After the aborted trip in July, this was to be my final visit to the Nurburgring in 2021. The previous track day at Cadwell Park was completely trouble free and during the inspection after that event, I didn’t find anything requiring my attention which is becoming more and more common. Am I finally getting it to the point where it doesn`t break !?.

This particular Destination Nurburgring event was the first “Super Street” version that Darren had run. It was only open to cars in a road legal format which included road legal tyres. As I usually run slicks on these events, that meant I’d only have the Direzzas and the Pilot Sport 4 in case of rain. The Direzzas are already quite worn and I’m not convinced there is enough tread to last 2 days on track so I looked around for alternatives. I’ve heard very good things about the Yokohama A052. Shopping around in the UK and prices were pretty similar wherever I looked, previously I’ve ordered using TyreLeader which has been a lot cheaper as the tyres were delivered from Germany. They now no longer ship to the UK from there so I had to look for alternatives. After speaking to Rich Jordan at RingToys, we came to an arrangement where I’d order the tyres from a German supplier, get them shipped to his garage then I’d get them fitted upon arrival in Germany. This resulted in a significant saving of around £70 per tyre.

As the Netherlands had partially lifted entry restrictions from the UK, we were able to travel via the Hull > Rotterdam crossing using credit from last year. If traveling to the Netherlands you have to quarantine for 10 days but there are exemptions and one of those is if you are transiting straight out of the country which is exactly what we would be doing. You do need to show proof of double vaccination and a recognized negative test. P&O have a testing facility at Hull and so we booked to have the tests there before boarding the Ferry. Fortunately they were all negative and after the short wait we were able to proceed.

 

Upon arrival you park up and follow the signs to confirm your details, you then wait for the test and 15 minutes later get the result. The entire process took around an hour but we allowed for this in our travel plans. After the negative result we proceeded to the boarding area at which point I was called to drive through for a customs inspection. After all the discussions around Carnet this was the time when any questions would be asked. It was a complete none issue, they only did the usual checks for contraband. Obviously finding none we were soon on our way.

For the first time ever, I was asked to reverse onto the ferry. This is fine as I have no worries about maneuvering the trailer and we were parked in pole position which enabled us to be the first vehicle off the lower deck the next morning.

 

Met with Ian and Jude on the ferry where we had a drink together and ate some pizzas. The entire food and drink process seems a bit weird. You have to order drinks from your table as they don’t want anyone stood at the bar, but immediately after ordering you have to walk to the bar in order to pay for the drinks. We were in the Sky Lounge on deck 12 and asked if we could order pizza to be delivered from the Starbucks on deck 9, the waiter explained we could, but we’d have to go down to Starbucks to pay for the pizzas so we just ordered them from Starbucks ourselves.

 

The next morning after grabbing a coffee we disembarked and queued for customs. This was the point where I was a little apprehensive that the customs official would understand quarantine exemption even though we’d filled in the Dutch quarantine upon entry document. The customs officer asked for our passports and documents, I asked which ones. He replied, “Which do you have?”, to which my response was, “All of them!”.  He laughed and asked me for a little bit more detail where I explained we had the proof of double vaccination, negative test results, Dutch quarantine form, German quarantine exemption form, proof of booked accommodation, tow car V5C, proof of insurance, Golf V5C and Golf proof of insurance. His reply was simply “just the negative test please :)” He did ask where we were going in Germany and why, and after explaining it was to the Nurburgring for a track day, he simply replied “Have fun” and waved us on after stamping our passports.

We drove for a couple of hours and then stopped for a strawberry milkshake at a McDonalds. Whilst inside, we saw a young boy having his photo taken next to the Golf which I saw when it was posted on Instagram which was quite cool. The drive from Rotterdam to Nurburg seems far shorter than the one from Calais. Driving along the 258 there are still huge piles of debris deposited by the floods last month. Even seeing just this small amount of damage showed the immense power of the flood water.

