I`ve been attending Nürburgring trackdays since 2013. I`ve noticed over the last couple of years that they are selling out quite quickly as word gets around of the the amount of quality tracktime available on a dedicated event. The fact they are much quieter than TF is something quite a lot of people don`t actually want and they prefer the incredible variety of cars you see during public lapping. As the Golf is no longer road legal that`s not an option to me anymore so I only drive on trackdays now.
I was keeping an eye on the Circuit Days website over the winter and I booked as soon as the event was launched. This turned out to be a good thing as it sold out in only 48 hours !
Seems like I`m not the only one who was missing their Nürburgring ‘fix’ over the winter !
I changed the ECU over the winter from Megasquirt to DTA and then had a dyno session to get it mapped. I did a charity trackday in the pouring rain at Silverstone in January and the next trackday was cut short with a simple but irritating fault I was unable to fix on the day. That wouldn`t usually be a big issue but over the winter I had the coilovers serviced and swapped the brakes to something larger and wanted to test them before driving across to Germany. Sadly that didn’t really happen so I loaded up confident the car was performing well but without the amount of testing I usually do.
I’d bought a replacement trailer, it’s a Bateson Tilt bed and I can’t believe just how easy it makes loading and unloading compared to before. Whilst unloading isn’t something you need to rush, the clearance of 20mm per side between the wheels and the side of the old trailer after I switched to 17″ meant I had to winch the car on and off to ensure I didn’t damage the alloys. Being able to drive straight on is far easier.
I’d fabricated an adjustable tyre rack but the forecast was so good I only took the slicks and Direzzas. The wets were staying at home.
Setting off on a Sunday afternoon meant no rushing across to Hull after everyone finished work, we could go an hour earlier and it makes the whole drive across far less stressful. The Hull to Rotterdam ferry only sails once per day so if you are late and miss it, that’s just tough. A snack of Krispy Kreme doughnuts helped pass the time.
The crossing was fairly quiet and we parked up downstairs, dropped the bags off and went into the bar for a drink.
All smiles, I was hoping the Golf behaved itself and I could keep the happy face for the rest of the trip.
Met up with Ryan from Darkside Developments. I last met him and Scott at a photoshoot for Autocar when I took the Golf and he was there with the drag Arosa. This time they were taking the CitiGo to the Nürburgring for the first time and he was pretty excited. Not that you can tell by his face here
We usually go to the Bistro for a meal but the new menu didn’t appeal to any of us so we went into the buffet instead. It was OK but nothing special. The quality of the food seemed to have gone downhill if I’m honest. Back into the bar for another drink and watched a bit of the entertainment but decided to call it a night around 11pm.
Disembarkation the next morning was pretty trouble free although I did feel quite embarrassed at one point. We were in the long queue to passport control when traffic started backing up onto the ferry so one of the guys in a fluorescent jacket waved me into a new queue. Basically the same as when you are at the supermarket and they open the till next to you. I could feel the evil stares from all the cars in the lane we passed as we drove to the passport booth.
The passport guard asked “Why did you drive down this empty lane and bypass that long queue ?” ‘The guy back there told me to, the cars were backing up onto the ferry, if you look behind me I’m not the only one’
“It seems a bit cheeky, but ok…”
We were off and on the motorway in record time.
The weather was absolutely glorious, we stopped a couple of times for a cool milkshake from a McDonalds en route as there was no rush to get there so we took our time.
You are wondering why on earth I’m posting a photo of a load of scaffolding. I took the photo for a friend, I’m often asked where I bought my 3m ramps. They are metal scaffold boards like the ones in this photo that I bought from a friend at a local scaffold company. They were dented and they couldn’t use them anymore but I straightened them out and they are perfect for strong, lightweight ramps.
Whilst I’m digressing, I also took a photo to show him how I strap the car down. The over-the-wheel method is what I’ve been using since I bought a trailer after it was explained that it’s the best way to ensure no damage to wheels or suspension. If only the new recovery people at the Nürburgring were as careful…
It was about time I took a photo of the Golf in front of the now iconic Nürburgring sign
As it was Easter weekend, the local Aral had run out of regular unleaded and only had super 102 remaining. As I run 102 when at the ring that’s not a problem. The car is mapped to run Shell V-Power but when I’m in Germany I tend to fill up with 102 simply for the added knock resistance it gives. In the scheme of things, a few extra quid on some fuel is’t going to make a big difference to the cost of the trip but the extra peace of mind is worth it.
