Another report that ended up FAR longer than planned so grab a cuppa. Or 2….

After the disappointment at the Spa/Nurburgring trip, I was a little apprehensive on my way over to Germany for Destination-Nurburgring #14

Finished work on Tuesday, picked up the trailer and drove straight to Hull. An E46 M3 passed up on the M62. Ring sticker on the back, suitcase in the rear and the driver gave us a wave. He had to be going to DN. It was and we met Ian at the signing on the next day.

No issues getting onto the ferry and we went to the bar for a Beer

I`d mentioned on Pistonheads I was going on this Ferry and if anyone else was did they want to meet up for a beer on the way ? Craig & Ross suggested meeting in the bar down on the stage level so Matt and I wandered down and watched the world go by. About an hour later a couple of blokes wandered in and looked across at us.

“Er, are you Wh00sher from Pistonheads ?”
`Yeah, are you LaurasOtherHalf` ?

Yeah ! Hi !

We introduced ourselves and promptly forgot each others names then sat chatting for ages, Craig had JUST picked up his brand new Civic Type R and had driven straight to the Ferry. That`s certainly one way to run it in. 

We sat nattering for a couple of hours until Ross mentioned time was getting on and shouldn`t we go through to eat. 

We were some of the last to arrive and by the time we were on desserts, we were the last 4 people in the restaurant. I took that as a great sign, conversation wasn`t awkward we had a lot in common already. Simply due to the fact we were going to the Ring for a trackday. I`ve always found that, even in TF, the fact someone has driven 100`s of miles across Europe to get to the ring means you`ve got SOMETHING in common with them and it`s extremely rare to find anyone who isn`t as enthusiastic to be there as I am.

Then things started getting choppy so I called it a night, I think it was around 11pm.

Slept really well and woke early as usual. A bite to eat and then we were called down to the cars. Sat there for half an hour, someone had either slept in or their car wouldn`t start, but we sat there not moving for ages. I had to try and keep a straight face, a woman stomped past dragging her husband behind. “Well how am I supposed to remember where you parked!!

5 minutes later, they pass going the other way then 10 minutes later, looking extremely cross they went past us again. She was seething. It was tempting to suggest making note of where they parked next time, but I thought better of it. She didn`t look like someone to mess with…

Drove off and the guys as Passport control asked what the deal was, there had been no vehicles for over 20 minutes. Sigh, why can`t these things be easy ?

A cracking drive into Germany although the weather was pretty grim in places

Matt fancied stretching out in the back. Telling me `how comfortable it was to be able to stretch out`. Yeah. Thanks for that…

I`d only been talking to Gurds about thermostat issues on these engines on the way to Hull and I think by pure coincidence mine failed on the journey over. There is no way after towing for 3 hours non stop across Europe, the water temp should be at 57 Degrees C ! I`ve already sorted the fix but it can`t have helped the engine or the economy.

Arrived at the Guesthouse, dropped our bags off and saw there was Snow on the roof from the day before. Eeek.

Now I`m a very optimistic person but looking out as we were unpacking and seeing fresh snow made me a touch nervous.

Unloaded the Golf to give it a wash, it had been cleaned before we set off, but towing through the torrential rain had covered it in debris. I`d just finished when it started snowing. The guesthouse we stayed at is about as close to the ring as you could possibly get !

Darren arrived at Rotek just as the snow started falling, I`m sure that`s not quite the weather he hoped to see in the Eiffel.

Arrived and started filling the participants envelopes with the required stickers, bands, transponder and other bits and pieces.

Yorkshire even warrants a specific mention on the Driver pack.

As always happens, people turn up early to sign on. I`m sure they are just excited as we are so I can`t really blame them. I`d met Phil Millington at the fuel station on the way over and had a brief chat and he seemed as eager to get there as I did..

Once there I saw the Milltek Fiesta that Dale races in the VLN parked in the corner.

Not something you see often !

The briefing started at 18:00 prompt and I had the unenviable job of turning people away once it had started. The whole point of the drivers briefing is for Darren to let the drivers know the rules of the event. For their safety and everyone elses. At the end of it the drivers are given a band to show they`ve attended the briefing which is needed before they are allowed on circuit.

