Covid-19 meant this trip almost didn’t happen. UK government kept adding countries to the none exempt list which meant I’d have to quarantine for 14 days upon my return if Germany was added to that list. That’s not possible for me or Lou. Our usual crossing is via the Hull > Rotterdam overnight ferry but as that disembarks in the Netherlands, that would trigger a return quarantine. After reading all the guidelines I found that if I crossed via the Eurotunnel, drove through France and Belgium into Germany without stopping, we would not need to quarantine upon our return.
The Hull crossing was cancelled and added to my ever growing list of credited crossing for 2021. Booked the Eurotunnel and I could finally look forward to the trip.
Left home at 06:00 ready for the drive to Dover.
Cat brought snacks !
It only took around 5 hours to get to Folkestone. We stretched our legs and had a break in the tunnel terminal before boarding the train.
The actual crossing itself was the usual 30 minutes, a guy was walking down the carriage decontaminating whilst we stayed in the car. This pandemic has obviously had an effect on everyone and even though the Eurotunnel is the only cross channel route people can take without a quarantine, there were only 6 vehicles on the train!
The drive through France seemed to be over in the blink of an eye, but as always, Belgium seemed to go on forever and it was a relief to cross the border into Germany and stop at a McDonalds for a drink and a short break after not stopping or getting out of the car since Dover.
The last leg of the drive was just over an hour to Nurburg via the ARAL where we filled up the golf and fuel containers with the 102ron fuel. I’ve been asked several times if the Golf makes more power on this, but I only use it for the increased knock resistance it gives. I could map it with more aggressive timing for use when on 102, but I am not chasing a few extra horsepower. It’s much easier to be able to fill up 98, 99 or 102 and just drive it. The flat out sections at the Ring are much longer than anywhere in the UK and these put more strained stress on the engine so this extra safety from the better fuel is worth the extra cost to me.
After a quick shower we walked up into Nurburg and met Ian and Jude for a meal in Mama Mia. We were all tired after the drive so after a catch up and a nice meal, we called it a night around 10pm.
Tuesday was a free day so we did some sightseeing, had a pleasant drive down to the Geierlay Suspension Bridge. It was a perfect day to visit, nice and warm with great visibility.
The actual crossing itself was operating under a 1 way system with it open for one hour travel in each direction which meant a bit of queueing before you could actually cross but it wasn’t too bad.
Tuesday evening we met up with Karl, Claire and Darren for a meal at the Blau Ecke. Since the renovations its a lot nicer and the food is excellent. It was a great way to end a pretty relaxing day.
Wednesday morning was the highlight of Lou’s trip. A friend breeds retrievers and is only an hour away from the Ring.
We then had 2 hours of, “aaaaaah” and “can we have one please?”.
I must admit, that they are rather cute, but whilst we are all working its simply not fair to have a dog left in the house all day. When we retire, I’m pretty certain it won’t be long before a puppy joins our household.
This was the first de restricted autobahn I’d driven without a trailer since buying this X5 a couple of years ago. The temptation to put my foot down was too much to resist. Didn’t manage to get a long enough straight to get it to fully max out, the highest we saw on the speedo was 149mph and still slowly accelerating. You could definitely feel the buffeting from passing other cars or lorries. Its not really surprising when you consider how big the X5 actually is.
The sign-on was held at the E-Sports bar again and this is turning out to be the best venue we’ve used. The huge carpark makes things a lot less stressful for people arriving to sign on. The briefing is done electronically before the event so all people need to do is turn up and collect their briefing pack and transponder.
The bar owner explained we could only have a maximum of 30 people inside at any one time so at times, there was a little bit of a queue outside. I stood and chatted to the people whilst they were queueing as its always good to catch up with people I haven’t seen since the last event and to also meet new attendees, some of whom have only driven on TF before. I spoke to Wilson, one of those drivers at the end of the second day and he said that the quality of laps he’d been able to drive was far better than the TF laps he was used to and although he enjoyed the variety of TF, he felt it would be difficult to go back to only driving that after having had such a good track day experience.
Paul had driven across his GT3 replacement, the new Aston. I saw more people taking photos of that than ever did of the GT3.
