Ringmeisters Prime 2019 Nurburgring Trackday

I have never been more prepared and confident heading across to the Ring for a trackday. I always set off with the Golf working but I’ve had a few annoying failures that need fixing whilst I’m in Germany. This time I was able to spend a bit of time tidying it up as there was nothing mechanical that needed doing. New splitter and bumper tidied up the front end nicely. It’s almost looking presentable !  Loading the car up feeling happy with the preparation you’ve put into the car and it’s readiness for the upcoming event is a great feeling and something I hope continues to be the case.

I`ve kept chipping away at the issues and not only fixing them but doing my best to engineer them out so they don’t fail again. The biggest concern now are the CV joints but the last session on the dyno and the boost-by-gear settings on the ECU should reduce the chances of those failing.

The last problem that kept niggling away was oil surge. Since I fitted the 17″ slicks I found the extra sidewall stiffness gave me a really nice and sharp turn in but that caused the oil to slosh around too much in the sump causing low oil pressure. I fitted an accusump and when I remembered to turn it on, it made a huge difference at Bedford the other week 

 

Loading up onto the trailer is easy with the new tilt bed.

Cat’s boyfriend Matt came with us to Spa last year but this was to be his first ever trip to the Nürburgring and he was pretty excited. (I’ll call him MattC for the rest of this report, it saves confusion between him and my son Matt )

As usual we took the Hull to Rotterdam overnight ferry but this time they upgraded us to a Club cabin. Very nice it was too with a comfy double bed and more room to move around in. Same bathroom and I`m not sure that I’d pay the upgrade cost if there were just 2 of us.

 

The included mini bar was a nice surprise.

 

The Brasserie was fully booked so we ordered Pizza from Starbucks instead as we didn’t fancy the buffet. They actually weren’t bad at all. 

 

The drive down to Nurburg was trouble free with only a single stop along the way for food. I’ve posted enough photos of driving across Europe in the last few years, you don’t need to see anymore this time 

 

 

We’d arrived a day earlier than usual and MattC was keen to see the circuit so for the first time in years we went and watched some Touristenfahrten. Pflanzgarten first then round to Brunchen 1 & 2. Then the track closed so we drove down to Adenau to watch Bredischeid and walk up to Weirseifen.

 

The accident that had caused the closure was bad enough that the track never reopened for the rest of the evening so after a few photos we headed back to the guesthouse.

 

As it was the Truck GP a lot of the restaurants were full but we’d called in to the Il Cavallino earlier and booked a table. What a disappointing meal that turned out to be . Not only did it take them 30 minutes to bring the beer, but when the food finally arrived another 45 minutes later they’d completely forgotten MattC’s meal ! They were full, I get that but the service was particularly bad and the food average at best. A shame as we’d been before and had a good meal but I definitely won’t be rushing back.

 

Sunday morning and we decided to do a bit more spectating, after a failed attempt to get to the Karussel and being shouted at by the Mayors wife in Herschbroich, we parked up and walked to the Mini Karussel and Schwalbenschwantz.

When watching TF it’s immediately apparent from their lines who has done a lot of laps and who hasn’t.

 

Then it was time to set up ready for the signing on and briefing. Darren had moved to the E-Sports bar opposite the huge Nürburgring sign. This was the first time we’d been based here but it worked really well, the large carpark meant the problems of parking we sometimes experience simply weren’t an issue.

 

Darren explaining about the one-to-one briefings we give to drivers on these days. No mass briefing as on the DN events, just a quiet talk to every driver when they sign on. It works really well and the drivers feel more comfortable asking questions they wouldn’t in a room with 100 people.

 

It worked out that the ladies did the paperwork and the men did the briefing. Nothing sexist about it, that’s just how it worked this time !

 

By 18:00 everyone had been signed on and we then cleared everything away ready for the private track walk. MattC was very keen to see the circuit and this was a perfect opportunity so Cat and he booked on. The coach left from the Sports bar for the tour. I’ve walked the track quite a few times now so the rest of us didn’t go.

 

The coach stopped at several places where they disembarked, had a beer if they wanted one and had the corner, lines and braking points explained in great detail by the Andy, the Nürburgring instructor.

Every person I spoke to afterwards said how informative it was and they highly recommended it.