It`s no good people turning up with 5 minutes to go, getting a briefing band without hearing the briefing. Unfortunately, that`s obvious now but when someone has just driven across Europe and traffic meant they missed the start, they don`t want to hear they will have to have another briefing in the morning. One chap was adamant the Briefing started at 18:30 and I was mistaken. As politely as I could I explained it was 18:00.

The last thing I want to do is upset people, they are there to enjoy the event not be told by me they have to come back tomorrow. I must mention that the chap who thought it was 18:30 came up to me the next morning and apologised, he`d gone back and seen it WAS 18:00. Fair play to him, many wouldn`t admit that and we had a laugh about it and shook hands with no hard feelings.

We drove to Koblenz for an Indian with Jorg, Karl and their families along with Darren. Being able to legally sit at 110, especially after towing at 60mph for several hours was a nice change.

Great company but appallingly poor service.

Arrived back later than expected, simply due to the slow service in the restaurant. The Golf was frozen over which was`t a good sign.

Trailered the Golf down to the carpark and unloaded it. Now you might be wondering, as I was, if it was possible to drive it down the 100 yards from the guesthouse to the carpark. Apparently this is absolutely verboten and if the local Police see you, it`s day over as your car is impounded. I did ask but was told in no uncertain terms by Karl and Dale that it simply is NOT worth the risk.

As I don`t have any heaters in the Golf, I parked it in the sun to defrost. !


People started arriving but it was blindingly obvious to everyone we wouldn`t be starting the sighting laps as planned. Had a good chat with Dennis who was kind enough to tell me not only did he enjoy these long trip reports but it had helped convince him to attend a trackday at the ring !

That gave those who`d arrive late last night time to sign on and have their briefing without worrying about missed tracktime.

The downside of the delayed start meant those who HAD signed on the night before in the hope of getting out straight away were disappointed. This is totally outside of our control and the decision to open is down to the circuit management. Darren was taken on 2 inspection laps and each time came back with the news that it was icy under the trees and if we opened, someone would bin it on the first lap.

Whilst everyone was itching to get on circuit, everyone I spoke to to explain was understanding and realised it was pointless opening early just to have it closed for an unspecified time due to a Red flag and someone crashing their Pride and Joy.

The sighting laps usually last an hour, but as the start was delayed, it was reduced to just over half an hour. As cars were going out, Matt, Roy, Michaela and myself stopped every car, just to remind them of the conditions and once the track did go live that it was overtaking on the LEFT ONLY.

As Roy stopped one car he pulled them over to the side and a passenger climbed out from the rear seats !!! If that was bad enough another car tried exactly the same 2 minutes later. They seemed genuinely confused as to why they couldn`t go out with rear seat passengers. We weren`t sure if they had done TF before so expected a trackday was the same.

Paul and I both had issues when we were out a couple of weeks ago but it was good to see the TVR was running again and we both hoped to have a trouble free day…

Phil`s TT really did look good in the flesh and drew many admiring glances.

These events are obviously popular with trackdayers but you also get race teams who can use it as a bit of a PR / Fun day. There is no stopwatch so they can take out passengers and enjoy driving with no pressure. It`s always great to see a full on race car on slicks go flying past when you thought you were going reasonably well yourself.

The flipside is people turning up is a pretty standard road car

Today was my Birthday and Claire had bought me a cake with a candle .Thank you.

Darren presented the 2nd briefing in the DD. As the circuit was still closed there wasn`t the usual “come on, get on with it, I want to drive” vibe in the room that you can sometimes get.

The car park marshall team. A mixture of some of the Nurburgring staff along with Roy, Simon and Kim. First thing and everyone was well wrapped up but as the day warmed up the extra layers could come off.

I don`t think it was quite Sunglasses weather just yet..

I asked a few people who`d done a lap what it was like and they explained it was really slippery in some places but ones you wouldn`t expect. Flugplatz was particularly bad. I thought it was about time I went out and had a look myself. The first lap was nice and steady and I was watching the gauges like a hawk but everything was where it should be. The AFR tweaks we`d done on the way over were almost there, just a few tiny adjustments left to do but I didn`t need to change much apart from a slight tweak to lean it off above 6,000rpm. I tend to run it richer at the top end but we`d added a little too much fuel, the very cold air temps always have a small effect so I`ve learned not to mess too much until it`s warmed up a bit.

