Destination Nurburgring DN20 September 2018

This was going to be my last Ring trackday of 2018. Gav had been to Thruxton earlier in the year but this was his first time at the Ring with me and to say he was excited would be a huge understatement. He first went in 2012 and again in 2014 driving a total of 9 laps and had 3 passenger laps during those 2 trips.

Gav had a huge grin on his face all the time. Throughout this report, you won’t see a picture of him without this smile 

 

After a nice meal, we went into the bar for a beer and to listen to the singer. It didn`t take long before we decided to call it a night as we knew we had a long drive across Europe tomorrow. 

 

Once we arrived at the guesthouse I gave the Pinderwagen a wash but as it`s no longer road legal, I couldn’t take it for a drive on the fantastic roads around this area. That`s one of the downsides of it not being road registered anymore, but I can live with that.

 

Sign on was in the Milltek building on the industrial park near the Nürburgring. As usual we helped prepare the paperwork and sign on the drivers and passengers as they arrived. 

 

It was a nice summers afternoon and after signing on, people sat outside in the sunshine chatting to others about the upcoming track day. 

 

Everyone came inside for the briefing which as usual was as short as possible whilst still mentioning all the relevant points. Darren spent quite a bit of time reminding people that this was a 2 day event and to take their time building up on day 1 rather than going flat out first thing and possibly having an off. 

 

We couldn’t have our customary meal at the Comfy Corner as they close on Wednesdays, so we booked several tables at the Italian in Mullenbach. I have driven past it many times but this was the first time I actually had a meal there. With so many people in the same room who all knew each other there was a fantastic atmosphere and the food wasn`t bad at all. I`ll definitely be going back. 

 

Driving back to the guest house, Gav tried to get a photo of the iconic Nürburgring sign, considering I purposefully kept accelerating and braking whilst he was doing it I don’t think he did too bad. 

 

When we went down for breakfast on the Thursday morning, we noticed that the Yorkshire Tea Lou had taken Hilde in August was being served with the other breakfast items. To say this had only been there for a month, it was going down very well with all the other guests. I had to explain to Hilde, it wasn’t actually grown in Yorkshire …

 

Gurds and I drove down to the carpark at 6:45 to unload the cars before it started getting busy and then parked the tow car and trailer in the overflow carpark. 

 

The team was assembled in the ring taxi office ready to sign on any drivers that hadn’t made it in time yesterday.  The huge majority of drivers like to get it done the evening before so they can go out for the sighting laps without needing a briefing first but not everyone can make it hence the morning signing on and briefing.

 

Most drivers had arrived and were parked ready for the sighting laps to begin at 8:00. There is a huge variety of cars at these events, ranging from a pretty standard Peugeot 206gti all the way up to brand new 911 GT3RS. This seemed to be the section for the `older` cars 

 

Gurds had recently cleaned and polished his MK1. It made my Golf look even duller than usual !

 

As is customary on Destination Nürburgring events, the team make a point of speaking to every single driver before they head out for their first laps of the day, reminding them of the overtaking rules and the expectation of courteous driving between all the attendees. Over the last few years, these events have built up an enviable reputation of quality track time and high driving standards. Rather than waiting for problems on circuit, Darren has found a firm reminder in the morning helps set the tone for the entire event. 

 

I did a couple of sighting laps to get everything up to temp and then as soon as the track went live at 09:00 I did a couple of laps at pace to get myself back in the groove. It used to take me a good 6 laps to get up to speed but as I’ve now done it so many laps I just need a couple to re-familiarise myself with the track. 

 

When Matt came with us to Spa , the plan had been to take him out for his first ever lap at full pace, unfortunately the weather conditions meant it wasn’t quite as quick as we had hoped. On the drive across yesterday, I discussed this with Gav and he too wanted his first lap to be a fast one rather than a slow sighter.

