I usually write these reports in the order things happened allowing you to experience the trip as it developed.
This one is different.
Whilst we were in Germany the local region suffered horrendous flooding which resulted in a huge number of people sadly losing their lives and many more thousands having their homes flooded or completely washed away. The effect of this to the region will be felt for decades and the fact I didn’t actually get to drive on the Nurburgring is irrelevant. Sure, that’s why we go to Germany, but these things have to be put into perspective and a trackday is not important when the region is suffering such a catastrophe.
That being said, I’m not going to spend the whole report with photos of the devastation in the area. The news is a better source for that and this is not what my report is going to be about. I will discuss the flooding but that will come later in the writeup as until a few hours after the trackday was supposed to be underway, we didn’t really know just how bad the situation was.
Darren announced the dates for 2021 many months ago but with the Coronavirus situation being as it is there was a lot of uncertainty around whether people from the UK would be able to attend. The German government had put the UK on their red list and as such we were no allowed to go to Germany unless it was for very specific reasons. Whilst we all think driving on the Ring should be on the list, for some weird reason, the German government doesn’t agree. How weird..
Darren had to leave his family in early July to spend time in the European countries he was allowed to visit and then could enter Germany as he’d been out of the UK for more than 10 days. That’s dedication to DN Events and something I wouldn’t be able to do.
I spoke to Darren on the 5th July where I explained that as things stood I wasn’t going to be able to make it due to the restrictions. Then I received a message from him (and many others) just after 22:00 on the 5th with links to the announcement that Germany had lifted the entry restrictions for people from the UK.
This changed everything !
The next few days were spent sorting out the Golf, the most urgent job being fitting the new clutch, cover plate and release bearing as I’d measured the old one and it was getting close to the rivets. Speaking to Helix the old sprung one was cracking and beyond repadding so decided to replace it with a solid clutch with no springs to fail. Matt runs one in his E36 and it’s fine.
A quick wash and refitting of the number plates and the Golf was loaded up and ready to go.
Whilst the Golf was ready, I most certainly was not.
There were a couple of areas of concern about the journey, the main one being the Covid restrictions and the second being the Carnet requirements for the Golf on the trailer.
- Travellers had to be double vaccinated.
- A negative test result, with Certificate is required. Also known as a ‘fit-to-fly’ certificate.
- A Health Declaration form needs to be filled in and presented to Customs.
I’d had my second vaccine in May, Matt had his 3 weeks ago. Cat hadn’t had the second jab yet so she wasn’t able to join us on this trip. With that sorted, we were able to install the NHS app, download the proof of vaccination form and print it out. This is required by customs before being allowed on the train.
The Fit-to-fly test was next on the list and this was a trickier one. The test had to be taken less than 72 Hours before traveling. Matt was able to go to a local test centre on Sunday and get a 24Hr test. I was working Fri, Sat & Sun and by the time I finished work, the test centres were closed. This meant I needed to get a same-day test on Monday morning at 08:10. I received the certificate at 17:00 that afternoon with a Negative test result
After filling in the French passenger locator form I had all the necessary papers for the Eurotunnel.
The Eurotunnel portal lets you upload the documents to their site to aid the process. Initially, the section was Red. Once uploaded they chenged to amber and then the documents were manually checked by someone at Eurotunnel and then the status changed to ‘green’. That gave me a bit more confidence driving down that everything was in order. You don’t need to do that, on the way back we didn’t but it was helpful for the first trip under these restrictions.
Next up was the trailer and after Brexit, taking the Golf across into Europe is unclear to say the least. There are many discussions about this online, all saying similar to this one. Simply, that countries not in the EU have always had to fill in a customs declaration form when taking goods to/from the EU. It’s a check to stop them selling goods and avoid paying the necessary tax.
In the past it’s never been relevant to us as we’re in the UK, however after Brexit, that now applies to us. Depending where you read, it only applies to freight and race-cars. It shouldn’t apply to your own car you are trailering yourself.
That’s what the rules say as far as I can read them, but I’ve heard of 1 person who was stopped and told he needed one although some of the details around it seem vague.