After a couple of hours the sign on was finished, so we packed up, got changed and went down to Pinocchios for a meal. We don’t come every year as the pizzas are ok but nothing amazing but it’s still a good night out at sensible prices with enough leftover for lunch tomorrow.
The alarm was set for 06:00 but I was awake and in the shower well before then. After the issues on the previous trip, I thought I’d be nervous but after the trouble free shake down at Anglesey, I was excited rather than apprehensive.
The weather forecast had been for two dry and sunny days and the sun was just starting to show itself as I unloaded the Golf from the trailer.
One of the biggest thing that Darren keeps mentioning is to ensure that everyone had a safe event and the biggest way to help achieve this aim is to ensure all drivers understand the overtaking rules. The sighting laps run from 08:00 to 09:00 and we stop every car before they go out for the first time and give them a very quick 15 second reminder that once the track goes green at 09:00, its overtaking, by consent, on the left hand side only. Most drivers are happy to have this little chat, but a few look at you with disdain, I simply explain to them that whilst this reminder isn’t aimed at them specifically, it is at those who may be tempted to overtake the wrong side or without consent and once they realise that every driver is getting the same chat, they understand and accept it. I usually take the Golf out for the last 10 minutes so I can get a clear lap in before the track goes green, just to make sure there are no issues.
I wore out the Direzzas at Anglesey, we fitted some Pilot Sport 2’s that Matt had picked up cheaply.
The plan was to run them for a couple of sessions just to see what they were like and to decide if I was keeping them or swapping for something else. They worked well, got up to operating temperature very quickly and offered good grip and feel. They certainly squeal more than the Direzzas but they are perfectly adequate to run when it’s too wet or cold for slicks. Rather than wear these out, we fitted a set of slicks once we had some data for the Cup 2’s. I buy the slicks from the Mini challenge cars, they are used and passed their best but I really don’t care. They are cheap, in plentiful supply and are as grippy as a new set of Direzzas. The main benefit is I can do several laps without stopping and the front tyres don’t overheat, but treaded tyres only seem to last 2 and a half laps before getting too warm and start to understeer a little.
Even though I knew they were cold and needed a good few miles to warm up, the ease at which the rear tyres let go as I turned into T13, requiring quite a lot of opposite lock caught me off guard.
After each session I downloaded the ECU data log so I could tweak the fueling. I have a dyno session booked in a few weeks but he couldn’t fit me in before this event. The new engine is a slightly different compression ratio and needed some tweaks to the fueling. The easiest way to do this is with some pulls from 3,000rph to red line in 4th or 5th gear, collect the data, adjust the fueling and repeat. Each session allowed me to further optimise the fuel table and by the end of the day, the fuel AFR trace was just how I wanted it.
I have known Neil for a number of years and we’ve each had passenger laps with each other and know how each other drives. Coming down the main straight I closed up behind him and when he moved to the right to let me past I also moved to the right, signalling that I wanted to follow instead of overtake. Once he understood I then closed up to him to make sure he was happy with the distance between us and after he gave a wave of acknowledgement, we were off. I don’t recall ever following someone as close for as long as I did this lap. You really have to concentrate, not only on driving the lap, but also watching the car ahead to ensure you don’t get even closer or fall back too far. We both enjoyed the lap and Neil said it would be useful for him to look back and critique his lines. When reviewing the footage that evening, I found the camera was vibrating inside the case mount so the footage wasn’t something we’d be able to use. Oh well, we’ll have to do it again tomorrow!
Matt and I pulled out of the car park behind the R8 Ring Taxi. It was the same one I’d chased in the wet at Ringmeisters. At Adenau Forst I commented to Matt that I probably needed to refuel after this lap. I didn’t follow too closely as I don’t want someone who has paid for a lap in an R8, to look in the mirror and see a MK2 Golf hassling them all the time so I kept a respectful distance from him, deploying high boost when he started to pull away on some straights. We were just exiting the Kaussel when the engine missfired and hesitated. A glance at the digital dash showed I had low fuel pressure. This meant the swirl pot was almost empty. What followed was a very pedestrian crawl back to the pits saving as much fuel as possible. It was a shame as that was one of the more enjoyable laps of the morning.