I`ve been adjusting the boost delivery for several years now. Nothing major, just little tweaks here and there. What I have done is mapped a progressive boost delivery, so I bleed off lowdown boost to help with traction and then keep increasing it as the revs rise to give me a very linear feel which doesn`t taper off as I approach redline.

This makes driving much more like a Normally Aspirated car with the added bonus of reducing load on the CV`s and gearbox and lower revs when coming out of corners. I could easily add loads of boost from 3k to 5k, but I don`t want to. I already struggle for traction in 3rd out of corners and that`s with warm tyres on a dry track. I actually lowered the boost from 3,500 to 5,000rpm for this trip a little. I`d missed out on any driving on the last visit and even though it was fine at Blyton, I didn`t want the lost time of a broken CV so dropped it a little. It was only an issue out of slower 3rd gear corners, like AF, Weirseifen, Steilstrecke etc. Once up to speed it was absolutely fine. I`ve since reset the delivery to what it previously was. Some will say I need to have more confidence in my build but I just wanted to be absolutely sure it was fine this trip.

That`s a downside I`ve found since I converted to Turbo, the mid corner throttle adjustment is much harsher. As soon as you feather, it dumps the boost then has lag before it builds again. Not massive but noticeable after running ITB`s. I`ve found that if I get a little bit of wheelspin, it`s better to keep the throttle planted and let it scrabble for grip rather than lift, lose boost and then reaccelerate. The problem is that it obviously starts to overheat the tyres sooner. I suppose that`s what you have to live with when you have a homebuilt Turbo conversion running on an ECU designed 15 years ago…

No problems on the lap and the tyres were starting to warm up so I did another and Jochen snapped a rare photo of me without a passenger !

Popped into the carpark to check tyre pressures and as expected they were high. They`d been on the car overnight when ambient fell below freezing and after 2 laps were up round 40psi. Dropped them to 28 and went out again. 2 trouble free laps and a quick pressure drop from 34 to 29 and back out again.

Before I went out again for the last sighting lap, Matt jumped in. The circuit was due to go `live` at halfpast. That means that wherever you are on track, the sighting session ends and you can overtake. The ring is too long to run a normal UK style sighting session where everyone has to pit at the end of the sighting laps. I was following a Black E46 M3 and it was just after halfpast. I asked Matt to check “Yes, absolutely, it`s 10:32”. I indicated and passed him going up the hill. He was not happy, started flashing his headlights at me in dissaproval. I knew exactly why, he hadn`t realised the sighting session had ended. He tagged onto the back of me for the rest of the lap.

Back in the pits for a tyre pressure check and I went to find him to explain, last thing I wanted is him being upset about being overtaken during what he thought was a sighting lap.
“I need to let you know why I passed you”
`I don`t know what you mean.?`
“I was in the Blue Golf, I passed you when the sighting session ended, but you started flashing your lights at me. I suspect you think I`m a bit of a dick, but I wouldn`t overtake under the sighting laps!!”
`Yeah, I realised. Initially I thought, what`s this idiot doing so flashed you, then realised it was after half 10 so the circuit was live….`

All sorted and we carried on.

Out for another lap and it was starting to dry out

Caught this Porsche around Flugplatz, he`d been taking it steady at first but increased pace when I approached then we had a really good 2nd half to the lap although once he got going he obviously pulled away. I think he was less happy with it than I was as his mechanic took a long route to a bin in the carpark to have a look and see what tyres I was running after the lap. I don`t think he was particularly thrilled when he saw I was on Cups and he was on slicks. It was only the 3rd lap of the day so I didn`t see any reason for him to be worried. I`m sure once he was up to speed he`d leave me well behind anyway.

As it was dry everywhere and the Cups had overheated a little on the 3rd flying lap, Matt and I fitted the Slicks. I only run Hard compound slicks at the moment and I really need to look at Mediums, particularly on the rear as they just don`t get hot unless I`ve done several laps. Started with Cold pressure at 22psi. I drove carefully until I could feel the grip coming then pressed on a bit. 2 laps later and I had confidence in them and started pushing on.

