Ring trip March 2012 – Day 2

Oooo holy smegballs … that wouldn’t be the V8 Atom in the car park would it?  And the two press Noble M600s, as seen on that bit on Top Gear where Hammond broke the first one?  Well bugger me, so it is.  And it’s Chris Harris, the Evo & Pistonheads journalist who’s on driving duty.  Reckon this could be A Good Day.

 

Some more down-to-earth machinery in the paddock – Fords Capri and Anglia:

 

Silly but fun RX8:

 

Journalist David Yu’s tuned GTR with the Litchfield boys:

 

A couple of English Sevens, one with over 200bhp:

 

Ferrari 458 with Gallardo:

 

A little Mini porn for Nyki:

 

Apparently this is a GTM Gen 2 (whatever that is) and cost about €90,000:

 

My two shaggers.  The Elise still looks weird clean:

 

Mike’s Octavia got a few laps in during the first day before being usurped by a rental Scirocco for tomorrow:

 

Team Moo-Moo on tour:

 

Nigel’s 458:

 

Ring track action tends to follow a pretty standard pattern.  Arrive full of internal bravado with plans to smash your previous best lap.  Do sighting lap.  Wonder if you’ve brought enough clean pants to last the morning, let alone the whole trip.  Pootle around like a fanny for a bit.  Click with the track and stick in a couple of flyers, noticing every lap where you could’ve gone faster.  Get over-confident, have A Moment and calm down a bit.  Reach a happy balance, get slightly quicker every lap until man, track and roller skate achieve a sweet, harmonious nirvana.  Then they close the track.

 

Here, Ben and David are in the pants-counting phase:

Best way to calm tingly nerves?  Play with the cow.  Hmm, that sounds like a euphemism … but thinking about it, that would probably be just as effective…

 

So, sighting laps then.  How do they work?  Well, the idea is that you pootle around the track, following the pootler ahead whilst not having to worry about faster traffic overtaking.  You remind yourself where the racing lines are, notice where the marshals are posted and take a note of anything that’s changed since you were last on the track.  It’s all fairly straightforward.  Today we have an hour of sighting laps, during which time no-one is allowed to overtake.  This was explained to us last night during the briefing, but then he drops the bombshell … sighting laps are to be done at 30-40kph.

 

What?

 

We look at each other aghast.  I might have even spluttered.  Did he really say thirty to forty k’s?  He bloody did!  He wants us to do fifteen-and-a-bit miles at no more than 25mph?  That’ll take … erm … divide by x … carry the fourteen … fucking ages!

 

I know the rules are there for a reason.  I know you have to obey them.  But sometimes common sense has to prevail, and in a pleasing display of mild middle-class rebellion, everyone ignored the gross stupidity of 30-40kph and instead went around at a sensible speed and finished their sighting laps before their beard growth interfered with the brake pedal.  30-40k’s.  For fuck’s sake.  You can cycle faster than that at the Foxhole.

 

The end of the sighting lap period seemed a grey area – we were mildly concerned that we might start a hot lap and find an anally retentive driver on the far side of a blind bend obeying the rules and driving more slowly than a coach full of dialysis patients, who’d started his lap sometime back in the previous autumn.  But then, we were still in pants-jeopardy mode so we weren’t exactly tanking around ourselves.  Build up familiarity first, the speed will come later.  Keep saying it, it might come true…

 

Chris takes the chicane.

 

As does David:

 

Lunchtime, and I pretend to take a boring photo of Ben munching on willywurst, when I was actually trying to get Keith Flint from The Prodigy in the background.  Team Moo-Moo, mixing it with the stars.  Ar yeah.

 

Mike looks a bit shaky on his feet after David “shows him the lines”:

 

Mike and Chris wonder if their affairs are in order before venturing out again:

 

Ho ho, we do like our shadow play:

 

Noble, Anglia and racing thingy on track:

 

Crapping sodflaps, those are C- and D-type Jags!  They’re actually Proteus replicas, and we had a chat with the C-type guy.  He’s done 8000 miles around the Ring in it!