We usually travel via Rotterdam but as the number of people taking cars across on trailers this year is tiny, I suspect there is more chance of the Dutch customs people querying this situation and possibly misunderstanding what does/does not need a Carnet. I decided going via the tunnel was a better option. IF I was turned away and needed a Carnet, I could get one same day and catch a later crossing. The Hull>Rotterdam ferry is once per day so missing that would have a massive effect on the entire schedule.
To ensure that if stopped I could prove the Golf was mine, I refitted the number plates, ensured I had the V5C, insurance certificate and green card. If stopped I had everything I needed to be able to prove it was my car and I was simply trailering it across as I can take spares and also get home if it breaks down. Like that ever happens..
I also had the X5 insurance certificate, V5C, green card AND a green card for the trailer.
I don’t really bother about weather forecasts, but I checked it on the Monday and whilst I’m well aware things can change in the Nurburgring area, heavy rain every day wasn’t the sort of thing I was hoping to see in July.
Left home at 05:30 and had a great run down the M1 to Kent.
Rich has a house in Herschbroich and buys a load of Eurotunnel crossings at a time. They are transferable and cheaper than buying a single one. He kindly let me buy a return journey off him and I offered him a lift across if he fancied coming for the trip. He met us at Ashford International train station and we headed off to the tunnel check-in.
July 19th was a particularly important date. If we returned to the UK before then, we’d have to buy several tests before returning and also quarantine once back in the UK. Those planned changes on the 19th meant that quarantine and the tests are no longer required so we decided it would make more sense to stay in Germany for an extra 2 days and avoid 10 days of quarantine.
I’ve explained all the forms that were needed above and my experience with the border controls but don’t assume this is what will happen to you. The required forms may be different by the time you want to travel, the Carnet situation may change. Who knows with the way things are changing right now !
The first desk you pull up to simply checks your tickets. Once they were inspected and the passenger numbers confirmed, we drove to the next booth which is UK customs.
He checked the passports and waved us to the next guy.
This was French border control and he wanted to check every single document referring to Covid. The double vaccinations, PCR test result and passenger locater form. He gave them all a close inspection, asked where we were going and why, handed them back and we were on our way.
No questions about the trailer, if the Golf was mine or anything at all to do with Carnet. Whilst this was what should have happened, there was always that niggling doubt that I’d misinterpreted the documentation or even worse, that the customs officers had !
We followed the slowest driver ever. He had no idea where to go and was moving at walking pace through all the coned roads leading to the barriers. By the time we finally arrived at the waiting point, the signs had changed from boarding to Closed. We missed the train by 2 or 3 minutes After waiting almost an hour for the next one we were on the train and on our way.
The drive across was as dull as usual but as there was very little traffic on the roads it passed pretty quickly.
Once in Germany we stopped for a break and a bite to eat, by now it was drizzling pretty much all the time.
The last hour of the drive saw much heavier rain, you can just make out the amount of water the car on the left is driving through and the amount of spray from the standing water. I was doing around 30mph at this point.
Dropped Rich off in Herschbroich and drove up the guesthouse. It was still raining and overcast but wasn’t actually that bad.
We’ve been staying with this family for years now and Walter has his own workshop in the garage. He’d recently bought a wood CNC machine and had made a set of salad tongs for me.
The cool bit was he’d engraved them with the Ring and Pinderwagen. How cool is that !
By now it was 21:30 and we hadn’t had a full meal all day. Matt and I agreed we needed to eat something so we drove up to the Pistenklause and shared a Pizza. Nice quick service and a tasty pizza was just what we needed.
Wednesday morning started off foggy but the rain was falling and the forecast looked the same for tomorrow.
The Golf was ready for the trackday, Darren allows you to fit any tyres you want, including slicks on the Ringmeisters ‘Pro-Track’ format events and to save messing around swapping tyres in Germany that’s what I’d fitted to the Golf before loading up in the UK last week.