Caught an RS4 driven by Jan at around 7:30 on this video.

Followed him until Dottinger Hohe and then he indicated over at 253KM/H GPS Speed and moved to the right to let me past. That was as quick as his Audi RS4 would go. The thing is, I had no more revs left ! I was in 5th, holding it at 7,150rpm (Limiter is 7,200) so just sat there once he`d moved over so he moved back across again.

It`s all pretty surreal if I`m honest. An RS4 moving over at 155mph because the MK2 Golf built in on a budget was sitting on his bumper. I saw the funny side of it anyway
He indicated as we passed the old pits and then followed for a fair bit. I hit some traffic at AF but until Bergwerk I had a really nice run. Tyres were getting a little warm but nothing too bad. The engine wasn`t missing a beat and I was relaxed. I think that`s a big thing when driving. I`d been pretty tense until then as I wasn`t sure how the engine would perform after the rebuild but it was spot on. I seem to repeat myself in these reports but I push on more with Matt as my passenger than anyone else. I always have that bit in reserve over how I know I can drive with any other passenger, but he`s been in with me so much that not only do I feel happier driving harder with him in the car, he knows if I don`t and will make a point of asking why I`m not driving `properly` if I slow down too much. It`s a poor state of affairs when you don`t want to drive slowly so your son won`t have a go at you…

On my video, as I pass the pits you can see an Orange Porsche coming through the cones to join the circuit (00:18) by the time I was entering Aremberg (02:17) I could see him in my mirror as he was going round Schwedenkreuz. The gap was very slowly shrinking but not enough for me to pull over.

As we are going up Kesselchen I see a White Porsche ahead and know I`ll need to lift to find a suitable place to pass so tucked behind him. I was about to move across when I saw the Orange GT3RS had a bit of a run and hadn`t had to lift so rather than lose his momentum as well as my own, I stayed right so he could pass then pulled out and followed him past.

The rest of the lap was a thoroughly enjoyable one. I couldn`t quite stay with him but he didn`t dissapear either. He caught some traffic at Brunchen which allowed me to close back up the couple of seconds gap he`d made. It evened itself out really, we both had traffic although I lost around 4 seconds up the hill which turned out to be a real shame….

As we came into the carpark, Matt commented it was a great lap and it was nice to see a new GT3RS driven so well. His lines were really neat and he was pressing on.

Was chatting to Darren and told him we`d had a cracking lap with the Orange 991 GT3RS
“You know who is driving that?”
`Nope, I have no idea`
“Chris Harris, he`s over here having some fun”
`Well that explains why it was driven so well then…`

Just to clarify after a few comments / messages I`ve had since posting this video

Let`s not pretend for a minute that in a proper race I`d be able to keep up with either this 991 or this driver. In no way am I suggesting that if Chris was really `on it` that I`d be able to keep up. It`s a new GT3RS driven by a proper driver for goodness sake ! This was a trackday and I happened to be able to stay within touch of Chris enjoying a lap at the ring on what was a cracking event.

To me that`s what trackdays and events like this are all about. Having fun on circuit with other drivers. The fact that one or the other COULD go quicker if they wanted is missing the point entirely.

The ring on these events is not about the laptime but the experiences you have on it and this was a great one that I certainly won`t forget in a hurry.

Spoke to Chris a little later in the day, his first response was “This thing goes rather well and took some catching”.

He had a nosey round the front of the Golf too. I like to think he was interested rather than laughing.

I`d done half a dozen laps, the slicks had been up at 40psi after the lap following Chris so I dropped them back to 28Hot and did another lap. Utterly trouble free and I was really relaxed and enjoying the perfect conditions by now.

Matt went for a wander and I had a spare passenger seat so Dino jumped in and out we went. He`s an editor at Speedhunters and I understand he`s been out in some pretty spectacular machinery but he wanted a lap with me so I was happy to oblige. Nothing makes me smile more than approaching T13 and seeing the Passenger give their harnesses an extra little `tug`

A GT2 caught us and I let him past then followed. There was another GT2 following me really close through Hatzenbach.