 

So there I am, happily refreshing my neural network with the best lines in the sunshine, whereupon I approach a Golf just after the Karussell who seems to be trickling along the right hand side of the track.  As I approach to pass, I see a blast of flames on the overrun that makes me chuckle … but hang on.  He wasn’t exactly tanking along, so why would there be …  Aargh!  That’s not unburnt fuel!  That’s the car ON FIRE!  Oh shitty death …

 

I wave my hands around to try and tell the driver to ditch it, but he’s way ahead of me.  He’s pulling onto the new astroturf and is over the barrier like a jack rabbit as I disappear over Hohe Acht.  I’m kicking myself for not stopping to help, it didn’t even occur to me until I was too far away to get back.  Silly Jimbo.  It’s not as if I can even complete my lap, the track is inevitably red-flagged so I have to tickle into the pits regretting my bad judgement.  I heard later that several people stopped and used their extinguishers on the flaming stoppers, but to no avail – the car was barbecued exactly as the Kings of Leon predicted.  (Whoooooahhhooooaah …. my brakes are on fire).

 

So that’s dead car one of four.  It was half an hour before the VW Charcoal made it back to the pits and we could go again.  I’d used the dead time to move the transponder over to the MX5, so I headed out in that.

Mwahaha, what a laugh that car is  :)   At the run towards Schwedenkreuz for the first time, I gleefully shouted to Chris in the passenger seat, “IT’S ON THE STOP!”, gesturing towards the speedo that was pointing at my ever-shrinking bollocks.

The MX5 really is a shit-heap from a muggle’s point of view but feck me, it’s completely brilliant from where I’m sitting.  I thought the Elise was the perfect car, but I’m really struggling to find a winner now.  If the MX5 had the Elise’s kerb weight, if the Elise had the MX5′s gearbox … nnnng I’m just going to have to keep loving both of them and thrash the living bejaysus out of them until one of them explodes  :D

 

Mike takes the Skoda for a spin:

 

Ben chases down a couple of aptly-named Swifts:

 

Nigel chases facelifted Elise:

and gets chased himself by a ludicrously quick 3 series that paid scant attention to the overtaking rules … more on him later …

 

Rent4Ring’s new Artega GT, piloted by Dan Trent from Pistonheads:

 

And then, it happened.  It had to happen, but nobody really expected it to happen quite like this.  The facts of the drama have all been collected from paddock rumour and hearsay, so it’s all possibly bollocks, but it’s an entertaining story nonetheless.  With that in mind, we think that rallycross and X-Games driver Liam Doran was there with Litchfield in his soupy GTR.  Liam is the son of another rallycross star, Pat Doran, which confused the rumour mill somewhat, but it was definitely Liam who was screaming down the pit straight with his cousin in the passenger seat, towards the very-tight-can’t-take-at-30 hairpin alongside a VLN Corvette with VLN racing driver aboard.  According to Mr Corvette, Liam decided to outbrake him.  By rather a lot.  At the 50 board the GTR’s LED brake lights flicked on, but at that stage it was rather like trying to stop a train with a stick of butter.  The GTR’s onboard computer regressed to the factory in which it was made, as its short silicon life flashed before its electronic eyes.  The enormous gravel trap disappeared under the runaway rice rocket in a flash, the doomed GTR gracefully clearing the catch fencing at the far end and beginning its metal-crunching series of impacts that consigned it to the slowly swelling ranks of ex-GTRs…

 

And so the first day of track action ended.  The last hour and half was spent scooping up bits of Nissan while the packed paddock waited patiently and the rumours spread like syphilis at a swingers’ party.

