Nurburgring April 2017 with Circuit Days

The first Nürburgring trackday of the year was with Circuit Days and it would be fair to say I was rather excited about it. The Golf was ready and loaded with a couple of weeks to go after a successful Rockingham trackday a few weeks ago I`d been able to carry out some of those `nice to do` jobs as nothing had broken or needed fixing.  I think Louise would have preferred the “Nothing needs doing” to mean I didn`t do anything but the hope was that getting them done now meant I wouldn`t need to do them later in the year. We`ll see how that pans out 

 

 

One of the `nice to do jobs` was optimising the front splitter a bit more. The water trails on the front splitter showed the air was slipping past the front of the outer brake scoops rather than being sucked into it. Whilst I have plenty of brake cooling I want the air to go where I want it to go but you can see the Red trace shows it isn`t going into the outer scoop.

 

Not only did I want to capture the air and force it into the ducts that feed the back of the rotors but I added a second smaller set of ducts that also fed the centre plate of the discs. The theory being that the additional scoop catches the air that previous escaped.

 

Having 2 ducts per side is overkill but as the speeds are increasing I can`t see it being a bad thing !

 

It`s actually getting to the stage where I`m happy with it although I`m sure I will think of something to change..

 

I`d booked the Rotterdam ferry back in January when they were offering 10% off and we had a very steady drive over with loads of time to spare. The forecast was for a force 5 to 6 crossing which I wasn`t looking forward to whatsoever.

I find if I arrive early I get routed through customs where we have the usual “where are you going ? We`ve had several cars on trailers through today”

 

We`d been upgraded to a room with a view. Brilliant. Not only is there no view but the curtains are crap so the sun wakes you up too early.

 

It was a pleasant evening so we wandered up to the Bar and had a beer.

 

Spotted Mike and Gina who I`d spoken to on Track Time on Facebook before hand so wandered over for a chat. Started with an “Excuse me, but are you Mike who is going to the Nürburgring?” Fortunately he said yes  It was his first trackday after having only done Touristenfahrten before and he had been a little unsure about his `winged` seats but when he`d seen my new seats he knew he`d be OK with them on the trackday. Having spoken to him after the day he is now hooked on trackdays at the Ring and is likely to be going again in October.

After the meal we met up with Craig and his mates for a beer in the bar which was a great way to pass an hour or so. We called it a night knowing we had an early start the next morning before the drive across to Nurburg.

 

When towing it usually takes just under 4 hours to get to Nurburg if we take it steady and I tend to wait until after I`m halfway there before stopping. Spotted this Spa and briefly considered a detour via Austria this time. 

 

We fancied a McDonalds, I think these trips are the only time we ever eat there but they are convenient when you don`t want to stop for long. They were expecting us…

 

Stopped on the way to fill the jerry cans. Whilst I can happily run 98Ron, I always use 102Ron at the Ring. I don`t run more agressive timing when running it as I`m not chasing more power just the improved knock resistance that comes from using this fuel.

 

Arrived at the Ring to glorious sunshine and clear blue skies. A lot better than the snow that greeted us this time last year.

We had some time to spare before signing-on opened, so we went to Adenau with Ian, Jude, Jon and Anne for some icecream. It came with fruit so it`s healthy. Right ?

 

The signing on was in the Lindner

 

Rob was in charge of the signing on process and handed out the packs which included the car numbers and also the transponders which are used by the circuit to identify noisy cars. Whilst the limit is 129dB drive by there are occasionally some loud cars which manage to trip the meters !

 

Pack which included a sticker, flag meanings and transponder

 

Had a good chat with Moff and Alex whilst waiting. I haven`t seen Tim for years and it was great to see him again.

 

Dale from BTG gave the briefing and I never thought I`d say it, but even Dale needed a microphone at times due to people not paying attention and talking between themselves in the middle of the briefing. Many of us have been to 100`s of briefings before and have heard most of what is being said many many times but not everyone has and once people start talking between themselves it makes it harder for those who haven`t heard it before to hear everything. It`s 20 minutes of your time and I don`t understand why some people find it so difficult to just stand and listen quietly. 

