Editorial: TTAC's Cap'n Mike Dices With Sabine Schmitz on the Nurburgring
The Porsche GT3 RS with its wildly painted orange wheels was not going to let me past, despite my flashing headlights of protest. Why should he? I was in a mild-mannered Carrera S, devoid of any go fast wings or air ducts. I resigned myself to trying to gain momentum over him before we entered the Flugplatz, where the wider bit of road would provide a much safer passing zone and keep me from joining the purple Peugeot 206 we had just passed at Hatzenbach in the Armco barriers. I needn’t wait so long, as in my mirror, four “angel-eye” rings glared at me from the nefarious BMW M5 ‘Ring Taxi. I put on my right-turn signal, let her pass, and then squeezed the accelerator in order to whip past the Orange Swedish Porker. Let the games begin, for I was on my 100th lap, and it was time for a joust with Sabine Schmitz in our Deutsche Chariots of Terror.
Dale Lomas of RSR Nurburg explained the 100 Lap Barrier this way, “When you reach Lap 100, you now know where you are going fairly well, but you are now twice as dangerous. Proceed with caution.” Bruce Hartyup, an English Nurburgring Marshall told me before I set off, “when you finally realize, ‘hey, I really think I know this course’, that’s when you need to back off, and slow down.” Nigel Pinder, from Yorkshire told me, “smooth, slow, and steady means fast, planted, and fun.”
All of these lessons were kept in the back of my head as I sat one car length behind the White, Red, and Blue M5. With the GT3 behind me, I decided to let the M5 get away, as chasing down Sabine for bragging rights might end badly, as in Chrysler build quality badly.
Tap brakes brake before the crest; constant radius right turn before the left into Schwedenkruez; now left; accelerate hard; aim wide; gentle left turn before Aremberg; stay left; wait; wait; brake HARD!; downshift; downshift; turn in….. NOW!
The mental checklist accumulated from numerous training rides in numerous British VW Golfs snapped off quickly as the 911 tires started to squeal in protest. Yet Sabine remained firmly within my reach. Am I actually staying right behind the legendary driver of Speed Bee fame? After all you don’t just pass Sabine Schmitz, you take Sabine Schmitz out to lunch, you wine and dine her, you give her an oil massage then she gives you punch in the face if you’re lucky!”
No matter, the Foxhole was coming up! Flat out… keep going flat out… the car will have the grip, all you have to do is keep a grip on your fear, or the steering wheel, or actually, both. I rocketed up to 240km/h (or so), absorded the myriad of bumps all over the place, and guided the car into the valley.
When you finally take the Fuchsröhre at full speed, and DON’T brake at the bottom, you pull G’s only felt on roller coasters, or wayward AWACS jets. At this point, the car puts so much down force into the wheels, you have more grip at this point than really anywhere on the course. I had so much grip, I was able to keep Sabine firmly in my sights.
Now you start braking in anticipation of the dreaded Adenauer Forst.
I remember trying to coach an American friend of mine through this particular section of the track in his recently purchased BMW M3. I stressed to him the importance of going slowly. Really slow. Painfully slow, until he knew how to enter the turn, and not kill himself, the car, or the grass. Despite my warnings, and passenger seat instruction, my words of “Brake, BRAKE!” turned into “Schenller, SCHNELLER!”
Instead of a slow, steady approach to the corner that gets nearly every beginner, we catapulted over the lip of the curb like a $60,000, two-ton Homecoming Float of ridiculousness spewing grass clumps at the gathered spectators like candy on Halloween. Guiding the (hopefully) uninjured M3 back on to the course, I instructed my nature destroying compatriot to smile, wave at the crowds, and hopefully find the clip on YouTube later that night.
Through Breidscheid, Ex-Muhle, and Kallenhard, Sabine and I kept the pace. Alfa’s, Scooby’s, and even a GT2 leaped out of our way on our path to Valhalla. She braked before Pflanzgarten I, in order to keep the massive sedan under control. I showed no such restraint, launching my car over the crest and getting all four wheels airborne in a pure display of “Screw YOU” to the Nissan GT-R behind me.
Was I really keeping up with Sabine? Have I passed my 100 Lap Barrier with flying colors? Should I now prance around the parking lot like that guy with the Ferrari, perfectly highlighted hair, and idiot wife 20 years younger than him?
Actually no. Stashing my Super Beetle close to the Ring Taxi stand, I walked over to Sabine to ask for a picture, and maybe some advice. Her advice, “I didn’t go as fast as normal, because I didn’t want you to try to keep up and crash into the barrier.”
More by Mike Solowiow
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