Depending on which forecast you looked at, tomorrow could be dry but Matt and I both agreed the sensible option was to the fit the Pilot Sport 4 tyres for the sighting lap and if it was dry swap to the slicks. It’s far easier to swap from wets to dry than slicks to wets in the pouring rain.
Walter let us do it in his garage which kept us dry and whilst we were doing that I applied plenty Rain-X antifog inside the windows and Meguiars rain repellent to the outside. I prefer it to Rain-X on the outside as I find it doesn’t turn opaque after a few days like the Rain-X does.
Whilst we were doing it Lee and Darren popped along for a natter to pass an hour or so. Darren always winds me up about what’s going to break next on the Golf. It’s a standing joke and we talked about the last 2 Ringmeisters events being disasters for me. I am VERY confident it will be fine this trip. The oil system and drivetrain are all over engineered now and they have been the areas that have caused problems in the past. Only time will tell..
Once finished the Golf was loaded up and ready for tomorrow.
It was time for a late lunch so we called into the Imbiss at Breidscheid
They have a large undercover seating area where we spent an hour but in all the time we were there it never stopped raining and it was getting heaver…
We wanted to call at TTC so I could discuss buying some tyres for DN26 in August. The prices in Germany are significantly lower than the UK at the moment.
TTC ended up being 200Euro more than just ordering them from reifenleader and get them delivered to a German address before we go out next time instead.
Our route was going to take us through the tunnel under the track. Hmmm, we aren’t going to get through there.
The signing on was a the Sports lounge as usual and after setting up we were ready for the drivers to collect their packs.
I would say 90% of peoeple arriving said exactly the same when they climbed out of their car.
“Oh my God ! What a journey !”
When asked why they explained that the usual routes were closed due to the heavy rain and they had to divert several times and almost everyone seemed to be running Cup2R’s which apparently “Are bloody useless in these conditions and I lost count of the number of time I aquaplaned at low speed“.
People are always asking us what the forecast is like but I have never been asked what it was going to be like as much as I was today. A lot of drivers said they’d wake up tomorrow and if it was still raining they wouldn’t drive up to the carpark until late morning as they had zero desire to drive in these conditions.
At 18:00 we packed up and Steve had booked a table at the PK for a meal. Jörg was supposed to be joining us but I spoke to him and he explained the rain was very heavy in Adenau and he wasn’t sure how bad it was going to get so he gave it a miss.
As usual there was a lot of banter around the table and everyone was excited about tomorrow.
Thursday morning saw cloudy skies but no rain in Nurburg. Hilde whose house we stayed at was telling us the landlines and mobiles were not working in the area but they hoped they’d be back up and working soon.
I was unloading the Golf whilst talking to a few people in the carpark and heard only a few of the Ring staff had arrived and they were still waiting for a lot of the marshalls to turn up. With phones being down it was difficult to find out what was happening but we expected the day to run although perhaps with a later start.
When I’m on a trackday, I hardly ever look at my phone. I’m not there to spend time browsing the internet, I’m there to drive and today was no different. I took a few photos of the car but never really gave anything else a thought. A few people had driven up from Adenau and were telling us there had been a lot of rain overnight and some of the roads were flooded, but again with no internet the actual situation wasn’t clear to us.
It’s easy to sit here now and read the news reports of how bad it was, but when you are on a trackday you are in your own little bubble without a great understanding of what’s happening in the outside world. Add in no mobile signal and information was very sparse.
Parked up the Golf, dropped the trailer off in the overflow carpark and spent the next hour just talking to people who I hadn’t seen since last September. The general view was that the ring wouldn’t be open until 10am, but the track inspection was good and whilst there was some running water across the track at Steilstrecke, it looked good.
Then the Ring officials gave us the news. The day was cancelled and they would let us know about tomorrow later in the day.
Darren was in constant communication with the Ring staff and sent out this email at 12:00
This message is sent at 1200hrs
I’m sorry to inform you that tomorrow (Friday 16th July) is also now cancelled too.
The critical situation in the surrounding areas has overwhelmed the emergency services, which severely impacts our ability to provide the necessary safety cover we need for the event.