 

 

The problem was the guide was TOO good. He spent absolutely ages at each point and the 1 hour trip took 2 hours. That’s fine for those on the trip but less so for the rest of us waiting to go and have something to eat.  They finally arrived back and we drove down to the Comfy Corner for a meal along with Alex, Rich, Nicola, Ant & Rich. Jörg messaged me a couple of times as he was finishing up in the kitchen and we were the last table booked but as it worked out we made it in time and had a very enjoyable evening.  

 

MONDAY

The alarm actually woke me up for a change. I was still very excited but due to the extensive preparation I felt relaxed and comfortable about the upcoming trackday. As I’ve said earlier, I have never been more confident about a Ring trip and I guess this is why I was so calm.

 

I look at old photos of it on 15″ wheels and they seem so small in comparison to the current 17`s.

 

I’ve reached that point now where it’s pretty much finished cosmetically. Sure, given chance I’d like to give it a respray or a wrap to smarten it up but that’s highly unlikely, I just don’t have the spare time.

 

It’s only when I look back at the photos I see all the rubber on the rear bumper and realise I forgot to clean it off. 

 

The car park was starting to fill up but there seemed a general lack of urgency from all the drivers. People were going about their checks and prep whilst chatting to each other and wandering around. The weather forecast was for 2 hot sunny days with no cloud, the wets were definitely staying on the trailer.

 

 

The Porsche GT3’s seem to be more and more prevalent on these days. Better to see them being driven as intended rather than sat in someones garage.

 

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many on a trackday before.

 

Then it was time for the first lap of the trip. Matt was in the passenger seat as usual. It usually ends up this way as he’s as aware of the usual noises the car makes and between us we keen an eye on the gauges and listen for anything untoward.

It felt great, no it was better than that, it felt flippin fantastic  I’m struggling to articulate exactly why, nothing major has been done but perhaps it’s just everything that had always been on my list of things I’d like to do was finished. Suspension was recently serviced, any bushes that were showing signs of wear were replaced and then it had been aligned. The new turbo was fitted, mapped and pulled cleanly to the redline. The brakes were still something I knew I wasn’t getting the most out of and my aim for this trip was to focus on them and start leaning on them a bit more.

 

By Schwedenkreuz I noticed something was amiss, but Adenauer Forst we both knew something was seriously wrong. 

The water temp was almost 100°C and this was on the sighting lap. Even on hot a day the water temp rarely moves above 86°C, very rarely does it reach 90 so 100 was serious cause for concern.

 

After cruising the rest of the lap and seeing the temps drop to 90°C we checked the water levels, bled the system incase it had an airlock and went out again.

By now all that enthusiasm and optimism was starting to fade and being replaced with a horrible sinking feeling.

Next lap and with Matt keeping a very close eye on the gauges he again reported water temps were rising and even cruising in 6th were still over 90°C. What on earth is going on !!?? 

 

After draining the entire coolant system, refilling with bottles taken from the recycling bins and filled in the washroom sink we jacked the car up at the front to ensure zero airlocks when refilling and then we left it idling where the temperature seemed to hold at 82°C. 

By now, we were both thinking the same thing but not saying it out loud. Head gasket. I asked Matt if he wanted to drive a lap. He was somewhat reluctant to do so but as I explained, if it was broken it wasn’t going to matter who drove and at least he’d get to drive one lap and see how it felt. His only complaint was the steering wheel being too high. It’s perfect for me but he always mentions it. Since this trip I’ve lowered it 15mm and he’s now satisfied with the placement. 

Apart from that he really enjoyed it and even though the temperature issue wasn’t fixed and he didn’t press on, he still drove a lap…

 

After seeing exactly the same results of rising water temperature on part throttle it was time to start getting serious. We were talking to Russ and he asked what the issue was, I explained that as Bedford was so good, I hadn’t done anything mechanical to the car at all ! I’d actually spent time doing some cosmetic work, tidying the front end up with new splitter airdam and bumper. He wondered if the hole I had in the middle of the old bumper was actually more efficient than I realised. As it was the only thing I’d changed, was it worth cutting the hole in it again. ?