Visited Rich where he fitted and balanced the new tyres

 

Don`t know why, but I think there is always something pretty cool about new stickered tyres 

 

Then made the short drive to the Schirmer workshop where our good friend Steve had dropped off his new G82 M4 Competition xDrive to have some new front disks and pads fitted as he’d worn out the originals at Knockhill the week before. I had a good look around some of the cars in-build but no photos as that is not allowed in Tom’s workshop without permission.

 

Roy had arranged for a big meet from the Nurburgring Life Facebook group at the ice cream cafe in Kelberg. This was on the way from the Schermer workshop to the guesthouse so we stopped to say hello. Sadly it was pouring with rain and everyone had to huddle for shelter which was a real shame as there was still a decent turnout and Roy`s efforts to get so many people together was appreciated.

Dropped off the trailer at the guesthouse and caught up with Walter and Hilde before walking to the Lindenhoff for a meal that evening with Ian & Jude.

 

After a steady morning, Matt and I test fitted the new tyres to check there were no clearance issues.

 

They are 245/40R17 where the Direzzas are 225/45R17 and the slicks are 235/610 (which would be 234/38 R17). An 8J rim is at the bottom of the recommended size but they actually fit well, no chance of rubbing on the chassis or suspension so we refitted the Direzzas afterwards as the plan was to do the first few laps on the Direzzas then switch to the A052`s later.

 

We help out on these events, which once again had the signing on process at the ESport Lounge opposite the now iconic Nurburgring sign.

 

Quite a lot of the drivers arriving had also been at Ringmeisters and we were all discussing that event, the floods and how we were hoping for no rain over the next couple of days.

 

I always enjoy this part of the trip as I’ve known many of these guys for several years now and it`s always good to catch up and talk about cars at the Ring. What`s not to enjoy !

 

The sign on process has been online for several years now and it gets more polished each time. Having a large QR code for people to be able to scan if they hadn`t already filled in the indemnity forms was something Lou found people asking for quite often.

 

Our meal this evening was down at the Comfy Corner where 18 of us had a very relaxing evening whilst enjoying some great food before calling it a night ready for tomorrow.

 

DAY ONE

A 6am start is still far too early even if you do have a Nurburgring track day to attend but that wasn’t an issue as I was wide awake at 5am  Darren had driven across in his Porsche instead of the Veto which meant he hadn’t brought a gazebo for the people manning the barrier. Louise and Cat spend 2 days here checking wrist bands, helmets and harnesses, having the gazebo makes this much more comfortable for them. I’d taken out our large 6m x 3m one for them to sit under but the downside being, it’s quite large and takes up a lot of room in the X5. It won’t fit in the Golf but I have plans to make a carrier, similar to the tyre rack to fit the gazebo on the trailer.

 

Golf unloaded and parked up ready to go.

 

Roy, Matt, Cat and I then stopped every single driver before they ventured onto the circuit for the first time to remind them of the sighting lap duration and overtaking protocol for the rest of the day.

I took the Golf out for one sighting lap just before 9am and as I was driving through Breidscheid the track went Green. I stayed out for 2 more laps to get everything nice and hot before returning to the pits to give everything a quick once over and lower the tyre pressures.

 

It’s been 12 months since I last drove the Ring which is no big deal, I knew which line to take immediately but what I felt I was struggling with this morning was my speed. I’ve experienced this feeling before and it seems more pronounced this year than usual.  It felt as though I had plenty in reserve but nowhere near the amount that I would need to lap at my usual pace. As always, by the end of day 2, I am going as quick or quicker than ever before but for that first few laps, I always get that same feeling. I`ll take a corner and think that’s probably as quick as I can yet later in the day I`m going several MPH faster with what feels like more in reserve. A strange sensation but it’s the same every time I come here.

 

Matt jumped into the passenger seat and we did 3 laps back to back.

 

On the third lap we went over the Pflanzgaten jump and landed with a noticeable bang through the front wheels. We both felt I’d landed very hard and the bang was quite pronounced.

