It’s a terrible problem is an addiction. I’m not talking cigarettes or alcohol here, but the 20km of smooth black tarmac in the German mountains that I’m beginning to call my second home. Because only a month after returning from the Italian Job tour, I found my self back in Adenau eating pizza again.
Once anybody mentions any details of a ‘Ring trip on Facebook, I find myself almost obliged to attend and fulfill my usual role of tour guide. And this time it was Woz again. For anyone that doesn’t remember or hasn’t read last year’s blog, Woz is the MR2 owner who destroyed his clutch at 150mph on the autobahn. And this year, I’d be sitting in the passenger seat of that same MR2 hoping to get there and back without incident…
Given that the S2000 was still recovering from nearly 3000 miles through the Alps, as was my wallet, I’d decided to go for the cheaper option of sitting as a passenger in Woz’s car. Adam was coming back with us this year is his MR2 also and Rich was going to attend in something, but dropped out at the last minute. Poor show, Rich, poor show.
So the idea here was just a standard long weekend trip, which seemed fine up until a couple of weeks before when it became apparent that Adam couldn’t get the Friday off work. This was a problem as the main reason for choosing this weekend was the full day of Nordschleife on the Saturday. But this wouldn’t stop us!
And so at around 6pm on that Friday I found myself up in Birmingham, leaving the S2000 on Woz’s drive and getting ready for probably the most unusual trip across the continent that I’ve made. Luckily, given that we hadn’t left until around 8pm, the UK motorways were quiet enough to make some progress on and we reached the Dartford crossing minutes before 10pm, slowing slightly to make sure we got over for free. Nicely timed.
We headed east down to the coast, topping up with our last tank of UK V Power, intending to find a services with somewhere to eat and then hopefully get some sleep. This wasn’t to be. 24 hour services in Kent appear to be nothing more than a large open shed with some toilets and no fewer than six restaurants, all closed. So we settled on the nearest 24 hour McDonalds, had our 11pm meal and then completed our journey to Dover, where we were sure we’d find somewhere to sleep. Again, not so.
With two hours before we were due to set off, all the buildings in the port were closed up, bar the uninviting ‘departure lounge’ that consisted of rows of plastic chairs surrounding a concrete floor. And so wet sat in the car instead, slouched into the Recaros, steaming up the windscreen as we tried and failed to get anything like sleep.
Eventually, it was time to board, and we looked for somewhere to sleep, finding some soft rectangular parts of what used to be a kid play area, which were comfy unless you rolled off them. Sleep was still not going to happen. I turned off the TV next to us, but I could still hear the one at the other end of the area we were in, playing an irritating tune on a DVD menu. And even when I tried to block that, the man emptying the fruit machine a coin at a time meant that half an hour of closed eyes was all I was going to get. And so at just past 3am, I wound my watch forward to continental time, purchased an Earl Grey and took a brief wander outside with Woz to ‘wake up’. It most certainly did that… And despite the sleep deprivation we left the boat and hit the French motorway at 5am, getting the mileage in as quickly as possibly to avoid the inevitable morning rush of Brussels.
With Brussels passed with ease and a red sunrise ahead of us, we made it across the Dutch border for 8am, now 12 hours after we’d left the UK, where we stopped for the next fuel stop. Woz spoke some English to the attendant to confirm that the 95 RON V Power wasn’t really 95 RON and I set about some breakfast. By this stage the bodyclock was all over the place and didn’t really understand this meal but I tucked into a cheese sandwich anyway. At this moment we noticed Woz was parked in front of a sign with a tow truck on it, which made us snigger just a little ;-)
Nobody should look this awake at 5am
The sun comes up as we enter Germany
We continued on into Germany with the sky now blue and the day in full swing. This feels incredibly weird when you’ve not been to bed and even worse when you consider that you’re meant to be driving around a race track for the next few hours. But first things first, We check in at the hotel. The usual again, Hotel an der Norschleife, aka Eddy’s. Embarrasingly, Eddy’s mum recognises me (I told you I’m addicted!) and speaks some German to me, which I half understand. Anyway, keys to a garage as our room isn’t ready yet. We are early, mind. So after a Facebook check in (ensuring to tag Rich too) we brim the tanks with 102 RON at the Aral and drive up to the entrance where everything is open and already relatively busy. After a browse of the car park, with highlights including a Radical, a 599 GTO and a McMerc SLR (complete with Mondeo spec duct tape), Woz and Adam both bought their 4 lap cards and got straight to using them.
The first lap was a steady one, gauging how wet the track is, as it had clearly rained overnight. It’s the usual autumnal morning in the Eifel, some definite greasy patches in the spots where the sun is get to find it’s way round to. By the second lap, it had dried a little more and being fairly quiet still Woz was able to make the most of the emerging dry line and get a good lap in. Given that he’d managed two laps this trip, he’d already achieved his goal of more than the single lap he managed last year before the clutch incident. Meanwhile, Adam was struggling with grip from his Toyos on track and an overheating issue off track. With the tannoy announcement that the track is closed for an accident, we head back down to Adenau for a break and collect our keys for room number 4. Adam used the time to catch up on some sleep while me and Woz tried to convince our bodies that it was lunch time with a currywurst order at the Cockpit.
All over that 102 RON!
Duct tape on an SLR? Really?
Once we see cars coming down the track again, that’s our cue to get back up the hill and back on track again. No time to let the rush die down, we get straight out on the track and onto one of the craziest laps I’ve ever seen. See, I usually like the track when it’s quiet and I can take all the lines at my own pace. But this was much more exhilarating, as we joined a group of similarly powered cars including an Evo, a couple of Minis and Meganes and an old skool 911 for a close paced chase. We weren’t hitting the lines for the perfect lap, but it didn’t matter, this was great fun!
As we sat in the car park, cooling Adam’s car again, we heard the familiar announcement that the track was again closed and so we headed back into the town again for another break, this time opting for a supermarket trip. Firstly to the beer supermarket to stock the hotel fridge with Bitburger, then next across the road for curry ketchup to take back to the UK before finally trying to decipher how to buy blue top milk in Lidl for Adam’s Cheerios. At which point I also got stung by a wasp. That wasn’t fun.
We drove back up the entrance to be greeted with people running to their cars, a clear indication that the track had just been announced reopen and with no delay, we went straight out to use the last lap of Woz’s card and got straight into another even more crazy lap against similar traffic, with around ten cars bunched up going three abreast into corners. This was excellent again and the sheer adrenaline did a great job of muting the pain of the wasp sting, even just for 15 minutes or so.
Deciding that four laps was just enough and not wanting to take any chances for how the Monday evening session would be, we called it a day from here. We gathered our jittery nerves from the adrenaline rush and finished the day at Pinocchios, opting to sit outside in the mild evening air. By 9pm, 24 hours after getting on the road back in the UK, we were all in bed and ready to finally get some proper sleep.
Sunday morning, after breakfast, with the track closed all day for manufacturer testing we got back on the motorway and headed south to Stuttgart. After the glorious sunshine of Saturday we were glad to be in the cars and indoors today, even if the spray on the autobahn was less than ideal. At the halfway point with the signs to Hockenheim in view we decided to take a brief detour to see if anything was on, as I usually seem to do whenever I’m passing. The traffic we soon encountered led us to believe that something was on. The sign I then spotted advertising the DTM final with today’s date confirmed that fact, and also confirmed that we would not simply be walking into the grandstands today for a quick look. With that option out of the window, we returned to the autobahn and got down to the Porsche museum in Stuttgart. Even in today’s wet weather the pure white underground car park was still immaculate and despite the signs ordering anybody not to back into the spaces (for fear of dirtying the walls with exhaust soot) we did it anyway…
I knew what to expect from the Porsche museum, it’s the stereotypical German precision in a spectacular architectural building. The white theme continues inside with everything crisp and clean and perfect. It’s not so much the exhibits, but the way that they’re presented that really makes this place work. Being that it’s the 50th birthday of the 911, they made up the vast majority of the display, which although great, did seem to be lacking a little of the variety from my previous visit. It was enjoyable none the less and given that I’d tagged Rich in my Facebook check in again, I felt it appropriate to buy the Porsche fan something of a souvenir, a cut out and make GT3RS postcard would do nicely…
The Porsche car park is a spectacle itself
And inside the museum is just as clean
We skipped the Porsche restaurant and after a brief look inside the dealership opposite headed on to our next destination. I advised against Woz’s idea of the Mercedes museum on the opposite side of the city, given that it isn’t as good as Porsche and is also not the easiest route to drive through the city centre. Instead, we set out to investigate something I’ve planned to visit in the past, the Meilenwerk.
