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Chris Ratcliff
12-11-2007, 08:02 PM
Just to point out, this is a somewhat belated report from June...

Nurburgring - Days 1 and 2

Day one, and after driving down from Sheffield, there stood the MX-5 waiting to carry Jim and I across Europe, and for hard work and fun round one of the world's most fearsome race circuits. Our home for much of the time, and a place for relaxation of whoever isn't driving.

I say stood, more suspended. On axle stands. With the front wheels missing. This isn't quite what I'd hoped for...

As Jim ran off a job list which most garages would offer 'a week Tuesday' as the completion date on, I realised our early start, traffic avoidance, and slap up meal in Dover were off the cards. Instead time to get working. A quick fettle - as far as my fettling skills would allow anyway - and I was dispatched to town for some last minute shopping and currency exchange.

A phone call from Jim said he'd found a supply shop with the wing mirror glass we need to see things happening on the left of the car. After getting lost in Thurmaston, I returned triumphant. The MX-5 was coming together too, diff oil to be changed, but otherwise about there. Looking at the wing mirror - empty of everything, just a shell - and bolting it back to it's bracket, it was clear we had a problem. The wing mirror glass was designed for a repair, that you stick onto the broken glass below to make it work. We had no broken glass. Jim found the Araldite and I started cutting a slug from MDF. We had no time to fix it there and then, it would have to wait.

Back on the floor, the MX-5 was a (dirty) sight on its lowered shocks and springs. Sitting low, the Elise driver’s seat sitting lower, it was ready to go. Jim took it out for a quick test drive and declared that nothing would fall off, but it handling like a greasy weasel.

Bugger. The steering wheel was also about 25 degrees off straight when the car wasn't turning. Double bugger.

No time, we added it to the list of things to do eventually and completely failed to look up the French or German for 'Can you please sort this wonky MX-5 suspension?' What became apparent too was that the lowered suspension had given the wheels lots of, uneven and unknown, camber. The top of the wheels were pointed in towards the car. What would that do the handling? No idea. Off to Dover...

Staying off the M1, for reasons lost to the ages, I became accustomed to my new environment. No AC, stuff under my legs, a camera bag on them, and a stereo barely audible over the wind noise and something that was probably confused tyres grumbling about their wonkiness. A quick change and I was in the driver’s seat. With a clear lap, reclined posture and constant fight to keep the MX-5 in lane with such a quick steering rack, it certainly makes you feel like you're driving a race car between massive 4x4s and even bigger lorries. Also going through the tolls on the Dartford bridge make you realise quite how low you are. Chucking a quid up like a game of basketball is an odd, if fun, sensation.

Seeing the sea, arriving in Dover, avoiding boarding a ferry twelve hours early, and stumbling across the right Travel Inn was a simple but satisfying series of coincidences, such was our preparation. A quick look at that night's manifesto showed that most of the folk had yet to arrive, but James Castro and Raoul were somewhere. Chucking the bags in the room, and baggsying the proper bed, Jim and I quickly found ourselves with a pair of £5 JD & cokes, but no one I recognised. After a bit of a chat, and a couple more drinks, Marty and Ginger Rich appeared, and pointed out where we hadn't looked for people. Then more drinks, laughter, more people arriving, and a sense of giddy anticipation lead us to bed and the knowledge of an early start.

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Day two started well. Alarms went off, showers were had, car was packed, and matching shirts distributed and put on. We set off for the two minute trip to the port, and a cooked breakfast. All aboard, restaurant located, and 13 breakfasts ordered and devoured. A trip on deck - for no reason other than we're English, on a boat, and it's the done thing - gave the first sight of France. The lack of preparation between Jim and I meant I hadn't been able to get European maps working on my Sat-Nav, and Jim hadn't wired up the cigarette lighter socket to anything. Diving off the ferry, the MX-5 lost ground to the grunty Beemers, Volvos and Mercs (and a hire van, going far faster than it had any right to) and quickly a junction was upon us.

It was my mistake in all honesty. My plan of 'follow the others' had hit a snag when we lost line of sight, and Jim and I were quickly heading towards Spain. Fortunately we had maps with us, so I quickly spotted the mistake, and we headed off in hot pursuit, we thought. No contact with the others so I picked a likely route, thinking it may be a lonely few hours ahead. Then my phone rang, and it turned out we weren't far behind so a stop at the first services we came to, and the gang was back together. Dumping the stuff clogging up our rear view in Nik's Golf, we risked putting the top down, and enjoying Al Fresco motoring.

Now, it's worth noting that DIY repairs and modifications can cause quirks that manufacturers don't really like in their cars. If, for example, you were to run low on fuel, you know that manufacturers have a reserve so 'E' means 'Things are a bit iffy, stop sooner rather than later'. However, if you fit a replacement dashboard, and get the full gauge slightly out of alignment with the dial, then you effectively get a reserve at the top end, and 'E' means you've stopped at the side of the road.

"Errr, I think we need to stop for fuel. Anyone's Sat-Nav showing a services up ahead?"

"Nothing on mine, how far do you think you've got?"

Probably eight or nine miles. Maybe five.

What? Really?

Yup.