 

Cat was my passenger next and after a few corners the front left felt less damped than usual. Nothing major, but the front end rolled much more on corner entry. Back in the car park I wanted to tweek the damper settings and wound them to full soft with the intention of them adjusting the damping to the usual stiffness. This was a mistake for two reasons, I’ve since been told that it’s better to adjust from full hard downwards, but more relevant is that the adjuster stuck in the fully soft position.

Looking back at the video, we suspect the internals in the damper were damaged on landing. I’ve already spoken to Cornering Force who are going to inspect and service the dampers next week.

The next passenger was Lou and by Hatzenbach it was obvious the front end was sub-optimal. If you’ve ever driven your car on track where the suspension or geometry isn’t quite right, you will know you can still drive your laps and if you adjust your driving style, it is possible to still enjoy the day even with the compromised setup. I’ve done it before when I’ve swapped from wet to dry tyres but forgotten to adjust the dampers at the same time. You realise within a few corners that it’s too soft and can drive around it but the handling is obviously affected.

 

 

It was time for some fuel and to fit the A052’s for some back to back comparisons which the Direzzas. Unfortunately this happened after the suspension issue and means it’s more difficult than it would have been to draw an accurate comparison but I was still able to gather a lot of data and feel of how they felt. Whenever you lap on cold tyres, the air pressure in them increases once they are hot and needs dropping after a few laps. The symptom of this excessive pressure is reduced grip from the tyres. This is easily noticed through the steering wheel and I have become pretty adept at knowing when the pressure is too high. I was therefore extremely shocked to discover the fronts were up at 47psi when my target is 30. When running slicks or Direzzas I stop lapping if they get anywhere close to 40psi but the A052 seemed remarkably tolerant of higher than optimal pressure.

 

Back out for more laps with the tyres at a sensible pressure and I was able to focus on the tyre performance. The initial corner entry is excellent, they respond very well to small steering inputs and the sidewall feels quite stiff which I suspect contributes to this improved feel. I’ve driven on track tyres where the side walls are much softer and there is a noticeable delay between turning the steering wheel and the tyre fully loading up on corner entry. Ultimate grip felt the same as the Direzzas and even on the 4th consecutive lap they weren’t overheating and continued to perform extremely well. Tyre wear is slightly elevated compared to the Direzza. Overall I’m very impressed and can understand why people rate them so highly although the reduced life due to the higher wear is a downside.

 

For the past several years I’ve suffered from frequent CV joint failures and snapped driveshafts. Nowhere more so than at the Ring. This has been extremely frustrating and something I was finally able to resolve over the winter with uprated gear box internals, much larger custom driveshafts and uprated CV joints. Since fitting them I have done many UK track days this year without issue but the ultimate test is the Nurburgring. Matt commented that with the damper issue, the front axle was bouncing a lot under acceleration and braking. This was particularly evident in the bumpy sections and often resulted in small amounts of wheel spin. When the tyres grip after this bouncing, that’s usually when I snap a CV. This whole process was exaggerated this trip and yet I didn’t have any problems with the drivetrain. I even ran some laps on the 400hp map and that didn’t cause any issues either. I don’t want to tempt fate but I think my CV issues are finally over.

Nic asked for a lap and after making a small booster seat from her jacket and jumper we set off on track. As always I check with the passenger on a few occasions to make sure they are okay with the pace and each time I was rewarded with a huge thumbs up.

 

When we came back into the pits I spotted a small amount of blue smoke from the bonnet vents. On closer investigation showed this was from the turbo drain dripping a very small amount onto the glowing exhause manifold. As everything was red hot, Matt and I decided to have a look at the cause at the end of the day. We both checked and there was no oil on the top of the splitter or being dropped onto the circuit. If there had, I would not have lapped until it was resolved.