The idea is simple and effective. A small area of car themed businesses all in one place where anyone can come and have a look around. Outside there was a cross between a meet and a car show in the car parks, inside there were classic car dealerships, car memorabilia and merchandise for sale, new car dealerships for the likes of McLaren, Bentley and Lamborghini and several large glass cases, used for owners to store and show off their exotic cars. You could even hire some of them, though the €900 daily rate for the Alfa 8C Spider seemed a little out of our reach. There is also the V8 hotel on site, with car themed rooms. The main thing that got me here was the variety. American V8 trucks next to classic Ferraris, brand new Lamborghinis and original Fiat 500s. A Citroen DS sits in the car park next to a hot rod and a McLaren 12C Spider while a BMW Z1 inside is sat between a 2CV and a GT40! And on wandering round the back of the building, I found my favourite car of the day, something I never thought I’d see in the metal, the excess all areas Lamborghini LM002 off roader with it’s £3k a piece bulletproof tyres. Just casually sat in the car park next to a green Mitsubishi Colt!
12C Spiders outside Meilenwerk
The completely bonkers Lamborghini LM002
We finally got some lunch at 4pm, the Tower 66 diner adjoining the Harley showroom was a typical stereotyped American steakhouse but they did serve nice burgers. And the knives were good too… ;-)
As it started to get dark and the day was over, we hit the road for the 3 hour drive back up the autobahn. At some point along this journey I found how comfortable the Recaros were. By that I mean I slouched down and fell asleep, waking up to find I’d slept through a 150mph stint up the derestricted section chasing an AMG Mercedes. I am glad to announce that no clutches were destroyed in the process. I did however wake up just in time for the sat nav to ask us to leave the motorway, this being the point where Woz nearly overcooked it on the slip road, which I’m glad I wasn’t sleeping through! We passed through Kempenich and down the Hohe Acht road back to the hotel, skipping an evening meal after our late lunch.
As Monday morning came and we arrived fashionably late at the breakfast table yet again, we had most of the day to entertain ourselves in the local area before the track would open briefly in the evening. First port of call was the shops and visitor centre at the GP circuit. I refrained from buying anything in the shop, the wallet still crying from the September trip. Instead, we bought ourselves tickets for the museum, karting and ‘backstage tour’ which we then had to hurry downstairs in the next two minutes to join.
This was an unknown quantity and after listening to the guide speak German for five minutes, which I picked up the odd word of, we were relieved when he then started to relay the same information in the English as we took a tour of the historic paddock, followed by the GP paddock and pits before the press rooms, podium and the roof of the tower overlooking the pit straight and Hatzenbach section of the Nordschleife.
Heading to the GP paddock on the backstage tour
View from the top of the GP circuit
Next up, the kart track, all indoor and not quite on par with the Schumacher centre at Kerpen, but cheap enough for our 10 minute stint and the karts sounded good, even if the engine note was synthetic. We were on for an all UK podium right until the last lap when one of the Germans pulled a quick lap out to go second.
Finally we had our quick look around the museum, exactly as it was before. We had a quick game on the bizarre laser gun ride (don’t ask…) and took part in a challenge to change the wheels on a BMW F1 car. Despite me and Woz being a man down against the other three corners, our competitive British nature meant we were just as quick in the practice. We may even have won had it not been for our wheel nut dropping right underneath the car. Fail!
We took a quick afternoon trip into Adenau next, we had a postcard to send of course, as soon as we found the post office. And we also paid a visit to the paint shop, taking our tin of white spray through town in a clear plastic bag so everybody could see what we planned to get up to that evening…
As the time neared for the track to open to the public, I was dropped off at Galgenkopf for a walk through the mud to get round to Schwalbenschwanz, a corner I knew I could get nice and close to the track for to get some photos of the MR2s on track. I was joined there by a German photographer that I had a slightly awkward German/English conversation with and then soon after by two more Germans. After waiting, I finally got the photos of Adam’s car, but with Woz nowhere in sight. Until a few minutes later when he slowly came round with a saddened face. And upon zooming into the picture I could see why. Rear quarter damage…
I did hang on for a while in case Adam was going out again, but I think in light of the situation they’d called it a day and I headed back towards the entrance on foot where I met up with Woz. He still had a smile on his face luckily and was only too proud to show off his €98 Nurburgring branded invoice. Good lad!
And so he explained how he’d lost it into Metzgesfeld, taking it sideways into the barrier on the left, where there’s very little run off. Luckily, he’d not damaged the barrier, only marked it with red paint, so the majority of his bill was for a hot lap in the safety car Volvo (oh how we have memories of that Volvo, eh?) and half an hour of two marshalls’ time. Could have been much worse.
Adam makes it safely round at Schwalbenschwanz
Woz however, does not...
With that over, we prepared for our evening meal, at of course, the Pistenklause. And by now you should know what we all ordered. Ah, that lovely steak. We spent a little time ogling the seemingly production spec BMW i8 outside, which we were incredibly surprised to see and then I got the honour of driving Adam’s MR2 back to the hotel. I kept it pretty sensible though, last thing I wanted was another damaged MR2! And then we went for our evening track walk at Adenauer Forst where the full moon reflecting off the barriers did nothing to unnerve our Volvo hauntings from a year ago. Down at Metzgesfeld we went hunting for car parts, though rather than the usual race car carbon fibre we were looking for Woz’s indicator… And then it happened again. Lights on the barrier, surely not the moonlight this time? Nope, run! And over the barrier, knocking my head on it in the process to watch a bicycle silently wizz past. I still have no idea now. All I am thankful for is that there were no brambles this time and that the bruise on my head has just about gone two weeks later.
Back up at Adenauer Forst and seemingly shook up from yet another barrier dive, I stood watch on the safe side for Volvos, while Woz took the spray can and quickly left our tag, adding his, Adam’s and my names, but also Rich’s before crossing it out again… With half the can of paint still left, we gave up, opting to sit on the balcony and watch for the 11pm Volvo lap before we did anything more. By the time it had been, half an hour later than expected, we’d already had enough and opted for bed instead.
As Tuesday morning dawned, it was time to pack up and check out, paying for our room and saying goodbye to Eddy’s parents. We had an 8pm sailing so were in no rush, taking time to recycle our empty bottled and use the credit towards new full ones to take back and spending some time at Pflanzgarten and Dottinger Hohe watching the manufacturer testing session again, including an F Type Coupe, a Range Rover Sport that sounded better than anything else on track, a BMW 2 Series getting very sideways and a highly camouflaged Lamborghini.
Lamborghini Carbrera at PF2
F Type Coupe on Dottinger Hohe
We then decided to press on, giving ourselves time to stop along the way. Firstly at Spa, where we watched some R8s on the track on an experience day. With no food on offer in the paddock, we carried on again, with another brief stop at the Strepy Thieu boat lift before the final stint to Calais.
Arriving behind schedule we headed straight into the port, which turned out to be a bad idea. Our ferry was delayed by an hour. A building in front of us had a burger on the side but said ‘Coming soon’. Another on the other side of the port was closed and the big building in the middle that said ‘Restaurant’ on the side was inaccessible. All we could do was sit in the car again for another hour. Note to self: Don’t sail from Calais again.
