Destination Nurburgring #17 May 2017

Preparation for the first Destination Nurburgring event of the year was pretty minimal. I fixed the wastegate arm after it fractured on the last trackday and tweaked the geometry. My supply of Pilot Sport Cups was finally exhausted so I was on the lookout for an alternative as the Cup2 isn`t available in 15″.

I settled on a set of Direzza DZ03G as I`ve heard nothing but good things about them and the H1 compound is available on the 205/50R15 tyre. Fitted to a set of Team Dynamics wheels and mounted on the Golf ready for the sighting laps.

 

I even had time to give the Golf a good wash. 

 

As usual I had booked on the Hull > Rotterdam overnight ferry to arrive the day before the trackday. It isn`t a cheap crossing but it saves me an extra 10 hours driving and that is worth a fair bit to me so I usually take that route. I live around an hour and a half from Hull but always leave with plenty of time to spare as there is only one crossing per day so missing it would be a big issue.

We`d had a steady drive across the M62, Matt runs Waze on his phone and in conjunction with the TomTom live traffic we usually manage to avoid serious hold ups. We had just passed J36 when ahead of us every car start braking and everyone slowed to a halt. A few minutes later several Police cars, Ambulances and Fire Appliances passed on the hard shoulder. The Highways agency website showed an accident 0.8 Mile ahead on the bridge over the Ouse and an expected reopening of the Motorway at least an hour away. I rang P & O and explained that we were heading for the ferry but were stuck on the motorway and it could be a while before we could check in. The operator explained they`d speak to the check in desk at the terminal and let them know and they would ring us as the gate approached closing time to see if we were close.

I spoke to a few drivers in other cars and several were also heading for the same ferry so I suggested they also ring to let P & O know there were quite a lot of drivers who were stuck. The eta of reopening changed to 20:00 which was an hour after the check in closed and I was starting to fear the worst and we`d miss the ferry. We looked on the ferry websites and there were several ferries after midnight from Dover so the plan was to drive down, catch a ferry and then sleep once we were in France before driving across to Nurburg later in the day.

We were parked just before a road bridge crossed the motorway and saw a car pull up the driver climb out and start unpacking several cameras from his boot. Obviously at this point, the only thing to do was get out of the car and pose  

If you look at the bottom of this photo from the Sun website, you`ll see me stood next to the X5 

 

The motorway was reopened before 19:00 and I was happy the X5 towed as stably as it did as we made our way across to the M62 to the ferry terminal. Let me tell you, it was a massive relief when we made the check in before it closed along with all the cars that were in the same traffic jam as me 

 

Simon had driven up to Hull, left his car in the carpark and jumped in the X5 to come across to Nurburg. He`s a good friend and being able to come with me on some of these trips means he still gets to visit the ring and experience trackdays there even though he doesn`t drive it anymore. On my last crossing Josh had recommended the Brasserie instead of the self service buffet with a particular recommendation for the Spare Ribs so we dropped the bags off in the room and went straight down to book a table.

 

Matt, Simon and I had the Ribs, Cat had the steak. After eating them we were unanimous in our decision to eat here in future instead of the all-you-can eat buffet. If you have a single course the food is the same price or slightly cheaper but the quality is significantly better.

 

After we`d eaten we went to the bar but the live music was a bit on the loud side so we went to the Sky lounge which is usually a bit quieter for another beer and a chat. 

 

Sadly that was too loud too and before you say it`s just because I`m getting old, Matt and Cat agreed it should have been a touch quieter too  Wandered down into the shop to look at Sunglasses, apparently these don`t really suit me. 

 

I think we called it a night at around 22:30 and I had a decent sleep for once.

 

Monday was Cat`s birthday and she asked if I felt old now that both my children were no longer teenagers. Well, if you put it that way, yeah !  Cat opened her cards and presents then we were called to go to our vehicles.