I`d just asked Dino if he was happy following closely and he replied he was. Some people don`t like it so I drop back a little if that`s the case. Move over the let the Black car past and then followed. By the time we reached Adenauer Forst I knew it wasn`t going to be a really quick lap so asked Dino if he was happy to follow or wanted me to pass. He was happy to follow closely as he loved seeing the GT2`s moving around on their suspension.

It was still a good lap and being in close formation with other drivers who obviously were happy to drive closely really helped. Ross in the Black car followed closer than even I would with a friend.

Back in the carpark and they wandered over. Andre was driving the white one and then Ross came across, he was absolutely buzzing
“That was BRILLIANT FUN !! I couldn`t believe this thing sat behind me ! Through the corners you were quicker but fortunately we had better traction and pulled away.”

I said I was surprised when he indicated going round Aremberg
“I didn`t indicate, I was just flapping about trying to stay ahead of you and caught the stalk by accident….”

THIS is what Ring laps are about. The enthusiasm of drivers after the lap talking about it in the carpark. Discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each car without excuses. I have far more experience than they do and my car isn`t worth anywhere near what theirs is, but it didn`t matter. At All.

Al Clark was next on the list. I took him out at Brands in December but he hasn`t been in the Golf at the ring since it has been Turboed.

Summing up the lap with “That was MEGA” at the end of the lap told me all I needed to know.

Next up was Ray who works as an instructor and driver trainer at the ring. I`d wanted to give him a lap on the previous trip but obviously couldn`t. He`d heard plenty about my Golf and wanted to experience it himself. I don`t feel particularly nervous when someone like Ray is next to me, but I do sometimes tense up a bit as I`m trying not to drive badly. This usually means I drive badly….

It turned out not only was it a good lap but Ray went through more facial expressions than most passengers I take out..

Apparently this means “Not bad…”

When I missed an Apex at started berating myself he burst out laughing

But by far the best reaction was this one.

Why ? Well he asked “Is this actually 4WD?”

`No, just FWD`

“But there is almost NO understeer at all! The car does just what it should do, it listens to the driver, it`s amazing that this thing goes so quick”

I think it`s fair to say he liked it.

Steve was waiting. He`s more used to instructing drifters but also knows his way around the Ring. I usually wait until we get to Adenauer Forst at ask if they are OK. As we exited Aremberg, he gave me the thumbs up, which I took as a good sign.

I was discussing that with him at the end of the lap, when he told me “If I don`t feel comfortable, I`ll tell you. I`ve had to tell some people by Hatzebach…But the speed was fine and I didn`t have a problem with it all. It was a fabulous lap, thank you very much”

We discussed taking out passengers and how I want people to get out with a smile on their face. “I can tell you do and I appreciate that you share your happiness like this”

This day was getting better and better. I hadn`t had a single issue and neither had Paul. He`d had a torrid trip a couple of weeks ago and both of us were hoping for a better DN.

Rich always enjoys a lap but when you look across and can see your passenger with a massive grin on his face after you`ve been following another car for quite some time, it gives me a really good feeling.

There is no way you can doubt he`s loving it !

Eric had mentioned at Spa that after a gearchange, the Turbo took a moment to spool I`d tweaked the acceleration enrichment and it was far better. The White trace is AFR and it goes lean for a fraction of a second after each gearchange which improves that initial spool. It`s something I would never have noticed myself, I was so used to how it felt and sometimes you need that 3rd party with no previous expectations or experience in the car to spot things I drive round or simply don`t realise.

I hadn`t seen much of Craig, he`d been on circuit when I was in the carpark but I did see him on track a couple of times as he was enjoying trouble free lapping.

The day was running so well that Darren agreed to have a rare passenger lap. I can`t recall the last time he came out with me and certainly not in the last couple of years. The smile didn`t leave his face for most of the lap.

Jochen was on hand to capture the moment.

A nice clean lap, not the quickest but fairly clear.

I`ve discussed this a few times. I am sure the Foxhole COULD be flat, I just see it as a poor Risk v Reward corner for a trackday lap. It`s straight into a braking zone so there is no huge gain. If it was leading onto a half mile straight then it`s a different matter but until then, I suspect I`ll stick to a lift, turn in then flat at around 140mph through there.