Assessing the damage
The colossal Strepy Thieu boat lift
Once boarded we headed straight for the restaurant, to be very disappointed by what was on offer. £9 for chicken and chips or fish and chips which looked like they were cooked an hour ago in a school canteen. Nevertheless, we ate it anyway, not that it was that appetising. After a boring crossing, we reached England at around 10pm local time and headed straight up the West Midlands. At which point I found those Recaros just too comfy again and dozed off, waking only to find we were minutes away. Fairly refreshed from my snooze, I opted to head off down to my stop for the night near Ross on Wye, completing the journey in style at 3am, with the roof down, naturally!
All in all, a most unusual trip, a very interesting one and with a lot learned. As for that addiction, well it’s still not fulfilled. Lets just say trip number 12 is already in the planning ;-)
Time to go home. Tanks brimmed with 102 octane and the stash of bottles we were hiding in the wardrobe stuffed into the recycling machine at Rewe and exchanged for drinks. My alarm was set for so early I can’t even remember how early. I was straight up and finishing off packing. I knew I had a task on to get everything back in the S2000. Matt opened the shutters to the sight of cars coming down the hill, the reason the track had been closed to the public for the day. I cleared out all my kit from the garage, packed everything in the boot with far too much ease and started to look for what I’d left behind. Nothing it seemed. Only the tonneau cover which was ready to be put on stayed out of the car.
We had our last breakfast at Eddy’s and I’d definitely got bored of meat and cheese. Luckily the potato cubes were tasty enough. We paid our dues to Eddy after working out what we all owed each and thanked him for yet another perferct week in his hotel before handing our keys in and heading over the road to watch half an hour of the ADAC Westfalen Trophy.
We left the hotel, the satnav showing over four hours to our destination at Dunkerque’s ferry terminal. We still had to do the UK driving on top of this! Woz’s ‘home made DSG’ got off to a good start leaving the hotel and cruising down through Adenau centre for the last time where we picked up the scenic L10 road. A few miles down the road we all turned out onto the B258 that we would follow all the way into Belgium. A couple of interesting moments came at the junctions and a temporary traffic light where Woz tried his hardest and suceeded in keeping the MR2 moving. It was a lovely flowing road, all the way through to Monschau, just as I’d read about, though I had an idea of what was to come...
As we left Monschau heading for Eupen, we entered the Eifel National Park and crossed the Belgian border. Think you know how bad Belgian roads are? Think again. They don’t call this the ‘Road to Hell’ for nothing. You could feel the cars getting a full suspension test here for next three miles. Whilst I wasn’t too uncomfortable in the S2000 I could almost hear Matt screaming at me in his Recaros.
We were soon on the motorway, driving round Liege and the weather drastically changed as we entered a cloud of fog. I’d dismissed a Shell station already as it looked too tricky to get the broken MR2 into and out of, so decided to press on for Brussels and see what the ring road had to offer on a Sunday lunchtime. It was busy, as ever, though not enough to cause any inconvenience, flowing fast enough not to hold us back. Ignoring the services on the exit, I decided to stop in the next one. It finally appeared a further 20 miles down the road and we were greeted by our favourite yellow and red sign once more. Matt ran straight for the bushes. Clearly the three non stop hour had not gone down well with him. We stopped for half an hour on a well overdue break, running well ahead of schedule.
It was business as usual all the way back to the port, arriving 15 minutes early, despite me taking the wrong exit and leading Woz through a residential area with yet more traffic lights. Sorry Woz!
The rope came out as we reached the check in desk and Adam towed Woz through customs and into the lane ready to board the ferry.
Dunkerque was cold and miserable, no surprise there, so we piled into the departure lounge for five minutes looking for shelter and wifi. Wifi was locked, but we kept warm for a moment before being asked to return to the cars and get ready to board. Woz had this planned. He kept a good distance from Adam as everyone slowly piled into the boat. This plan worked until the cars in front of me stopped and left me on the ramp up to the car deck. Disaster. The tow rope came out again and Adam dragged Woz up getting slightly sideways in the process.
The ferry crossing was less stressful, finding some comfy chairs looking out to see on the top deck. On arrival at Dover, the captain decided to imitate Rich, doing a full 360 spin and making an announcement on the tannoy that we had to wait for an open space to dock. Finally, half an hour later we were getting in the cars and waiting to disembark.
Getting out of the docks was the usual chaos but Woz managed it well. Matt and Rich had got off the ferry five minutes before our lane and disappeared off into the distance. All that was left for me was to wave goodbye to the brummies and find my way across the country to Somerset.
I first had a challenge as soon as I got to the M25, finding it in gridlock, drizzly rain coming down and the tonneau cover still firmly attached from when I’d put it in the German sunshine. I took the same TomTom detour through Bracknell centre avoiding more chaos at the M25/M4 interchange and waited til I got almost to Swindon before taking a break for KFC and removing the tonneau for a 15 minute roof up stint.
Further down the road, it dried up again. I left the M4 at a random junction, pulling the roof catches down on the up ramp, slowly crossing the roundabout at the top with the roof going down and accelerated back onto the motorway putting the windows back up. Job done!
I carried on straight home, enjoying an enthusiastic drive back down the A39 from Bridgwater to keep me awake. I’d done it. I could now curl up in my comfy bed with a proper pillow, without having to unfold the quilt from a German having made the bed...
Our final full day in Adenau, and a day where the track was open for the whole day. As such, we’d set our alarms with the intention of an early breakfast (makes a change) and to be at the track entrance ready for it to open at 9am. My alarm went off no problem, me and Matt got ready and waited for the others to make an appearance. We knocked the door a couple of times and eventually got bored and went for breakfast. Rich joined us five minutes later followed by Woz and Adam. Woz explained that his alarm wasn’t set for Saturday. Oops.
Never mind. It was already sunny and warming up. The tonneau cover came out of the garage again and we were back off up the road once more. The car park was already filling up, but we secured prime positions and perused the cars again. At 9am sharp the tannoy announcement came and with that Rich wasted no time in making sure he was first on track. Matt had a lap left and was eager to use it, I sat shotgun to get a sighter lap and check how the track was.
Everything up to Adenauer Forst was reasonably dry. It was damp from Kallenhard down to the hotel and then in the usual spot at Bergwerk. Out of the trees it was dry again until we rounded the slight kink of Kesselchen to find mud and grass strewn over the track, parts of Giallo bodywork and 458 Italia driver with an expensive bill. We were waved through steadily and completed the rest of the lap with no issues, other than having to avoid a dead squirrel on Hohe Acht! It was a little damp in the usual places but nothing to stop me taking the Honda out.
Back in the car park, I waited for the Ferrari’s remains to be trailered through the gates, doing the parade of shame through the car park that everyone dreads. 15 minutes later and still no sign, I wanted to get a lap in while it was relatively quiet, now that enough cars had gone out to leave a comfortably dry line around most of the track. I took to the track, and the kerbs, taking Matt out for another ‘medium’ lap and with the camera running. There were still a few small damp patches to look out for and plenty of faster traffic, but the lap on the whole was much better. I slowed after Bergwerk in anticipation of the Ferrari incident still being there though it was now all cleaned up. The Artega ahead of me allowed me past and I continued on. I finished the lap having been overtaken by only a handful of cars, though going slowly up through Kesselchen had cost me time and I’d got an 11:18. The Rallye’s been faster than that. In the wet. Four up.
Rich and Adam were going out again. I liked the idea of laying in wait at Hatzenbach with the camera to get some photos of them. I led Matt out of the car park, through Nurburg village and down the back road past the GP circuit, then down into the Quiddelbach layby where we left him for me and Woz to pop back to the hotel for my camera. After driving down to the town and back, we parked in the layby and started the climb up the hill to find Matt at Hocheichen. Just around the corner we positioned ourselves at the letterboxes in the fence, with perfect view down into Hatzenbach and the GP complex in the background, only to find a lack of cars on the track. Two ambulances later it was clear that there had been another incident. We waited, until eventually I got the call from Rich that they had come to meet us in the layby. It was yet again back to the hotel and playing the waiting game for whatever had happened.