Filled up at the first fuel station after leaving the ferry then had a steady drive across Holland and into Germany. Matt had submitted his dissertation and was enjoying not having to spend the time on the laptop, Cat still has projects to complete so she spent most of the journey typing away. If I tried that I`d get carsick within 15 minutes. We stopped off after a couple of hours for some food and to stretch our legs then had the final run into Nurburg. As usual we called in at the Aral and filled up the Golf and Jerry cans with 102Ron. Unhitched the trailer at the guesthouse and then went straight down to Rotek to help with the signing on.

Darren had done most of the pack preparation and all we needed to do was add the Transponders and setup the tables etc.

I`ve been asked several times why we issue transponders on these events. It`s nothing to do with timing but is for noise monitoring. The events have a 130dB driveby limit. If a car triggers the driveby meter the circuit can identify the offending car by the transponder and black flag them it very rarely happens but does occasionally. To be fair, you don`t really need a transponder as you can easily hear them approaching the carpark if they are that loud 

 

A lot of the drivers signed on and then hung around talking until the briefing started at 18:00

 

After we`d packed up we went back to the guesthouse for a shower and a change then to La Lanterna for a meal. When Cat worked at the Burgstube they used to go regularly and it was her request we went there for her Birthday meal.

We were joined by Steve, Dave and Darren and have a very enjoyable evening.

 

I woke at 05:00 on Tuesday and despite trying to get back to sleep I gave in and had a shower at 05:45. The alarm was set for 06:15 but I never sleep in until the alarm before a trackday  Looking outside and despite the weather forecast showing rain it was actually looking clear and dry.

 

Unloaded the Golf then helped a little with sign on and wandered around the carpark checking everything was OK and just chatting to the drivers

 

Kenny Brack was driving the McLaren P1. First lap, first out. Steve in the Caterham was prepared to give chase…

 

Final checks before going out for the sighting laps.

 

The Ferrari was a proper weapon, full on race car on Slicks, Air Jacks etc etc

   

 

This was about as busy as I saw the carpark for most of the day !

 

I`ve corrected the Roll Centre with some ball joint extenders. These consist of weld in pins and spherical bearings in custom housings. I will be writing a detailed post on them in the next few days.

 

Drove sighting laps to scrub in the new tyres and even at reduced pace it was immediately obvious the Golf has never handled this well. The steering felt lighter and it was more eager to turn into a corner but the biggest difference was how much less steering lock I needed. It was such a marked difference that I kept hitting the Apex kerb as I was turning the wheel the usual amount but that made the car turn more than usual and hit the kerb. Without doubt it was a positive step and I came in after the sighting lap with a big grin on my face.

I took Matt out for the first couple of laps, he always keeps an eye on the gauges and it`s useful to have his feedback. I wanted to push the tyres to get some decent heat into them but not too much and I was a little irritated with the amount of tyre squeal. Matt was happy to point out that it was because I had too much steering lock and and needed to wind it off.  As expected, as soon as I did the squeal stopped. The Direzzas have nice and stiff sidewalls and I could feel what they were doing straight away, I could tell they were getting hot at the end of the 2nd lap and when I came in the fronts were 39psi and the rears 37. That`s simply because they were 28psi cold and I expected them to be high. I usually start with lower initial pressures but as they were new tyres I wanted to take it a bit easier on them for the first few laps. As I have said many many times, I don`t have a laptimer on display when driving as I see it as unnecessary and have I`ve seen many videos of people who do have it in the middle of the dash and some of the driving that then causes when they see it is going to be their quickest ever lap. I always datalog and find looking through the data after the event is a great way to see how I`m improving. Seeing the first lap of the day was almost a sub 8 was a huge surprise, it normally takes me 4 or 5 laps before I get to to that sort of pace. It didn`t feel like I was pushing hard at all but it just backed up what I thought at the time that the Golf was handling beautifully and didn`t require as much effort to go quickly. 

 

The Boost control still isn`t quite right and I`m seeing overshoots on upshift causing short duration peaks of 1.46Bar after a gearchange. I just need to tune the control loop a bit more and that is top of the list for the next outing now I know the handling is sorted.