Whilst refueling there was a red flag whilst a car was recovered that they were unable to collect when the circuit was live. Unfortunately it also started to rain but only lightly. The track was reopened a few minutes later and it was time for more lapping. The circuit was wet in places but there was no standing water and slicks were already up to temperature so I was able to continue driving at a good pace.
The problem was that I was unable to keep the rear tyres warm. They simply don’t get worked hard enough and after 4 laps they were so cold that I had to stop and change to something more suitable.
The difficult decision was what tyres to fit. The R1R’s are more suited to standing water and were a softer compound. They are 5 years old now and it takes a while to get them warm but once they are up to temperature they work well. The Cup 2’s are better on a drying track or with less water so I elected to fit the R1R’s on the rear and the Cup 2’s on the front. Even if it started to dry, this wouldn’t burn up the rears but I would be able to get them warm enough in the wet.
It rained heavier later on in the day but this combination proved to work very well and I never changed it. I caught up with Freddie and tucked in behind to follow but he kept his indicator on making it clear he didn’t want me behind. That’s fine, sometimes I feel the same and just want to drive my own lap without anyone else being involved.
The wet seems to put off a lot of drivers and quite a few called it a day and left the circuit. This meant those of us who continued to lap had an almost empty Nurburgring.
At Snetterton I’d recorded a lap for a friend who was going there for the first time and asked if I could give him some pointers. The lap consisted of me talking to camera explaining my braking points, lines through corners and anything else I thought he may find useful. I said I would try and do one for the Ring. Cat was my passenger and we were doing 3 laps in this session.
I told her the next lap would be one where I tried to talk throughout the lap. You may read this and think thats easy, we all do that to some degree anyway whilst driving but the thing I found particularly tricky was saying the words out loud and trying to say them whilst things were happening in the corner rather than waiting till afterwards. Things take a lot longer when you have to speak out loud rather than just thinking to yourself.
The first few corners struggle to pick up my talking but after that it`s just loud enough. Needs a better microphone obviously.
I saw a photographer on the exit of Adenau Forest and decided to have a little play. His full video is here.
Turning into the left hander, a quick pull on the hand break brought the back end round in a nice slide.
Next time round I was getting a bit cocky, an even harder pull resulted in an better drift but when I let go of the steering wheel to allow it to self-centre I lost track of where it was pointing and when I thought it was straight it was actually still pointing left. Not my finest moment
I saw Jochen at Wehrseifen and induced a small slide for the camera. Sadly he didn`t get the pic. Spending a day driving in the wet at Ringmeisters had helped me with my wet-lines. There are still a few sections where no matter what I try, there doesn’t seem to be any grip but others where I am really happy and do the same each lap.
Lou had been on barrier duty all day where she had made it her and Cat’s mission to try and get every driver to give them a wave and a smile. Its not the most exciting job but they really try to make the most of it whilst remaining cheerful. Since Darren bought the extra gazebo we’ve started bringing a chair for use whilst on this duty. Its fine standing for the first hour or two but they are both very thankful by the end of the day that they’ve been able to sit for a break every now and then. The staff in the office joined in with the trying to make people smile and played some music over the tannoy which Lou, Cat and Jude were laughing and dancing too.
Ian was out in his Elise and wanted to try some things without a passenger which meant Jude was able to spend a lot of time with Lou and Cat.
I had spoken to Martin from Frozenspeed at the start of the day and explained I’d give him a wave whenever I saw him. A couple of times he’d move positions and it took a lap to spot him but when I spoke to him the next morning, I was pleased when he told me I had waved at him at every single point he’d been taking photos from.
A few laps before the end of the day I noticed the unpleasant smell of gearbox oil in the cabin. Checking under the bonnet showed the top of the gearbox had a light coating of gearbox oil with more around the breather. The splitter ensures no oil ever drips onto the circuit unless I have a catastrophic leak but I was still surprised to see any oil. The oil cooler was cool to the touch but the actual gearbox was extremely hot. The gearbox pump was running but after removing the filter we found it blocked with fine particles. I only use a small in line filter but the mesh is simply too fine with insufficient surface area . After cleaning the filter and wiping the oil from the gearbox I lapped until the chequered flag with no issues, completing 21 laps during the day.