It was ideal time for lunch, and with Breidscheid now buzzing with people everywhere, the cafes were open. A strange contrast to just a couple of days before. Sausages were order of the day. As Matt and Woz went for the simple Currywurst, I made the same error I’d made last year and ordered a Bockwurst, only to have to wait 10 minutes for it not really to be worth the wait. Bratwurst next time! By the time I sat down, the others had moved onto Apfelstrudel.
The track reopened and I left them with their puddings to pop round to another photo postion, this time just down the road at Bergwerk. I clambered up the steep slope onto the viewing platform just in time to see the MX-5 go past, managing a few blurry shots without having time to adjust the camera settings. I waited a few minutes for the MR2, but as I had expected, he had been through the corner before I got there.
The afternoon was pressing on, I had one more card to use and Matt had also discovered another card which had a lap on. He made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. In tribute to Rack, the Clio now drove out onto the ‘Ring, on it’s two week birthday, with a full complement of driver and three passengers. Obviously no records were set, but it felt like a quick enough lap. Matt even took the high kerbs on the way out of Eiskurve. What a legend.
I took this as another sighter lap and with it being clear it was time for me to give Woz a proper passenger lap, facing the right way this time! This was a great lap, and my fastest of the week without a doubt. So much so that I ended up with a lot more brake fade on the downhill section from Metzgesfeld to Breidscheid and a nice judder of warped discs to go with it. I’d got more speed up to Steilstrecke and other than having to get out of the way of faster cars as always, kept a good line through most corners. The verdict: A 10:45. 15 seconds slower than the Rallye’s best (on a very quiet but dry November track). Damn.
It certainly felt faster, and there was most definitely more to be got from the S2000 but I think my talent was running out faster than the car’s. I had done my five laps and done enough. The car had survived and II wasn’t going out for that ‘one last lap’ that could end in tears. It left me with no doubt that I need better brakes and some more practice in a RWD car at tracks where the risk and consequence aren’t so high. Still, Woz had enjoyed the hot lap much more than the disaster of a few days earlier.
We regrouped in the field car park where Rich and Adam told us they had one more lap each. With that, me and Matt would now have chance to get some photos. It was back to Bergwerk for us, another scramble up the bank to be joined minutes later by a minibus full of Dutch guys. It was a bit cramped and uncomfortable but we waited. First, the MR2 came round. Rich in classic form pulling off an excellent pose in the passenger seat. Then came the worrying wait again, 15, maybe 20 minutes later and the MX-5 came into view, Woz taking the passenger seat for the final lap of the week. And we were done. As the sun set over the Eifel and the last few cars went out, the Touristenfahrten for the week was finished and the sad reality dawned that we would be returning to the UK the next day. At the hotel, we pushed Woz’s car into position to pose for a photo under the sign before it got too dark.
We had only one more mission for the week. The final supper. Matt had already nipped into the Pistenklause the day before and booked our table. We were sat in a cramped corner but it didn’t mattter. I don’t even know why the menus came out. Everyone was clearly decided on food a few days ago. That’ll be five fillet steaks then... This would be the only restaurant all week where everyone (including myself) would clear the plates (or stones in this case), and the portions are certainly not what I’d call small. I savoured every last slice. With no appearance from the blonde waitress, Adam and Rich went back to start packing. Matt and Woz got on the apple strudles again, while I refrained from pudding, counting out the last few bits of change to pay for the meal. This time it was a Warsteiner glass that left the restaurant.
We crossed the road to have a quick look in the M Test Centre and take some photos of the lovely M3 GTS in the window before getting lost in the churchyard on the way back to the car.
Back at the hotel, I made an effort to pack some of my kit, before shortly getting bored. We spent the rest of the evening in the mild open air on the balcony, reminiscing about a great week that had passed. And then the lights came down from the hill. With great excitement everyone lept to their feet to see the Volvo on it’s 11pm lap. And that was it.
Alarms set (and properly set this time) to be up for early breakfast and leaving.
All quiet at Hatzenbach
Four up lolz
Adam and Rich at Bergwerk
Glorious autumnal weather in the Eifel
Breakfast gets later and later (a bit like blog updates, eh?). We barely made it to the table before 10am. I felt slightly bad for making Wilfred bring me some more cheese out so I could eat but I was hungry. After eating, our first task for the day was to return to the scene of the crime from the previous night, taking the bumpy track to admire our artwork. Matt's Clio could handle no more of the off roading and we left him at the hotel for half an hour.
On return to the car park the all red line up had now been joined by a red UK Mk1 MR2, a red Alfa 156 and a shiny red Norwegian Volvo, whose owner Matt had been making friends with. Turns out the Volvo was only a week old too. We found Matt in typical Renault fashion with the bonnet up, cleaning and stickering up the engine bay and trying to eradicate the mouse that had chewed the wiring and eaten half of the warranty sticker. The first trip back to the dealer is going to be interesting...
As we patiently waited for the track to open at 2:30, lunch was served in house, finally making use of the cheese and meat we had bought on our first day. It was clear I was the only one to have made ‘car sandwiches’ in the past. As the others scrambled around for a knife, I broke open my roll and utilised an expired lap card to spread my butter. Like a pro.
It was soon time to make our way up to the entrance. It was a Friday afternoon, the town had been deserted most of the week, it was end of season. It was going to be quiet, right? Of course not. The sweltering hot sun probably had an effect, but the main car park being packed, we settled for the gravel patch on the opposite side of the roundabout. We were early and the track was still closed, so we wandered around the paddock instead, admiring the metal on show. M3, 911, Corvette, M3, 911, California, M3, 911 etc...Sat outside the Devils Diner was a beautiful 458 Italia, in Giallo (yellow for the non-Italian speaking) on the much nicer standard wheels (rather than the optional ones that most 458s seem to wear). The combination of an Italian supercar on Russian plates, with an oriental driver speaking with a German accent seemed a little odd, but we were impressed all the same.
With Woz’s car out of action, I bought his remaining three laps. A muffled announcement came over the tannoy which would mean only one thing. There was a dash on as everybody flooded up to the entrance barriers. Having made this mistake in the past, i waited for the initial rush to die down. We had four hours today, I wasn’t wasting a lap going at at it’s busiest. Rich and Adam took the track a couple of minutes later. Not long after, the ambulance and tow truck were called. Oh dear. Please not one of our guys. Cars piled off the track and as the time went on, the joke of Rich spinning became more serious concern. There was a brief pause of cars through the exit and we still hadn’t seen Rich or Adam. This was quite worrying. Moments later, a red MR2 exited and shortly after that, Rich made his appearance. It was a relief.
The loudspeaker sounded again. “The Nordschleife will be closed for at least 45 minutes”. We sat in the car park, I could feel myself getting sunburnt. I even attempted to raise the soft top, before realising I’d fitted the tonneau cover. Rookie error.
Another 10 minutes of burning the side of my head, I decided the head back to the hotel to rest on the balcony and wait for the track to open. The others followed suit. We waited for almost an hour, constantly refreshing the webcam feed before seeing cars racing down the hill to Breidscheid. Getting late in the day, I was going out of my only lap. The initial rush would have died down by the time I reached the entrance and I decided to go straight on. Rich parked up and hopped into the passenger seat as I queued in the traffic.
The barriers were quite clear, and the lap started fairly quiet. I was a little nervous on my way into Tiergarten on my first lap since the spin there, though it was apparent that the track had much more grip today and I soon found a comfortable pace, taking all of my favourite kerbs and giving Rich a ‘medium’ lap. It got a little busier after the hotel and I stuck the indicator on a few times for faster cars to come through but it had been a much better experience for both of us. I came off track where the car parks were all now full and found a space in the field next to anther New Formula Red pre-facelift S2000. Car friend! With a whole day of the track being open tomorrow, I called it a day. Not long after, another announcement was made and the track was to be shut for the rest of the day. Just as Matt had purchased another lap and made his way through to the barrier.