After dropping the trailer off at the guesthouse and sitting in the sunshine with the family we stay with, it was time to sign on and have the compulsory drivers briefing. There is always a buzz in the room when people are waiting for it to start and it’s a great opportunity to catch up with people you haven’t seen since the last trip.
As we`ve done for many years we had a meal at the Comfy Corner in Adenau. Not only is it a great place to have a beer and a chat but the food is superb. I may be a little biased as I’ve known Jorg the owner for almost 14 years but I wouldn’t keep going back if it wasn’t good quality. Left around 22:00 for an early night ready for the trackday tomorrow.
Woke to clear skies and it was already warming up. After a quick breakfast we drove down to the carpark where I unloaded the Golf before it started filling up.
Stickers on the car and I was ready to go. Around now the butterflies start. I have absolutely no idea why this happens as the car is ready, the weather is dry and there is nothing to be worried about but until the track opens and I drive those first few corners I always feel apprehensive.
I had quite a few people asking about the brakes I’d fitted whilst we were waiting. They are 368mmx36mm floating discs, AP 6 pot calipers and Raysbestos ST45 pads. Basically the same setup as run by current BTCC cars apart from different calipers. I know this because the discs and pads are bought as part-worn from a BTCC team. They replace them after each race as optimum performance is reduced but for me on a trackday the performance is adequate to say the least
Then the track opened for the sighting laps.
Matt came out with me and we were keen to see how the changes to the circuit felt. Did a couple of pulls from low revs to redline on wastegate pressure and then on the most often used mid boost of 0.9Bar. I do this as it’s always useful to see that everything is OK and to get the datalog for future reference. If I find the fuelling is getting leaner I can look back at previous events and see if there is a problem developing such as a blocked filter. Everything seemed spot on and the new ratios in the gearbox felt ideally spaced. I’ve switched to a slightly taller 3rd which makes the RPM drops between 3-4-5-6 all very similar and makes it even easier to be in the right gear. The new 3rd will probably be a bit too tall for slow corners in the UK but I felt it a compromise worth making to aid CV life as 3rd was the gear I had issues with last year.
Then we switched on high boost as we approached Flugplatz. This peaks at 1.5Bar and is something I rarely use. During cornering it can overwhelm the fronts in 3rd or 4th but if I’m trying to keep up with someone with a lot of power or get past another car it’s really handy. It also adds another 40HP at the press of a button and that always makes me smile
As the revs hit 6,500 the car started running roughly. Matt and I just looked at each other in disbelief We genuinely thought something had broken and that was the day over before we’d even done a lap. I couldn’t tell you what the rest of the lap was like, I was on autopilot as we discussed what we thought could have gone wrong. Even on wastegate pressure the misfire was still there and it seemed to be getting worse.
Thoughts of a jerry can of fuel and a box of matches popped into my head around now
As we drove through the carpark people looked across as an obviously poorly sounding car drove past. I was not happy.
Rather than look at it in the ring carpark where I knew there would be the usual “What’s wrong with it?” questions we drove across to the overflow carpark where we could investigate in peace and quiet.
With the car on fast idle, the first thing was to unplug each injector one at a time. The revs should drop when it`s unplugged and then rise as it is reattached indicating that cylinder is working. Everything went well until we unplugged No4 where it made no difference.
Now we had narrowed it down it was either spark, fuel or the cylinder itself. If it had damaged a valve, broken a piston ring or piston that was the day over. We removed the spark plug and that looked OK but was coated in fuel which suggested the injector was working. We swapped the plugs between 3 and 4. Restarted the engine and unplugging the injector still showed cylinder 4 was the issue. Next up was the plug leads so they were swapped around between 2 and 4. Unplugged the injector on No4 and the engine note dropped ! Unplugging No2 and nothing happened.
