On the 28th of Sept my friend (Al) and I started our journey to the Nurburgring as we have done many times before, we had opted for a different tact this year, instead of choosing a long weekend with 4 days available for public days we went on one of the Destination Nurburgring track days (DN13).
The reason for the change was an attempt to get more quality laps and less closures, something that our visit in 2013 was fraught with! DN13 was a 2 day event, that’s open pit lane and no break for lunch, perfect I hear you say, it was! It wasn’t cheap at £1100 for the two days but we hoped it would be a case of getting what you pay for. We always split the bill 50/50 but even still it is an expensive way to visit the Nordschleife, however anything must be better than last time and for that reason we were prepared to bite the bullet for what is by far the most expensive trackday I have done.
Outside Pinnochios Pizza
The Clio was pretty much the same spec that she was at the Blyton trackday, in the weeks before our trip Geoff Steel Motorsport completed some work on the car, a new new clutch (expensive on a Clio surprise surprise), engine oil change of yet more Titan Race Pro S, some tracking adjustments and a fresh set of Carbon Lorraine RC6 brake pads. Separate to this I also had a new set of Toyo R888s fitted to the track wheels, the price difference between the 888s and Yoko A048s was the deciding factor. I took a full set of tools and fluids as normal, the car setup felt good and the new clutch felt a million bucks compared to the old one.
We sailed on the Monday night and then had the Tuesday to drive to Nurburg before the trackday on the Wednesday and Thursday. We also planned to stay to watch the VLN race on Friday and Saturday before heading back to the UK on the Sunday.
We took our standard route of Hull to Rotterdam on P&O Ferries, then Europoort to Venlo for what we know as the best and freshest McDonalds in the world, then into Germany and to the Nurburgring, a travel time of about 4 hours. When we arrived in Nurburg we checked into our regular hotel, the Zur Berg in Nurburg (<1km to the Nordschleife), unloaded the car and headed to the Nordschleife for a tourist lap before registration in the evening.
Registration on trackdays is quite often a mundane boring affair in which nothing of surprise is said, when you have sat through as many as we all have it seems a bit of a box ticking exercise, happily Darren Langeveld’s brief was anything but that. All the usual information was given but delivered in such an informative down to earth manner that it made you feel that Darren and the whole Destination Nurburging team (who were superb) genuinly cared about our enjoyment. Further more Darren said a few things that need to be said especially on a Trackday on the Nordschleife, “approximately two of you are not going to go home with your cars, all you need to ask yourself is will that be me?”, well said! In fact his estimation was a little out and at least 4 people didn’t go home with their cars, but we will come to that later. Registration complete, Pistenklaus for tea in the form of fillet steak, of course.
I had tried to avoid looking at the weather in the days leading up to DN13 but I couldn’t have asked for better, bright sunshine greeted us on the morning of the first day (as it did everyday, amazing!). After an hour of sighting laps open pit lane started, the quality of the lapping was superb, thoughout the early parts of the day there were laps on which we only came across 1 or 2 other cars, it felt truly amazing to have the Nordschleife almost to ourselves.
Our main concern was closures but on the whole people were well behaved, the main culprit on the first day was a beautiful black Mercedes SLS that managed to destroy its entire passenger side, a horrific shame as it was soooo clean when it arrived! I had even commented to Al just how nice the paint looked, pity.
991 GT3 RS although this one got a hard time
Despite not being strangers to the Nordschleife car park both my Al and I were in awe of the amount of 996, 997 and 991 GT3 and RS’s that were present, some fast some not so fast, but they remain the pinnacle of desirability for Nordschleife driving. The 991 GT3 RS in particular in the flesh was absolutely stunning.
By the close of the day we were happy with the laps, the weather was brilliant with minimal closures, the only blot being a whole lap stuck behind a supercharged Elise, it was a classic case of people not wanting to let a lowly Clio past, being held up from the entrance into the Nordschleife to Esbach was very poor driving for any trackday goer. I was so annoyed about the lap that I went to the office to complain, spoke to Darren who immediately went to find the driver of the car and educate him about correct trackday etiquette, further evidence of the first class professional attitude of the Destination Nurburgring team.
The following day started with a light covering of mist around Wehrseifen and Breidscheid, this coupled with the sun being quite low in the sky meant Al was able to take some awesome photos on the early sighting laps, again opportunities like this just make me fall even more in love with a place that I sure my wife is jealous of already!