As everything was up to temp, tyre pressures were adjusted then I took him out for 2 fast laps. Gav always has a smile on his face but that was nothing compared to the look on his face once we had started the laps and it never changed for the entire duration of the drive.

 

Its always hard to hear what passengers are saying when on circuit, but Gavs unmistakable “bloody hell” seemed to be repeated every other corner. 

 

After the laps, Gav couldn’t wait to tell anyone that would listen what an experience it was and how after reading all the reports of previous trips and sitting in the Golf on UK track days, nothing had prepared him for how the Golf felt on the Nürburgring. 

 

I often mention in these reports how much I enjoy taking people out for passenger laps. Gav is a perfect example of why I do it. His enthusiasm is infectious, you can`t walk away from your conversation with him after a lap without knowing just how much he enjoyed the lap.

Isn`t that what all this is about ? Having fun !

To say I take the Ring laps for granted would be taking it too far and whilst they don’t hold the same wide-eyed excitement you get with your first few laps, I still enjoy them and look forward to these events with great anticipation but that is nothing compared to the reaction of almost every passenger who has done only a handful of laps or are usually lapping anywhere above 8min 30. So going out for a lap in the mid to late 7’s changes their whole perception and I don’t think I will ever grow tired of that reaction.

 

911’s are a rather common sight on these track days but they are usually seen in convoy on circuit rather than parked up when the track is open. I think this was lunchtime.

 

Lee was driving his green 911 GT3RS and his brother Neil was usually sat in the passenger seat. However, he’d been trying to get a passenger lap in the Golf but circumstance had always meant this never happened. As everything was running well, Neil strapped himself into the passenger seat whilst Gav jumped in the Porsche. Neil fitted his 360 degree camera into the Golf to record the laps, but unfortunately, the only mounting position on the rollcage didn’t give the best viewing angle. 

 

As I always find, its much easier to follow rather than be followed, and when I moved across to let Lee past at the start of the second lap, he over drove for the first part of the lap trying to pull away from the Golf. I think he gave himself a stern talking to, because after Hatzenbach, he started driving much smoother. At the end of the lap, the first thing Gav said was how amazing the engine sounded in the Porsche and the second thing was how he couldn’t believe how quick the Golf was compare to a new RS. 

 

The Golf had been faultless and I had a long queue of people waiting for passenger laps and was lapping pretty much continuously, only pausing to swap passengers and have a quick drink or bite to eat between laps whilst the passenger strapped themselves in. 

 

The only time I usually wander round the carpark is when I’m trying to find a passenger.

 

Even though I’d had requests from loads of people for a passenger lap, I was unable to find anyone after walking around both car parks, so I had a very rare lap with an empty passenger seat. It always surprises me how noticeable that extra weight is.  I find myself having to pull the next gear earlier and it takes a little bit of mental recalibration. Corners I can take in 3rd may end up hitting the limiter partway round so I shift into 4th before entry. It’s not a big issue but with the new 6-speed ratios it caught me out a couple of times. 

 

The engine in the Golf had been trouble free but when I opened the bonnet for a quick oil level check, a crowd quickly formed of people wanting to have a look and to ask for details of the engine and the whole build. 

 

A noble on a track day is quite a rare sight, but this one seemed to be going well. 

 

I met Dave at the Nürburgring a decade ago and he has been out for laps with me pretty much every time we have been there together. He prefers a controlled smooth lap rather than a fast one. It was late afternoon and after struggling to find a passenger the previous lap, Dave was at the front of the queue this time. Everything was going really well until the top of Kesselchen. As we were going round the right hander at Steilstreche in third gear, I was on full throttle and could feel the plate diff shuffling power between the front wheels. The slicks were gripping the hot tarmac and I was just thinking to myself, how well everything was working when I heard a bang and felt the car pull to the side. Driving around the Karussell I knew something had broken and not wanting to risk making it worse, I pulled over in a safe place. 