We’d quickly identified it was just the plug lead that had failed. I don’t have the words to convey just how relieved we both were at this point.
I keep spare plug leads in my tools, swapped it out and the engine ran on all 4 cylinders again. What a relief but why oh why did the plug lead suddenly decide to fail ? This was most certainly not the relaxing start to the day I was looking for that’s for sure !
By now the circuit had gone green and it was time to start lapping. Straight out with Matt with the plan to do 2 laps, get the tyres nice and warm and then set the pressures.
Lap one and we went over the new Schwedenkreuz crest at speed. Oh wow, I don’t like that at all. The bump has gone but now it’s almost a 2 stage crest. Over the first one then the tarmac is flat and then the second drops away. Andy C likened it to a table-top which I completely agree with. Talking to other people and they didn’t feel that sensation at all so I’m not sure if it is a speed related feeling or something particular to the Golf. It’s better than the old crest but there is still a need to approach with caution.
The actual corner itself is much smoother and I was easily able to carry good speed from lap 1 although I did leave my braking a little late and ended up block shifting from 5th to 3rd, messing that up and missing the apex on Aremberg completely.
Kallenhard is so much smoother and the awful dip in the middle of the corner after is gone. Approach speed is the same but it feel easy now rather than the whole car being bounced sideways across the track.
Then it was round Miss-Hit-Miss and wow, the tarmac change on the exit it shocking. The car skipped left as we still had lock applied. Matt and I immediately commented how bad it was. After talking to Andy and trying various lines I found that taking a wider entry and making the corner into a Miss-Hit-Hit avoids the worst of the bump on exit. It means the whole corner is taken a little bit tighter but it had much less of a negative impact on the suspension. I can see people hitting that bump at speed in the damp and having a big moment there on the approach to Weirseifen
Lap 2 and just after the Karussel the boost vanished. We instantly said “Boost hose” as after carrying out work on the hoses I often find one pops off when it gets up to temperature if I don’t tighten it a bit more. Drove the rest of the lap and when stopped opened the bonnet, Matt looked whilst I revved the engine.
Oh, there are no loose hoses. OK, let’s be logical about this. Car on axles stands, in 3rd gear and left foot brake whilst applying some throttle. This spools the turbo to produce boost and allows Matt to look and identify the leak.
Nothing at all, it revved but made hardly any boost at all. No obvious leaks or splits on the hoses. Our next thought was the intercooler had possibly split, what else could it be ?
The only way was to make a pressure tester. We didn’t have one with us but found a can just slid in nicely to the intercooler outlet pipe
We then cut the end off a water bottle, pushed it into the turbo outlet hose and taped it in place. One DIY pressure tester ready to go.
I then blew into the bottle, the hope was we’d hear the leak and be able to fix it. Imagine my surprise when the can slowly blew out of the hose at the other end. Immediately proving the integrity of the hoses and intercooler.
By now we were starting to scratch our heads. Perhaps the turbo shaft has snapped? Easy enough to remove so we split the hotside and lifted it out.
Turbine in perfect condition and still connected to the shaft and compressor.. OK, now this is getting silly. What else could it be ? All I could think of was the external wastegate but surely that can’t be faulty..
Apparently, yes it can.
The valve head had snapped off the valve seat. This was certainly one of those ‘well, I’ve never seen that before’ moments. For info as I’m sure people will wonder, the EGT’s are mid 800’s in the collector, timing is not aggressive and fueling is a tiny bit on the rich side, certainly nothing that would contribute to damaging the genuine Tial wastegate in this way.
I had 2 options now, either drive all day with no boost or try and fix it. There really wasn’t a choice to be made, of course I’d try and fix it !
Spoke to Andy C and asked if he knew anyone with a welder I could borrow, he turned to Ignas who was stood next to him and asked if we could use his welder. No problem he said, but I’d need to give him a lift to the ringfreaks workshop.
Once there I split the 2 halves, then used a flapper wheel to clean the end of the shaft and get back to clean metal. I ground a small chamfer on the end to give us a bit more penetration.