After the drive back, we had a decision to make regarding our final two meals. Only one place would be fitting for the final night, we’d eaten in Pinocchio’s the night before, so we decided on Blaue Ecke for the penultimate evening. We drove down and parked in the layby / bus stop in the centre of the town, a little unsure whether this was allowed. An Italian Mini was already there, but I know from previous experience that the Italians make up their own rules.
As we were seated in the restaurant, on an uncomfortably low table, we enquired with the waiter who reassured us it was fine, before discouraging us moments later as it wasn’t his problem. Slightly odd sense of humour. He soon came back to tell us off as pyromaniac Rich started to burn the beer mats. I left the biggest surprise for Woz and Matt who were slightly freaked out by the knight at the top of the stairs on the way round to the toilets. He seems to have lost his head and an arm since last time.
Various unusual dishes were ordered, some local speciality sausages and noodles that looked like chips. I played it safe with a ‘plain’ cheeseburger, or so I thought, forgetting that ‘plain’ to Germans means you still get some odd flavoured sauce. I let Adam help me out with part of it as I’d couldn’t cope with any more of the sauce flavour and he’d not got on too well with his sausages.
On our way out, we crossed the road to look at the sign that I have missed on all my previous trips, pointing the directions to various racetracks across the world. Crossing the road to the parked cars, which hadn’t been towed away thankfully, Matt faced some more bad German sense of humour as a drunk guy started to apologise for some damage to the Clio. His friend reassured us that it was OK, to which Matt retorted “It’s not OK!” The front corner was checked for damage but with nothing being found it appeared that it was some kind of joke. Either that or some beer had been spilt on the car, probably actually cleaning it a little. I got in the drivers seat and took us back, still slightly confused by the car that does everything for you, not having to put the lights on, or the keys in the ignition.
Back at the hotel we were on watch for the Volvo security car now, to make sure it was a regular thing and not just somebody after us. Being still relatively early, we got a DVD on for a while. I’d love to tell you how good Outsiders is, but having fallen asleep half an hour in and not waking up until the laptop battery was minutes from dieing, I didn’t really see much of it. Matt was now also fast asleep. Woz and Rich went to bed and having woke up from my power nap full of energy, I sat out on the balcony to keep a watch out. 10 minutes later, bright lights came down the hill from Wehrseifen and as I looked into Ex Muhle I could see the unmistakeable shape of Volvo tail lights. Mission complete, it was time to try to get some more sleep.
Red cars only
Daytona seems close enough...
Yet again, the blog is late. This is due to traumatic circumstances that will come to light towards the end of this post.
The day started so well. We bathed in German sunlight yet again, the temperature was nice and mild. As fist task of the day, Rich wanted some money from the bank and all of us wanted some paint (for obvious reasons). It was only a short drive into the centre of Adenau, where we would need to find parking. Our usual spot by Pinocchio's was taken (being right next to the school on a school day), our next effort asked for a debit card on entry, which didn't work and eventually we found a small section on the side of the road just big enough to squeeze a pair of MR2s and an S2000 into.
Rich got his money after a couple of attempts and then while walking down the road we found a guy in a fox costume waving at the traffic, promoting something. For unknown reasons, we had to get our photo taken with him. He was very cooperative although you could tell he wasn't smiling inside.
Paint was the next objective. We found our way down to the fan shop where a variety of stickers were bought, Woz still not able to find another plain black one. The shop owner was only too happy to sell us three cans of white paint to deface the track with, even giving us advice on the best paint, though it was clear that the see through bag was an effort to expose us as we walked back to the cars.
It was then up to the visitors centre one more time, having just enough free tickets to get entry to the Ring Werk museum. I didn't know what to expect from this as I'd never stumped up the €20 entrance charge, and whilst it wasn't worth paying for, it was good enough as a freebie. We had our photos taken with previous race winners, a few laps on Gran Turismo 5, and some more random games, including a completely weird teacup style ride with laser guns and no clear objective. Needless to say, I came last! I had an urge to put a #topalwaysdown sticker on an F1 car, but couldn't be sure there were no cameras. Finally, we watched a ten minute video explaining the corners of the track from back in the day when there were no barriers, very surreal.
It was back into the empty boulevard again and into the Race Room for a rematch next. I wasn't going to be hindered by the car this time. I quickly chose a DB9R and raced out of the pits on qualifying, chased by a sideways R8, a Zonda and a Gumpert that appeared to be a handful! The Aston didn't let me down. I saw no one all through the qualifying and the race was similar, Rich coming within 7 seconds of me at one point before spinning and allowing me to stretch the gap to 15 seconds.
Now lunchtime, the Subway next door was the easiest option. One guy single handedly running the place was stretched to his limit but we all eventually got served.
From here, it was onwards to Kerpen, deliberately ignoring the satnav so to get a drive through the town and out onto the twisty roads to Altenahr and though it's infamous tunnels. VTEC in a tunnel is an amazing sound.
Before long we were onto the autobahn on the look out for the derestricted sign. Our first section was limited to 120kph, though with 5 miles before out exit, a derestricted section came up. I held back knowing we only had five minutes, but the MR2s sped off into the distance for a high speed run just a mile before the exit. Luckily Rich had seen my indicator and I found the others slowly cruising down the slip road.
Minutes round the corner we turned up at the Michael Schumacher Kart Centre. Looking like pros with our own helmets, we booked onto two outdoor sessions and waited for our turns. We had ten minutes each time and plenty of German traffic to contend with. I found myself in a duel with Matt until suddenly he disappeared from view. I found him on the next lap stood on a corner with a wheel hanging off his kart. A lap later it was Rich's turn to wreck his kart. After a ten minute break we were out on another session. Much of the same including a duel with Matt again though this time with more contact and some mildly angry Germans... A final session saw us now on the indoor track, with a slippy floor ideal for drifting, and only a handful of Germans to get in our way. I started out not far behind Woz and Adam before they lost me and I ended up on my own for a minute then decided to get the kart sideways on a few corners to give Rich chance to catch up so we could have a bit of a battle.
The way back from Kerpen involved the same motorways as the run up, giving us a chance to stretch the legs of the cars. I flashed the hazards to let those behind know my intentions when I then dropped a gear and proceeded to hit 9k in fourth, then on to 5th and over 200kph before easing off for the traffic ahead. The MR2s continued reaching over 160mph and we spent the rest of our time slowing for each other to come past at high speed. Childish, but much fun. From here it was back through the tunnels. A quick spin around a junction bought us enough space from the traffic to enjoy the tunnels to ourselves. We reached the hotel as the sun set, only for Woz to announce that he'd had no clutch most of the way back. Ah, so the talk of going home on a tow truck wasn't so pessimistic after all. No more 'Ring time for Woz's MR2!
We had a brief stop at the hotel and then headed into town for food at Pinocchio's. The pizza seemed to have scared us from the other night, so the safe options of schnitzels, pasta and a calzone were ordered, except for Rich who couldn't help but order a pizza salami. He still couldn't manage even the regular size, leaving only a crust and a couple of slices of salami. Still did better than me as I had to offer out most of my generous portion of schnitzel. One or two Bitburger glasses may have gone walkies too...
Last task for the day was a drive up the bumpy Adenauer Forst track again amongst the deer to add our mark to the tarmac. I chose a large #topalwaysdown off the line on some clean tarmac, well in view of the spectator point. Winner! A selection of other tags were added, as was a Spitfire and a couple of fake apex dots. We then collectively used our phone LEDs to take a photo, only for Matt to glance and see headlights coming round the track. Run! There was mass panic as me and Rich launched over the barriers, the Brummies ran off into the woods and Matt casually sat behind the fence. A Volvo came into view, stopped and reversed. For a split second I thought we'd been seen but it then drove off away from us. I waited for a few seconds before me and Rich recovered ourselves and we gathered ourselves together. I'd bashed my leg on the barrier, given my phone a 'Ring battle scar and covered myself in crap off the bush I'd fallen into. Rich meanwhile looked like he'd been mauled by an animal. We raced to the cars and set off down the track, scared that someone was now after us.