There are a lot of extremely worried people here who are unable to reach family in the surrounding area either by phone or in person so like I said in my earlier email, please spare a thought for those that have lost lives or are still missing.
The damage has been severe in every way.
Please let everyone in your group know this information.
When everybody here gets a moment to breath I will have a conversation with the Nürburgring about credit notes for the event and will keep you up to date as I know more.
Take care with your onward journey.
Logistically, there were no support staff to run the event. Most of the marshalls are also volunteer firemen and they were tied up helping with disaster relief. The mobile phones weren’t working so if there as an accident they couldn’t call it in. The ambulances were needed elsewhere and there was simply no way they could be sat waiting on a trackday whilst people were in desperate need of their services. There were reports of four people dead and 30 missing in the worst affected areas.
The closest the Golf got to the track this trip.
After packing everything up Matt and I manned the gate to explain to the drivers arriving later that the day was cancelled. People were still arriving at 10:30 expecting the day to be running and were shocked to see it wasn’t. The sun was out, the track was dry and conditions were perfect.
As I explained earlier, information about the situation was still extremely scarce and nobody had any real idea just how bad it was elsewhere. We were on top of the hill, couldn’t see any evidence of flooding apart from the tunnel so people expected the track to be open.
Whilst we had all made the trip across Europe to drive on the track, it was extremely heartwarming to speak to the people arriving, explain WHY the trackday was cancelled and every single one of them said something along the lines of “It’s a shame it’s cancelled, but there are far more important things happening in the area right now than a trackday”
Karl was at home today and as Claire, Kim and Karin were no longer needed on the event we called down to see them and spent a good few hours in the garden We’ve known them since our first visit way back in 2005 and always try and catchup when we’re across. There was no internet at their house and Karin arrived a bit later than the rest of us and she was telling us about some of the things that were starting to filter through about how bad the flooding was in certain areas.
We were in Germany, the Golf was ready to go so Matt and I found some internet and started looking for trackdays we could possibly attend tomorrow, Saturday or Sunday. The skies were clear and the forecast was for light rain in some areas or non at all in France.
As it turned out, the Golf was too noisy for the French events, I’d fitted the lighter sections of the exhaust for the Ring, but they are noisier. I have 3 silencers I can fit for different noise limits but I’d left them all at home in the UK, not expecting to need them for a Ring trackday.
After leaving Nurburg we called to see Rich and he showed me this photo of the flooding in Herschbroich last night and the firemen routing the floodwater into the storm drains to avoid flooding of the houses. Sandbags were also deployed to help. The water had receeded by now and all that was left was debris on the road and in the drains.
I rang Jörg and asked if the Comfy Corner was open and had space for us to call down. “Sure, it would be great to see you as I couldn’t join you last night !”
He sorted out a large table outside where we spent the rest of the evening. Paul turned up and it is fair to say he was worse for wear before he even started drinking with us.
Darren shared a photo he’d taken of the Aral in Adenau from earlier in the evening. When we drove down the water level had dropped and the road, whilst muddy was clear.
We headed back just after 23:00 and after speaking with Rich and Lee we decided we’d drive across to the Schumacher Karting tomorrow.
I rang them next morning to ask if they were open “Yes, of course” was the reply. Lee offered to drive and after a leisurely start we set off.
Whilst driving across we came across several roads that were closed but the Satnavs were showing as open. The autobahn was derestricted, clear and Lee opened up the X5M. That thing can shift ! It was still pulling at an indicated 175mph when he lifted off.
Same engine as the M5. Can carry 4 people in fantastic comfort, the front seats giving you a massage at the same time. It’s a lovely place to be that’s for sure. I’m not convinced I’d want Lee’s fuel bill though. We saw 2.8MPG whilst flat out.
The journey took almost 2.5hours. That drive was the first time we’d all seen just how widespread the flooding had been and the effect it was having on the roads in the area.