 

During a recent track day at Cadwell, Andy Carlile had driven the Golf for a couple of sessions and this recent familiarity with it made him want to drive a couple of laps at the Ring. We agreed I’d drive first, then he would jump into the drivers seat. At T13, Andy turned to me and asked, “What’s wrong with the suspension Nige? The rebound damping is almost out of control“. I then explained the issue with the pflanzgarten landing and that it had broken the front passenger damper. We were talking for a lot of the lap about lines on circuit and how the Golf felt.  My driving style was pretty much adjusted to take into account the handling by now, but occasionally the front axle bounced too much during braking causing a couple of minor lockups. Just after the Karusell Andy exclaimed, “I’ve just counted that it took 8 oscilations of the damper after that bump.  This wasn’t a session where Andy offered tips or possible alterations to my lines, but just a re-familiarisation of where and how I drive the Golf on the Ring.

As we pulled into the car park at the end of the lap, we both commented that the amount of smoke from the bonnet vent had increased and agreed I wouldn’t lap until carrying out further investigation. As it was 4pm and I’d already done 17 laps, I drove across to the overflow car park and onto the trailer ready to go back to the guesthouse at the end of the day.

 

After packing everything away, Matt and I put the car on axle stands and removed the splitter and front wheels to be able to be properly able to investigate the cause of the oil drip.

 

By letting the engine idle, the problem was immediately apparent. The stainless steel flexible turbo oil drain had fractured. It required removal of the turbo to gain access to rebuild it. I’ve opened up the split to show clearly what the issue was. The engine oil level hadn’t changed, it wasn’t as if it was dumping loads of oil out, but a tiny drip onto a glowing exhause manifold produces a lot of smoke that’s for sure !

 

I still had the old AN10 turbo drain adapter along with some AN10 hose and fibreglass sleeve in my spares box. It was simply a case of refitting this. I’d swapped to the stainless pipe after finding that even though insulated, the rubber hose was starting to become brittle from the heat after 2 years of use. Since this issue I bought a double layer braided stainless drain hose from Badger5, they’ve used these for years and never had a single failure so I’m confident this issue is resolved.

 

Karl had organised for 22 of us to go to the Blau Ecke for a meal and everyone was in good spirits after having a day without issues. This is what makes these trips for me. Sure the reason I go to Germany is to drive on the Nurburgring, but spending the day and evening with friends, all talking about the trackday, the laps they had and how great it was makes it much more than just a driving experience. That’s probably why I’ve been coming here for 16 years and have no intention of stopping anytime soon

 

DAY TWO

Opening the blinds I was greated with fog. A lot of fog. There was no doubt the start would be delayed, the question was how long. After breakfast we unloaded the Golf and set up the gazebo and then I spent the next 2 hours chatting to many other drivers about their car and the previous day.

 

We all could see the sun trying to break through so knew the track would be opening. Everyone was chilled about this as there was nothing anybody could do.

 

Even though the track was closed and everyone was parked up waiting, there are still plenty of empty spaces.

 

I knew on the first lap that despite extensive degreasing of the replacement Turbo drain, there was still some residual oil in the fibreglass sleeve and I was not surprised to see that smoking slightly as it heated up. But this was massively reduced compared to yesterday afternoon with the fractured line and after the first session it had burned off completely.

The circuit opened at 10:15 with reduced sighting laps of 30 minutes. The track was obviously damp from the overnight dew but I fully expected it to dry quickly so left the A052’s on the car. I was keen to see how they performed in less than optimal conditions and I was very pleased to find they felt better than the Direzzas in the damp. The soft suspension wasn’t a hindrance in these conditions. My feeling about their performance was borne out by the first few laps compared to other drivers where they were struggling to get their tyres warmed up, the A052`s were quick from lap 1.

 

The front damper was mostly an issue under heavy braking and right handers where that left corner is fully loaded, I still find it surprising how quickly you learn to drive around an issue like this. I’ve done 1000’s of laps of the Ring and a lot of the lap is done without conscious thought, having to change my driving style to suit an issue makes it an interesting challenge. Taking kerbs was easy, it was the time taken for it to settle afterwards that took longer than usual.

 

The new gearbox is amazing, the ratios are perfect and the revs never drop out of the powerband on gearchange. As I mentioned earlier, being able to take kerbs when I want and not worry about taking the teeth off a gear by applying too much throttle is a huge improvement on previous years.