"Five? We'll pull off at the next junction at catch you up."

http://www.fstopjunkie.net/images/nltrip/esso-garage.jpg

After lucking into a petrol station, the car was filled and we headed back to the motorway, again in pursuit. All caught up, I ticked one of the things off my to-do list for the trip. Tracking shots of the other cars. Looking out over the rear quarter panels, Jim and I became a camera car, while others manuvered into position. It's quite a thrill getting shots, and having them come out cleanly, in a way that would be quite illegal in a car with a roof, even in Belgium.

http://www.fstopjunkie.net/images/nltrip/van-convey-lead.jpg

http://www.fstopjunkie.net/images/nltrip/PS-MX5-track2.jpg

http://www.fstopjunkie.net/images/nltrip/tom-merc-cruise.jpg

Shots of all the cars in the bag, and clouds darkening, away went the camera and up went the roof. Then the rain started. The journey became a mixture of faceless motorway and trying to see where others have gone. Stopping for lunch, the hunt for stupid names began. Yes it's childish, but Smaak flavoured condoms, Martino sandwiches and my choice of pre-breaded processed sausage - Bi-Fi, the wireless meat. Oh, and a frank in a vac-pack, which was god awful. Thankfully a couple of pastries from the Merc, and I was content as I got behind the wheel.

Driving abroad isn't difficult, at least not on the motorway. The problems come with junctions, as the complex ones are all back to front. Going from the big roads, onto smaller winding ones give a whole new pleasure as you drive through the Eiffel mountains, the landscapes are stunning. The mist hanging in the trees, and the houses looking like something straight out of the Sound of Music or the Swiss Family Robinson. The roads are cracking too, as I found when we were split up from the rest of the group by a slow truck. Once overtaken, catching up on a wet mountain road in a car with unknown handling characteristics was a clenching affair, but fun. The Elise seat, with almost no padding, had taken its toll though, and I was looking forward to prising myself out of it.

After each being parted with 11 euros a night for the campsite, and in receipt of a natty pink wristband - despite Psi's protestations - we went off into the forest to find a pitch, and find a good one we did! Secluded, just up from the entrance, and big enough for everyone. Up went the tents - some quite quickly, while Marty's 70's throwback needed a dozen people to hold poles at the same time. Freed from the van was the community EZ-Up, branded - somewhat conspicuously - with Bacardi, which went up and kept those not still putting up tents dry. Being English, we decided tea was in order. James decided to nip off for a sighting lap of the ring, and I stopped to take in our surroundings, while trying to stay dry.

An MX-5 is a curious beast to choose for a trans-European holiday. To store enough for two men, car spares, tent, sleeping bags and helmets requires a proper car. The MX-5 has about the same amount of space as a pair of cargo pants. Picking what to take therefore becomes about stripping everything back. No to the trolley jack, but yes to brake pads. No to fancy clothes, but yes to clean undercrackers. As a result I had one pair of jeans (which I was wearing) and a pair of shorts, and thanks to the weather forecast I had a thin fleece and a waterproof shell that didn't really fit me when I was a fit racing cyclist, and even less so now I'm not. Something needed to be done, I needed a coat.

With James not having returned from his lap, Marty went off to find him, with a lap round the ring if required... Tom, Andy, Jim and I headed off to Adenau to get supplies, via the Ring carpark just in case. Following the Merc down to Adenau was along a glorious, smooth country road. Tricky corners and tight hairpins left all of us making a mental note of the best way to go shopping, however disappointment was waiting. Aldi was rubbish, Lidl was disappointing, but saved by the purchase of Nougat Pillows. Think chocolate mini-shredded wheats, with Nutella in the middle. I'm sure they're great with milk, but alarmingly moreish and not one ever saw a bowl. Across the road was salvation. Rewe, an innocuous looking superstore, but inside a nice place containing everything we needed. Mugs, disposable BBQs, even a selection of cooked meats and cheeses. We did well.

Back at camp, James was back with the Beemer in once piece and Marty had a mug in his hand. The world was in balance once more. With the rest of the tents up, and everything sorted, we headed up to the bar for some food. Beer and schnitzel was the order of the night, and I realised what a great group had come together. All petrol heads, all geeks, all laughing at obscure pop culture references, all together with a common aim to have fun and enjoy the Nurburgring experience. There was a rare feeling of togetherness, even for people on the periphery of the core group like me. It was nice to spend time with a group of people who all pitch in, all laugh, and where there was not one arsehole amongst the lot.

The same can't be said for the people around us. Wandering through the forest, a new camp had set up next to us. People milling around, and about 11pm the music started. Surprisingly loud, but just having fun. It'll be off by midnight.

Awoken, I checked my watch. I could hear shouting but couldn't focus on the watch or the sound. The world snapped into focus, it was 2am...

"Oi! I've been trying to get to sleep for an hour and a half. Would you *please* turn that music *down*!"

It was Rich.

"Ja, Ja, we will. <music goes down slightly> Is that OK?"

"NO&#33;&#33;"

"Okay, okay. <Music goes down to relatively low, if still loud level> We are friendly, we are friendly."

"*Thank you*"

And so I drifted off to the first of several noisy nights...

Nige
12-11-2007, 08:17 PM
Superb, simply superb :thumb:

Jim Cameron
12-11-2007, 08:20 PM
:lol: Come on&#33; Type faster&#33; :whistle:

Chris Ratcliff
12-11-2007, 09:33 PM
Nurburgring - Day 3

http://www.fstopjunkie.net/images/nltrip/teaforthree.jpg

Having spent the night next to, and been woken up by, the Germans who never sleep, we did what any group of British folk would do. Had a cup of tea and made a plan.