We paid for 3 x 10 min sessions on the track. Matt was the fastest in all 3. I reckon it’s down to him weighing a lot less than the rest of us, he says it’s just skill and we’re all old and slow
No matter what the reason, the last 10 minute session was brilliant, we were all out together, knew the track and were nose to tail the entire session. When you climb out of the kart and all 4 of you can’t wait to talk about it, you know it was a good session.
The journey back was quicker than getting there, but for 3 x 10 minutes in the kart, we left at 11:00 and didn’t get back until 18:00 That’s a LOT longer than you’d expect.
Lee had left his GT3 with Manthey so we diverted there on the way back to pick it up. He drove the Porsche whilst I followed in the X5M
We helped load up the Porsche onto the trailer then headed back to the guesthouse for a shower and change before heading up to the Zur Nurburg for a meal. Sitting down after eating and having a drink we all started browsing the news reports and facebook groups showing the photos coming out of the affected areas. It was awful !
Over 100 people dead, 100’s missing with those numbers expected to increase.
Whole buildings simply washed away, people returning after being evacuated to find their home and everything in it simply gone. All they had in the world was the clothes they were wearing. I simply can’t begin to understand how they would deal with that. All 3 of us were pretty sombre when we saw those photos.
If you are sitting there saying we shouldn’t have gone karting, should have offered help then in hindsight you are probably right. But we didn’t know that at the time. Where do you go to ‘offer help’ ? It’s easy to look back at what you should / shouldn’t have done but as I’ve tried to explain many times in this report, the severity of this horrific situation wasn’t as clear to us with limited access to the news and internet as it was to people sat at home. I don’t spend my holidays online, I spend them with friends and family and that’s what these trips are. Short holidays to Germany where we get to drive on one of the best racetracks in the world.
Rich had been looking online and had received a couple of messages from friends suggesting the quarantine situation on return to the UK may be changing for those going via France.
Around 23:00 the UK Government decided to change the returning quarantine regulations yet again
The restrictions when we left the UK were that as of July 19th, we would only need a negative test-to-release upon return with no quarantine. If we returned earlier than that we’d have to isolate for 10 days, with the option of a day 5 test-to-release.
Boris decided that if you returned through France, even if you didn’t stop you now had to quarantine for 10 days, regardless of it was after the 19th or not.
Matt and I immediately agreed that we may as well get home and start the quarantine process so I would be able to return to work as planned.
Saturday morning saw no extra rain, just fog which reduced visibility.
The first thing was to get a Lateral Flow test.
The old Mama-Mia restaurant in Nurburg is now a test centre so that was the first place we called, but it was locked up with nobody around.
We then drove to the drive through test centre in Adenau next to the REWE supermarket. It was 20 Euro and the certificate they emailed was in German AND English. This is important, the only languages the Eurotunnel will accept on the certificate is French, English and Spanish.
After filling in the registration form online by using the supplied QR code, the tests were taken without us leaving the car. The email of a negative result arrived in my inbox 50 minutes later.
Rich had booked a £9.99 return flight from Cologne on Tuesday. That way he wouldn’t have to quarantine on return and he could spend the time cleaning up the house, cellar and driveway from the floodwaters.
The ARAL in Adenau had sold out of regular diesel. I expect because there were so many rescue vehicles in the area that were running on diesel. Certainly not something I’ve seen before, it’s usually 98Ron Petrol that runs out on a busy weekend.
Our Eurotunnel booking was amendable but issues with the Eurotunnel website meant you had to phone instead.
Phoning and we heard a recorded message telling us the modify booking via the website and then the line was disconnected. Great.
We did look at a single crossing from Rotterdam which would avoid the quarantine on return but the price was prohibitive, even when taking into account the saved testing prices and adding in the extra nights accomodation and food by staying an extra day.
Before returning you are required to have the following:
- Travellers had to be double vaccinated.
- A negative result from a non-NHS PCR or a non-NHS Antigen (lateral flow) test taken in the previous 72hrs Also known as a ‘fit-to-fly’ certificate.
- A UK Government Passenger Locator Form form needs to be filled in and presented to Customs.