 

Whilst Matt was off grabbing passenger laps with others, Cat jumped in with me with the intention of 4 or 5 laps on the bounce as I wanted to really understand how the tyres performed after sustained hard use. The first lap saw Andy Gülden, chief instructor at the Nurburgring catch us half way up Kesselshen. I’d seen him coming a long way back, moved across and he went flying past. There is no way I would be able to keep up with him but I was curious just how long I could keep him in sight. The answer was longer than I expected and this ended up being helped by traffic and a yellow flag where I was able to get back onto his bumper. After the yellows he once again pulled away but it was still extremely entertaining.

On the second lap, I caught an Exige entering the Hatzenbach complex and as we approached the final left hander in the sequence I moved to the right with the intention of overtaking him on the left as he ran to the outside of the corner exit. Its a move I’ve done many times if people don’t indicate through that sequence. It causes no issues as their line is completely uncompromised.

However, I hadn’t accounted for the Exige driver having a moment the day before. As I moved to the right ready for the cut back, he momenteraly thought I was trying to overtake around the outside and braked and then gestured his displeasure as I overtook him on the left as planned. I was quite surprised by this and mentioned it to Cat a few times on the lap. The rest of the lap was pretty clear and it ened up being the quickest of the trip at 7:38 BTG. Half way around the 3rd lap the low fuel warning popped up on the dash and it was then I realised that to do 5 laps on the bounce, required setting off with more than half a tank of fuel.

 

I waited by the barriers to ensure I could speak to the Exige driver about what had happened. Typically, he stayed out for 2 more laps. I saw him come back into the car park and walked across to have a chat. I opened the conversation with, “I think I need to apologise for a misunderstanding between us on track.”. He asked what I meant and when I said I was driving the MK2 Golf, he immediately replied, “I momentarily thought you were going to overtake on the wrong side, hence my reaction, but as soon as you were past and I thought about it, it was immediately obvious to me that you were lining up a safe overtake. I’m sorry for my reaction, but I’d had a bit of an incident the day before which had shaken me at the time”. We then spoke for several minutes with no hard feelings and a complete understanding of the situation. I never overtake on the wrong side or go for gaps that I shouldn’t. This has been something I’ve always been aware of since I started driving on track 16 years ago. Of course, we all want to get in nice clean laps, but it’s a track day and it should never be at the cost of putting myself and another driver in danger.

I rarely mention the brakes, they simply aren`t a consideration anymore. Even into hard braking zones like the Bergwerk entry, when they are already hot caused by the descent from Adenauer Forst to Brunchen, they simply never ever fade. They are way oversized for the car and bigger than I really need, but it means I can lap as much as I want without even considering needing to look after them

 

Last years video with Misha exceeded any expectations either of us had. For some reason, people liked it. A lot. I’d spoken to Misha before the trip and he was keen to do another lap. He’s cut back on his laps with unknown drivers this year but this will be the 4th time we’d have done a video lap together and he was pretty comfortable sitting next to me although he did still want me to drive at my normal pace. I think people like the Golf videos simply because it’s something different. In a carpark full of Porsches and BMW’s there aren’t many Golfs, even less MK2’s

 

Whilst having a chat on the camera where I explained the changes to the car since last year, Andy came over quite enthused about the lap earlier. The digital dash and passenger screen I fitted over the winter has worked without a single problem all year. The only lap of 2021 I don’t have all the data for, this one with Misha. Typical! I still don’t understand why it reset and stopped sending the speed through the Canbus as it`s never happened before or since.

Misha has been struggling to adequately convey the speed of many of his passenger laps and after a lot of research, he found that adding a specific screw-on filter to the camera should reduce some of the in-software stabilisation. This coupled with the higher than usual movement within the Golf should make for interesting viewing.