 

The driver’s fine, by the way (thanks for asking), but it’s safe to say he’s deeply unpopular at the moment.  Many people started accusing him of being a country music lover but stopped five syllables before the end…

 

Pistonheads’ reports on the incident, with pictures of the mangled wreckage:

http://www.pistonheads.com/news/default.asp?storyId=25392

http://www.pistonheads.com/news/default.asp?storyId=25440

 

and it gets a mention in Top Gear too, in which he claims he wasn’t trying to outbrake the Corvette, in fact his brakes were cooked to the point of uselessness by the drifting he’d been doing earlier in the day (errrr…..): http://www.topgear.com/uk/photos/liam-doran-monster-energy-x-games-interview-2012-03-30

and then there’s this article, in which he claims the brakes stopped working because he hadn’t used them for so long … which is blatantly horseshit.  He’s just come off the main Nordschleife straight, where he’d had about 2 miles of flat-out straight, enough to get him touching 200mph, then braking hard from there for the wiggles that lead on to the GP circuit.  He says he’d just finished a 7 minute lap of the Nordschleife (on his fifth ever lap, so that’s clearly guff of the highest order anyway), so the brakes must’ve been fine for the rest of the lap.  He says he has footage of him braking early and pumping the brakes, but he’s choosing not to share it – it just doesn’t add up:  http://skiddmark.com/2012/03/the-real-story-behind-liam-dorans-gt-r-crash-at-the-nurburgring/

On the other hand, this is genuinely him beating MARCUS GRONHOLM – one of the best rally drivers of all time – on a rally stage.  So he’s obviously pretty damn handy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fszz7zHzm2Y&feature=related

But he still cost every single one of us 75 quid of track time, and I’m not seeing any sign of him apologising to anyone, so he’s still a country music lover in my eyes.

 

Anyway, that’s by the by.

Dead car tally: Two.  Bloody lucky drivers: Two.

 

On a rather more fragrant note, Pistenklause was packed to the rafters as usual, and the slab of cow on a stone was as delicious as ever:  Happy days.

Ring trip March 2012 – Day One

You know it’s early when you’ve already travelled halfway across the country and the sun still hasn’t come up…

That’s the Elise, spookily and unusually clean for one of my cars, and that’s Chris in the clanky old MX5 that he’s driving over for me.  I had hoped to be in the NSX, but the exhaust has rotted and couldn’t be fixed in time.  Bah humbug.

 

It’s still ridiculously early, so say hello to a rather bleary looking Mike:

Ben:

And Chris:

The screen behind Mike helpfully tells us that there are THREE loads of roadworks between our cups of coffee and Dover – but it was lying like a Tory in tight trousers.  Not that I’m politically aligned in any way – other liars are available.

 

Arriving at the ever-reliable DFDS crossing and sorting out the headlight doohickeys:

whereupon all of a sudden, the hills were alive with the sound of David arriving:

David’s car, laden down with the brand new Team Moo-Moo clobber, is another MX5, but whereas mine is scabby and slow, David’s is honed and fast.  And now considerably lighter now it isn’t stuffed with Moo-Moo shirts, coats and beanies.

 

The chap on the boat decides where to put us based on the sexiness of the car … therefore Ben and I are naturally at the front … at least that’s my theory …

Bye bye England

And immediately the humour of a bunch of lads begins as we enjoy a Cocksta coffee in the shadows:

Arrival at Dunkirk … such a picturesque part of the world, provided you ignore everything you can see, hear and smell.

Amusing Phlegmish place names, tee hee!

 

First fuel stop at the typically enigmatic Belgian petrol station:

 

David prods buttons in vain, looking for the one labelled, “just give me some PIGGING PETROL!”

 

Ben tries the equally unproductive method of sticking the nozzle in and waiting for something to happen.

 

Nope.  Try poking buttons.

 

OK, so surely after eventually getting petrol we now know how the silly things work?  No, we are none the wiser.  The successful technique seems to be to faff around looking lost for a while and eventually some petrol comes out.  I love Belgium.

