighting it up, as long as you stay right and indicate your intention to remain there as needed, there's no need to worry about driving slowly while you get a feel for the place. And that's exactly what I did. On my first lap, my girlfriend, Rebecca came along to see what it was all about. I don't know which of us was more in for a surprise. First off, neither YouTube nor GT5 can prepare you for the vertical component of the Nordschleife. It goes up and down in a rollercoasteresque fashion that just doesn't come through a screen. Also, the track looks markedly narrower and tighter in person. I was glad for the reminder that it was okay to cruise and stay out of the way as modified 911s and bikes strafed us, going by like we were sitting still while we were travelling 60-70mph... We'd only driven a part of the first lap when we came across a reminder that people get it wrong. There was a 944 backwards off the right side of the track, an a Ford GT off the left, missing its entire rear bodywork. Two more cars I didn't parse were off the right, and fifty yards down the track there were two guys standing with an undamaged-looking Opel; I have no idea what they were doing... We finished our sighting lap, and the track was closed when we came back around, to clean up all the stuff we'd just seen scattered around. I dropped Rebecca back at Rent4Ring to go do her own thing, and sat there and watched the webcam, waiting for the track to reopen. Rebecca also reminded me at this point that I ought to take one of R4R's loaner helmets. No objections from me; I'd meant to grab one in the first place. After a while, the track reopened, and I headed back to the Nordschleife. This time I didn't get lost and wander to the modern circuit, as I had done initially while trying to grab lunch before the first lap. It's a short drive over the hill and past the castle to the roundabout outside the Nordschleife entrance, and before I knew it I was back out on track. The next three laps went pretty much without incident. I slowly started to get less reflexive about moving and signallying right the instant I saw somebody in the distance in my rearview, as it was finally starting to take them a little while to actually catch me. I did have two go-rounds with bikes which I caught, but who didn't get the memo about moving right and letting people by. With their superior straightline speed, I couldn't just pull around them, but I didn't want to just try to fling it around them in a corner, either. This wasn't a race or a track day, after all... I eventually got by in both cases, but it was annoying using so much of a lap up to do so. On my fourth lap, I came around a corner to find the silver M Coupe which had just passed me finishing a trip from Armco to Armco, shedding bodywork across the track. The other car which had followed it was pulling off, but by the time I got slowed and pulled off the track he was already out and indicating that he was okay and to keep going. In retrospect, I should've pulled further up the track before pulling off, as I'd left some but probably not enough runoff for cars that were coming across the scene right after a blind left-hander. The track, of course, was closed as I came back around. Apparently there were five wrecks on that lap. I spent a fair amount of time at the webcam back at Rent4Ring, and was significantly worried that I wouldn't get my last two laps in. At 6:30, the track reopened, and I got back out, and had the two best laps of the day. I was finally reasonably comfortable with my pace relative to other cars and would give myself a minute to judge closing rates and assess when I needed to move over. I caught and passed a couple of cars. I enjoyed the heck out of the track, but wished I'd found time to run a few hundred more laps in GT5 to memorize the last third of the track, which I find much harder to recognize from corner to corner. Speaking of which, I hadn't realized that Dale from Rent4Ring is the same guy who runs BridgeToGantry.com, which along with Ben Lovejoy's site and some others, is a great Nordschleife resource. He'd mentioned that pesky sameness of the latter portion of the track. I ended up driving it pretty tentatively, as I was rarely sure how tight a given corner was until it would've been too late to do much about it. So, that's roughly the story of my trip to the Nurburgring. I've been there, I've driven that same stretch of pavement that so many of the greats of racing history have driven. I wish that I hadn't gotten my logistics too sideways to wander around with a camera, and I wish I'd been able to rent a videocamera (apparently the Nordschleife-mandated official rental camera kiosk is hardly ever open), because all I've got is the goofy picture hotlinked above and a lap ticket card to remember it by, but I'm hoping very much to go back and give myself a chance to document more memories. I recommend the experience very much to anybody who's at all inclined.

Javelin
Javelin SuperDork
8/2/11 4:49 p.m.

Rock on man! Thanks for sharing and since you didn't get any proof, now you have a built-in excuse to go back!

Teh E36 M3
Teh E36 M3 HalfDork
8/2/11 5:50 p.m.

I was there about two weeks ago. I came, I saw, it rained. Not confident enough to rent the car and run in the wet, having never driven on a race track, nor a Swift, nor both in the wet. What a bummer. I was going to use Rent 4 Ring though. It was a stinking ghost town mid-week too.

ransom
ransom HalfDork
8/2/11 5:56 p.m.

In reply to Teh E36 M3:

Oh man... I'm sorry. That's gotta hurt to be so close and have to give it a miss. Though as they say, discretion is the better part of valor.