 

Lou was strapping herself into the passenger seat as I saw Steve driving out for a lap in his new M4 Competition. I spent a day at Knockhill with Steve the other month where we both followed each other very closely and I know it’s not something that worries him. As we went through the barrier, I could just see him in the distance and wasn’t sure when I would be able to catch up. As it turned out it took until Schwedenkreuz but then I was able to sit on his bumper. He immediately moved to the right signalling I could pass if I was on a quick lap and I made an obvious move behind him which signalled my intent just to follow him instead. What an enjoyable lap it was too. I saw him keep glancing in the mirror and the passenger was also looking across to him as they were talking to him about me being behind. Arriving back in the pits I parked up next to him to have a chat. Claire climbed out of the passenger seat with a huge grin on her face saying, “That was ace, I really enjoyed that. All I could see in the wing mirror was the Golf.”. Steve and I had a bit of a talk about the lap and agreed we’d go out and do a couple more.

 

Steve mentioned that he was happy for me to follow once he knew I wasn’t trying to overtake as he didn’t want to hold me up. Because the Golf is front-wheel drive, some of the lines I take can make it appear that I am lining up for an overtake when actually that not the case. I’ve come across this before when chasing fast rear wheel drive cars and we agreed I would leave the left indicator on if I wanted to pass otherwise he could safely assume that regardless of my line, I was happy to follow.

Ian had asked if he could have a couple of laps and we set off following Steve. As we went through the barrier, I gave the driver of the unit recovery truck a wave and he responded with thumbs up and a big smile. I’ve spoken to him too many times at the side of the track over the last few years and it was extremely pleasing that hadn’t been the case this year. I closed up to just over a car length from Steve’s bumper. Don’t you hate it when you watch the video back and it looks like you left loads of space. I’ve taken Ian for many laps over the years and he’s a relaxed passenger but less so when I am following someone very close. Some of his reactions when Steve braked harder than expected are quite amusing. However, if you watch his head bouncing about through the Foxhole, you can tell just how bouncy the suspension is.

 

I think it’s the first time I’ve experienced wheelspin in 6th as I went over the bumps on the Foxhole approach. Ian commented afterwards, “Did we really wheel spin in 6th! “. I often write about these sorts of laps where I follow a friend very closely but it’s not as fast as I could go in fresh air. It’s not about the ultimate lap time, but it’s the thrill you get driving at 160mph meters away from the car in front. Unfortunately, Steve’s M4C, is limited to 155mph and even though I was tucked into his slipstream I had to lift off at 161mph as I was closing up to him. I’ve known for a few years that the only way I would go any faster is with a slipstream from another car, the power I have can only do so much when trying to push a MK2 Golf through the air at 235 feet per second.

I asked Ian if he was happy to follow or go for a quicker lap and he replied that a quick lap would be okay. I flicked on the left indicator at T13 and by the end of the Hatzenback complex it was obvious that either the indicator wasn’t working or Steve wasn’t looking for it so I switched it off and tucked in behind for another fast lap.

 

We were going to go for a third but I needed to add more fuel so a quick 20 litre splash was added and we set off on what would be the last lap of the day. We were ever so slowly catching the white M4C with no traffic. Looking at the data afterwards, it would have easily been my quickest lap of the day but as often happens, we came across some yellows at Breidsheid and then the checkered flag at Pflanzgaten.

It was an absolutely brilliant way to end the track day, driving the Golf on high boost without any reliability worries and having completed over 30 laps vindicated all the time and effort I’d put in fixing the issues I’d experienced over that last 6 or 7 years.

The damper issue is just one of those things. It could have happened 4 years ago and it’s not something that I am particularly concerned about as it will be fixed next week and didn’t stop me driving. During the two days, there were no stoppages and the only warning flags were yellows for cars that had issues on track.

Parking up at the end of 2 days driving on the Ring, racking up almost 40 laps with a leaking turbo drain and damper failure may sound to some like a failure, but I see it the opposite. I drive the Golf harder than I’ve ever done and the drivetrain which has been the weakpoint for years held up just fine. I was able to run higher power than before and just concentrate on driving. This gives me a huge sense of satisfaction with the ongoing development of the car.