After packing up the DN gazebo, Lou and Cat went back to the guest house whilst Matt and I checked over the Golf. The forecast for tomorrow was dry and sunny so rather than lose time in the morning, it made sense to fit the slicks today so it was ready to go.
When back in the UK I will be replacing the gearbox cooler filter with a much larger one, but for tomorrow I wanted to ensure that even if it blocked and the gearbox ran too hot, it wouldn’t leak any oil mist out of the breather.
By removing the shifter tower I was able to fit a hose in place of the OEM breather cap.
This was fed to a small bottle which was vented through some oil absorbing matting. Any oil coming out of the breather would condense in the pipe and drain back into the gearbox whilst any vapours were captured in the bottle. The engine needed 1/4 litres of oil which is much more acceptable compared to the excessive use experienced before the engine failure. This temporary setup worked perfectly on the second day with no misting on top of the gearbox at all
After completing 21 laps I was absolutely delighted the car was running rouble free.
The gearbox breather was misting the top of the gearbox and I could have left it alone, but I`m acutely aware of the dangers of putting oil on circuit and it took under 30 minutes to make up the breather so it was worth the effort.
No trip to the Nurburgring is complete without a visit to the Comfy Corner. Not wanting to break this tradition, 30 of us enjoyed an evening of good food and great company at the CC.
Back at the guesthouse and it was looking promising for tomorrow !
The forecast for today was for no rain temperatures in the low to mid 20’s and a little cloud. Pretty much perfect conditions for driving around the Nurburgring
One of the biggest attractions when switching to the DTA ECU was boost-by-gear. Quite simply, it allows the ECU to control the boost the turbo is producing depending on which gear you are in. I have never been able to get it to work properly before as my wheel speed sensor wasn’t good enough. I’ve since switched to a far higher resolution trigger wheel so I decided it was time to give boost-by-gear another go.
I can’t simply run 1.5Bar all the time. Not only would the car be pretty much undriveable in the lower gears, the chance of breaking a CV or even the gear box in the lower gears was far too high to risk it. This is why I have the steering wheel mounted buttons enabling instant changes between the three boost maps. What boost-by-gear allows is for me to set different level of boost for each gear. To aid traction this can be kept low at 0.6Bar in 1st gear and slightly higher at 0.7Bar in 2nd. Once in 3rd gear, traction isn’t so much of an issue but drive train integrity is. Whenever I have broken a CV or driveshaft it was in 3rd gear at over 0.9Bar and full throttle. To reduce the changes of future failures I set the 3rd gear limit to 0.8Bar, 4th gear was 1.1Bar, 5th gear 1.2Bar and 6th 1.3Bar. All of them could still be overridden to an instant 1.55Bar for overtaking, although I limited this to 1.3Bar in 3rd.
Even on the sighting lap, when I accelerated in 3rd the boost peaked at 0.8Bar and when I changed to 4th, it was showing 1.1Bar.
The difference in acceleration was immediately noticeable. When going from 3rd to 4th, or 4th to 5th, the acceleration dropped off as you would expect, but by running it this way it felt like it was accelerating harder in some of the taller gears!
Red trace is RPM, Green trace is boost, this is 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th down the main straight. You can clearly see the boost rising with each gearchange
Out of all the recent changes , this has turned out to be one of the best. It makes the car feel quick in every gear and best of all, it just works. No messing around, once set the DTA ECU does everything automatically. I’ll discuss it in more detail in an upcoming dyno post.
Matt drove for a lap as he wanted to see what the car felt like. It’s been a while since he’s driven the Golf but most of the things he’d complained about are now fixed. He felt very comfortable pressing on and from the passenger seat I was very relaxed. I’m much better letting people drive the car now than I was a few years ago !
Before you ask, no, it isn’t a glowing exhaust or undercar lighting, it’s simply the reflection of the headlights of the X-Bow behind
I ran without traction controlled enabled on this trip as I had realised I was relying on it in certain conditions. The only real difference was I could easily spin up the wheels in 3rd or 4th if I pressed the overtake button when traction was marginal.