Going round Miss-Hit-Miss and if my passenger is over 70kg *(maybe 80 ?) then the jacking point on the nearside JUST grounds out. However the passenger can feel it through their feet. Darren wasn`t expecting it and his reaction shows his surprise and the noise.

A `Yeah, not bad` at the end of the lap was high praise indeed…

Matt reclaimed his passenger seat and we went out again. I caught this 911 after the Mini Karussel. I`ve spoken to the owner on several trips but when I chatted after this lap he said “No way were you passing me on a straight !”

He indicated across approaching T13 after we`d been going over 150 down DH. The Golf had other ideas… Matt`s reaction tells you something is amiss.

Turned right and heard a `pop` and it immediately understeered left. Matt initially thought it had lost a wheel, he felt the corner drop suddenly.

Parked up off the track and phoned it in.

After running so well it had let me down.

However a puncture is just one of those things, I`m not the only person who had a puncture and I certainly won`t be the last.

I still don`t know the cause. It was a sudden deflation as you can hear on the video and see on the sidewall yet I don`t recall hitting any debris.

What I do know is that if it had been 20 seconds earlier, it had the potential to have been a much larger `moment`.

I find it best not to dwell on `what might have been`. You`d never drive a lap if you thought like that. The recovery driver was able to exit by T13, which I`ve never used before and a spare wheel was quickly fitted.

Finished the day with a car that was 100% working. After the disappointment of 2 weeks ago I was rather satisfied with this ! Wandered round the carpark talking to people as they were packing up and the feedback was all positive. Dennis had thoroughly enjoyed himself and was already looking forward to reading a positive report. I hope you enjoy this one..

All loaded up, back for a quick shower and then up to the Lindenhoff for some great food, a beer or 2 and a catchup.

I was buzzing and to be honest didn`t need a beer at all but it tasted wonderful !. After buying beers Chris even pretended to listen to what I was rabbiting on about.

The Golf had performed brilliantly and it had been quicker than ever. All the tweaks I`ve been doing just keep mounting up and Matt had downloaded the data whilst I was getting changed. That`s right, I`d done a 7:34 lap and IF I hadn`t been held up going up Kesselchen, it would have been a 7:29. WTF ! Where on Earth did that come from !? All the work I`ve done has been incremental, no major `that will gain me xx seconds` improvements anywhere yet overall a significant improvement in time.

As a measure of improvement, which is what I use the Data is for, there is no single noticeable change just a few tenths here and there which all add up to several seconds.

Quite frankly it`s ridiculous. The data last year showed quick theoretical laps but nothing that quick. Matt and I spent a long time analysing it after we returned to the UK and it still amazes me that a Golf MK2 can go that quickly with me driving it.

We all had tales to tell of laps with no traffic, laps with quite a lot of traffic yet all of it was positive. The driving standards were top notch. Not a single complaint about overtaking on the right or people diving up the inside.

When we arrived on Wednesday the weather was not looking promising at all. Even first thing Thursday wasn`t much better with a frozen circuit and freezing temperature. Quite how we lucked into a day with almost perfect conditions and so much superb tracktime is something I`m incredibly thankful for !

I think we stayed nattering until almost midnight before calling it a night. The usual dull drive back through Belgium was a lot better this time after having such a great trip. Met up with Craig and Ross again on the Ferry and they`d have a trouble free DN too.

All in all, this was one of THE best Destination Nurburgring events I`ve ever been on. I can`t quite put my finger on why though. I`m not sure if it`s because of the lows of the previous trip and the apprehension before this one meant I appreciated a trouble free day more than usual or because I managed to take out so many people who all came back in with huge grins on their faces after some stonking laps. I`ve always said that FUN laps are what I remember more than Fast ones and just watching back some of the driver-cam footage showed me how ALL my passengers had a smile on their face. Thinking about it, knowing that not only did I have fun but so did everyone I took out is probably the reason why I enjoyed it so much.

Yet again this has ended up far FAR longer than I intended. I need to stop waffling on so much next time.

I can`t make DN15 but I`ll be back over for DN16 in September for what I hope is 2 days of back to back lapping.

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