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 ;-)
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ;-)