It was a simple plan, a good plan. We&#39;d be all British about it and move.

A scout team was sent ahead while anything that needed to be packed was chucked in any car or passenger seat. Once a new plot - secluded location, away from the loud folk - had been found and the Mazda plonked there in what can only be described as a beach towel/sun lounger manoeuvre, we moved. The great thing with modern tents is that they can easily be picked up at either end and carried to a new spot and then secured with just a handful of tent pegs. Marty&#39;s tent was no such modern affair, consisting of poles, more poles, a cover which would keep the rain off most counties in England and a small conservatory. A quick count of people and poles made the plan obvious, we&#39;d take the tent in one go. With two people barking orders and seven more with a pole each, the tent was on the move. Barely narrower than the access roads around the site we easily moved the structure to it&#39;s final resting place.

http://www.fstopjunkie.net/images/nltrip/campsite.jpg

Having been rained on all through the move, and the Mazda still as wonky as ever, it was clear we needed a trip to Adenau. Rewe provided tasteful jackets with &#39;NURBURGRING&#39; embroidered across the back, and a garage was found who could fix the car. Sort of. Initially the nice man behind the counter seemed to be completely happy to sort the suspension to the settings that Jim provided. A mechanic appeared in dungarees and with a fag on the go, discussions were had and computers were checked. It seems the camber, castor and such were too much to ask, instead they could fix the tracking only. God knows how it must have looked when they realised just how much it was out...

Having been ushered out, we perched on the wall outside. We discussed the attractiveness of German women, if Claudia Schiffer was attractive, if Claudia Schiffer was German, and the merits of any car that went past. Being near the Nurburgring there was a procession of discussion worthy cars that helped pass the hour long wait. Fit the car may have been (for now), but Kwik it most certainly wasn&#39;t. Getting a fuse with Alex&#39;s bike which refused to have both the ignition and the head light working at the same time helped pass five minutes, but eventually we were on the road, steering wheel pointing straight, and the ring was open. It was time.

Tom was the first person we saw.

"Do you have helmets?"

Yes, of course.

"I&#39;d wear them, I saw a Clio V6 on it&#39;s roof last time around. It had a cage, and I&#39;m not sure the MX-5 would cope upside down..."

Well that&#39;s that. Jim had a ticket in his sweaty hand, we were both wearing helmets, and what Jackie Stewart called &#39;The Green Hell&#39; was ahead of us. Oh, and neither of us knew the track especially well. The barrier went up, and Jim let the clutch out to ease onto the track.

First rule of driving on the Nurburgring is to overtake on the left. The second rule is watch your mirrors and indicate right if you see a faster car coming. Most beginners (which was us) follow the second rule far, far more than the first. While waiting for our slot at the garage, the MX-5 now had a second working wing mirror and I was watching that while Jim took his side and the rear view mirror. Over the next twelve miles we became intimately accustomed to the right hand side of the track, except for a spin at Metzgefeld where we found the grass on the left lacked grip. The damp track and massive camber at the rear had turned the car round at very low speed, but it was a stark reminder of what we were doing and quite how close the barriers are...

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Coming back to the pits, it was clear that the track was drying, but it was certainly not a time for driving to impress. So learning the track should be fine&#33; I pulled my lid on, and sat in the car. My heart pounding in my ears, mouth dry, and a steely determination to just get round the lap. Approaching the barrier, I noticed a lack of other cars, and bright flashing lights. I was all psyched up, but the track had just been shut.

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Turning the car around right in front of the barriers is a bit like walking off an empty dancefloor, both embarrassing and disappointing, especially when you&#39;ve been waiting for your moment...

Back in the car park it was a case of hurry up and wait, but the sun was out and the track was drying. An announcement and it was like a Le Mans start as drivers ran to their cars. Letting the dust settle, I got back into the car, pulled my lid on and drove once more to the barrier. Putting the ticket in and watching my path clear, I was about to drive on the fabled Nurburgring, and I was going to enjoy this&#33;

Powering along the first straight, searching out dry tarmac and following the ideal line, it was such a liberating feeling. A twitch at the first Hohenrain-Schikane told me to take it easy, and that I did. Watching my mirrors like a hawk, but still getting surprised as a bright orange flash of Porsche 911 GT3 RS through the passenger window was the first warning I got of a very, very fast car. Letting anything from a Porsche to a Polo past and sticking to my own speed, the lap was a blur of half-remembered corners, half forgotten lines, and amazement at the speed of things going past. Having the angel on my shoulder reminding me that it&#39;s not my car, I need to get home in it, and the suspension is so far out of whack that &#39;whack&#39; is a sound I could hear all too easily helped keep me in check. Rolling into the carpark and getting out, it was clear. The Nurburgring bug had bitten, hard.

The Nurburgring - technically the Nordschleife or North Loop - is one of the most demanding tracks in the world to drive. The reason is two-fold; length and saftey margin. It&#39;s around four times the length of most race circuits which means there is much more to remember, not just left or right, but camber changes, bumps and crests. The longer sections require you to pick a line through six or seven corners, which if you hit it right you can carry massive amounts of speed. Get it wrong and you&#39;ll be all at sea. When circulating, you are very aware that armco is only a few feet from the edge of the track, and any mistake could cost a lot of money in both vehicle repairs and damage to armco (which you are charged for&#33;). The higher speed sections are notorious for the crests which launch the faster cars into the air, and if that happens you could miss your braking points, or upset the suspension and cause a spin. A big bill is always a possibility, and that alone is a sobering thought.