After a few laps of making sure everything was ok on the slicks and that the gearbox was no longer breathing, I found Neil and asked if he wanted to try the chase lap again.
Cat was his passenger and Terry came out with me in the Golf. I’ve followed people close for short sections before, but I have never followed anyone this close for an entire lap. As always, the camera makes it look like you are much further away than you actually are, there’s nothing I can do about that, its down to the 110 degree viewing angle of the camera and the fact its positioned high up on the windscreen.
We caught a UK plated GT3 approaching the yellow flag one through Hatzenbach and we expected him to move over on the exit of Adenau Forest. Unfortunately he didn’t and we stayed sat behind him until after the Pflanzgaten jump. As I mention in the video, if it was me and the car was obviously faster in the corners, I’d let him past, follow and try to pick up some tips but he never did. He actually came across to talk to me later in the day and apologised for not moving over. He thought there was no way an MX5 could be quicker, especially after it pulled away towards Schwedenkreuz. He agreed that it would have been better for him to let us past and try tag onto the back of us instead of watching his mirrors all the lap.
Cat was telling me afterwards, that all she and Neil could see in the mirrors was a Mk2 Golf which was the idea!
I first took Misha out for a lap in the Golf back in 2016. He’d seen a few videos of it and was quite interested in having a lap in a quick MK2 Golf.
We did a longer video back in 2018 where he asked me to give more technical details about the Golf.
He dropped me a line last week asking if I fancied doing another lap but we both agreed that yesterday in the rain wouldn’t make for a particularly exciting video. He’s been doing this a long time and this time he knew exactly what he was after. Initially he asked me a few questions about the Golf and asked if I wouldn’t mind talking to camera with the technical details of the car. What he forgot to do was tell me to keep it brief. Once I get talking about the car, I can get a little bit carried away as Misha pointed out when we finished recording almost 10 minutes of me walking around the car and explaining in detail all the various things he asked about. I assumed he`d just pick a few points and have around 30 seconds worth, he said he’d use it all. I hope he`s joking
As we were setting off on the lap, we were behind a Swiss GT3 RS. He accelerated away up to T13 and I thought that was the last we’d see of him. He slowed down a little to allow us to keep up, although, I’m not sure if Misha thought that this was such a good idea when for the first time in years I hit the curb on the left hand side. Through most sections we were pretty close to each other, but as you would expect, out of some of the slower sections he easily pulled away. The lap was very enjoyable and Misha was videoing not only the view out of the cockpit, but the digital dash at the same time. I turned in far too late into ExMuhle and ran on the curb on the exit. No particular drama, but not something I’d done before, I did notice that the slicks were getting very hot on the session before and thought I’d allowed them to cool down enough but obviously not. Just before the Karossuelle the Porsche pulled over and followed me for the rest of the lap.
I’ll put the link to the video here once Misha uploads it
I spoke to the drove later that evening when he came over to talk about how much he’d enjoyed the lap. When I asked why he’d moved over to let me past, he replied that he hadn’t seen a MK2 Golf driven so quickly before and wanted to see how much the car was moving around when following.
He was very complimentary about the lap and both Misha and I agreed it was a good lap.
Freddie was out in his E36 and Matt had given him some pointers earlier in the day to help fine tune his lines. We agreed to go out for a chase lap and I sat behind him so I could video the lap for him to look at and learn from afterwards. I noticed the same issue as we had on Matt’s E36 and that was the rear wing bowing in the middle at high speed. It was a good lap and clear for most of it.
When we caught an E36 race car later in the lap, Freddie dropped his pace and sat behind him rather than making it obvious he was quicker and wanted to get past. One particular point to note was that Freddie was only just touching the curb at the top of the Foxhole. This was bouncing the car across to the right. Matt explained its better to either take no curb, or a lot more than he was doing.
Freddie took that literally and the roof vent meant Cat and I were showered in dust.
Al Clark had some rotten luck. His clutch release bearing failed and at the start of yesterday. He dropped the car off for repair but a problem at the supplier meant the wrong clutch was shipped. I asked him if he fancied a couple of laps in the Golf as its been several years since he last came out with me. He jumped at the chance and we went out for two quick but smooth laps. I recon we spent half the lap chatting about the Golf, the development and future changes I may make. At one point he asked if the Golf was more demanding to drive than it was before, I explained you had to be alert at all times due to the speeds I was now travelling but it didn’t take all my mental capacity, as I pointed out seeing as we had been talking for the last 10 minutes.