 

 

As I’m not driving in the morning, I like to have a beer with my evening meal. We usually walk up into Nurburg to allow this. I had booked a table at Zur Nurburg and the plan was to walk up after we’d freshened up. Russ and Freddie called in for a chat and I was lamenting the lack of any laps on track together. I’d walked around the car park several times looking for Russ but could never find him and assumed he was on track. It turned out that he’d kept blowing a boost hose from the chargecooler. Apparently, this is a common thing and he’d fitted an upgraded part from Schermer resulting in no more issues for the rest of the day. We haven’t had any laps together for a few years and I was really keen to do some this time. Typically it was him who had car issues and not me. Oh well, maybe next year. As they were leaving Freddie accidentally caught my laptop with his foot.

A few years ago I’d dropped my laptop which resulted in a crack on the lid. Matt took a photo of the crack and sent it to Freddie with a comment, “I can’t believe you broke dads laptop and just drove off…“.

They asked if we were joining them for a meal but I replied we’d already made plans in Nurburg. Touristenfarten was open this evening and cars were queuing all the way up the hill just to get into the carpark.

It was a pleasant walk but then a car behind pipped his horn, it was Jorg and he offered us a lift which we accepted. As I was climbing out of the car, a message from Steve popped up asking if we were joining him, Russ and the gang at the Comfy Corner for a meal.

My reply, “Well seeing as Jorg is with me and the Comfy Corner is closed on a Wednesday, no, I’m not”. Seconds later after sending him this photo of Jorg and myself, I received a simple, “Can we join you?“. Of course the answer was yes.

 

As always, the ladies tend to sit ant one end and talk whatever women talk about whilst we chatted about cars.

 

A few years ago it was my birthday whilst at the Ring and someone had told the staff in the restaurant. Much to my embarrassment they brought out a dessert with a sparkler on whilst playing Happy Birthday over the speakers. We felt that as it was Nic’s birthday, it was only fair she shared the same experience. We’d finished the meal and suddenly all the lights in the restaurant went out and the waiters walked across with a cake and sparkler whilst everyone sang Happy Birthday. She did not know where to look . It’s much better when it’s someone else suffering.

 

As the meal was finishing, Freddie came to me and said very sincerely, “I am ever so sorry for breaking your laptop.“. I pulled out my phone and showed Jorg a picture of the crack and said, “Does that look like a new crack to you?“. Jorg’s instant reply was “No, that an old one.“. Realisation swept across Freddies face and he turned to Matt muttering a string of expletives as the rest of us were in hysterics at his reaction.

 

We usually set off for home the morning after the track day, but as our summer holiday abroad never went ahead due to Covid restrictions we extended this trip a few days just to be able to relax whilst away from home. Rich and Nic suggested a drive down to the animal park at Klotten which turned out to be a great suggestion. All the German children were back at school and the park was almost empty. It was very pleasant walking around the various animal enclosures and roaming deer.

After a break for lunch, we agreed it would be a good opportunity to go on the water slide. From watching other people going down the slope, it seemed pretty obvious you were going to get wet. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. As we came round to end the ride, there was no one queueing to get on, the guy in the booth asked if we wanted to go again to which we replied, why not, we’re wet already.

 

The rollercoaster helped dry us off but then we went on the large slides where you lay on a horsehair matt. We were going down in pairs racing each other. Unless Rich reads this report, he won’t know that the reason Nic beat him every time was that Matt gave her a huge push at the start allowing her to just be ahead of him by the finish line. The confusion on his face was clear to see and he just couldn’t understand how she kept beating him. LOL. Some of the rides had staff telling you to wear a mask, others didn’t weird.

 

After spending a very enjoyable day in the park, we made the short drive to Cochem where we had ice creams sat by the river.

 

Walter and Hilde had invited us for a bbq that evening where we sat outside in the sunshine and with my German and google translate had a very pleasant evening.