With the sun out and the track drying, the car was feeling more and more solid. A little familiarity and sure footed grip meant loads were starting to build and speed was coming with it. For many it would have been walking pace, but to me it was the edge. I was Senna or Lauda or Rohl. Ok, I was probably more Maureen from driving school, but I was hitting my line and that was good enough for me&#33;

http://www.fstopjunkie.net/images/nltrip/jm_psi-fire.jpg

http://www.fstopjunkie.net/images/nltrip/rich-stabbing-smoke.jpg

Two laps in the books, and it was time to head back. Being men, we were barbequing&#33; Psi did an outstanding job of cooking, as well as ensuring different meat used different utensils before anyone else had even realised there was more than one type of meat. Out of somewhere came Bum. Bum is part of that great holiday tradition of finding local products with amusingly rude names, at which I failed completely. Somehow a foreign holiday just isn&#39;t the same without a packet of Fanny Batter or Poopenschafraude... So it was Bum, a number of small sachets promising vodka and energy. Somehow what it delivered was more like meths flavoured with Panda Pops, vile enough to be mildly offensive, but that was pretty much it. Graham tried setting fire to it, with painfully limited results.

http://www.fstopjunkie.net/images/nltrip/graham-lights-bum.jpg

http://www.fstopjunkie.net/images/nltrip/rich-mouth-bum.jpg

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Thanks to a bike race on the Nurburgring Grand Prix circuit, we were flanked by bikers. Now Daytona Bike Week isn&#39;t know for it&#39;s conservative outlook on drinking, or it&#39;s distain for voluptuous women wrestling in goo. There is a reason for this. I don&#39;t know if it&#39;s the noise, the feeling of being close to death, or having your wedding vegetables vibrated for hours on end when in the saddle, but bikers love noise. They especially love the sound of motorbikes, but failing that soft rock will do, or anonymous house music. Well when bikes started getting revved to the limiter, we took it in good humour, we&#39;re fellow petrol heads and can enjoy all forms internal combustion. Heck, I&#39;ve even watched MotoGP in my time. Graham - who I sense has a mild competitive streak under his good humoured nature - has a Ducati. Graham removed one of the exhaust silencers from his Ducati. Germany was silenced by Italian shouting for possibly the first time in history, and men with beards came to see what could possibly have made all that noise. One - looking like a slightly thinner, older Paul Tutle Snr - stared long, but their bikes were getting cold so more limiter bashing was required. What joy at 1am. 1:30. 2am. Oh, and loud (if slightly quieter than before) music. Joy.

On the other side of us were a group of teenagers. It was interesting watching the mating ritual as Lad With Sports bike would rev like a bastard, then slither around on the wet grass, quite unaware of the Anglopsychic forces trying to bring him down, while the girls looked on and cooed. And they&#39;d thought ahead and brought a music player with external speakers. How considerate.

Safe in the knowledge I&#39;d broken my Nurburgring duck, I was content in my sleeping bag as rain fell, bikes revved and another day of adventure lay ahead.

Weeman
13-11-2007, 06:35 AM
Fantastic report, keep it coming, dont camp EVER&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33; I wont AGAIN :lol:

Adamt
13-11-2007, 09:28 AM
Excellent report, i really enjoyed read it :thumb:

Id love to camp, but only if it was bone dry and sunny....when its wet, its a bit miserable

Karl
13-11-2007, 11:36 AM
I don&#39;t read many of these reports anymore because I&#39;ve read about 6.2 million of them and I usually need to change my colostomy bag about half way through, which is a pain. However, I&#39;m very glad to be reading this one, top drawer stuff, thanks for writing it :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:

Gary Kinghorn
13-11-2007, 11:52 AM
Great read that :thumb:

Chris Ratcliff
13-11-2007, 11:58 AM
There are two more days to come&#33; Hopefully I&#39;ll have an hour or two to get them + pics up...

Simon
13-11-2007, 12:23 PM
E xcellent so far, looking forward to the rest :thumb:

alclark
13-11-2007, 04:44 PM
http://www.fstopjunkie.net/images/nltrip/rich-mouth-bum.jpg
http://www.channel4.com/entertainment/tv/microsites/B/bo_selecta/images/boavid.jpg

:whistle:



Great report&#33; Good to see another &#39;5 out there. :thumb:

Marty
13-11-2007, 06:23 PM
Hehe, nice to read the writeup with pics Chris, makes me want to go again even sooner. There does seem to be a lack of flying wardrobe action in there tho - where&#39;s the shots of my T5? ;)

Chris Ratcliff
13-11-2007, 06:58 PM
Hmm, not a lot of on track action shots yet, but then tomorrow (in the story) is the day I get my first taste track photography, nearly end up in a muddy stream, and take a picture of a Porsche with a make shift tripod of a bag, a cloth and some luck.

And get to &#39;enjoy&#39; Jaques Villeneuve singing.