 

Free recovery is included on these track days and if you have an issue, Darren would always prefer you get recovered rather than risk further damaging your car or even worse, dropping fluids on track. 

 

The Golf was put on the back of the recovery truck and strapped down. The driver asked what the issue was and I was pretty confident when I replied that I believed it was a CV joint that had failed. 

 

If you have read my previous reports, you will know Sam Tate always takes the micky if the Golf breaks down. As you can imagine, his grin when I came back into the car park on the back of a trailer was not a malicious one, but because he knew I`d given him more material to wind me up with. 

I have to say, this is by far his best effort yet. 

 

As the day was over, the Golf was dropped off at the guesthouse where the car could be repaired ready for tomorrow. Sahib asked if he could help and then saw the state of the bug covered windscreen. He quickly set about cleaning it whilst I carried out repairs. 

 

The drive train is based on the MK3 VR6 Golf. Unless I start buying custom parts, the CV joints are always going to be the weakest link. Usually, its the cage that fails, but actually shearing the drive flange and CV splines is a new one on me. 

 

Walter has a hydraulic press in his workshop and it was much easier to remove the front strut, press out the CV from the middle of the wheel bearing rather than try and hammer it out in situ. 

 

While I was repairing the Golf, Gurds was rotating his tyres, front to rear to even out their wear tomorrow. 

 

One of the benefits of having a car that is regularly inspected means that nothing is seized and whilst some of you may look at this and think that this is something you’d never do, it actually only needed 6 bolts removing to take off the entire front hub and suspension. 

 

I always carry spare CV’S for just this eventuality, but as I had driven the car after the CV splines had sheared, the front wheel bearing was probably damaged in the process. It made sense to change it now while everything was in pieces and whilst doing this I built up a spare drive shaft with freshly greased inner and outer CV joints. Even though I haven’t had a CV joint fail for a while, it seemed prudent to have the spare ready to fit should I have an issue tomorrow.

 

We had planned to go out for a meal with a few friends but I didn’t want to go until the Golf was finished and back on the trailer. As they were sitting down to order we were still finishing off the repairs. The car was finished and we walked up to the restaurant just as the others were finishing their dessert. We may have been late but I could enjoy the meal knowing the car was finished and ready to go tomorrow. 

 

DAY 2

As the guest house is so close to the Ring everyone else could simply walk down when they were ready but Gurds and I wanted an early start so we could unload the cars before the carpark started filling up. 

 

Darren had driven over in his Porsche, the aim was to drive a few laps if everything was running smoothly. It was looking like another glorious day but the forecast showed a chance of rain in the late afternoon. 

 

After any sort of repair I’m always apprehensive for that first few hundred yards till I know everything is working ok. This is where not being able to test the car on the road is a bit of a pain. Even though I was very confident with the repair there is still always that niggling doubt that something might not be quite right.  It turned out my concern was completely unfounded and straight away I knew everything was working as it should.

 

I’ve done many more laps than Gurds and we had agreed he would follow me while I drove proper lines so he could pick up the correct turn in points. The track was clear and we were able to get in a couple of really nice laps. 

 

I was starting to really get into the swing of the day when exiting the Karussell chasing a 991 GT3 I kept the accelerator buried. When I was running the 15 inch slicks this wasn’t a problem as the near side wheel would spin up on exit and then steadily gain traction once the wheel was back on the floor. The problem with the 17 inch wheels was that as soon as the tyre touched the tarmac it gripped almost instantly sending a huge shock load through the driveshaft. As soon as the wheel landed, I heard a bang and immediately knew I’d had a CV joint fail again. 

 

The recovery guy arrived and asked how strong my roll cage was. This seemed a bit of a strange question as its not something you usually test until you need it. He asked if I thought it was strong enough to support the weight of the car as it would be much quicker for him to lift it onto the trailer. My reply was simply, “I guess we are about to find out“. 