This is where I slipped up. What I SHOULD have done was remove the bumper and do a Lap but instead I attacked it with an angle grinder and drill and hacked a hole in it instead  It’s always easy to say these things afterwards but I didn’t take that extra few minutes to step back and think about this not being the solution. I agreed with Russ, it made sense so why the temperatures were spiking so quickly, so why wouldn’t I cut a hole in the nice new, freshly painted bumper….

 

Out again and it was only marginally better. Still into the high 90’s and I was getting annoyed. Very annoyed indeed. 

 

Cat hadn’t even been on track yet and Paul very kindly took her out for a lap in the Porsche. She thinks they are fantastic cars anyway so this wasn’t exactly a hardship for her 

 

Matt and I discussed it and the only thing left that we could work on was the thermostat and water pump. I had a spare pump but with everything being so hot and the pump being tucked away it was going to take a while to replace. The thermostat was a much easier part to remove so coolant drained yet again and thermostat taken out.

 

It was either fixed or it wasn’t but MattC had been patiently waiting for his first lap of the Ring and by 11am was obviously anxious to get out on circuit. Whilst I’d been fixing the Golf Paul took him out in the Porsche which as it turned out was a very good idea.

Now it was time for his lap in the Golf. By the time we reached the end of Hatzenbach and the water temp was only 78°C and I knew we’d fixed the problem . You simply can’t imagine just how relieved I was when I saw those temperatures sitting at 78 and not moving !. I went from thinking it could be a head gasket failing and the possibility of no lapping to the car being 100% healthy and ready to lap.

A failed thermostat that was absolutely fine when I parked it up after Bedford is certainly a new one on me. I still have no idea why it failed. Apparently the wax inside them can leak out and there is nothing to expand when the water heats up. It isn’t something I’ve experienced before but right now I didn’t care. It was going on midday and I had lost 3 hours or tracktime.

Time to press on.

 

I always ask my passengers how they are feeling at various points during the lap and hearing MattC say “Not good” at Adenauer Forst was surprising.

By Metzgesfeld it was “I’m not doing well…

 

I pulled over behind the armco just after Kallenhard where MattC became my first ever passenger in all my 2,000+ laps to throw up.   I told the marshall there was no problem with the car, no fluids on track and I didn’t need recovery, we were just waiting until my passenger felt well enough to continue. As we were behind the armco and safety fence that was acceptable and after a 5 minute wait he was OK to continue at reduced pace.

He’s been in the car with me quite a few times now and I don’t know if it was the bumps, the heat inside the cabin or just the nerves and excitement. I suspect it was a bit of all of them.

That’s why I said it was fortunate Paul took him out for his first ever lap. It was bad enough him being sick, but it would have been a memory he wouldn’t cherish if his first ever lap of the Nürburgring caused him to throw up. As it was, that was his second lap instead.

 

The rest of the lap saw me being as smooth as possible, keeping out of the way of other cars and getting MattC back without being ill. The bonus was the water temps were rock solid and never went over 77°C

 

Whilst MattC had a cold drink it was time for me to check the oil, tyre pressures and then take Cat out for a lap. You may have noticed there is no footage of my laps, the front camera packed in for some reason and I have no front-facing footage.

 

First lap out and I could really press on and wow, it felt absolutely fantastic . 

 

My steering wheel mounted button to disengage the boost solenoid means I can roll my thumb, press the button and run minimum boost for 3rd gear corners, bad bumps or kerbs that I know punish the CV’s. It is something I don’t even think about now but it should make a massive improvement to the CV joint life expectancy.

 

As we finished the lap I told Cat we’d do another, my first flying lap of the trip. After the bridge and the GPS recorded a new VMax of 163.65MPH. That’s only 1mph faster than last year but I hadn’t run high boost for most of the straight. That next milestone of 165MPH is definitely achievable, I suspect 170 less so.

 

Just as I turned into Schwedenkreuz, the low oil pressure warning lit up the dashboard. For a fraction of a second I considered lifting off the throttle, but that’s not a corner I want to do that. I kept the throttle applied and as SOON as it started straightening up I lifted off and braked. 

Was I lucky ? Had I got away with it ? By the time we reached Metzgesfeld and the oil temp had risen from 105 to 135 degrees I knew I’d spun a bearing and it was all over.  Those 1.5 seconds with the oil pressure at 0.04Bar and full throttle was enough to do the damage.