 

When I do a 3rd or 4th gear pull from 1,800rpm until 7,420rpm the boost control is much better and the boost curve is exactly what I mapped it it to be. I have intentionally set it to taper off at the last 600rpm, if I was racing I`d keep it at 1.1 Bar but I`m not and always have an eye on longevity. By reducing the top end it encourages me to change gear and let the torque do the work instead of wringing every last rev out of the engine.

 

Cat jumped into the passenger seat and we went out to do a couple of laps whilst conditions were still dry as it was starting to look a little dark and overcast.

 

The first lap wasn`t bad at all and was just as quick as the laps with Matt. I was starting to understand what was happening with the steering and was consciously adding less lock for the corners to avoid touching the kerbs unintentionally.

 

This Porsche had just come out of the carpark as we came down Dottinger Hohe and I tagged onto the back of him. What an enjoyable lap it was too. It was obviously we were both still taking it steady, lifting in places I know are flat but we had a full day ahead of us and there was no benefit from pushing too hard too soon.

 

As we approached Hohe Acht the Red and Yellow flags came out and it started drizzling. He indicated for me to pass but I felt a loss of power at the same time, boost gauge was showing almost nothing and I assumed a boost hose had popped off so followed him for the rest of the lap. It was pretty slippery so I didn`t intend to go quicker on that lap anyway. As soon as we pulled into the carpark he came across to say what a fantastic lap that was and how much he had enjoyed it.

 

Popped the bonnet but all the hoses were intact. Hmmm, I wonder how the wastegate repair is holding up. Ah, that doesn`t look good. 

 

The wastegate arm had come away from the wastegate splindle allowing the wastegate itself to vibrate loose and disappear. It seems like my `fix` wasn`t up to the job  The spindle should sit into the hole on the rear of the arm, it is a weld I have never touched and had been like that since it was manufactured but sadly it failed. My weld strengthening the arm itself held up just fine. As

I`m sure you can imagine, I was pretty annoyed at the time. I do my best to engineer out any weak areas that I know of but the issue with developing a MK2 Golf so far means some unexpected failures will happen. What annoys me most are they aren`t what you would expect ! If I was breaking CV`s or having gearbox issues I could understand it a little, but the areas I expected to show up weaknesses have been fine (if that isn`t the kiss of death I don`t know what is ) and it`s odd failures like this which are irritating. When people wandered over to ask what was wrong and I explained, the unanimous response was “I`ve never seen that fail before” which is the same comment I always get .

 

 

First job was to remove the downpipe once it had could see what was going on. If you are unsure what a wastegate it this photo shows what I expected to see, the wastegate flapper on the right. This is a spare housing so there is no Turbine on the left. I`d left this housing at home, it would have made lift much easier if I had taken it with me…..

 

What I actually saw was a hole where the wastegate should be and no sign of it anywhere !

 

This is a spindle and wastegate from my spare Turbo, just incase you don`t really understand what I`m talking about.

 

After the issue at the last trackday I knew I could run with no wastegate but the performance would be significantly reduced and I wasn`t thrilled at that prospect. I went and picked up some 3mm plate, a hacksaw, vice, file and some 10mm nuts & bolts from my spares stock on the trailer and set about making a wastegate.

 

The finished article isn`t pretty but it should do the job. The thread was peened over so there was zero chance the nut could come loose.

 

When fitted it covered 80% of the wastegate hole. I had no way of actuating the arm so didn`t want to fully cover the hole and risk it overboosting. I settled on this simply because it looked about right. 

 

Not shown on this photo, but I also double-nutted the bolt that was now a spindle to ensure it couldn`t work loose.

 

Whilst I was making the wastegate I had several people wander over to see what was going on. I was pretty calm the entire time and didn`t get stressed about it although I heard the “You secretly love this sort of thing don`t you” comment more than once. 

 

Let me be quite clear. NO, I do NOT like this sort of thing ! I`ve driven several hundred miles to take part in a trackday, not to spend 2 hours with the bonnet up fixing something I didn`t expect to fail.  I`m fortunate have the tools and ability to fix things whilst at the track but I would much rather be out driving instead. Nothing will please me more to write a report from the 2 day Ringmeister event in July and report I had no issues whatsoever. 

