I realized I was airborne when my steering inputs had no effect on the direction of my Carrera. At the point the ass-engine configured rocketship started its atmospheric re-entry, several things went through my mind. If the rear-end breaks loose, do I keep my foot down? What happens if I lose it? Am I going to crash? When the rear tires made contact with terra-nürburg, and I was able to counter steer in a brilliant fashion (what really happened was Porsche Active Stability Management once again made me a driving god), all thoughts of impaling my Porker into the Armco ceased. Once again, I was driving the dream and having the time of my life on the most legendary driving circuit in the world, the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
I had plenty of preconceptions about the legendary Nürburgring. Located in the forests of the Eifel Mountains in Rhineland-Pfalz, Germany, the track was something of a mystery. I didn’t know how my past racing and driving experience would prepare me. I spent hours pouring over every detail I could glean from Ben Lovejoy’s “Nürburgring Guide.” I learned about the “Rules,” the dry line, the wet line, and all manner of factoids. I spent countless hours driving various cars around an animated track on Grand Turismo 4, hoping the track layout would cement itself in my mind. I even watched videos on YouTube of various runs and wrecks.
Nothing will truly prepare you for the Nürburgring. Ben’s guide will make you more knowledgeable and safer, GT4 will make you not as clueless, and the BMW Ring Taxi will give you a good idea what to expect. But you MUST treat the ’Ring with respect or else it will turn on you quicker than a vengeful Roman God and shred your shiny chariot against a Ben Hur wall of plastic.
I arrived at the ‘Ring wracked with anticipation, fear, excitement, and rational calmness, all alternating in a wicked mixture of adrenaline and testosterone. I parked in the paddocks with several Porsche GT3s, bought my Nürburgring Card, a credit card/proximity badge that you load laps onto, and sidled up to my steed.
As I approached the barriers, the anticipation increased, the fear crept away, the bar raised, and I was off! At 20 kmh, until you get past the safety cones . . . and THEN I was off!
In air combat, we use terms like “grind,” “pump,” and “banzai”; saying anything longer would cause you to die as closure speeds reach four times the speed of sound. You must remain completely calm, yet on edge to reach your peak performance—and still make rational decisions that will save your life (but not the other bastards’). Allowing panic and excitement to creep into the actions controlling your aircraft will bring you to the terminal phase of flight a lot quicker than you had planned.
Piloting a vehicle at insane speeds around a track with blind corners in iffy weather in a car carrying its weight in the worst possible location created the closest sensation to that feeling of aerial dogfighting I have experienced on the ground.
The Porsche’s 3.8L flat six screamed and howled as it switched cams. The tires groaned as they bit into the pavement, trying to counteract the extreme moments of inertia. The Porsche sent immediate feedback to my arms as the suspension sent trembles and shudders up my spine, telling me exactly what the car was doing, and that it (not me) was still in control.
I had no idea what I was doing, nor where I was going. All I knew: slow in, find the apex, fast out. Have a nice day! And I did it again, and again, and again till my lap card was exhausted. My upper body ached from wresting the wheel around and bracing myself against the racing seats. My brakes and tires smelled like the NASCAR pits.
I was in Valhalla with other warriors who are able to go into battle as many times as desired—as long as its between the hours of 5:30-7:30pm Mon-Sat, and 8:00am-7:30pm Sunday. And the legendary hall of victors in the sky still has issues. Parking is a nightmare. Ringers crash with alarming regularity, sometimes into you.
Insurance companies will most likely refuse your claim should you stuff it. The Nürburgring will charge you Bailout levels of money in order to fix the barriers should you meet them. People who don’t know the “Rules” create dangerous havoc when they refuse to move over to the right to allow faster vehicles to pass (hint: put on your right turn signal and move over, I did it for a Suzuki Swift, and you should too).
Despite the few problems, I have found my Mecca. I now live 30 minutes away. Look for more tests, of both man and machine, in the weeks to come.