 

Car recovered back to the carpark and I`ll be quite honest, I was devastated.

Yeah, I’ve had issues in the past and admit to being grumpy for a while but I have never felt as low as I did this time. I’d fitted an accusump to stop exactly this failure, but here we were, the engine was knocking something shocking and the car wasn’t going anywhere. 

This isn’t a UK trackday at Cadwell, this is a trip across Europe with several days accommodation to take part in one of the best Nürburgring trackdays I’ve ever attended. These prime days are expensive but boy oh boy are they good. That’s what made this so much worse, I knew just what I was missing out on.

Usually, even when I’m fed up I can put a smile on my face and carry on. Give me half an hour to feel sorry for myself and I’m fine, I understand that pushing a car way past it’s design envelope can cause issues and although I’ve done my best to engineer them out I know they are part and parcel of this build.

What I simply couldn’t understand was why it had failed so catastrophically. 

Everyone tried to cheer me up but I just knew I wasn’t in the mood. I was putting a downer on the day and even though Russ tried his best to cheer me up, it wasn’t working. I explained to Lou I just needed some time alone.

I went back to the room, switched off my phone and sat staring at the wall for 2 hours. 

I was that upset.

Now you either get that or you don’t. If you are thinking ‘It’s only a car !!, it can be fixed, pull yourself together and stop moaning‘, then nothing I can say will change your mind, but if you have read my previous reports or only this one and have understood what I’ve been explaining, you may get an idea why I was so fed up.  I can’t recall driving to Germany feeling as positive about the car and preparation as I did this trip, the previous day at Bedford had been a complete success and I genuinely felt that maybe, just maybe the car was where I wanted it to be. That’s what made this so hard to take.

 

So, the question you are asking is. Why did it fail. ? 

There’s a long answer and a very very short one.

Short answer. Not enough oil in the engine.

Long answer (excuse). I fitted an accusump before Bedford as the ECU datalogs were showing the oil pressure was dropping under hard cornering. An Accusump is basically a 2 litre reservoir of oil that is connected to the engine oil supply and when it detects the oil pressure is dropping, it forces oil from the reservoir into the engine to protect it from damage. When the pressure recovers it refills the accusump, storing the 2lt ready for when they are needed. This process is all automatic.

The problem is, when you stop the engine, the accusump sees a low oil pressure and discharges itself into the engine to try and protect it. It doesn’t realise you’ve switched it off. That’s fine apart from the fact that when you check the oil level the sump now has an extra 2 litres in it. The accusump has a valve on it that you should close BEFORE switching the engine off, trapping the 2 litres in, allowing you to then check the oil level as usual.

What I hadn’t done since early morning at Bedford was shut the valve before checking the oil level, so when I thought the level was a bit on the high side before this trip, it wasnt. When I stripped the engine to diagnose the failure, I drained the oil and measured the volume. I was 2 litres short of what was needed. That’s when I realised I’d been checking the oil level without isolating the accusump first. It’s such a stupid mistake to make and with all the issues with the thermostat and unfamiliarity of the accusump system, I simply never thought to shut the valve before checking the oil level.

I spoke to Canton who make the accusump and they confirmed that the low oil level meant the accusump couldn’t fill itself. What would happen was the accusump would fill, leaving less oil in the sump which would then cause a low pressure, discharging the accusump and then refilling. This process was completely invisible to me and I had no idea it was happening. There is no fault with the Assusump itself, this was all my fault.

 

Since this failure I’ve swapped the manual valve for the electric solenoid version they offer and have connected it to the ECU, ensuring it automatically maintains the 2lt of oil when the engine is off with zero user intervention. I’m putting together a long post about how the accusump works and what I’ve done to optimise it in my setup which will clearly explain what I’ve written above.

 

I ventured out of the room and down to the carpark late afternoon and arranged to go to Pinocchio’s for a Pizza. Alex, Rich and Nicola joined us and I did  my best to put the failure behind me and get on with enjoying the trip.

 

I was at the Ring. That in itself is something that only happens a few times a year and I needed to make the most of it.