 

Whilst I was fixing it, the rain steadily increased and the Devils Diner was full of drivers and passengers who didn`t fancy venturing out on track.

 

The temporary repair was completed and I went out for a lap to check it was working. As expected spool wasn`t great from low revs as it was bleeding boost the whole time but the last 800 rpm produced a very healthy 0.8 Bar. I`m actually quite pleased with that.  If the weather had been dry and sunny it would have been pretty damn irritating to be honest but as it was raining heavily the lack of midrange wasn`t anywhere near as big an issue as in the dry. My `wet` boost map has a much more gradual boost delivery anyway.

 

It was raining heavily by now and in many places the wipers were on full speed but that didn`t stop me lapping. What I did notice was that the corner entry understeer I`ve been suffering from since fitting the plate diff was significantly reduced. It was still there but nowhere near as pronounced as before. This is down to the roll centre correction and it made a far bigger change than I was anticipating. Not only was corner entry better but mid corner understeer and body roll was less than before and steering angle required was less as I`ve already mentioned.

I have never driven a Golf on track with standard ride height, the first one I bought was already lowered and I`ve always driven at that ride height ever since so I didn`t fully appreciate how compromised the handling was with the standard ball joints and the car lowered as much as it was. Now I have driven it with the pins and bearings instead, I can appreciate why so many people recommend them. 

 

By now around 25% of the drivers had called it a day, handed in their transponders and gone home. I was chatting to one guy and asked why he was finished for the day. His response was “I don`t like driving in the wet“.  I didn`t point out he was driving to the hotel on the wet roads in the same car….

The Ferrari race car and P1 had gone home, I can understand that but for the average trackday driver this was the perfect opportunity to learn. If you were on old tyres with low tread then the risk of aquaplaning was probably too high so I`d have waited for it to stop raining too but for those with decent tyres it should have been the ideal time to learn the wet lines, feel the car moving around all at a nice low speed. If you think you are going to crash, just slow down ! You would on the road, I don`t really see why it`s any different on the Ring.

 

What it did mean was the track was as quiet as I`ve ever seen it and was able to take out loads of passengers. I asked Matt if he could get a video of me passing the carpark at speed so I could see how much spray it was making. Simon went out with me for 2 laps and we sat at 130MPH down the straight.

 

Comparing the spray the Golf throws up to a Cateham showed quite a difference !

Whilst talking about Caterhams, full marks to the driver of the Green one above as he was out lapping non stop, regardless of the conditions 

 

The wet weather does add a different aspect to the photos Jochen was taking.

 

I saw Sam in his new Schirmer M3 with Claire in the passenger seat and he was about to go out. Cat strapped herself into the Golf and we set of following him. When you are following someone you know they are can get on with driving and concentrate on their lines instead of worrying if you are wanting to overtake them or not. Sam was running in the new engine and the rev limiter was set at 6,000 so my lack of power wasn`t a great handicap and I was able to sit behind him for the entire lap. He only pulled away out of the slow corners where I just didn`t have the same traction as him but as I`m quicker than Sam I was always able to close back up to him 

As you can see from this screenshot from the video below, there was quite a bit of spray..

 

As we approached the Karussell I spotted the photographer Vest Jochen was wearing obviously I closed up to Sam for the photo  

 

He let me past after the bridge and followed me for a lap. I didn`t need to slow down too much to let him keep me in sight  It was only fair I slowed down and let him close up before the Karussel for a photo.

 

After what were probably my 2 favourite laps of the day we returned to the carpark for Sam to share his usual excuses  “You have more power than me” is still his favourite, conveniently ignoring the fact he`s driving a Tom Schirmer built E46 M3 ! 

 

Matt always tries to get a lap with Sam and he jumped in when Sam said he was going back out again

 

Ryan from Scene Media was at this trackday take some absolutely stunning photos for several upcoming articles. He was joined by Elliot from Performance VW and we had a good chat about my Golf. Ryan hadn`t done many laps and Elliot had done even less. I offered to take Elliot for a lap but he politely declined but Ryan was happy jump in. I made sure I got my excuses in before we went on the lap  I think it`s safe to say he enjoyed himself !