It was worth it. I'd just got the photo I'd wanted before we had to run. On closer inspection it had seemed that this was a regular check, not someone specifically out after us. Certainly not something I've seen before here. We will lie in wait and see if they come round tomorrow.
Colour coded car parking
The hobo has found somewhere to sleep
Actually quite sketchy when you turn around to this...
Well worth it...
"Today is expected to be foggy" said my alarm as I woke up this morning. How wrong it turned out to be. 45 minutes later, having finished writing the previous days blog post, it was time for another stab at breakfast. Playing the safe option as always I went for another plateful of meat, cheese and bread.
With the track only open to the same test cars today, we set our sights further afield. It was close to five years since I set out in my white 106 along the Mosel valley as part of a "home to Peugeot in Mulhouse" tour and I'd decided it was perfect for a few hours of wasting fuel, taking in the scenery and looking for the best fun roads we could find. We managed all three.
Rich jumped in shotgun in the S2000 and the cars were filled to the top with 102RON, a luxury for us Brits and certainly worth the €1.79 price tag for the F1 style pump handle alone.
Now facing the wrong way, rather than simply turning round and with plenty of time, it was a good excuse for a run up the switchbacks of the Hohe Acht road. After coming back around past Brunnchen my route took us into the small village of Meuspath before leading out onto a narrow and bumpy road named after a Honda engine, the K20. Matt and his Clio's suspension must have loved me. Certainly not a quick road, it was at least interesting, even more so when a testing 5 Series GT came hooning around a narrow corner into our path. Soon the roads became wider, quicker and more fun. A slow tourist in a Polo held us up for a short time though we turned off and got away, leading onto a long straight, perfect for VTEC.
We were lead along a typical German B road, nice and open with no hedges to obscure the view. Plenty of opportunity to hit the apexes and take the racing line. A disappointment came when a bus came into view a few corners ahead, though as we took the next series of bends it was clear that the number 713 was not hanging around. At some points he seemed to pull away, at all points he had wheels well and truly on the apex.
We followed him down to our first stop of the day in Tries Karden, parking along the riverside once we'd negotiated the dropped kerbs. Matt loves the dropped kerbs. After a quick stop here to cool the cars down and a first opportunity to check the oil levels on the flat we drove off towards Cochem, although the route along the river was closed at this point. We were taken past the supermarket with the helicopter (only a few people will understand what I mean by that) and up over the hills. Following the other diverted traffic meant being held up on the bends down into the town, which Rich saw as the perfect chance to lean right out the car and get some formation photos.
Once in Cochem I headed for the station car park, although following the signs for the Bahnhof only lead me to a cobbled street in from of the station. Matt loves the cobbles. A few turns later and I found the little bridge into the car park and we parked up, paid a respectable 50c and gave ourselves an hour to wander round the town. On the way out of the car park on foot, we noticed a bright yellow 106 and my inner geek wanted to find out if it was a Sport or an S16. The steel wheels and cloth interior showed it was indeed a rare Sport. We wandered around the cobbled streets looking for somewhere to eat, only finding a coffee shop that looked to posh for us and a rotisserie chicken van. Instead, we decided not to eat, bought drinks from the local Shell station and wandered down the river looking for a toilet. After a trip into the Bahnhof we decided there was nothing more to do here and set off.
I set the satnav for a windy looking piece of road another 15 miles along the river. We now got to drive the flowing road through the valley, surrounded by the vineyards on the steep hillsides, through a couple of small villages and on to the twisters. This road did not disappoint. A local in a Laguna in front saw what we were up to and kindly pulled over so not to ruin our fun. Hairpin after hairpin gave us chance to get more photos and for at least one MR2 to get a little sideways. Again we pulled over the let the cars cool before commencing.
The way back was much of the same route, despite my planning, so I added in another detour, this time to the Kempenich sign from my previous trips. It's become a kind of tradition. While the 106 had a tenancy to roll off down the hill, Adam's MR2 instead made lots of danger noises before proceeding to dump a load of coolant. We were here for a while then. Woz and Rich each took a turn to take the S2000 down the road and then fiddle with the (now completely functional) electric roof.
Eventually, Adam was able to top the water up and we made our way much more gently back to the hotel, taking the Hohe Acht road as a gentle cruise serenaded by Brian Eno's An Ending (aka the Top Gear end of series music) seeing rather fitting in the low light.
Once back, we rested for a while as Adam and Woz went out to check on the MR2. Matt took to the trackside with camera before being told off by security for being in the "red zone". Eventually I could resit no longer and the buckets came out to give the S2000 a wash. Woz eventually caved in too, leaving a variety of different shades of red in the hotel car park. Stickers were fitted all round, or in Woz's case, screwed up and thrown on the floor. I also got chance to decorate the sign at the top of the steps with my own sticker, leaving topalwaysdown's mark at the 'Ring.
Our restaurant for the night was the floor below. I even continued to wear my slippers. There were no blonde waitresses on show tonight, the only nice jugs on offer were full of Coke, Sprite and Warsteiner. Steak was served as it always should be, on a piping hot stone. A variation on the theme saw Matt and Adam with pork and chicken in addition to the usual beef, while the rest of us went for the rump. The sauces were lovely, though the rest of the meal was incomparable to the fillet from two nights before. We know where we will be returning to...
Full of steak, we retired to our rooms, putting off the traditional Steilstrecke walk for another day...
Somewhere near Treis Karden
Car problems at the Kempenich sign
Slab of cow
Today started with our first meal at Eddy's hotel and a disappointing lack of donuts at the breakfast table. A selection of bread, meat, cheese and eggs had to suffice instead.
Once fed, with the track not open til late afternoon we had the day to wander round the area and do some exploring. Matt called the passenger seat in the Honda only to suffer a topalwaysdown related injury minutes later when a random branch fell into the car hitting him in the face. First stop was the Dottinger Hohe ED petrol station, a quick visit to look at the vast collection of model cars for sale, none of which were MR2s, S2000s, MX-5s or Clios...
A short distance up the road, the next stop was the ghost town of the 'Ring boulevard complex. Stickers were purchased and we wandered around the empty centre with only the Nissan showroom and Race Room open. Since we couldn't find our way into the grandstands to watch the GP circuit, we instead used some free time to have a race on the simulators. Qualifying seemed to go fairly well for me, though the 10 seconds to choose a car resulted in me driving a manky Marcos. The race was another matter. Matt soon found his way to the front, while Woz and Rich battled for second. Further back, a large off had seen my car reset facing the wrong way, losing me valuable time and from the back of the field I began to chase down the AI drivers before coming across Adam's Spyker. I passed only to slide off soon after, though rejoining the track a few corners later I got back in front when the same happened to Adam. After half a lap of mirrors full of Spyker, I began to edge away and catch fifth place. My second lap of the two lap race was much more successful with now major offs and coming into the Dottinger Hohe straight I was catching fourth before the game cut out.
We made our way back to the car park where only one child was immature enough to get sideways on the empty gravel. Erm.... Guilty! I made an unscheduled stop down the road to check on opening times for the Brauhaus, which unfortunately found it to be closed not just for the day but for the foreseeable future. No metre long sausage this time then.
More disappointment came just round the corner in the back roads of the GP circuit where a barrier prevented me going to the Sudschleife as planned and a closed gate thwarted our effort to get into the grandstands to watch. We parked up and first watched a bit of the skid pan action. This consisted of under steering Octavias and CLKs plus a lad in a 5 Series Touring who got it sideways every time. I did the usual of convincing the group to walk the route despite the miserable weather. We soon found ourselves walking through the trees along the old Sudschleife route. Half and hour later and much more tired we reached the cars again.