All that and more, coming up&#33;

Nige
13-11-2007, 07:26 PM
Originally posted by F&#045;stop Junkie@Nov 13 2007, 12:58 PM
There are two more days to come&#33; Hopefully I&#39;ll have an hour or two to get them + pics up...
come on &#33;&#33; we are waiting :D

Chris Ratcliff
13-11-2007, 10:33 PM
Nurburgring - Day 4

Awaking to the sound of silence is an eery feeling when you&#39;re used to Whitesnake or Bon Jovi as your dawn chorus to a backing track of rain on canvas. Thanks to my unusually alert waking up at an early hour, I decided to join Marty in an early lap. Mist was heavy in the air, and arriving at the circuit it was already quite busy.

New day, new lap, and another hassle free run. Jim too decided to get a run with a damp track but low traffic. Towards the end another MX-5 passed us, and we noticed it had a Japan sticker on the back, God knows how he got the car over to Germany&#33; After some breakfast an another lap, I decided it was photo time, and Jim decided that he needed some fresh air to let the hangover lift. After getting &#39;take the first left&#39; wrong and ending up grounding out the car on a farm track, then following some rather misguided directions out the Ring guide I&#39;d bought involving a swimming pool and a road that doesn&#39;t exist, we instead went to the bridge through Adenau, and watched.

http://www.fstopjunkie.net/images/nltrip/911-gt3-rs-pan.jpg

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It must be odd living in Adenau, or anywhere in and around the Nurburgring. It&#39;s almost like a theme park built around the tourism the track generates. Shops selling long out of date merchandise for the races held at the GP track, supermarkets selling Nurburgring blankets, and even the petrol station nearest the track has a big model car shop attached, and sells race boots. You have a feeling that if the Ring was ever closed, the whole area would almost disappear overnight... From a visitors perspective though, it&#39;s great getting glimpses of the track as you move around, hearing the occasional blast of highly strung - and probably highly stressed - exhaust screaming under load, and seeing the astonishing cars and bikes rumbling past you all day.

Standing at the side of the track, watching the fast and the very fast screaming by, I pulled out my camera and started taking photos. Even through a viewfinder, it&#39;s very obvious from the body language of each car who is on a lap, who knows the place well, and who&#39;s nervous. Watching the fast cars go through is thrilling, especially the 911 GT3 owner who flicked the car sideways under braking, then held the slide all the way through the corner over the bridge, with concrete a couple of feet away from the tarmac and the rear of the car... It&#39;s also reassuring to see people driving past at what you consider to be your pace, to know you&#39;re not the slowest or most cautious one out there. However in the Eiffel mountains, the weather changes quickly, and with almost no warning the rain came. I put my coat over my camera bag, and hid the camera too. Unless I left the trackside, there was little shelter except for a single tree. Watching the rain tumble down, and also how quickly it built up on the track. Rivers of water forming almost instantly, but still cars came past. An Elise, a Ring Taxi, an Evo 9, all still far faster in the wet that I would be all weekend in the dry.

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From my new vatage point, I fired off a few frames as the cars threw up spray and reflections glistened in the track surface. As the rain stopped, so did the cars. The track was shut, so I moved up the hill towards Wehrseifen, watching cars come through, trying different angles, going around to the entry of the corner and looking down the hill towards Adenau bridge, and then kept going.

http://www.fstopjunkie.net/images/nltrip/m3-csl-pan-1.jpg

Following the paths and tracks at the side of the track is a risky idea, especially when you don&#39;t have a decent map, but it does give you a chance to find new spots which you won&#39;t see if you do nothing but stand at Brunnen to spectate. I got shots of people at corners they never expected, and found some interesting angles I&#39;d never seen before. If I was to do it again, I&#39;d certainly be keen on doing it by mountain bike, and with a map...

You see, I had a track guide. A corner by corner affair that gave me a rough idea of where I was, and trackside signs told me I was 10Kms from the carpark. I can do 10Km, it&#39;s not that far. It&#39;s not, when you know where you&#39;re going. The track guide - which is great for braking points and camber changes on the black stuff - was rubbish when it came to track side paths. I carried on, following paths where I could see them and trying to see armco where there was no path. Path gave way to forest, and the obvious trackside path became blocked with logging which had been going on during the week. At this point, I suddenly wasn&#39;t happy any more. My wander in the countryside had become a Ray Mears survival task (kind of) and I had to find a way out. I couldn&#39;t hear cars any more, and I couldn&#39;t follow the track. I headed down towards a track which was soaked and muddy. This picked up a stream, and I could see marshalls points even here in the woods. Looking onto the deserted track, I reckoned I was heading the right way, and somewhere around Flugsplatz. I could see the bridges, but no path. The bushes and undergrowth was getting thicker, I was well off the beaten path. I&#39;d carried on going forward, but with no light at the end of the tunnel, I turned around and headed back. Once on an easier section of trail, I looked around. There was higher ground, it looked dry, and I may be able to find a way through. Pulling myself up up a fallen tree, I found myself in a logging yard. Piles of tree trunks in pyramids, and a clear track through. Following it, well aware I was hungry, thirsty and liable to meet a pissed off German lumberjack with a big dog and a gun. Do they allow private hand guns in Germany? I didn&#39;t want to find out.

With tarmac under my feet, I was on a road and alongside the track. Crossing the road, and following other people I found myself at Hoceichen&#33; I knew where I was, at a great photo location and only 3Km from home.

