Trip to the Nurburgring Nordschleife, May 2018
Added 17.05.18: So here we are, in that exciting time with just a week to go before the annual 'Ring trip and, as usual, everyone has issues to sort with their cars and have left it far too late! This year, as well as touristenfahrten, we will be attending DN19, Destination Nurburgring's track day.
What originally started as just myself and Big Gazza going with two cars, has ended up as 7 (possibly 8 if Snidey pulls off a move that would go down in history by leaving his family holiday for a few days and flying from Majorca to Bonn to join us) made up of Bungle, Gazza, Bobby plus several 'Ring trip virgins, Ivan, Scott, Leon and Sukh and then hopefully Snidey as mentioned before. Bobby is pre-empting problems with the Skyline so Ivan will be driving Bobby's Transit loaded up with a trailer and his spare car in the shape of an E30 325i, also perfect for the beginners to learn the track in!!
I will keep you updated as the week progresses.
Will this be the year that I get knocked off of the top spot by Gazza or Bobby? Watch this space.
Added 01.06.2018: We're back!
Where to start? As usual, the annual 'Ring trip gave us trials and tribulations, accidents and incidents, torment and laughs. What I didn't say above, was that I had a 'new' car for this year's trip, the reason for this is that I didn't tell anyone I had it and wanted it to be a surprise at the 4.00am rendezvous! The car is an E92 M3 and it has replaced the Caterham 7 Supersport, I bought it a few days before the trip, to keep it secret, I even had to put the Caterham's spare wheel and aero screen along with my crash hat etc. in Bobby's Transit to keep the story believable as the Caterham would have no space for such things!
Having picked up the M3, I then heard about the massive BMW recall for 3-series built between 2007 & 2011, this recall is for the main battery cable which has a dodgy connector If it gets too hot, it can leave the car with no power at all so the engine cuts out, power steering pump and brake servo stop working, there's not even any brake or hazard lights! So I called my local BMW dealer and found out my car did require the remedial work and that it would be 6 weeks before they could book it in. I said that in a few days, on Thursday 24th May at 4.00am, I'd be driving to the Nurburgring and if the problem occurs there, I'd dread to think of the consequences. 'Please hold', I was told. A minute later, the car was booked in for 10.30am on Wednesday the 23rd!
When I dropped the car off, I asked the dealer if they could fit my new brake pads for me. They couldn't so this work would have to be done Wednesday evening after work. When I collected the car I was told that, apart from the rear tyres being at 3mm (at which point they recommend a change) the car was in good health which was good to know being that I was about to go and thrash it around The Green Hell with no prior knowledge of or experience in it!
After collecting it from BMW, I took it to my tyre man to get him to balance the wheels for me as I'd noticed a wobble under braking and though I suspected the brake discs, was hoping maybe I'd lost a wheel weight instead. Upon removing the wheels he told me there's no point balancing them as the two fronts had cuts in them, one of them through to the cords! So I'm booked on the 6.00am ferry on Thursday and it is now 15.30pm on Wednesday and I need two 265/30x19" Toyo R888R tyres. Not a chance. Even sent out for help on eBay and various forums to no avail. I did however, find the tyres in Muespath, 5 minutes from the 'Ring, now all I had to do was get there...... The answer? Whilst fitting the new pads that evening, nick the front wheels off the M4 for the journey to Germany with the M3 wheels in the boot/back seat. But even this couldn't go right. The left wheel of the M4 had had its nuts tightened so much that the extension bar to the torque wrench snapped before the nuts let go. So it was one wheel only from the M4 meaning slightly different tyre sizes for the whole drive to Nurburg!
All the while this was going on, Gazza had given up trying to find the issue causing the lumpiness on small throttle inputs on his E36 M3 Evo, figuring that he wouldn't be using small throttle inputs and Bobby was servicing the 325i and doing last minute fixes on the Skyline. Nothing changes.
At 3.30am, Thursday 24th May, Leon arrives at my house complete with waterproof coat, its raining and he thinks he's spending most of the day in a Caterham, I think he's rather pleased that there's an M3 sat on the drive instead. We head off to meet Gazza, Scott and the E36 (Bobby & Sukh in the Skyline and Ivan & Gur (last minute newbie) in the Transit headed down earlier to make sure the Transit and trailer made it on to the 6.00am boat) at Maidstone Services on the M20, ignoring calls from them as, obviously we can't hear them in the Caterham!!
So we pulled in to the service station to grab some petrol, V8 blaring on downshifts in the cool morning air as we pull up next to Gazza who is already busy filling up. He looks across at me, 'You bastard...' he says, as he walks off to pay. Next stop, Dover. As we pull up at the docks at 5.00am we find the Skyline in front of us in the queue, 'I knew were up to something' says Bobby.
As we arrive in Dunkerque, we pull off of the ferry only for Bobby to pull over and jump out of the Skyline and run back onto the boat. We drive off and wait just outside the docks. It turns out he has lost the keys to the 325i whilst on the boat! Having looked everywhere we went on the boat and asked me to search my car too, he concludes that the keys are lost and we head off for Nurburg.