 

As we were driving back to the car park the driver was asking me if I knew what was wrong. I explained I was pretty sure it was another CV failure due to the exit of the Karussell. He asked if that meant my day was over and I replied I didn’t think so as I had the necessary spares to repair it again. I was pretty frustrated with the failure as I knew it was self inflicted due to me not lifting the throttle as we exited the Karussell. 

Pulling into the car park, seeing a grinning Sam Tate and the rest of the team lead to the short sense of humor failure on my part . It wasn’t the fact that they were taking the micky, just my frustration that I had broken the car and it was a completely avoidable failure. 

I really need to stop giving Sam Tate photos like these. He’s getting far too good at this sort of thing 

 

The driver dropped the car off at the side of the trailer in the overflow car park.

 

After removing the front wheel, I was pleased to see that the outer CV was still intact. Having to replace the drive flange again would take quite a bit longer than simply replacing the driveshaft. 

 

The inner CV joint cage had failed. I had a spare inner CV but rather than messing about swapping that, I simply replaced the entire driveshaft with the spare I had built up last night. Several people have asked why I don’t simply fit stronger CV joints as these were never designed to take the loading’s I am putting through them. Whilst a failed CV is frustrating, I carry spares and they are £30 each. These are the current weak point in the drive train and fitting stronger ones would simply cause something else to fail first. That would most likely be the gearbox which in this situation would have meant my track time was finished. 

 

31 minutes after the car was unloaded, I drove through the barrier to big thumbs up from the recovery truck driver. Now I was aware of the issues of shock loadings causing failures, I changed my driving style accordingly. Making sure I feathered the throttle over the kerbs and areas I knew were borderline on traction.

 

Past experience has shown that going too high over the Pflanzgarten jump can cause problems, but when I see Jochen crouched behind the barrier with his camera, I simply can’t resist. I mean, how cool does this look…

 

I was having absolutely no trouble finding willing passengers today and spent the entire afternoon doing a lap, coming into the car park, leaving the engine running whilst swapping passengers, then going straight back out again. The car was performing faultlessly and the earlier CV failure was soon forgotten. 

 

As often happens, Sam Tate and I were completely out of sync and hadn’t met each other on track so far. We planned this chase lap and waited until we were both ready before going out. What an enjoyable lap it was too, although it started drizzling near the end of the lap it didn’t have much of an effect on the available grip. 

 

Ian had been my passenger when following Sam, and we spent a good 5 minutes in the car park discussing what was easily one of the most enjoyable laps of the trip. 

 

It looked like the rain was here to stay but there was no standing water yet . Taks had been asking for a lap for ages and I asked him to jump into the passenger seat. He glanced at the tyres and said “Nige, they are slicks, it’s raining !” If all his mates hadn’t been there giving him a load of grief, I don’t think he would have gone out with me. He was very nervous for the first few corners but I explained I was driving well within my limits and he started calming down a little. When I purposefully encouraged the rear to step out on some corners I saw him tense back up again 

When we came back in he was very animated about the lap and still couldn’t get his head around how much grip their was on the slicks in the rain.

I did another 3 laps on the slicks and even though they are no good at displacing water they were still warm enough to give sufficient grip in these conditions. By the end of the 3rd lap rear tyre temperature was starting to fall and the back of the car started moving around. Realising this was only going to get worse, I replaced the slicks with the R1R’s which are absolutely fine in these cold and wet conditions. 

 

If it started to rain heavier, they have enough tread to displace any standing water. The only issue is, the speed rating is reduced and instead of hitting 150+ mph, I lifted once I hit 120mph. 

 

After a day and 3/4 of driving on a hot dry circuit quite a lot of people called it a day as soon as it started to rain but that meant the track was even emptier for those of us who continued to lap. 

 

The track wasn’t wet enough to cause any real problems with spray when following cars for a few corners. Although, I made a point of taking extra care when braking behind a car with ABS. The last thing I wanted to do was lock up and run into the back of somebody. 