We took the short drive down to Adenau in the search of lunch. Finding most places closed. My idea of bratwurst mit pommes and curry ketchup wasn't to be. Further into the town, I used a parking space that I wasn't sure about on the premise that "I'd parked there once before and my car had still been there when I came back". Lunch was served at the Blaue Ecke in the middle of town. I got my schnitzel fix, Adam played it safe with a burger and the others has spaghetti. The waiter became the second German of the day to have a sense of humour joking with us about our salad dodging and giving Rich a firm but joking "No!" when Rich asked "Can I have..."
Our next task was to attempt to get stickers from the breakdown and recovery company KFZ Bongard, something that friends had managed to do in the past. A little lost in translation we eventually figured that these were no longer available. Still we had chance to nose around a mainly carbon covered Evo that had clearly had an expensive off, plus a Gumpert hiding in a showroom next door.
After a quick detour back to the hotel, we drove up the long bumpy track to the viewing point at Adenauer Forst where we spent an hour watching the test cars going round. Today there were lovely sounding M135s, a Discovery with the tyres constantly squealing, a very graceful Rolls Royce Ghost coupe and amongst others, the same Supra and IS200 combo that I had seen lapping last November. Almost forgot to mention the F Type too. Want!
It was getting late and almost time for out hour long stint of public session, so we picked up the remaining cars from the hotel and made our way to the entrance. Initially, it looked as though our time had been cut short and we were limited to half an hour, though at 5:30 an announcement came over the tannoy that included the word Nordschleife and people started to move. Rich was the most keen and wasted no time in getting out. Matt waited around the car park while I took Woz as passenger with Adam following.
The track was a little damper than the day before, but the initial series of kinks in the lead up to Tiergarten felt grippy and the S2000 was taken to 9k in seconds and third. I cut the white line on the way into the first right hander, remarking at the time at how the track felt "OK" and with that the back end came round like a pendulum and I was left rather embarrassingly on the grass on the inside of the corner facing the wrong way. As Adam came round I could see the look on his face was partly of laughing at me and patly fear that if I'd come off, what hope did he have?
As soon as the traffic allowed, I got the car back on track facing the right way, took the next right at T13 and then left before going down the hill and essentially doing a carbon copy just 30 seconds after the first spin. I did me well, giving me more respect for the car, I completed the rest of the lap at near to 30mph, being overtaken by a Mondeo estate, an Insignia and a 1.6 Golf. Made me realised my four up overtake of a VX220 last year in the Rallye wasn't quite the achievement I'd thought.
With the S2000 back in the car park and the only damage to my pride, I could at least see the funny side and soon found out that Rich had done exactly the same in the first corner. I was doing no more laps, though Matt was now going to go out and serial nutcase Rich wanted more.
The MR2s followed me to Brunnchen for some spectating. I attempted to get the S2000 on three wheels a la Rallye, though this was not to be. Woz ignored me parking further back and carried on soon followed by a loud scraping noise and a slightly battle scarred front splitter. As we stood on the trackside with our cameras I told the others that this corner was where they were most likely to see a crash. And we weren't disappointed.
Matt came round safely first, a little understeer from the Clio but powering away with a lovely exhaust note. 30 seconds later the MX-5 pop up lights came into view and as he exited the first part of Brunnchen the back end swung right out sending Rich into a well held (whether partly luck or not) 360 degree spin. A loud "LOL" from Woz and a thumbs up from Rich ad he was safe to carry on. The German spectators also found this very amusing.
We set out to find Matt and Rich in the hope that they had completed the rest of the lap safely and were relieved to see them coming towards us back on the road. It was back to the hotel again to recover from the trauma and enjoy video of the MX-5 pirouetting through Brunnchen on repeat.
A safer task for the day was the five minute drive to Pinocchio's Pizzeria for the infamous "regular" pizzas. Rich had unfinished business to complete with an XXL while Woz foolishly decided the regular wasn't enough despite the look on my face when I questioned him. Sure enough, the look on his face when confronted with a 10" pizza was quite amusing.
Adam and Matt conquered their 15" regulars despite Matt having gone for the hot option. I saved some for breakfast and both Woz and Rich managed a valiant 75%. This means Rich still needs to come back again!
We let them both recover for an hour before wrapping up warm in hats and blankets and taking a walk up the track, fuelled by Bitburger. The racing line was discussed at Kallenhard where the dots were found on the turn in and apex points and as we returned down the track our scavenging efforts left Matt with a carbon airbox, Rich with some Halfords looking mesh and Adam with most of the front end of a race car...
We all survived the ascent of the slippery barrier and made it back to the hotel before all of our phones that had been lighting the way died.
We found a Shell!
Enough pizza to feed a small country
Steilstrecke "seemed like a good idea"
The aftermath of the 24"
Good news. We've made it to Adenau. All five cars! This may have been slightly unexpected, but is good news all the same.
The day started early at 8am local time, 7am for the UK. The Carrefour petrol station did indeed stock 98RON, though being unmanned made for an 'insert card and hope' scenario. With all cars brimmed, we made our way through a quiet Dunkerque and onto the E40.
Within no time, we reached the Belgian border, signified by the large rut running across the road and watching the rest of the convoy bouncing their way into the country. We continued for an hour towards the rising sun, the convoy keeping close with a steady 120kph speed before it dawned on me that nobody had had breakfast and I was still unsure whether Adam had filled the MR2 or if he was still searching for a Shell. The next services became the first stop of the day. The Total fuel was ignored, mainly because we were all still fairly full from the morning and the first item on the agenda was a selection of baguettes, croissants and pain au chocolats. I took the time to assess the weather situation and fit the tonneau cover, I'm getting much better at that with practice! Rich meanwhile decided on some off roading in the Mazda resulting in a bent sill. Top work!
We hit the road again, our intention being to stop near Brussels. With a not so strict time schedule I kept to the sat nav and made no attempt to avoid the hell of the R0, the infamous Brussels ring road. This looked like it may have been a mistake at first as 10 miles from Brussels the traffic stopped dead and a queue formed. I decided we had to persevere and was rewarded to find the delay was only two minutes later. A Toyota Auris facing the wrong way and then a truck and another badly damaged car came into view. In the UK this would have closed the motorway for the rest of the day. In Belgium, the vehicles are just left in the middle of the road and you are left to find your way round the wreckage and through the shards of smashed plastic...
Once negotiated, it was time to lead a five car convoy round the R0. It went surprisingly well. It was busy, as expected but at a steady crawl. I've certainly seen it worse. The convoy even got a nod of appreciation from a passing biker.
Still recovering from my least favourite continental road we set off for another services for a small break. The first had the world's most confusing entrance which meant we ended up simply doing a drive past. The second was much easier to find our way through and let Rich top up his fuel.
From here, an hour away from Spa, I set the satnav for one of the four Shell stations in the area that I had pre-planned. The route took a pleasant diversion from the usual, taking us through a series of what I'd like to call "VTEC appreciation tunnels". If ever there was a fitting time to have the roof down and the airbox lid sat at home in the garage, this was it!
We approached Spa town, with a triumphant cheer at finding a familiar red and yellow petrol station that was actually open. Hooray! Cars were all now running on lovely V Power as we left in the direction of Francorchamps and the Spa Circuit.
Dissapointingly, all was quiet at Spa. We did the obligatory walk into the unguarded grandstands and took the obligatory photo of Eau Rouge before wandering into the paddock, always on the look out for angry Germans. There were no today, instead, we found a paddock full of numbered up cars, mostly English and within five minutes were accompanied by the sound of people finishing their lunch break and heading out on track. Perfect timing!
We watched for half an hour as a variety of cars took to the circuit, ranging from Jaguar D Types, to race spec Corvettes and GT3RS's and even a Brit in a standard looking Mk3 MR2. Unfortunately, as the track fell quiet we soon saw a truck bringing a damaged TR4A back to the pits, the owner looking suitably gutted. After a quick look at the carnage, it was decided to press on, no more stops now.
We left the E42 at Prum, my normal "back route" through the Eifel, only to find the road closed. We found an interesting detour with the added bonus of a couple of unexpected hairpins thrown in for good measure and I was pleased to find we had come back onto our original route just in time to take one of my favourite roads, the L10 from Budesheim to Hillesheim. It's a bumpy start, something the Rallye took in its uncomftable stride, though even the S2000 felt fine. The open corners flowed from one to the next and as long as I could always see the MX-5 at the back when it came to a straight we could press on.