 

After the briefing we drove down into Adenau to the Comfy Corner for some truly beautiful roast Beef and great company. I always try and visit once a trip to see Jörg and Karl as I have known them for almost 12 years now and whilst the trips are only a few days now compared to the trips that used to last over a month it is still nice to catch up. Knowing I was driving the next morning meant that as usual, I stuck to soft drinks and stayed until 10:30 knowing we had an early start next morning.

.

The weather was cloudy but dry on Tuesday morning. Ideal conditions and the forecast was to get even better through the day.

 

Andy was delighted to be able to bring his M3 and planned to do a few laps later in the day. I do question his priorities sometimes though. Whilst the car is now running there is still quite a bit of cosmetic and setup work to be done but he can`t help himself and was rather proud of the lightweight drilled tailgate hinges. When it was suggested that removing unused bolts, such as the strut ball still attached to the hinge, Andy just gave me his `Nige, stop talking now` face

 

Because so many people had signed on and had the briefing last night it meant there weren`t many people signing on in the Devils Diner on Tuesday morning.

 

Matt jumped in for the sighting laps as we wanted to fine tune the boost control. I had recently swapped the CPU in the ECU from Megasquirt V1 to the later V2 chip. That gives me finer control over the fuelling and has a much better closed loop control algorithm. I did not have the opportunity to fully set it up at Rockingham so planned to use the sighting laps to tweak it.

 

As we were heading out Adam was his happy smiling self and taking photos of drivers before they went out.

 

Did a few 2,000 to 7,000rpm full throttle pulls on the sighting laps after making sure nobody was close and the boost control was doing just what we wanted. There is a tiny bit more tweaking to do now I`ve looked at the data but MS2 is much better than MS1 in this regard. I have issue with the brake pads tapering in the calipers so rotate them after each trackday. That puts the wider part in the place that wears quickest. The downside of this is that the brakes feel absolutely terrible for the first few laps, as if there is air in the system. It isn`t air, just the pads not touching the disc properly on initial brake application. 

 

After her Rockingham passenger experience I wasn`t sure if Lou would come out with me but she said she`d like to come out on the sighting lap. We had no cars ahead and I was able to drive really smoothly at reduced pace and that was absolutely ideal for her. She could look around and see what was happening but not worry about it being too fast. 

 

I`d bought some shoulder pads for the passenger as they were rubbing into passengers neck and it was commented by several that they were much better now and I found the Gel HANS pads were far more comfortable.

 

Came in and checked the tyre pressures then went out just after 09:00 when the track had gone live. It had dried out and I wanted to get a few laps under my belt after some recent suspension modifications. Turn in was much improved but I`d managed to re-introduce some bump-steer which was annoying. I have loaned my bumpsteer gauge out and hadn`t had opportunity to re-measure before the trip. It was manageable once I understood where it was happening but the first few laps were interesting. Since returning home I`ve already measured and removed the bump steer so it should be absolutely fine for the next outing.

I have mentioned in previous reports that I would like to hit 160mph in the Golf. Not for any reason apart from it is a MK2 Golf which is setup for track use and shouldn`t be getting anywhere near 160mph. I could remove the rear wing and do a lap just to hit it, but that isn`t the point at all. I want it to be a genuine speed rather than one where I`ve had to change the car just to achieve it on a single lap.

What I did find was that the 5th gear I had fitted last year was too tall. The stock 0.838 5th meant I was hitting the 7,200rpm limiter at 155mph so I swapped it for a 0.769 which dropped the revs in 5th quite a bit but more than I needed. It lowered the speed up Kesselchen and blunted acceleration in 5th. I was fortunate to be able to find a 0.795 from a Corrado G60. These are very hard to get hold of as they were only fitted in 2 gearboxes in the VW range but it gives me slightly improved acceleration in top but is only doing 6,800rpm at 160mph.

 

We met Jude and Ian on our first ever Ring trip back in 2005 and we`ve been great friends with them ever since. In the 2,000+ laps I`ve driven on the Nürburgring, Jude has had quite a lot of passenger laps and we often have had several incidents over the years. Not all my doing I hasten to add !  For example We met Jon when he came off his bike ahead of us and we stopped to assist so whilst that was an interesting lap, it wasn`t down to the Golf breaking or me having a moment. 

She hasn`t been in the Golf at the Ring for years and this was the first time since it morphed from `Niges Golf` into the `pinderwagen` when I added the Turbo 3 years ago.  I think the huge grin on her face which stayed there for pretty much the entire lap sums up how much she enjoyed it.