 

Walter introduced me to this land beer which both Matt and I really enjoyed, so much so that the next morning we went and bought 3 cases to bring home. It’s far nicer than Bitburger.

 

Friday was the warmest day of the trip so far and after driving to Kelberg to do some shopping, we stopped at Rich’s for a chat before he took Paul to the airport. Rather than stay by herself all day, Nic came along with us to the Eis Cafe and then back to Hilde’s to sit in the sunshine until Rich returned.

Lee and Neal had been driving on Scuderia 2 day event and we invited them to join us for a meal at the PK. Lee was chattier than usual as he’d managed to go sub 7! In fact, a great deal of the evening was spent discussing his lap with Neal taking the mickey out of him as much as usual.

Saturday morning saw us loading up the Golf with all the tools and spares ready for the drive home. the queue down the hill for TF extended all the way up the hill. Quite a change from the half empty carpark during the trackday !

 

Writing this I can’t even tell you which way the satnav took us, we’ve never gone that way before and it took a bit longer than expected. We parked up for a drink just before the F1 Qualifying was due to start which we watched live on the laptop.

It was then a short drive to the ferry. Check in and registration was pretty painless as we all had our negative test results and the completed passenger locator form. We could clearly hear the guy in the next booth being told he needed a negative result to be able to board the ferry. It was quite obvious he’d just turned up as normal . Quite how he managed this I don’t know as I received several emails and text messages from P&O reminding me what was required to travel. The only slight hiccup was when the Dutch customs guard asked if I’d brought the Golf with me. I said yes, but Matt who thought he said bought, said no which caused him to look at us in confusion. After asking if he said brought or bought everything was cleared up.

It was a lovely evening so we sat on the sundeck, having a beer until it started getting dark after which we sat in the lounge, had pizzas and chatted about the trip.

 

After disembarking the next morning, we pulled up at the customs desk where after the usual questions of, “Where have you been? For how long?”, our passports were stamped. He was chatting away and it was all very relaxed. Whilst chatting, I said, “Can I ask a question?”. He replied, “Of course”.

I asked, “CarNET?”. His entire demeanour changed, the woman at the other window turned round in her chair and the security guard in the office looked up. He told me I needed a different desk if I had a CarNET. I was quick to point out that I didn’t have one and didn’t need one but a friend travelling via the Eurotunnel a few days before was delayed several hours whilst arguing that he didn’t need one for his own car whilst customs staff insisted he did.

Once that was cleared up he was happy to chat and his view was exactly the same as mine, that one was not required in my situation.

 

After arriving home the Golf was unloaded and emptied allowing me to remove the front dampers. Within seconds it was clear that the front left wasn’t doing anything at all. I could grab the piston and pull and push it with no resistance. Basically, the Golf was running with only 3 dampers!

 

The next morning I drove to Cornering Force who repaired them last time. I asked if they could put it on their damper dyno and was told, “We don’t need to put this on the dyno to know it’s doing nothing at all“. I explained I was just after the graph which you can see below and clearly shows that as the speed of damper travel increased, instead of requiring more force (pale blue trace after servicing last time), they didn’t do anything (dark blue trace).

 

Upon disassembly Simon immediately pointed out that the internals had smashed into each other and the adjuster had unscrewed the bottom of the rod, most likely the result of a hard impact. This ties in with my feeling that the Pflanzgaten jump is causing big problems and it’s something I’ll be mindful of in future trips. They had enough spare parts on the shelf to get them rebuilt and they were refitted a couple of days later ready for my next track day.

 

Compared to July, this trip was a huge success and even with the suspension issue, I was over the moon not to have any other problems. It’s a massive relief after the last few trips. The fact I was able to lap at the pace I did with the car handling as it showed just how well setup it is at the moment and the confidence it inspires allows me to drive quickly even in these circumstances.

 

After the disappointment of July, this was back to a typical Ring trip. Lots and lots of laps with a small but fixable mechanical issue just to keep it interesting.

My aim for 2022 is to remove the mechanical issue part of that summary

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