 

Cruising down the euro-motor-route behind David, very nearly legally:

 

Nice stretch of autobahn  :)

 

Scenic road on the way into Adenau:

 

Jimbo’s car, from Jimbo’s other car:

 

Entering the Exhaust Appreciation Tunnel on the way to Adenau:

 

And finally, nearly 12 hours after the alarm went off about a week ago, we arrive at the Hotel an der Norschleife with the wonderfully welcoming Eddy Mathey and family:

This shot is from the Roadhawk – as you can see, the images it records are pretty crappy quality, but it does have the advantage of recording automatically whenever the ignition is on, so if anything interesting happens unexpectedly, you have it saved on the SD card.  The tech isn’t quite there yet, maybe the next iteration will be The One.  It’s all perfectly achievable for, say, £200, I’m not sure why it doesn’t exist yet.

 

Settled in, we can sign in for tomorrow’s track day to save time in the morning, so we’re off to a dark Nurburgring GP circuit paddock with the hordes to sign in.

“Hands up who’s planning to write their car off?” says the briefing guy.  Ho ho, what a jolly question.  “Statistically four of you will, over the next two days.”  An eerie hush descends.

 

He was right, too.  Four cars would go to the great crapheap in the sky before the track action was done.  Tune in tomorrow to find out which ones.

Ring trip March 2012 – Day Zero

I love having the day off before a road trip.  And I need all of it, because I ALWAYS forget something.  Once I forgot my trousers.  Genuinely.

My plan of action, which cannot possibly fail, is to keep the laptop open all day and, whenever I think of something I need to take, make a note of it on the laptop.  At the end of the day, all I need to do is collect all that stuff.  Then I keep the list for my next trip and use that as a starting point.  Genius.  How can it fail.

Well it doesn’t work too well when your last trip was to Anglesey, where you don’t usually need a passport.  Hang on a minute.

 

Right, that’s packed the passport.  Wonder what else I’ve forgotten.

 

The other loophole I’ve had to plug in an otherwise (clearly) flawless plan is when all my crap doesn’t fit in one bag.  I have, in the past, meticulously packed everything on the list and then confidently gone away with only two out of the three packed bags.  So I had to do Snetterton in a suit.  I was the most poshly dressed dickhead there that day, I can tell you.

But today, I’ve had the whole day to get it right.  And it was the Oz F1, so I was up at sparrow-fart leaving me oodles of time in which to prepare.  Granted, I’ve gone to bed twice since then, but let’s not split hairs.  All the bags are packed.  The only thing left on the list is “laptop”, which I can’t really do anything about just yet, for obvious reasons.  I can’t type this drivel from inside the bag.

Now I have a new problem.  To avoid repeating Snettertongate, I have to write down the list of bags as well.  And I have to pack them in the car before I turn the laptop off, otherwise the process doesn’t work.

I already know what’s going to happen.  I’ll be loading the bags into the car.  Chris will turn up early to drive Car Two and I’ll get distracted, load the bags into the car (which is like a game of Tetris in an Elise) and forget to take the laptop.  But I have a cunning plan.  I have another laptop.  It’s crap and it won’t be fit for dicking about with helmet-cam video (which is what I need it for), but I’m going to put that one on the list and pack it.  Then it won’t matter if I forget this one.  Which I then won’t do, because it isn’t important any more.  Ha!

These are the lengths I have to go to in order to work around my own incompetence.  They’ll probably drive me into a padded cell at customs.

Of course, I should probably be typing this nonsense and the luggage lists on the crappy lappy and packing the mean machine … but if I swap over now I’ll get confused and will end up blogging on a loofah or something.

Christ knows how I’m going to get around the VLN circuit without dying.  Wish me luck.

Here’s a lap of the VLN circuit, so you can tell later exactly where I caught fire:

(Bugger … forgot to pack the fire extinguisher…)

Rush set (2)

Nipped into the Rush set at Blackbushe again this morning.  Not much happening except for a few bored wet security guards milling around.  Got chatting to one of them who kindly let us into the grandstand for a photo op  :)