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Hanging around for more snaps, then carrying on towards home, my trip was almost over, once I&#39;d worked out where on earth I was. Turned out I was in Nurburg, and headed back towards the car park. Jim stopped alongside and said he&#39;d been looking for me near Adenau, and Rich had also seen me, but in such an odd location he&#39;d dismissed it&#33; It was an adventure for sure, but one I&#39;d happily plan for a little better next time&#33;

A lap to round out the day seemed in order. Spotting all the places I&#39;d been over the previous few hours was fun, the sun was out, and the track was dry. I was gaining in confidence, but not enough to try and set the track alight. What I did realise after about a third of a lap was that no one was overtaking me&#33; Was this a big turn of speed I&#39;d found? Was I suddenly lapping in the ten minute bracket? Errr, no. Shortly after I&#39;d left the barrier the track had been shut, so I had nothing to worry about behind me, I could just concentrate on taking my line and enjoying the day, and enjoy it I did. It&#39;s so nice not being harried and jumping out the way of faster cars, and I even overtook one&#33; Okay, so it was a loaded up estate with kids screaming away in the back, but it was my first genuine overtake. What a way to round out the driving&#33;

Dashing back to the campsite, it was Marty&#39;s 30th and we were all in celebratory mood. We&#39;d booked into the Pistenklause restaurant, something of a Nurburg institution. Walls and ceilings signed by racing drivers who&#39;d been to the track. A big, framed Senna portrait autographed by the great man as a centre piece, and memorabilia literally stacked in every corner, it&#39;s a place of great heritage. Run by the Schmitz family, it has one shining speciality - steak on a stone. If you like steak it basically becomes a pretty easy affair, and about a dozen menu pages are redundant at a stroke.

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The birthday boy&#33;

After ordering starters it became a show of hands as 13 steaks were ordered, along with 13 beers, with two abstaining in each case. And what a steak&#33; Sorry if you really care about the starters, they were lovely I&#39;m sure, but being presented with a hot, hot stone and a lump of red meat the colour of fresh tuna already frying on it was such a treat. Even the fries on the side were little more than a tolken gesture next to the mass of cow being cooked as you slice and enjoy.

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Have another breadroll, or I&#39;m dropping it in your beer...

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For photographers out there, this is what helps lubricate your panning action. Or test your Image Stabilisation..

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With some of us - well, just me probably - considering a second steak, desserts were presented and routinely demolished by the hungry masses. Having settled the bill, we headed back to camp, but not before Marty&#39;s photographer&#39;s eye kicked in. I was amazed outside the Pistenklause the sheer number of Porsches parked up, but one had a lovely mix of light. A low evo-esque shot would be cracking, but it was so dark. No problem, ISO 100, my camera bag bent in two, a flash cord holding up the lens, and a microfibre cloth to level the body - not to mention me laying in a puddle to compose the shot. 6 seconds later we moved on...

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- Gus Gregory has nothing to worry about...

With the bikers looking forward to Sunday&#39;s racing, there was more revving, more flirting by the youngsters, more bile from the English and two competing sound systems - one anonymous trance and the other soft rock. It&#39;s amazing how after a while the background noise becomes normal, and sleeping gets easier, but I found myself slipping my iPod on for the first time, and I nodded off to my own noise instead of someone elses. With one full day left at the ring and a bag full of shots, I had to make the most of it.

Chris Ratcliff
13-11-2007, 11:58 PM
Nurburgring - Days 5 & 6

A somewhat more sedate start, for me, which still seemed to involve wrenching Jim from his slumber. I was becoming increasing envious of those with the big tents, multiple bedrooms, and the ability to stand up. These people had come in vans or estate cars, and not in sports cars designed for Sunday morning blasts. At one point during the weekend I&#39;d seen an Atom parked up at the Ring carpark, and noticed the passenger had fitted lumbar support to their side. Being an Atom, both the front seats are moulded in a single piece of plastic so the lumbar support consisted of something covered in gaffer tape and stuck to the seat. At that moment, the MX-5 seemed luxurious in comparison.

With Marty now 30 years and one day old, something was needed to clear the head, and a few laps didn&#39;t seem to quite fit the bill. Instead, using a map I&#39;d purchased *after* I got lost in a forest, Jim and I finally found our way to the car park at Brünnchen. Once you realise where you are going, it&#39;s annoyingly easy to find, and made the off-roading escapade of the previous day seem rather pointless. I&#39;ll say at this point, if you want a good map of the Nurburgring and its surrounds, I can strongly recommend the WayOK Nurburgring map you can get from the Dottinger Hohe garage, along with Puma race boots, Nurbugring shaped pasta, and Jack Daniels and Coke in a can - something I suspect the back of the car would have been full of, if we hadn&#39;t had more stuff than we could carry already...

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Brünnchen is more of a complex of corners than just one. A downhill left hander from Eschbach leads into a downhill ring for the first part of Brünnchen, which then has a dip and an uphill right which tightens on the exit. The main carpark area overlooks the first corner, but it was difficult getting photos. Even though the bank is fairly high, so is the safety fencing, and so a new vantage point was needed. Looking along the track, the spectator area at the second corner looked good, but getting to it would need a trek through a wooded area. Here we go again. Fortunately it&#39;s dead easy to get through, and there I found my home for the next few hours.