 

Even with the two CV issues, I still managed almost 30 laps over the 2 days. I’ve started forcing myself to stop have something to eat and drink after 4 or 5 laps otherwise I was finding I was driving continuously and losing concentration toward the end of the day. Whilst this means I may complete less laps over the 2 days, I’m still able to fully concentrate and enjoy all of them rather than getting fatigued with the increased chances of making a mistake. Loading the car up at the end of a successful 2 day trip is always satisfying but there is also a sense of disappointment knowing that this was the last trip to the Nürburgring of the year.  

 

After we had all had a shower, we walked up to the Lindenhoff for a drink and a very enjoyable meal. It was approaching midnight when we headed back to the guesthouse, as often happens when you are with good friends, we’d completely lost track of time. 

 

The following morning we had a leisurely breakfast before packing up and loading the car ready to come home. Not having the alarm clock go off at 06:15 is certainly a welcome relief. After these trips I`m always exhausted, not only from the driving but the early mornings and late nights. Just another sign I’m getting old I guess .

 

Gurds had a Calais ferry to catch and had packed up and left by 10:00. 

 

We popped down to Adenau to pick up some supplies and then walked up to Hatzenbach to watch the start of the VLN race.  Matt and Gav decided to walk back toward the guesthouse whilst watching the race and I drove the X5 back. 

 

During the briefing before the event, Darren specifically reminded everyone that the police had positioned a speed camera between the track entrance and Nurburg village. This was a mobile unit and we stopped to have a look at it whilst walking up to the meal a couple of nights ago.

When driving back to meet Matt and Gav, I was rather unhappy when I saw the camera flash as I approached. Even though I had already passed the camera, you can’t help but giving the brake pedal a quick press. It made no difference and a couple of weeks later, I received a fine for doing 56km/h in a 50.  That`s 3.7mph over the limit. The Germans have a sliding scale of fine and to my relief, this was 10 with no points on my licence. I was going to pay by bank transfer, but the fees were almost triple the fine.

Paying by Revolut has zero cost and I was quite happy to pay the £8.98 fine.  Lesson well and truly learned.

 

Leaving the Nürburgring after 5 full days of track driving in 2018, left me with plenty great memories but also a disappointing high number of issues, one of which back at the Ringmeisters  event caused me to lose a full day of driving. Winter plans should hopefully address these issues but then again, I say this every year.

What’s especially pleasing is that none of the issues were engine failures. The turbo conversion is proving to be particularly robust and this is having the unwanted but not unexpected side effect of causing the weakest link to fail which is the drivetrain. 

 

On way back to the ferry I asked Gav if he could sum up his thoughts

The whole experience was just overwhelming.  I forgot how bumpy it is, the gradients and how narrow it is. The corners come up so quickly. It is just overwhelming and brilliant at the same time !

As the day went on I remembered certain corners and the next bit being flat, then realised it wasn`t the corner I thought.

In the carpark everyone was so friendly with no egos . Someone is an old Clio can be talking to someone with a £200k Porsche with no snobbery. Everyone walking round with smiles on their faces and I now understand why.

It was definitely the best thing to go out at full speed for the first lap rather than build up with a slower one. For your first lap, go out as fast as you can to fully appreciate it rather than 3 or 4 sighting laps first.

I`d heard about it being an ice rink in the rain but actually, when getting the right line and a sensible pace it was better than expected and very interesting. I did NOT think it could be done on slicks but it was absolutely fine.

 

If you ever have a spare passenger seat can you PLEASE let me come again

 

We met up with Ian and Jude and Jon and Anne on the ferry where we spent a couple of hours reminiscing about yet another successful Destination Nurburgring track day. 

 

I’ve tried to keep this report a bit shorter than the last one. I had varying comments about it, some said it was far too long where others liked the extra detail I went into. I’ll see how this one goes and tweak future ones accordingly.

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