I’ve travelled here for a 2 day Nürburgring Prime trackday. The weather forecast was to be in the 30’s tomorrow and I was here with my family. Just standing in the carpark and sulking wasn’t an option so I dropped AndyC a message asking if he knew of any cars available for rent. He put me onto someone but also said that if I wanted, I could drive his Clio for a few laps. Not to spend all day thrashing it round, but just to makes sure I got some laps in. After thanking him profusely for the offer, he even washed it for me !

 

I called it a night and had a pretty broken sleep, I struggled to sleep and laid there thinking about what had gone wrong (at the time I still didn’t know), you know what it’s like when you need to sleep but your brain won’t switch off. I obviously fell asleep at some point and was awake before the alarm on Tuesday morning…

 

TUESDAY

The main rental was a Ringfreaks E36. Ray, who I’ve known for years sorted me out with a very good deal and asked for my honest thoughts about the car at the end of the day in return. It was on AD08R`s, decent pads and didn’t have a great deal of power compared to what I’m used to. People seem to think I don’t drive RWD, that’s not the case at all. I have driven RWD on the road and on trackdays but most of my laps have been in the FWD Golf.

Oh, and it was Left hand drive. 

 

Driving it back to the carpark was a good opportunity to get comfortable with the controls and driving on the wrong side.

Matt came out for my first lap in the E36, suffice to say it was steady. It was well setup up, the handling felt very neutral but this wasn’t a trip to be daft and push on from lap 1. Lets take some time and build up to it. I already have a Golf engine to rebuild when I get home, paying for a bent E36 was not on the cards.

 

By the time we reached Brunchen the rear tyres were overheating and the rear was quite mobile. Both Matt and I agreed it would be sensible to do single laps rather than back to back as the tyres were struggling and it gave me an opportunity to have a cool drink between laps. The ambient temperature was in the 30’s and the track temp 56 degrees !

 

After parking the E36 up to cool down we went out in the Clio. Now that was a very different thing indeed. I finally understand what people keep talking about when they mention Clio’s having a mobile back end. Even when braking hard, you can still feel the rear wanting to move around requiring small steering corrections. After being so used to the Golf which I’ve setup to be extremely stable and confidence inspiring this was a rather different proposition.

 

Clare brought out some snack for those manning the barrier and checking wrist bands.

 

Russ took Cat out for a lap which she loved. We’d spoken at sign on and were planning to do a load of close laps with each other but obviously that didn’t happen this trip.

 

 

The team.  The Gazebo was an necessity this trip, the sun was beating down and the shade offered was welcome by everyone.

 

Nick still pounding round in his Porsche. I forgot how many miles it’s done on track now, but I know it’s a LOT.

 

 

Neil was out with his supercharged MX5 and asked if I fancied going out for a couple of laps with him and he was happy for me to offer any pointers. Lee followed in the GT3. As usual with a well setup MX5, the lap was very enjoyable although I suggested a couple of lines Neil could take differently and where I felt he wasn’t using all the circuit.

 

He asked if I wanted a drive but I was quite happy to have sat in the passenger seat for the laps. If you haven’t been on track in a well driven MX5, you really don’t know what you are missing, their reputation of a well handling car with good feedback is well deserved. Adding the supercharger makes it even better IMO.

 

Cat had spoken to the driver of this Aston and was delighted when he took her out for a passenger lap.

 

Apparently, it was rather good..thumbs.gif

 

MattC then went out with him and kept explaining how glorious the engine sounded. He enjoyed the lap but the noise was the thing he mentioned the most afterwards.

 

Time for me to lap in the E36 again and I asked Neil if he wanted to jump in so I could show him some of the lines I was trying to explain when he was driving. Neither of us had realised until we reached Hatzenbach, but the fact he was sitting on the right, where he’d sit as a driver made it far more useful than expected. Where I was saying he wasn’t using the full width of the track, I could take my line and he could actually see what it would look like from his drivers seat. He found it extremely useful to fine tune a couple of corners he wanted to improve, but overall he’s almost there anyway.

 

 

After an icecream to cool down it was Cat’s turn in the E36. As you can see from the photo, it’s a full caged car with decent seats and harnesses. I’d recommend it without hesitation to anyone wanting to hire something RWD. Whilst they have more powerful cars available this was quick enough to have plenty of fun. I wasn’t bothered by the fact my laptimes were nowhere near what the car is capable of when driven by the usual drivers during the races it competes in, that simply wasn’t the aim of the day.