I then pressed down on the shaft whilst he welded the stem to the head . By pressing it down I could ensure the valve head remained pressed square against the seat and didn’t move. If it twisted that would massively increase the load on one side and most likely cause a rapid repeat failure.
With the current turned up we were able to get great penetration and solid weld all the way around the valve.
At this point I have to say a huge thanks to Ignas at Ringfreaks they had cars out for rent as usual but took the time to help me out when I was stuck. On the way back he asked if I’d take out a couple of people for laps, I immediately agreed, it was the least I could do !
Back in the carpark the wastegate was reassembled and ready to fit. It`s at times like this I`m thankful of the thought I put into building the car, making all bolts, hoses and brackets accessible might not look as neat and take a bit longer but it saves a huge amount of time when repairing something like this on a trackday.
Since this failure and repair I`ve sourced a replacement wastegate.
By now it was after lunch, the time just ticks by when repairing something like this. Back out with Matt on the Slicks and put my foot down through the barriers. It made boost
With only a few hours left it was a case of going out and getting some laps in. We had already commented the car felt great but even then it was a surprise when I looked back at this data and saw I took the Foxhole completely flat for the first time since adding the Turbo. ! I used to be flat all the time when n/a but with the higher approach speeds I always had a small comfort lift after adding boost. It just felt easy this time and I never thought of lifting.
When discussing it at home it took a while to realise why until we started talking about passengers reaction to how the car felt, Andy C in particular commenting on the suspension. I’d had it rebuilt at the end of 2018 at Cornering Force and this was my first ring trip since. At the time I hadn’t appreciated just how worn the old coilovers were and quite how much of a difference getting them refreshed would make. As they wore over several years the change was gradual but after repairing them it was obvious just how bad they had become and how it had affected my confidence in the car.
Followed Frank in his M2 out of the carpark where he showed just how quick they are in a straight line. It was his first visit in the car which is why he moved out of the way at T13 and let me carry on at my pace.
This wasn`t a bad lap at all, the track conditions were perfect and even though there was a bit of traffic it wasn’t bad at all. I still spent much longer than usual looking at the gauges to see if anything looked suspect but there was nothing to be concerned about at all. What I did try to do was be smooth and calm. After losing tracktime from a failure it’s easy to get all worked up and then overdrive when you do get back on track and that’s something I’m aware of. A couple of laps back to back always helps get me back into the groove and I can safely say I was pretty pleased when I pulled into the carpark after lapping with no niggling issues at all.
On our lap we came across this NASCAR that was on the trackday
We caught him approaching Miss-Hit-Miss and had a heck of a moment when he locked up and spun across the track approaching weirseifen.
Stopping in time wasn’t the issue, it was the fact I was sat in the middle of the track in a heavy braking zone around a blind corner. Looking at the rear video afterwards I saw t the bloody marshall was just stood on the banking watching instead of waving the yellow flag ! I was pretty relieved when the car moved allowing us to get out of there.
Cat had been patiently waiting and getting laps with other people whilst Matt and I fixed then tested the car. She spent a lot of time just sitting in the sunshine watching the day go by with Anne, Jude and Lou.
I made a point to find her and take her out for a lap.
Heading out for a couple of laps with my daughter after taking my son out. I know not everyone is able to share their passion with their family in the way we do and I know how lucky I am that we all share the same hobby. It makes these trips more of a holiday than just a trackday for me. I’m pretty damned lucky to be able to drive trackdays on the Nürburgring several times a year AND share that with my wife and kids.
I`ve added more gauges than usual after a few requests to include more live engine data, in particular coolant, oil and post-intercooler temps. The DTA Fast S80 logs all data to the 4Gb storage built into the NT Digital Dash.
I’ve also started logging brake line pressure on the front brakes. It shows quite clearly what Matt, Andy and others have been saying for years, I simply don’t brake hard enough I mention it in almost all these reports but if you watch the laps above you’ll see I’m calm behind the wheel. I strive to be smooth and consistent but that means I can fall into the habit of always doing the same thing lap after lap. That results in decent laps but makes it harder to change those habits and brake that bit later and harder or get on the power that bit sooner. I do try and swapping to the 17’s actually helped as all my previous subconscious references for gears and engine revs has changed meaning I have to relearn everything and new habits.