 

As we were approaching Galgenkopf I asked if she fancied another lap. YES was her instant answer so I kept my foot down on the straight. I had a better exit onto the straight than last October but the speed levelled out at 156mph. That is with the new 5th and a fraction more boost. 

 

The guy in the Red MK2 came over later to ask what was under the bonnet. He said he thought his 1.8t was quick until I flew past him on the straight. I`m particularly pleased with the boost control. If you look it sits at 1.00 Bar and very occasionally flickers to 1.01 or 0.99. That is absolutely spot on and I am delighted with it.

Sadly the peak was 158.61mph so it looks like I need a slipstream or more power. 

 

This is a log of AFR and Boost. As you can see, the AFR is very stable and the boost is pretty much a horizontal line. The AFR is supposed to go slightly lean after a gearchange to improve spool and the slight overboost is something I could tune out but I quite like it so I won`t bother 

 

Nick from Xtreme Sports Photography was out taking photos. I could hear the splitter scraping on the Karussel and briefly thought about raising the ride height but it is absolutely fine for the rest of the lap so I will leave it alone.

 

On other corners it is probably a little too high to be honest but the Golf is fairly softly sprung and that`s a compromise I`ve had to live with for a few years now.

 

After a few laps I opened the bonnet to check the oil level and make sure nothing was amiss. A crowd formed rather quickly but I was happy to be able to explain nothing was wrong and I was just checking it was OK. 


I had a couple of very similar conversations during the day with different people and initially they seemed apprehensive about coming over for a chat. Once we started talking I asked why they had seemed reluctant and they both said they felt uncomfortable because they`d read about the Pinderwagen online and I seemed to know what I was doing and they didn`t want to ask a question that I would think was obvious and they should know the answer.

 

Let me say right now, that could not be further from the truth. One of THE highlights of a trackday for me is meeting other people who share my enthusiasm for driving cars on circuit. I certainly do not think any less of someone just because they`ve done less trackdays than me, or have a car they haven`t spent as much time on! I have to stop myself boring my work colleagues and  friends by going into too much detail when they ask about the Golf, as it isn`t really their thing so having a fellow enthusiast ask questions is brilliant ! If you see me on a future trackday and want a chat or a passenger lap,  please say so.  I`m just a middle aged bloke from Yorkshire, who happens to drive a well known MK2 Golf he built in his garage, nothing more !

 

Karan was there in his highly developed 387HP, 1150 kg Silvia S14. He hasn`t done anywhere near as many laps as I have at the Ring but he is a better driver than I will ever be. Matt always looks to have passenger laps with him whenever he can and took the opportunity to jump in for a lap. As I have said many times before, Matt is very good and spotting what the driver is doing from the passenger seat and offering advice is requested. All he really needed to do was fine tune Karans lines but if that meant he was able to get more laps, he was quite happy to do so.

 

Andrew sat in the Golf and we did a couple of laps. He commented quite early how stable it was at high speed and he could certainly feel the Aero working, especially how balanced the front end was through Miss-Hit-Miss. It is also noticeable through the quick left hander before Hohe Acht.

 

Then I lost power.

Happily it was simply a boost hose that popped off which took about 30 seconds to fix  I had removed it after Rockingham to gain access underneath and had made the novice mistake of not tightening it up after a lap. I always get half a turn on a Jubilee if I re-tighten it when the engine is Hot and I just forgot to do it this time. 

 

The benefit of a Trackday compared to TF is there are hardly ever any queues whatsoever when the track is open.

 

Felt a slight imbalance at high speed and that`s unusual so I removed the wheels to check everything was OK.

 

Couldn`t find anything obvious but once back home I removed the discs and found several pieces of rubber stuck in the vanes. I had wondered if I needed to fit some mesh into the ducts, I think I`ve just answered my own question.

 

Jude saw this McLaren and spoke to the owner who turned out to be a really nice guy. She had seen his driving when on track and saw he waited for an indication from a car ahead rather than diving up the inside so knew he was a courteous driver and asked for a passenger lap. He was happy to take her out and she came back with a huge grin on her face

 

Sadly Ian was having issues with his MX5T. It was suffering a misfire and Matt had a look with Ian to see if it was anything obvious. The engine was only fitted a few weeks ago after the previous one failed and to say he was gutted would be a huge understatement  I think he managed 3.5 laps before it was day over. 