Sign in / driver briefing for DN19 is at 16.30pm, I need to get to Muespath to collect my tyres before then so myself, Leon, Gazza, Scott and the two M3s head off at a fast cruise whilst Bobby, Sukh, Ivan & Gur take a slower pace in the Skyline and Transit/Trailer. We arrived at the tyre place in good time and had my new R888Rs fitted, then set about trying to find someone to look at my brakes which had felt awful for the entire journey. No luck. When the others arrived, Bobby set about getting his track wheels on the GTR whilst the twins (Leon & Scott) set about hot wiring the 325i and disabling the steering lock ready for its use the following day. Bobby then notices that his front tyres are also through to the cords (great preparation as always, one day we'll find more time for this!) and so we head back to the tyre place which, as it happens, is right opposite where we are meeting to sign in for the track day which we do whilst his tyres are being fitted.
After driver briefing for the track day, we head straight up to the Devil's Diner car park to see if the track is open for touristenfahrten that evening. It is, so we decide to head out for a quick sighting lap ready for tomorrow and for the 'Ring Virgins to see the track for the first time. So with three people in each of the M3s and Bobby & Ivan in the Skyline, off we go. Nine minutes or so later, Gazza is happy, I have declared that the M3 was a mistake (too heavy & wobbly brakes - though we were three up) and I wish I still had the Caterham and the Skyline is broken, this time with a new ailment, head gasket and down a cylinder, great.
Added 04.06.2018: OK, so its Friday morning (24.5.18), we've got the signing on sorted, tyre issues, lack of car keys etc. dealt with and we're ready for DN19, well apart from Bobby's GTR..... So we head up to the track nice and early to get our sighting laps in with the rules being no more than 120km/h and no overtaking until 9.00am. As Gazza and I in my M3 come round Schwalbenschwanz onto the Dottinger Hohe the clock hits 9.00am so I get my foot down to the floor, we pass the car park at an indicated 182mph, suddenly the kink at the bridge feels more like a corner! The rest of the lap I start to get a feel for the car, it feels heavy and there is quite a lot of lean in the corners with the EDC dampers on their firmest setting, the new tyres are gripping nicely though and its the brakes that are causing problems, slowing the car down prefectly fine but still vibrating - though not as bad as the previous evening and getting better with each lap, seems like like it was just pad deposits. Also, the oil temperatures are quite high at around 130 degrees, though it is unusually hot for the 'Ring. I decide that two laps at a time is the maximum the car will handle and come in at the end of the lap. At this point, I'm not quite so upset with having bought the M3 - I think the buzz of nearly 300km/h on the Dottinger Hohe certainly helped!
After a 10 minute cool down run outside the track to bring the oil temps back down to a nice 100 degrees, the E92 is left in the Devil's Diner car park to cool down whilst Big Gazza takes me out in his E36 M3 Evo, he's had this car several years now and it seems to get better and better each year with small tweaks. It manages 16 laps with no issues over the weekend which, considering its relatively standard set-up, is pretty impressive.
So, what else of note happened and what did we learn during the weekend?
1/ The brakes on the E92 M3 got better and better with each lap and had no vibration at all after the first day so it seems that it was just pad deposits on the rotors causing the vibrations.
2/ The 325i was great fun for everyone and was good for the newbies to learn the track in, although it did overheat following a fan felt snap requiring recovery from the side of the track - luckily this was during DN19 so recovery was free and it did not cause any damage, a new fan belt was found and was fitted by Leon and Ivan (now known as I.Van Driver) so it didn't stop play.
3/ The E92 M3 is a thirsty beast drinking super unleaded at a rate of 8.3mpg(!).
4/ That a fully loaded E92, three up with luggage, crash hats, tools, tech. gear etc. still feels comfortable at 180mph though see item 3 to see why this is best not done too often!
5/ That having Leon, Scott and I.Van Driver along was very handy with their repair skills!!
6/ That all the newbies are a funny bunch, they all loved the trip and are now hooked on the Nordshleife just like the rest of us. 7/ That having a Transit van & Trailer along complete with a tea-total driver and three motorbikes is also a very good idea as a/ it meant I could still ride a bike (18 years since I last tried and I loved my little ride out to the Karussell from the car park at Brunchen), b/ that it was easier to reach far out viewing points and c/ its great fun watching the twins ride around on the back wheel most of the time (videos to follow!).
8/ That Gazza's E36 M3 is a lovely thing to drive on the 'Ring and I very much enjoyed my couple of laps in it - thanks Gazza.
9/ Still no-one went under 8 minutes BTG as was planned this year with a best time of 8m14.47s by me in the E92 (a new personal best, just eclipsing the time I had last year in the Caterham by a third of a second!) though I'm confident that under 8 is achievable with a bit more time in the seat.
10/ That Sukh is a nutter with more bravery than talent. On Sunday, he took the E30 out for the first lap of the day with Bobby riding shotgun trying to give him advice. Now Bobby is usually the most confident, cast iron solid passenger yet apparently, this was the scariest 4 minutes of his entire life and he was actually glad when Sukh crashed his car into the tyres as miss-hit-miss became miss-hit-miss-hit!! Funny video to follow as you hear Bobby let out an involuntary squeal of fear!
Oh, I nearly forgot! Snidey IS NOT A LEGEND! TO BE CONTINUED.... Bungle