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Jim stayed, and I started snapping. Alex had produced a Canon 70-300 IS and offered to let me borrow it, and it&#39;s a very nice lens&#33; The reach means getting such tight shots on bike riders, or cars coming through the first corner before they reach the tarmac in front of me. Even with IS, the low shutter speeds needed for good panning shots mean that I was getting more missed shots than keepers, but the good ones gave me such a buzz. The procession of glittering machinery was amazing, with Atoms, a Ford GT, an Audi R8, a million Porsches and a whole host of BMWs ranging from standard to near touring car preparation. It&#39;s also interesting to watch the car language as each driver goes through the same corner; the caged Polo hitting the perfect line, the 911 drivers on the edge, and the FWD cars with the reckless driver who chuck the car in and hold an armful of understeer to the admiration of no-one. It was also obvious who was experienced, as a Ferrari 430 Spider crawled through the corner, followed by an MX-5. Jim&#39;s MX-5. Going slowly. Shit.

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Earlier on Nik, Paul and Raoul had joined Jim and I, so with Jim itching for a little track time I stayed behind. We were happily snapping and filming and waiting when the track closed. Watching out for members of our group, I saw the light blue MX-5 coming into view and hugging the right hand side of the track, there must be some traffic behind. Hmmm, quite a way behind. Why is there no traffic and a slow MX-5 which needs to get to England tomorrow? Oh crap, he&#39;s pulling up. A quick look around inside, and out gets Jim, and up goes the bonnet, followed by a quickly escaping cloud of smoke.

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With Jim being Jim, he decides the engine&#39;s too hot to do anything and rightly stands behind the armco whilst he has a fag and a think. At this point Graham, James and Alex go blasting through and I missed the shots entirely, but my concerns were elsewhere. After a quick look, and pulling his helmet back on, the bonnet went down and off limped the MX-5, followed by Nik and myself dashing to the backup carpark - well, field - to find the MX-5 being worked on.

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- Photo: Graham Vinall

Tom and Andy were absolute stars pulling out socket sets, trolley jacks and a keeness which makes me think they were waiting for something to go wrong from the start. With stuff taken to bits, bits pointed out, a split hose wretched from the two things it was supposed to passing fluid between, and a new bit from somewhere else put in. The loss of water seems to mean no fluid in the top two thirds of the engine, and off went Jim to sort out a lot of water. While that was being done, Marty gave me a passenger lap in the Volvo which was comfy and spacious. The Volvo that is, not the lap. Having only either been around with Jim or driving myself, it was good to get a different perspective, and also feel that I&#39;m not massively off the pace compared to my peers with Marty&#39;s cautious approach and big turbo lump mixing nicely to complete a good, swift lap, and all done to the strains of Jaques Villeneuve&#39;s CD which is soft rock at it&#39;s most soft.

With thoughts turning to that night, and no hope for another lap behind the wheel, Marty, Rich and I set off to Adenau to find a Chinese restaurant. Thanks to T-Mobile&#39;s excellent roaming service which provided uninterrupted calls, texts and Internet service, we found it&#39;s address and the place where we thought it should be - which turned out to be a stationary shop. Ok, so 200 yards down the road we found the Chinese which was shut and I kept the phone number to book later on. Having enjoyed it earlier, I took Mart and Rich upto Ex-mühle to watch the cars come blasting past and over the bridge through Adenau where we carried on up towards Wehrseifen to watch M5s drifting past, and Rich shouting encouragement at the loonies in the Hummer.

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Every lap, perfect each time. Not jealous...

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We call it the Flying Wardrobe. It&#39;s the size of a wardrobe, and with a T5 engine, it doesn&#39;t half fly&#33;

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The best way to learn the Nurburgring is to drive it. You need laps and laps and laps to really become knowledgable of it, and the Playstation is no substitute. I do think that a lot of drivers would benefit from taking some time trackside inside of standing around in the car park. Watching cars and drivers going passed, looking at lines and braking points, and seeing just how much speed can really be carried through different corners. It really opens your eyes, and it&#39;s fantastic to see such exotic machinery in motion. It&#39;s lovely seeing a Ford GT or Audi R8 in the metal, but even better to see it moving around, sliding, under power and braking. A real treat, and a happy swap for missing Goodwood on the same weekend.

Back at camp, everyone is huddled around a laptop and the Merc is looking a little sorry for itself. It seems Tom had a moment over one of the crests, lost the back end, but saved the front end from damage by flicking the car the other way and sacrificing a rear light cluster to the armco Gods. Once back at the carpark, Tom was hauled up by a marshall and bundled into the safety car to revisit the scene of his &#39;moment&#39;. Having pulled over, the local marshall ran over and said "Is ok, is ok, armco is fine" saving Tom from any kind of bill. Satisfied that nothing is wrong with the track, the driver turned to Tom and asked if he wanted a fast lap. Well what are you going to say? Suffice to say the fast lap that any of us experienced for the whole trip was at the hands of a safety person in a diesel Ford C-Max. On the laptop screen was footage of a spinning Merc and the collective Oooohs and Aaaahs of the assembled group said how bad it could have been. This was as bad as it got, and it seemed a fine way to end the trip before anything worse happened.

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All off to Adenau, the Chinese restaurant was good, though despite being fairly empty we were told in no uncertain terms that drinks were to be ordered in rounds instead of one by one. I&#39;d certainly go back another time. Full of good food, more German beer, and plenty of anecdotes from all and sundry, we got back to a silent camp site. A realisation of the lack of sound was greeted with smiles all round which were quickly wiped away as the sky suddenly lights up, our ears ring with a rumble of thunder, and then the heavens open. No time for socialising tonight, we all dash for our tents and settle down for the night.