 

Rather frustratingly there were a few people who felt they could save their parking spot as they were more important than anyone else on the trackday. I understand people leave their tools and tyres in the carpark and so they obviously try and park in the same spot when they come back after a lap but if the spot is taken they park elsewhere. That`s understandable and loads of people do it, but blocking 2 spots with wheels when you go out for a lap is offside imo. 

 

As is always the case on a Circuit Days event, there was a wide range of cars on the event

 

I added fuel, checked the tyre pressures and went out for another couple of laps with Matt. It started missing on right handers but we couldn`t understand why. It felt like and ECU issue but none of the ECU supplied gauges were losing power. Back into the carpark and it was quickly diagnosed to be something with the ECU.  

 

As often happens when you are trying to concentrate, a crowd forms and people try talking just when you don`t want them to. I apologised to a few people afterwards as I was trying to work out what was wrong and they were chatting to me. Usually I don`t mind if I`m just changing tyres or something but when I am concentrating I need to focus on what I am doing. I forgot my coloured warning flags which is a shame otherwise the Yellow or even Red would have been flying about now…

 

A dry joint on a component was spotted and after asking several people, Racers Retreat who were there offering technical support had a soldering iron. It was gas powered and was empty but they went and picked up some Gas so I could top it up. Whilst waiting I had a good natter with Ali but a big thank you to them for helping me out. 

 

ECU repaired, refitted and engine fired up. Returned the soldering iron and Matt came out with me for a session. 

 

I think we were halfway round the lap when the boost went again. I initially assumed another hose had popped off but it sounded different this time. The symptoms were similar to when the actuator failed last year so back into the carpark, turbo blanket removed and the problem was immediately obvious.

 

The wastegate Arm had snapped off   `I`ve NEVER seen that before` was a the usual reply when someone saw what had happened…

 

I asked around if anyone happened to have a portable welder. All it needed was a couple of small welds to reattach the arm and it would have been fine for the day but sadly nobody did. There are several garages in Nurburg who I know would let me borrow their welder and tack it up but I was aware that by the time I had fetched the trailer, loaded up the car, taken it to a garage, fixed it then brought it back and unloaded, I would have missed quite a lot of tracktime.

 

I went for the simpler approach of locking the wastegate in a  partially open position. Obviously not an ideal fix but something I hoped would give me enough boost to continue lapping. Sadly the jubilee clip lasted a couple of miles then the heat caused it to expand and the wastegate could fully open. After a few attempts I gave up and decided I could spend a lot of time trying to make do or just get out and drive it without boost.

 

I drove 9 years without boost so how bad could it be….

Pretty frustrating in places actually. The issue is the engine is now lower compression so it is slower than a standard ABF when there is no boost, that meant the midrange was shocking and I had to keep the revs above 5,500rpm as much as possible. Because the wastegate is integral to the Turbo and a touch on the small side I suffer from boost creep which quite simply means the Turbo produces more boost than the wastegate can vent so the boost rises even with the wastegate fully open. In this situation that turned out to be a good thing as it produced a whole 0.35Bar at 7,000 rpm Nothing to set the world on fire but enough to keep the performance acceptable.

 

Ian was obviously looking for passenger laps so I took him out.

 

I probably drove 10 laps with it like that and as you can see from the video, there is almost no boost at all under 5,000rpm. The positive side is that I was able to thrash the engine much more than usual and it took it all in it`s stride. Temperatures never moved with water sitting at the usual 87°C and oil at 125°C. My mechanical sympathy meant I put it into 5th going up Kesselchen but the speed immediately started to drop so I put it back in 4th again. Sod mechanical sympathy 

What I did have to do was carry momentum, it is something I did for many years and over the winter I`d actually said I wasn`t doing it as much anymore and the power meant I could almost point and squirt. I still carried corner speed but knowing you had the power under your right foot can make you a little lazier and this was an ideal opportunity for me to work on that area where I`d lost some sharpness. The usual markers that you subconsciously use for braking and turning all changed when approach speed was less. I was taking whole sections in a gear lower than usual simply because it wasn`t going quick enough and I occasionally found myself in the wrong gear for a sequence and bogged down or overbraked and lost all momentum. 