 

Lou and Cat manned the barrier checking wristbands and helmets as the drivers went out. As always, everyone was greeted with a big smile and a wave. By the end of the day, most drivers were waving back with a grin on their faces too. 

 

Green Porsche GT3 RS`s.  If you saw one on the road at home it would stand out, here you start comparing which colour wheel or decal you prefer to fine tune it to your liking.

 

There had been no stoppages yesterday and none today which meant the Devils Diner was pretty quiet. If there is a red flag, most people go for something to eat but when the track is open it’s easy to get a seat whilst you have a cool drink and chat about the cars. Andy and I discussed the Golf failure and what we thought had happened (at this point I didn’t know) and he also offered some suggestions on how to drive the Clio differently as he knows my style wouldn’t naturally go with the more mobile Clio. As I’ve said many times, I can drive a car when it’s moving around under me but through choice, I prefer something that’s more stable and forgiving.

 

I took MattC out for a lap. I made sure I was smooth and avoided any kerbs or harsh steering inputs. He made it round without feeling ill which we both agreed was an improvement on the Golf lap 

 

Matt hadn’t been out in the Clio but had heard me talking with Andy about how it handled.

 

I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to take my son and daughter out on circuit with me to not only share my hobby with them, but to have them wanting to go out. They don’t have to come on these trips but they enjoy them as much as I do and it’s a genuine pleasure to share these experiences with them.

 

Then came a question that I get asked a lot “Nige, do you fancy taking my car out for a lap ?”

Usually, the answer is a polite no thanks. The upside for me is very limited, sure I get to drive someones car and show them the lines but the downside of coming across someone elses accident has the possibility of things turning unpleasant very quickly.

When Lee asked if I wanted to drive his GT3 RS for a lap my instant answer was ‘thanks but no thanks’. He asked why and I explained that even though they are lovely cars, I just couldn’t risk something going wrong. We had quite a chat about what could happen and the consequences and I eventually agreed to take it for a lap.

I wasn’t being ungrateful, it’s an offer not many people would dream of making and I fully understood the trust Lee was placing in me. I’ve never driven a Porsche of any kind, never mind a rear engined 991 Gen 2 GT3 RS 

 

As we pulled up to the barrier and Lou saw it was me, I didn’t get the customary smile and wave. This time it was a look that said  ‘REALLY ???’ 

 

As you’ll see from the video, we’re talking most of the way round and I was driving WELL within my capabilities. Any areas that I knew could unsettle a car were taking with a small lift rather than keeping it pinned. The geo setup from manthey makes the front end incredibly responsive and it caught me out a few times. I lifted on the way to Schwedenkreuz as we hit 155mph. Not because it was fast but because the steering felt razor sharp and I was used to more definite inputs being required. This lap was about the experience for which I am incredibly grateful to Lee for his generosity.

At the end of the lap he asked if I wanted to do another. I immediately replied no. I knew that if I went again I would push that bit harder as I had a better feeling of how the steering responded and how good the brakes were. That way lies big accidents and massive repair costs so I declined. 

 

Sitting here trying to put into words my thoughts about driving the car and the main thing I remember is that it was actually easy to drive. As I’ve never driven a Porsche before and have heard all sorts of horror stories about the rear engine and the weight hung out behind the rear axle, I approached it with quite a bit of trepidation. On a wet day I accept it would be a completely different proposition but I wouldn’t have driven it if the conditions weren’t perfect anyway.

The engine noise really is spectacular. That howl is something else and even though Lee said I could rev it to 9k, I short shifted at just under 8,000rpm and it still sounded glorious. The steering is incredibly responsive but at high speed it becomes too sensitive compared to what I’m used to. The brakes are simply incredible, the pedal feedback was spot on and after the first test, I felt utter confidence in them.

Whilst they are astonishingly competent cars, I’ve never really felt the attraction of a GT3. Seems a flippant comment and it isn’t meant to be. I ‘get’ that you can drive them lap after lap and they take the abuse and drive home at the end of the day. They’ve just never been an aspirational car for me, I don’t really know why.