 

It had stopped raining but was still very wet in places. It`s funny how on the photos it looks dry here but the track still had that slippery sheen on the tarmac and from Hohe Acht onwards it was particularly slippy. 

 

Jorg arrived at 16:00 and I took him out for the last lap of the day. He knew the Golf was down on power but that didn`t stop us enjoying the lap and when I drove back into the carpark with the track closed I looked at the trip meter and saw I`d done 17 laps in total, 13 of which were in the rain. 

I am certain some of you will read this and think that isn`t many at all, but bear in mind I lost 2 hours due to the wastegate repair. Without that I would have easily done 20 laps and it would more likely have been 23 or 24.

 

There wasn`t a single stoppage all day, no Red flags whatsoever and the track was open from 09:00 until 16:20 so loads of time to get those laps in! Sadly there was one driver who made light contact with the Armco. 

What was lacking was the usual carpark buzz due to the rain. People were doing a lap then either sitting in their cars when they came back in or going to the Devils Diners for a coffee or just keep out of the rain. It meant you couldn`t wander round the carpark talking to other drivers as there simply weren`t that many to talk to. Nothing that can be done about it, one thing that Darren can`t affect is the weather and for the first time we had a DN day that was almost fully wet. 

I`d be lying if I said the weather didn`t take the gloss off the day as I really enjoy that side of these events. Wandering over to talk with a driver after having a lap or 2 close to them on track almost always results in a good 5 minute conversation about each others cars and experience. That only really happened with the Porsche driver in the morning and then Sam giving me the usual banter after our laps.

 

I loaded up and took the trailer back to the guesthouse.

 

However my day wasn`t over just yet ! Jorg wanted to do a Touristenfahrten lap in his new Audi and we had a safe but brisk lap on the ring. I don`t drive TF anymore but still enjoy laps like these. It was wet and I think we only saw one other car over the entire lap. 

                           

 

Back to the guesthouse for a shower and then we walked up to the Lindenhof  past the Pistenklause. Many of The Swedish Ringrunners were all in attendance. You rarely wander past a restaurant with a selection of cars like that parked outside that have just spent the day pounding round the Nurburgring 

 

It was Jorg`s night off and he joined us for beers, food and conversation. When we go to the Comfy Corner he`s usually too busy in the kitchen to spend long in the bar and by the time he has finished we are usually exhausted and never really have time to see each other so this evening was a welcome change.

 

Jorg really got into the spirit of it and then spoiled it by ordering a round of Eifelfeuer. There was that moment when everyone realised what he`d ordered and we all sighed and looked at each other whilst Jorg started laughing . I don`t care what you say, that stuff is vile.

 

Before setting off on Wednesday I needed some cash and I thought the closest cash machine was in Adenau. Claire told me there was one inside the infocentre at the GP Circuit. If you happen to be in Nurburg and need a cash machine, it`s in this building. Should save you driving down to Adenau for one 

 

We drove non stop back to the ferry which in hindsight was a mistake. Without the break it just seems to take a long time so next trip I will be stopping after a couple of hours to stretch my legs and grab a bite to eat along the way. It was a glorious evening and we spent a bit of time out on deck watching the cars loading and container ships coming and going. Not a bad sunset and low enough in the sky not to reflect off my head 

 

We`d booked into the Brasserie again and this time we all tried something different so we knew what was good / average. The Ribs were top notch, then came the Steak, Duck and the Lamb shank followed by the Fish & Chips with the burger, whilst `nice` was the one we were least likely to order again.

 

For some reason the UK disembarcation is much slicker than last year and once again we were off early and back home by 09:00. The Golf was unloaded and the wastegate repaired by 3pm that afternoon. This is only a temporary fix so the Golf is ready for Coventry Motofest where the Golf will be making it`s next appearance 

 

An external Dual port Wastegate from TMS Motorsport has already arrived and will be fitted and setup before the  2 day Ringmeister event in July  I don`t fully understand why the internal one has failed but I can`t risk it happening again so this should remove that weakpoint and give better boost control in the process.