 

Looking at the data and the difference was immediately obvious. On an earlier lap when the engine was running as usual I was at full throttle for 23% of the lap and the average engine speed was 4805rpm

 

With the broken wastegate arm I was full throttle for a far larger part of the lap, 56.8% of it actually ! The average engine speed was lower than I expected at 5367rpm

 

Using all the track and some kerbs isn`t a bad thing though and Alex snapped me going through Brunchen carrying decent speed. 

 

The Pilot Sport Cups were certainly getting a workout and they started squealing a little in places.

 

Most of the laps were quiet and I was able to keep out of the way when necessary. I am sure there were some drivers who I`d seen on track in the morning who wondered what I was playing at when they outdragged me out of the slow corners when it was the other way round earlier in the day.

 

Ian hired the Racers Retreat E36 for a few laps. He was obviously not happy his own car had failed but the conditions were as good as you would ever get and the track was very quiet so he bought 4 laps. Down on power compared to his MX5T but at least he was driving !

 

Suzy had flat spotted all 4 tyres when she span before T13 and was also looking for passenger laps. I explained I`d lowered the seats over winter and she might not be able to see over the dashboard so a cushion might be worth fetching. I was given a look that said “don`t be so stupid” and she sat in the seat.

 

She agreed it was lower than before. How low ? Well, if your passenger can put their palm on the roof with their arm straight whilst sitting in the car, you know it`s pretty low 

 

I`ve been running Pilot Sport Cups for 6 years but they no longer make them in 205/50R15 and these were the last useable set I had left. I can safely say after running them all day they are worn out now.  It also explains why I was getting more tyre squeal on the last few laps of the day.

Saw Jochen and JW and had a chat. I hadn`t seen JW for several years and he`d said he hoped to pop along to the day. Usually I get home and then remember I hadn`t spoken to someone I planned to and it was nice to be able to speak to him this trip.

 

Alex was the one who I`d got the MS2 CPU from and I was keen to show him how the car was performing. After explaining the lack of boost we went out for a couple of laps. I had promised him a lap well before the trip and was disappointed that I hadn`t taken him out with full boost as he`s looking at using Megasquirt to control a track car himself so was interested in the fuel and boost control. Even with the issues he could still see how stable the AFR was and how the car drove.

 

We had a laugh about how tricky the Hans device can be to unplug from the helmet if you aren`t used to it

 

19 laps completed. Always a great sign when you can drive the car onto the trailer at the end of the day,

 

The Lindenhoff was not serving food on a Tuesday so went to Pistenklause instead. I haven`t been for several years so didn`t mind going and it wasn`t bad at all. Some of the stones have seen better days though. You`d think with the money they charge they could buy some new ones..

 

I can`t drive the Golf on the road so this pic with it on the trailer will have to do 

 

Called in the Lindenhof after meal to drop some stuff off for Anne and ended up having a beer as Andy C was there. Great way to finish off the day and we spent longer than expected discussing cars, laps and life in general 

 

 

Met up with Josh and Stefan on the Ferry and had a drink whilst discussing the Trackday. Josh has done TF until now but like many he came away realising that you can get some very high quality lapping done on a trackday that it`s very hard to do on a weekend. That seems to be a theme that many people doing their first trackday on the Nürburgring comment on. It isn`t necessarily the number of laps you do in a day but the quality of the once you do.

 

After the quickest disembarkation from the Ferry we`ve ever had and a traffic free drive we arrived home at 09:00 ! Golf unloaded an hour later, wheels removed and everything checked over. Apart from the wastegate needing the arm rewelding and the alignment tweaking there wasn`t anything else I had to do  

Overall this was yet another great trip to Germany and trackday on the Nürburgring. Doing these events with friends always makes them more enjoyable and meeting people for the first time who I`d only spoken to online just adds to the positive vibe on the day.

Last year the trigger wheel failure at Spa meant I didn`t do a single lap on this Circuit Days Trackday 12 months ago. I certainly made up for that this trip with some thoroughly enjoyable lapping on a very quiet Nürburgring.

 

Several people I spoke to had such a good trackday that they are already planning on booking the next Circuit Days Nürburgring trackday on the 16th October  All being well I`ll be there in the Pinderwagen too