 

What I did ask was if Lee would take me out and drive it quickly. Initially he overdrove a bit, I suspect he was trying to show me just how good it was but after a few corners he returned to his usual pace and showed just how little of the cars performance I was actually using.

 

Last lap of the day was taking AndyC out in the E36. It’s the first time he’s seen me drive anything apart from the Golf or that cruising lap in the X5 last summer. As usual, we spent the lap discussing the positives and minor complaints about the car and my driving throughout the lap 

 

There was time for one final lap and this time it was Andy driving the Clio. He showed me just how steady I’d been taking it and how much the rear can be made to move around with only a tiny bit of provocation. Andy is usually in the passenger seat and when he drives the Golf he’s understandably cautions. HE was driving the Clio with much more confidence and skill. It was a pleasure to sit there and watch him drive.

The day was winding down now and once again we had 2 days with zero stoppages or red flags.

It was time to start loading up the tables and packs into the van.

 

Finally ! Some proper signs to remind people to hand in their transponders

 

When Darren returned the transponders the staff insisted they all have a ‘shot’ to celebrate yet another great Destination Nurburgring trackday.

 

You’ll note the guy at the right of the photos isn’t having one. He knows what comes next….

 

Oh yeah, they look very pleasant 

 

I mentioned Ray asked for honest feedback after I’d returned the E36. Overall I was very pleased with it, the handling is great, they are a nicely balanced chassis and the choice of springs means this is compliant enough not to be too much for renters. The built in camera system with speed overlay is a great touch, it means anyone can just jump in and drive without thinking about starting and stopping the camera. They are then sent a link to their incar footage a day later at no extra cost. 

I felt both seats were too upright and too high. I hit my helmet on the rollcage a few times simply because I couldn’t lower the seat. The brake pedal is too low, I found it impossible to Heal & Toe smoothly. As Soon as I mentioned it Ray replied ‘ yeah, we know, it’s on the list of jobs to do. The gearbox mounts may be worn, the gearlever moved around a lot during cornering, much more than Matt’s E36 track car.

My biggest complaint was something that caught Ray by surprise. The rear parcel shelf is painted silver like the rest of the car and on a sunny day like today the reflection into the rear screen was so bad I struggled to see behind me unless I used the wing mirrors. It’s an easy fix and something they plan to sort ASAP. If the worst complaint is the rear parcel shelf is too shiny, it says a lot about how good the car actually is 

We’ve been visiting the Nürburgring since 2005 and this couple have been working in the paddock since then. They always have a smile and take time to chat to us in a mixture of their broken English and my German. They finally retire this year and it will be odd not seeing their smiling faces when we pull into the carpark.

 

After a very positive day we ate at the Zur Nurburg, it was still very warm so we sat outside. You’ll note I’m smiling a lot more than I was last night.

It was a great evening and Jörg joined us for the meal and some beers. 

 

We had the next morning free before driving to Rotterdam for the return ferry. It didn’t take much deciding to pop down to the IceCafe for an icecream outside in the sunshine 

 

 

Then it was the drive back across Europe to the ferry. For some reason it went much quicker this time, no idea why. I reckon it was because I wanted to get the engine out and stripped tomorrow 

 

Arrived home the next morning, pushed the car into the garage and a couple of hours later the engine was out and stripped to see just how bad the damage was. As expected, it had spun a bearing, No4 this time, No1 is the usual one that goes first on these engines. The resulting friction between the conrod and crank had scored it quite badly

 

The conrod had obviously run without oil, the blue shows just how hot it ran.

 

The caps had wiped the crank, the bearing was in bits in the bottom of the sump. With this amount of damage a replacement conrod was the best option. The engine is used hard and it’s simply not worth trying to get this machined in the hope it’ll be alright.

 

I sourced a replacement conrod from a friend, I already had a crank on the shelf. That’s the good thing with these engines, I picked up a complete stock engine, with all ancilliaries for £100 some time ago. It’s stripped down and on the shelf ready for times just like this where I can grab the required part out of stock. It’s not even worth attempting to get the crank reground when the engines are so cheap.

 

The engine was rebuilt and since this trackday I’ve done a day at Brands GP, 2 days at the Ring and 1 day at Spa with zero engine or oil issues. 

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