Waking up, and eating anything left over, we decided to go so everything was packed, stuffed, put away or thrown away. The game of Rubik&#39;s boot was finished and the parcel shelf stuffed. We also had bottles of water put aside as well just in case the MX-5 had another case of thirst. Pulling away and forming up the convoy aimed towards Belgium, a quietness decended on both Jim and I. We were heading back to reality, that end of holiday feeling, but also both carrying regrets. Certainly I wish the MX-5 had proper suspension geometry, healthy hoses, and I&#39;d been able to get more laps in. I also wish that I hadn&#39;t had my big adventure in the wilderness, and instead put in the track time. I knew the Nurburgring had seeped into my conciousness, and months from now I&#39;ll be thinking about corners and wondering where to keep flat on the throttle, looking at hotels - cause I&#39;m buggered if I&#39;m camping again - and planning trips in the future.

We pull off the motorway to find a petrol station, not for the MX-5 this time, and the TomTom POI list shows what happens when petrol stations close and no-one tells the navigation people. That aside we get to the ferry terminal early and get bumped to an earlier ferry - except James and the van for reasons we never found out. Settled into the Costa cafe and with gallons of coffee on hand, the crossing went smoothly enough - incidentally, shouting things like &#39;ICEBURG&#33;&#39; or &#39;PIRATES&#33;&#39; on a boat is very funnny - except for stopping outside of Dover.

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- Photo: Paul Scullion
Apparently there was problems with the bad weather making docking difficult, but then we saw the P&O ferry that was loading as we departed coming past and docking before us&#33; Ah well, having said our goodbyes we pulled off the ferry and left the group as we split off home. Several mostly uneventful hours later I peeled myself out of the MX-5 and back to real life.

Reflecting on the very long weekend over the next few weeks, it really made me appreciate what a great time it was. At the centre of it, driving on one of the most difficult circuits in the world was simply awesome. I could spend a lifetime there without getting bored. The road trip was fun, and I&#39;m so glad I got at least a few tracking shots (Next year I&#39;ll get the Beemer James&#33;), the way everyone came together and we all got on was just awesome. I couldn&#39;t ask to have spent my time with a better group of people. Between laughs and swearing was a real sense of cameradierie and everyone getting stuck in.

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Oh, remember when I talked about moving Marty&#39;s 70&#39;s throwback canvas mansion? Remember how I said it was left in it&#39;s final resting place? Well I meant that literally, as in it&#39;s still there. If there was ever a tent that deserved to be pensioned off, it was this one. I wonder how long it remained?

http://www.fstopjunkie.net/images/nltrip/goodbye-tent.jpg

If you like the photos on here, have look through my gallery&#33; http://gallery.fstopjunkie.net/

Nige
14-11-2007, 04:58 AM
That was worth waiting for :thumb:

by the way, Camping is not so bad, you just had a wet weekend to contend with. With a larger tent, its great fun.

Weeman
14-11-2007, 07:44 AM
fantastic&#33;&#33; LOL at leaving the tent. I like you have camped once, and the midery means i wont again, unless someone can give me a cast iron guarentee its warm and dry :lol:

Duncan
14-11-2007, 07:49 AM
Great report :thumb:


and nice to see Maddog&#39;s Subaru up and running again in all its glory &#33;&#33; :D

Chris Ratcliff
14-11-2007, 11:41 AM
Originally posted by dynamix@Nov 14 2007, 08:49 AM
nice to see Maddog&#39;s Subaru up and running again in all its glory &#33;&#33; :D
I think again may be a step too far... The photos are from June, hence the lack of snow :)

Adamt
14-11-2007, 01:36 PM
Fantastic read....enjoyed all of it&#33;

Oh if only it was June now&#33;&#33;&#33;&#33; :thumb:

Chris Ratcliff
14-11-2007, 02:01 PM
I wish it was June again. Since I came back and have started following the forums far more closely, I realise just who was there at the same time as me. It would have been great to say hello to a few names I now follow on here. Oh, and maybe enjoyed a pax lap at a good lick :)

Andrew
14-11-2007, 02:29 PM
Someone else who acknowledges how great Volvo T5&#39;s are :D

Great report&#33;

Das Chin
14-11-2007, 05:59 PM
i know the owner of that white GT3 cem from the skyline days. awesome car.

have also been out in that 993 GT2 look alike. great guy and he comes from just over the border in luxemburg. it is in fact a 964 with loads of trimmings but it goes like stink&#33; 600 ps on high boost....and 2wd&#33;&#33;

Nige
14-11-2007, 06:39 PM
Originally posted by F&#045;stop Junkie@Nov 14 2007, 03:01 PM
It would have been great to say hello to a few names I now follow on here. Oh, and maybe enjoyed a pax lap at a good lick :)
2008 mate, 2008... :thumb:

gingerone
14-11-2007, 07:50 PM
I am NOT Avid sodding Merrion.





:D

Chris Ratcliff
14-11-2007, 07:55 PM
To be fair, I would like to point out that Rich is actually *funny*, which isn&#39;t always what I think of Avid Merrion...

tompc
14-11-2007, 10:29 PM
Ginger one - you have to admit the similarity is startling&#33;

Marty
15-11-2007, 08:52 AM
Hehe, the pic was funny though, Rich...

Thanks for posting all that lot, Chris - see you in &#39;08 indeed. No camping, no bloody ABS problems for me and definitely no bloody rain&#33;

(as if saying that will make a lick of difference to the weather)

M