In another twenty minutes or so, we found our way past the Nürburgring complex, a drive past the TF entrance to check how busy it was and down to our hotel to check in and unload. Hotel owner Eddy was a legend as always, handing us the keys to Room 1 (balcony) and Room 4 (three bed opposite), plus a garage for our storage. With the cars considerably lighter, we drove the short distance to the entrance and got into buying tickets. Prepared as always, I had come with cards which I got checked. Unfortunately I only had two of the four laps I was expecting, but one got used anyway.
I first took Adam out in the S2000 to give him a taster of what to expect. The track was damp in places with a dry line most of the way around. I stuck to a moderate pace, included some VTEC where appropriate on the straights and faster sections and tested the car's feelings of going over the high kerbs through Hatzenbach and the exit of Eiskurve. It was not quite Rallye speed but the car felt good. In the dry I'd be a lot more confident, but the feeling of having the top down enhanced the fun factor. Until I reached the car park.
Panic on... The roof is stuck in the down position. This is taking #topalwaysdown a little too far... Checked the fuses, tried and tried again but left with a broken roof I had no other option than to lock it and hope it didn't rain before jumping in the MR2 to give complete 'Ring novice Adam some guidance. Meanwhile, Rich had got back from taking Woz out and Matt had successfully lapped the now nine day old Clio. Stuff of legends TBH. Woz now took to the MR2 with Matt as passenger and guide with Rich off on a solo lap.
Adam's lap went well, he took the advice, albeit a little over cautiously in some places, though maybe to be expected for someone who's relying on blind faith in my instructions! As Woz passed us at Aremberg and disappeared down a moist Fuchsruhre at a high pace I voiced my concern, though he managed to hold it together, even if he did make Matt a little green (something that's happened before in a Rallye...)
We let the cars cool before heading down to Adenau. Whilst waiting for Matt to get out of the car park, I fiddled with the roof switch only for it to work! In a split second I realised that leaving the handbrake off so not to cook the brakes in the car park had been the problem all along. Nothing wrong with the reliable Honda (which by the way hasn't lost a drop of oil since leaving home!).
In order of importance, we first stocked up on Bitburger in the Rewe "beer supermarket" then headed next door for food. On return to the cars a strange German man asked if I would give him the S2000. I reluctantly declined.
After unloading at the hotel again, Woz and Matt took us to the famous Pistenklause restaurant in Nürburg village. I convinced Adam to have the famous "steak auf stein", a raw chunk of cow on a piping hot patio slab that you have to cook yourself. He was glad I did. Plates were cleared and after a good look at the blonde waitress' cleavage I had the job of driving the Clio back to the hotel, Matt having had a drink. It was "quite nice".
Now, at gone midnight I need some sleep. Stay tuned...
The standard Eau Rouge shot
The petrolhead's holy grail
Sitting in a cheap French hotel, yet again, I'm pleased to announce that the Red Roadster (and Renault) Ring Roadtrip is now underway.
I set out from Somerset this morning with the simple task of making it to the opposite side of the country to get on board a large boat. With the top down and a clear blue sky above, everything was perfect. I was off to the motorsport mecca in my dream car and the sun was shining down on me. It may have been single figures temperature wise and I couldn't feel my hands but I had a smile on my face. My specially prepared road trip playlist was giving me everything from Elbow's "One Day Like This" to Matt Munro's "On Days Like These" and everything was perfect until I made the first stop of the day...
The cheap Shell that I had planned to stop at had everything but the V Power I needed, something that was to become a theme of the day. Another station further up the motorway allowed me to quench the Honda's thirst but might as well have required me to bend over whilst doing so. £1.57 a litre!?
Onwards through Bristol I managed to have a little fun in the small tunnel like section under the M4 interchange until the VTEC 4 pot got drowned out by one of Maranello's V8s. He had the roof up though. Pussy...
I soon met Matt in his spanking week old Clio and we carried on east, taking the usual TomTom diversion through Bracknell to break up the motorway driving and avoid a section of the worst road in the UK, the M25. Another stop at Clackett Lane gave Matt a chance to get out of the not so comfortable Recaros and we were joined by Rich in the MX-5 complete with a full compliment of tools and two spare wheels and tyres strapped to the boot rack. Optimistic as ever!
Soon off the M25 and onto the M20 and M26 we met the final contingent, MR2 drivers Adam and Woz, in Maidstone before leaving in search of a Shell again. Not a problem of course, I've got them all programmed into my sat nav, the chosen one being Folkestone. However, a little yellow sign at the side of the motorway was to strike fear into the MR2 drivers - "No fuel at services". Erm...
We made a stop anyway to check the sign was right. It was. The Shell station was barricaded and completely closed. Our only other option was to use the local Tesco in the hope of finding some Momentum (thanks to the tip off from an old guy in a rather cool Vauxhall Firenza!) or head for the continent in the hope of a Shell. It was decided to get into France. I had a Shell in Dunkerque bookmarked, it couldn't be third time unlucky, surely?
We arrived in the port at a punctual 3pm, breezed through the rather lax border controls and made our way through to check in. Being the first time in a few years that I was not taking my Rallye had an effect on me as I automatically pulled up to the LHD queue before realising a minute later that I was on the wrong side.
Once Woz had fixed his headlights (yes, he broke the car before we even left UK soil, it doesn't bode well does it?) we were soon boarding and after a little cheeky manouver managed to get the cars in line, only separated by a belgian MPV. Result. The crossing was calm and without any issues, bar Adam almost getting locked in the car deck. On return to the cars, feeble attempts were made to block the glare from our headlights with black electric tape. At least we'd made an effort.
On the other side it was business as usual as we followed the queue out of the docks. We let the belgian out of our convoy so we could be together, only to get split up again on the approach to a roundabout. Nevertheless, we all made it safely into the village of Loon Plage on the hunt for the elusive Shell. We found it. But it wasn't a Shell. And being 7pm on a Sunday it was also deserted. Hmmm. On to the hotel then to consider our options.
Another 10 minutes down the road though a couple of confusing junctions and round the wrong way of a one way system through a supermarket car park we found our F1 Hotel. Check in was as simple as showing the guy my printed off reservation, probably the easiest thing all day. We found our rooms and settled in, Adam, Woz and Rich sharing Room 101!
Finally it was time to eat. Easy option McDonald's was abandoned in favour of a deadly trip through Dunkerque centre to find stone baked pizza (this may have included a red S2000 driving down a road on the wrong side for a few seconds...). The menu was as confusing as the last time, but we managed enough French to get something we each liked. The French man serving us had as much of a laugh at our language barrier as us. Remember from previous experience, jambon et fromage is always the safe option. The gale force winds on the sea front forced us to eat in the cars, probably not what Matt had in mind for the 8 day old Clio! All that was left now was to get back to the hotel and get some sleep for an early start in the morning. With the top down (naturally) it started to drizzle. No problem, I'm used to that. It started to rain. Fine as long as I keep above 40mph (65kph now I've swapped the clocks over). Then we hit a red light to coincide with an absolute downpour. I patiently waited, getting drenched, for the lights to change so that I could demonstrate the roof mod on the move to Woz in the passenger seat. The last two miles back to the hotel were done roof up but it was too late, we were already soaked!
Weather for tomorrow looks dry, so the tonneau cover could be making an appearance (yes, I've managed to fit it in the boot with even my wash buckets and my slippers!). We have located a Carrefour petrol station next to the hotel selling 98RON (we'll just have to not be fuel snobs for once) for the morning and we're planning on leaving at 8am bound for Spa and then Adenau.
More to come tomorrow ;-)
200 + 2000 + (2 x 2) + 5 = Convoy!
Woz doing his Kate Winslett impession
Broke it already, Woz?
Stone baked goodness and epic lolz