Come on Nige, you’ve fitted these super new brakes and haven’t really talked about them.
I know, sorry about that but I had a bit going on earlier in the day
From talking to other people they all agreed these brakes need to be warm to work properly and they cool much quicker than my last ones. I removed the ducting for this trip, the ring isn’t hard on brakes and I didn’t expect heat to be and issue. That turned out to be the correct choice, whilst the brakes did get warm they never got too hot even when driving back to back laps. What I did struggle with a little was feel and feedback. I can brake hard but when I really pushed the pedal that feel at the limit of breaking adhesion was difficult to feel . Partly as the amount of pedal pressure is completely different to what I’m used to and partly down to the different characteristics of the new brakes.
It’s something I’m going to make a point to concentrate on when I go on my next trackday. Not only braking harder but adjusting the vac assistance to see what gives the best feedback.
I tried braking late on my lap with Andy later in the day and the huge cloud of smoke behind shows quite clearly just how bad the lockup was..
Ignas from ringfreaks came and asked if I could do him a favour, the Nascar that had spun in front of me earlier had pulled off at Breidscheid and was broken. The passenger had the van keys and they had no way of getting there to pick him up. Would I mind taking him to Adenau so he could bring back the driver and passenger. I was just about to take him when Cat suggested Lou drive them down and I could keep lapping. I thought that was a splendid idea so Lou took them to Adenau whilst I continued lapping
Took Matt for another lap where we started stringing together some decent sections of the circuit. With no car problems to worry about we were able to concentrate on lines and adjust the damper settings between laps to optimise the handling
Matts friend Emily who lives local to us but works at Jaguar was across for her first trip with a group of friends who were also driving. He asked if I wouldn’t mind taking her out for a quick lap. Chris has been asking me to do a lap with the Circuit Days cameras in the car for ages but it just never seemed to work out. This was the perfect opportunity so Adam fitted the cameras and we went out for a lap. No gauges on this one but a slightly different driver-cam view.
You’ll see I regularly ask Emily if she’s OK. I always do this with passengers and especially those who haven’t done many laps before. She really enjoyed the lap but wasn’t overwhelmed so much that she was unable to take in what was happening.
After the lap when discussing it and we were talking about the lap, she gave the impression she was taking everything in. When I asked if she found the passenger rear view camera useful she said “what camera ?” Putting her head back into the car she spotted the camera that was straight in front of the passenger seat and she had completely missed it
The end of the day was approaching and I’d promised Andy a lap. Before we went out Matt removed the drivers headlight to give the air filter an unrestricted cold air feed. When I was normally aspirated this made quite a difference to inlet temps but looking at the data after the laps today I was surprised to see it didn’t make that big a difference. The only noticeable change was how quickly the temperature dropped when starting the lap and the heatsoak in the engine bay usually gets the temperatures up into the 60’s. They drop to 30degrees by T13 but with the headlight removed that happened a little bit sooner. Full throttle on a straight and the temperature was almost identical to previous laps, perhaps a degree or 2 difference but as the ambient temperature was dropping it needs more testing to give conclusive data one way or the other.
Andy doesn’t show a great deal of emotion when on track. I approached T13, purposefully trailed the brakes a fraction on turn in, the rear started sliding and I got on the power as the car straightened up and JUST missed the end of the armco.
As this photo of Andy’s instant response quite clearly shows, it worked perfectly. I don’t recall ever taking that corner better.
The red flags came out before the end of the lap so we cruised round to the end cooling everything down whilst we discussed the handling and braking improvements since last September.
“Nige, this feels like a different car. I thought it had pretty much peaked last year when you fitted the plate diff but it just feels more composed this year”. I explained how I had never felt as comfortable driving it and that’s when we were able to narrow it down to the rebuilt coilovers giving me back the confidence that I had’t realised I had lost in how it responded to my inputs.