Good to know about mid-week, though. While I was surprised (very!) at how little time I spent waiting in line on a sunny Sunday in July, it would've been nice to have a bit less traffic coming up in the rearview.

In reality, I have no immediate plans to go back, but I can't stand the idea that I won't...

That's funny. I was there on the 17th. We must've only been a couple days apart.

Teh E36 M3
Teh E36 M3 HalfDork
8/2/11 7:29 p.m.

I was there the 13th. I'll be back. Luckily there are pretty regular military flights to Ramstein (about 1.5 hrs away). I'm glad to hear it was fun.

ditchdigger
ditchdigger Dork
8/2/11 7:49 p.m.

Jealous of you and delighted for you at the same time. I need to get up to portland so you can regale me with this tale in person

ransom
ransom HalfDork
8/2/11 11:47 p.m.

Indeed! Or I need to get down to Eugene... Seems like we ought to be able to make one or the other happen soon.

friedgreencorrado
friedgreencorrado SuperDork
8/2/11 11:59 p.m.

Oh, I'm so jealous. Congrats!

Oh, and on the videocam thing, Ben's site (I love it too) mentions that at one point, they were made illegal. Section 5, point 4. He says 2004, though. Maybe things have changed?

http://www.nurburgring.org.uk/ringrules.php

ransom
ransom HalfDork
8/3/11 12:01 a.m.

In reply to friedgreencorrado:

Thanks!

Yeah, you can't bring your own, but in theory you can rent an official Nürburgring videocamera and use that. I didn't even get a chance to look for myself, but I heard that the rental kiosk is almost never open anyhow.

GTwannaB
GTwannaB Reader
8/3/11 1:29 p.m.

So how much did the day cost in total?

ransom
ransom HalfDork
8/3/11 1:51 p.m.

$621.33 at the exchange rate I got for the Swift with Rent4Ring's "all-inclusive" half-day Touristenfahrten package, which adds gas and six lap tickets to the car rental.

I expected my mind to be totally melted after six laps, but honestly if I were to do it again I might plan on buying a couple of additional laps and showing up on time...

friedgreencorrado
friedgreencorrado SuperDork
8/3/11 10:37 p.m.
ransom wrote: In reply to friedgreencorrado: Thanks! Yeah, you can't bring your own, but in theory you can rent an official Nürburgring videocamera and use that. I didn't even get a chance to look for myself, but I heard that the rental kiosk is almost never open anyhow.

I'll bet the "rental kiosk" is owned by the same people who are trying to turn the place into a theme park. Folks are working on a solution for that.

http://savethering.org/

ransom
ransom HalfDork
8/3/11 11:36 p.m.

In reply to friedgreencorrado:

It would have to be, I believe. The more I hear, the more completely I'm annoyed. I've signed every petition and so forth I can find. I'm really not sure what it'll take to restore it to its previous management system. One would hope that after a certain amount of mismanagement the whole thing would be off.

Unfortunately, it sounds like they're asking for another round of funding... Dangit. That's only word of mouth, and I can't find an article with a quick Google. Perhaps when I'm less tired and willing to try to wade into German articles...

Drewsifer
Drewsifer Dork
8/4/11 7:54 a.m.

Ransom

My jealousosity fills me to the brim. Congrats on an awesome experience! I will drive the Green Hell before it disappears!

monsterbronco
monsterbronco New Reader
8/4/11 8:12 a.m.

You picked a great group to rent from! the Rent 4 Ring guys are the the best! Glad you enjoyed the trip!

Wes

ransom
ransom HalfDork
8/4/11 8:16 a.m.

In reply to Drewsifer:

No disappearing! And yes, go drive it.

I think as bad as the current management situation is, I don't see a way for anybody to decide that the nonexistence of the track is a better situation than some other solution. Whether management reverts, transfers, or stumbles on, I believe it will continue to exist.

I'm more concerned about the current management's impact on the local vendors.

pinchvalve
pinchvalve SuperDork
8/4/11 8:21 a.m.

I didn't have the time to hit the 'Ring on my last trip, but this is an excellent primer on what to do for next time. Go mid week, wait for decent weather, rent from Rent 4 Ring, enjoy.

I did see Hockenheim and there are some driving programs down there as swell. I can borrow a 911 or Panamera Turbo for that, so that sounds like a must-do. Oddly enough, I wound up on one of these for my last trip:

American guy riding a British bike through the German countryside. Weird. But fun!

friedgreencorrado
friedgreencorrado SuperDork
8/4/11 10:17 p.m.
ransom wrote: In reply to Drewsifer: No disappearing! And yes, go drive it. I think as bad as the current management situation is, I don't see a way for anybody to decide that the nonexistence of the track is a better situation than some other solution. Whether management reverts, transfers, or stumbles on, I believe it will continue to exist. I'm more concerned about the current management's impact on the local vendors.

So is Sabine, since her family owns a hotel there.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RplEKGs6Yj4

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