Matt came out with me for a lap and I commented that doing 6 laps pretty much back to back with only a quick pause for passenger changing was working the front left tyre quite hard but apart from that, there were no problems with the car.
That’s the difference between doing a lap or two, then having a break and driving for almost an hour. If I was in an endurance race I’d obviously modify my driving style to protect the tyres but there was no need to do that today.
Cat was my passenger as we caught this Mercedes AMG GT-S. Early on in the lap I was using high boost to catch him on the straights as his traction was amazing and he left me out of the slower corners, but I quickly realised that was making it too easy as he was obviously still learning parts of the circuit. Catching in the corners is more fun so I left it on the middle Boost-By-Gear map and chased him. On the previous lap I’d seen the photographer at the Pflanzgarten jump so as we approached Eis kurve I dropped back to ensure I had a gap by the time we reached the jump. You can see that within a few corners I’d caught him back up again. Still a quick lap though and very enjoyable.
The photo made dropping back worth it !
Kim had been working in the office most of the day and had offers for several passenger laps. She politely declined them all saying she wanted another lap in the Golf as it was a few years since she’d been out. I told Cat to make sure Kim was ready by the barrier with her helmet after my lap with Matt and I would take her out. I always ask if my passengers are ok at several points throughout the lap. Her double thumbs up in response told me all I needed to know.
Around Bergwerk I felt the front really starting to slide and suspected the tyre was getting close to the canvas. The rest of the lap was still pretty quick, but I just took it that little bit easier on right handers to protect the tyre. As we pulled into the car park I asked Kim if she enjoyed that lap, and I was pleased to hear her tell me it was worth the wait.
Before we got out of the Golf I said I thought the front left tyre was worn out. She asked how I knew, as I hadn’t even looked at it yet. She was quite shocked when she saw just how worn it was as she hadn’t been able to detect a significant drop in speed.
That was a great way for me to end the trip. The car was still running and only having to stop 5 minutes before the chequered flag as two out of the four tyres were showing canvas. Apart from that, the Golf was in tip top condition and I’d have happily done another day tomorrow. What a relief that was after the last trip !
Over 40 laps completed in the last 2 days which was a big relief after the last trip was cut short !
The end of the day was the usual chasing drivers for transponders and then loading up all the equipment into Darren’s van. Several drivers made a point of telling us just what a great 2 days they’d had on the event. One guy did complain a little about a couple of cars that wouldn’t let him past. When asked if he’d told someone during the event, he said he hadn’t bothered. It is always frustrating to hear this as there is nothing we could do about it after the event and experience has shown that a quick chat to the driver as he is going out onto the track to remind him about the overtaking rules and letting faster cars past almost always resolves the issue.
I’d booked a table at the Zur Nurburg but due to my not fully reading the booking page I’d left the date as it was which meant I had booked a table for the previous week. It turned out not to be an issue as they had availability for us outside on the terrace. We spent a very enjoyable evening sharing stories of the last 2 days and although the service was disappointingly slow we all agreed it was a great way to finish what had been a fantastic week in Nurburg.
After a well deserved sleep in and breakfast, we packed the Golf ready for the 12 1/2 hour drive back home. Once again we stopped just inside the German border where we had lunch before making the drive to the tunnel, which after a short wait, saw us boarding the train back to the UK. A quick stop at the first services and we were back on our way. We stopped again at the Cambridge services for something to eat before the final drive back home.
2020 has been a very unusual year and resulted in the cancellation of DN23. Ringmeisters saw the first engine failure caused by the turbo that I still haven’t fully understood. The preventative work I carried out when building the new engine should hopefully ensure I have several more years without engine issues. I am absolutely delighted that all the steps I’ve taken to control temperatures and improve reliability appear to be working and the lack of anything going wrong this trip seems to confirm this.
People always ask what’s next and at the moment I can’t really think of anything else I will be fundamentally changing on the car. All being well I will be back at the Ring in 2021.