It was a shame I had the issues in the morning, losing a good chunk of tracktime from a mechanical issue when booking a single day event is always a concern but looking back I don’t actually think it was as bad as it may appear from reading this. Sure, I didn’t hit 20+laps I usually do but the dozen or so laps I did have were all enjoyable.
It was time to load up and have a shower ready to go out for a meal. After putting the Golf on the trailer I spotted this 2 car beast. Imagine trying to reverse that into a tight carpark !
We walked up to the Zur-Nurburg by the castle for a meal. Ian had organised it for a group of us. I’m 50 in a few weeks and as I’m not having a party we went out for a meal together here instead.
It was a brilliant way to end the trackday, chatting about our laps, the day and even Brexit for a few moments until we realised that could very quickly spoil the mood. Ian and Jon both had completely trouble free days with Jon finished early as he was satisfied with the number of laps and complete lack of issues throughout the day. Ian was delighted with his new Elise. The supercharger just added that little bit more power and he was raving about how well the day had gone, how responsive the car was and how his driving was improving as he learned more about how to drive an Elise.
Why is it that I suddenly realise it’s the end of the evenings and I haven’t spoken to everyone as much as I wanted to. I blame it on getting old
Somehow the staff found it was my Birthday and brought out a piece of cake, candle and played Happy Birthday through the speakers.
Every year Andy tells me someone has walked up to him in the carpark and ask how HIS Golf is doing.
Next morning we drove down into Adenau to do a bit of shopping. Well, Lou & Cat went shopping whilst we sat i the sun and watched the world go by.
The now obligatory Ice creams from the Ice-Cafe.
Then it was time to stock up with wine and some snacks, head back to the guesthouse and load the car ready for the drive to Rotterdam
I know I mentioned it last year, but the HUD on the X5 is ace, I find I hardly ever need to look at the dashboard when on a motorway now.
It was one of those journeys that seemed to take ages. I dont know why some are like that but I was relieved to make it to the ferry with around 45 minutes to spare, even though we set off in plenty of time.
These M4`s had been on the event and had obviously driven back in convoy. A group of mates, all buying the same car and going to the Nürburgring for a trackday ? I can really see the appeal of that
We we securing the trailer and started chatting to Rob and Alex. They`d driven to Germany to buy this Fiesta racecar and had plans to improve the roll centre. Rob said he’d read my explanation about roll centre correction and it suddenly made sense to him. He’d head the phrase before but didn’t really understand what it was. I have to admit it was satisfying to hear from a complete stranger on a ferry from Rotterdam that something I wrote as a guide helped them on their race car !
Met up with Chris, Adam and Nick for a few drinks. Chris the machine had taken them mountain biking and Nick, even though he doesn’t look it was broken Spent a good hour gassing about life and cars. When it’s a one day event there is always that concern that there will be too many cars & closures meaning you can’t get in enough laps to make it feel worthwhile. I think Chris was as relieved as the rest of us that whilst it was busy and you hit traffic each lap, it was well behaved and nobody had major issues with someone holding them up. The few red flags were quickly dealt with and the weather couldn’t have been better for an April trackday.
We were one of the first cars off the ferry next morning and after a clear drive across the M62 were back home before 09:00. Trailer unloaded and everything packed away by 11:00.
Looking back at the trackday I was delighted with how the car went. As I’ve discussed in the post, the handling is giving me huge amounts of feedback and I’m relaxed when behind the wheel. The brake feedback needs tweaking a little which I’ll do next time but they are certainly up to the job of stopping a 1,000kg Golf. I don’t really feel the negatives of the increased rotational inertia and unsprung weight. Perhaps if I swapped everything at lunchtime from 15’s and the 288mm brakes to the 17`s and 364`s I would but it certainly isn’t an issue that would make me consider going back. Acceleration is blunted, the GPS shows that quite clearly and if I was competing I wouldn’t have changed the brakes or wheel size. As I just do lots and lots of laps on a trackday, being able to pound round lap after lap without the tyres overheating or eating brake pads just makes the whole experience more enjoyable if ultimately a bit slower.
I have some modifications to the exhaust manifold and Turbo to make before the next outing and then I’ll give it a shakedown before going back for a 2 day Nürburgring trackday in July.