Pilgrimage to the Green Hell

June 22, 2016.CCFool.1 Like.0 Comments

The Nürburgring. The Nordschleife. The Green Hell.

A mecca for petrolheads and motorsport fanatics, Nürburg has a magical quality to it. It’s in the air, in the locals, in the tarmac of the infamous circuit. Just walking around the village you’re constantly hit with reminders of the focus of this place. Wherever you look, there’s a performance Porsche, BMW or hot hatch. I’ve never seen so many GT3’s in one place. Often stripped out and more extreme, built with one purpose, to shave seconds off lap times around the 20.8km circuit.

Each year I make a concerted effort to head over to the Ring. I feel the pull of its graceful curves, its endless nuisances and the chance to dance with the devil once more. There is something alluring about the challenge, the need to know each of the 154 corners intimately and to feel the constant drive for lower lap times.

Although, I’ve completed a fair few touristenfahrten laps (usually in a hired Suzuki Swift from Rent4Ring) there’s no question the best way to experience the Nordschleife is on a track day. A limited number of cars, no bikes or buses and a better standard of driving (most of the time!).

This year I decided to join Gran Turismo for an epic two day, 120 car limited, entertainment included, track day adventure. The only issue was what car to take? The Porsche GT3 RS? The BMW 2oo2 aka “The Shitterror” or the Caterham Supersport? Sadly, the GT3 was still mid-service, so that left it to the other two. Having had noise issues with the 2002 previously (see Shakedown), I was concerned I’d be getting close to the noise limits. This would increase my chances of eviction from the track and the Germans don’t mess around, there are no second chances. I needed a fall back position, I enlisted the help of Lee from Auto_Shack, deciding to drive the 2002 and entrust Lee with towing the Caterham.

John Danby Racing and Auto_Shack gave the cars a once over; the trailer was hitched up and bags packed. Locked and loaded we headed to the tunnel.

My record from Nürburg to the Calais is 3:54 minutes, however, it soon became clear with the Golf TDi gallantly, but slowly towing the Caterham, it was going to take a little longer. This messed up my ever-optimistic timings and we arrived at the Gran Turismo opening evening a little late. Too tardy to find a seat for dinner, we did the decent thing and headed straight for the bar. There is something very cool about being surrounded by rare historic road and racecars, while sinking Germany’s finest beer. Admiring a crazy racing truck with more torque intercontinental freight train, we bumped in to Peter Ternstrom, owner of Gran Turismo and received a very enthusiastic and friendly welcome. It was definitely going to be a fun few days!

In the days leading up to the event, we’d been watching the weather closely. The forecast had consistently predicted torrential rain and thunderstorms, not the ideal outlook for the infamous Nürburgring! The weekend before had seen some crazy weather for the N24, with a large number of the field firing themselves off the circuit in a sudden down pour of hail.

Fortunately, although a little foggy, we woke up to a dry day. Eager to get out we headed to the entrance car park. The weapon of choice was going to be the 2002. I’ve been desperate to get a photo of the little orange beast on the Ring since completing the build, now was my opportunity. Once the track had dried out, we finally headed out around noon. It was awesome to finally get to use the car in anger.

There’s no question this car is quick, the lightening fast gear changes help to propel it forward with a considerable surge of momentum. The way the boost from the supercharger builds is very linier, but linier to the point of insanity. You know those outrageous and seemingly unrealistic scenes from The Fast & Furious? Where the backgrounds start to blur in an automobile version of warp drive? This car, above 6k revs, is just like that; the world around you starts to slide backwards in a flurry of scenery. And it goes all the way to 8600rpm.

We quickly discovered that the car was still suffering from the over heating issues we experienced in Barcelona. Even though we’d made a significant number of changes after the Spanish track days, just a few miles in to the Nordschliefe, we were seeing temperatures over 105 deg. At this point the ECU started to retard the engine, significantly reducing power (for good reason!). The only solution to this was short shift and back off towards the end of the lap.

The problem is the F20C engine likes to be revved and revved hard, so having to pussy foot around rather defeated the object. Lee (Auto_Shack) is going to have his work cut out trying to resolve it. It’s going to be a fine balance of practical solutions while trying to maintain the classic look of the car. I’m also not 100% happy with the handling, so there’s still a lot more to come with the orange terror. Watch this space!

In complete contrast to the orange 2002, the Caterham Superhsport is like an old, dependable dog. A little shabby round the edges; but consistently reliable and happy to lap endlessly, wanting for nothing. You can almost see it start to wag its tail as you unload it from the trailer. So, for the second day, I decided to focus on the Caterham. I know there is a sub-8 minute BTG time in it, but I just didn’t get there this time.

Looking forward to heading back out later in the year and trying to shave off those last 15 seconds! Sub-8 here I come.

A special thank you needs to go to the guys at Michelin and GetSpeed for helping us out with the orange ’02. Michelin for their tyre support and GetSpeed for taking time out of their busy day to get the BMW on a ramp and make sure everything was tight for the journey home. Thanks guys!

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