- All passengers must also purchase/book a travel testing package prior to travel. You must take a coronavirus (COVID-19) test on second and eighth day of quarantine. The “test pack” must be booked for each passenger (children aged 4 and under do not need to take these tests) before you begin your trip and its reference number must be specified on your passenger locator form before travelling
Matt did some searching and found the cheapest supplier of the required test to be from Randox, who so far have been useless and the Day 2 test was only dispatched on Day 3.
As he works from home, Matt isn’t bothering with the day 5 Test to Release.
After loading up the Golf with some supplies from Lidl we set off for Calais.
The first hurdle to cross was the actual booking. As the crossing was for Monday and needed changing, we were directed to the customer service building.
The first queue was for the Covid document checking, where we had to wait until someone was available before we could be dealt with.
Chatting to the guy directing us and he asked why there were only 2 of us when the 3rd (Rich) wasn’t with us. I explained that to avoid quarantine on return he was flying instead.
“What’s this return quarantine ? Nobody has mentioned it today” he said.
‘That bad ?’
“Yeah, that bad, everyone is complaining about the change…”
The woman at the desk needed to see all the documentation necessary, test, proof of vaccination, completed form, reference numbers to prove day 2& 8 test booked etc. Once that was done we were directed to the customer service desk who after asking about the 3rd person again booked us onto the next train.
Half an hour later we approached the French border control where similar to the outbound leg with UK control, all he was interested in was the passports.
UK Border checks were next and she was very thorough. Checking all the paperwork, looking at the certificates, day 2 & 8 tests and asking where we’d been as always. I explained we’d been to the area with the awful flooding which she was aware of and shortly after we were on our way.
The thing I found at every step of this trip was that so long as you had everything they were likely to request, it was straightforward. Turning up and trying to blag your way through just wouldn’t happen. They were all very keen on checking the paperwork and asking for all the documentation I already mentioned.
Whilst waiting at the barriers to board the train we started watching the build up for the F1 Sprint Race at Silverstone. Typically, as they drivers were on the formation lap the barrier opened and we drove onto the train. We were both expecting the signal to drop out as soon as the train entered the tunnel but we were able to watch the entire race without interruption. Pretty amazing when you think about it.
As we were the second car on the train we were soon exiting in the UK ready for the drive back to Yorkshire.
We didn’t stop until Northampton services where we had a bite to eat and stretched our legs. I’m grateful to all my friends who I phoned during the 13 hour door to door journey, it certainly passed the time much quicker than listening to the radio.
Arriving home at 23:00 and I called it a night shortly after.
Next day whilst watching the F1 I received a call from an unknown number. I’d spoken to Lee earlier today and he’d had the same call, it’s from the NHS Test & Trace checking you are at home and under quarantine. I rang back after the race and received a recorded message saying they’d call back and possibly home visit.
Sure enough, next morning we had a visit from them checking Matt and I were at the address we’d registered at and under quarantine.
I’ve read several people online saying “ah, but they never check, you don’t need to quarantine.”
My experience is the absolute opposite of that, they DID follow up, not only with a phone call but also with an unannounced visit to our house. I expect to receive more calls or visits in the coming days.
There are 1000’s of photos online showing the aftermath of the flooding but to me, this one photo sums it all up showing the power of the water and just how much damage it has caused. This imbiss is still standing but many many other buildings and home sadly aren’t.
This is the motorcycle hotel at the end of the tunnel in Altenahr .
Photo courtesy of Jan Leek
My heart goes out to all the people who have been affected by this terrible tragedy, like everyone, I see these sort of things on the news around the world but it has never hit quite so close to home as this. I have been to the places that are now washed away. My friends and their family are personally affected and the whole situation somehow seems more ‘real’.
The way the people of the area are coming together and helping those in need is simply amazing.
Since writing this, the Nurburgring have released details of how to donate to the disaster fund have become available.
If your bank needs an address, details on this page for the Kreissparkasse Ahrweiler
Donation account “flood”
IBAN: DE86 5775 1310 0000 3394 57
I used my Revolut debit card, added an account in Germany and it let me donate without any fees and only required the IBAN and a reference, eg “flood”