The previous evening we had spent a fair amount of time studying the footage from the day before, from this we were able to determine the we were running safely at sub 8:50 pace and we had plenty of room for improvement. One thing that certainly helps is having someone to bounce off, Al and myself have done many a trackday together driving each other’s cars and done a fair few laps of the Nordschleife so we trust each other to the point if one does something then the other quickly follows, this has worked well over the years and certainly helps with confidence, it also allows you to watch for things you usually struggle to when driving. We both understand that rules surrounding driving each other’s cars, so if you can find a friend you trust enough (we have been good friends for 25years) it is a great way to increase you knowledge of any track.
There were more cars present on the second day, nowhere near bank holiday levels, but certainly enough to hinder quite a few of the laps. Despite this we certainly were traveling faster than the day before, the weather was as good as the day before and we both were starting to push the Clio quite hard, it loved it!
Team Thornhill, mega SR8 and R400
The previous night we had started talking to a few of the guys staying at our hotel, Mick and Steve stood out as Mick had brought his Radical SR8 and Caterham R400 (cage and shod with slicks) all the way from Barnsley. Top guys, any man who can hussle an SR8 and an R400 round the Nordschleife is ok in my book, Al confirmed Micks credentials with a passenger lap, I will do a trackday any time with these guys.
Poor guy in the Clio
In the morning we heard of a Clio crashed at the entry to Brunnchen, this was followed by questions from numerous people asking if we were ok, my reply “it was NOT us!”, some poor guy from the UK had borrowed a friends Clio 197 and laid it to rest on top of the barriers, the damage looked terminal for the car. The driver look gutted. In fact he wasnt the only guy from the UK to crash a friends car, there was Pug 206 GTi that shared a similar fate.
Unlike our last trip Al seemed to get the better laps on the second day, he also was able to enjoy two of the best laps that we recorded, a great battle with a 205 GTi (old school) that was slightly quicker than the Clio and very well driven, the other lap featured keeping with a Cayman GT4, the lap is below to watch and yielded an 8:35, the best lap we completed. I managed an 8:45 with a passenger which was my best lap, no doubt by the end of the second day we were lapping at a steady sub 8:40 pace, indeed if Al got a clear lap I suspect that low 8:20s are possible in the car, pity that it is unlikey we will find out.
On the final lap of the second day I managed a personal milestone of taking the Foxhole flat, shame the rest of the lap was ruined by a reluctant A6 3.0TDI at the start and a barrier replacement at the Eschbach, other than these two hold ups (the second of which brough me to almost a standstill) it was my best of the weekend. The Foxhole flat was not as dramatic as I was expecting, well the exit anyway, the entry was dramatic as I had expected, I had to will myself not to lift but once through the compression the brakes were beastly enough to make the left hander on the exit quite straight forward.
Beautiful 991 GT3R
That evening was filled with drinking an eating steak, again in the Pistenklaus, I will never grow tired of that place. The next day we decided to watch the Friday VLN practice and try and get to some of the areas of the track that we havent been to before, namely Steilstrecke to Hohe Acht and Flugplatz.
I can recommend both areas to watch at especially if it is the VLN and GT3 cars that you are watching. One thing that did amaze me was the VLN practice was run at the same time as a trackday!
Imagine trying to tackle the Nordschleife with an angry Black Falcon SLS GT3 car behind you, crazy! In fairness the trackday traffic on the Friday looked quick, heavily modded M3s and 991 GT3s all being driven quickly, there were still a fair few near misses that we saw between GT3 and slower cars, it was entertaining.
Beastly Lexus GT3
Saturday morning brought the offical VLN Qualiftying and all the GT3 cars, if you have not seen GT3 cars racing on the Nordschleife it is a must for any aspiring petrol head. The speed difference and uncomprimising driving is a sight to behold, the noise of the SLS, Bentley and Lexus is incredible, taking nothing away from the 911s, Z4s and R8s. I think that I could watch the VLN for a long time. The qualiyfing period inparticular was spectacular as the GT3 were really pushing, we watched the closing stages of the session from Pflanzgarten, Bellof S and Schwalbenschwanz, the highlight being the Bentley taking a huge amount of curb and as a result getting a fair amount of air, most entertaining to watch. Bellof S/Pflanzgarten 2 is without doubt a suberb place to watch.
We were able to stay for the start of the race, the factory Mercedes AMG GT was on pole and looked mighty but this didnt stop the Frikadelli GT3 R pushing it for the opening hour. We watched at the exit of the Brunchen and were entertained for quite a while with endless dicey moments for the faster cars with the slower traffic. I really wanted to stay for the end of the race but unfortunatley this was not an option. I fully intend to revisit for a VLN race as they are so good to watch, or maybe the N24…
Once again we left the Nurburgring trying our hardest to think of ways to visit more often, despite some traffic on the German motoways the journey passed without incident.
The Clios performance was flawless, I am so happy that all the work (and money) that I have commited seems worth it. I still think that you could get away stiffer suspension but considering that it is a road car it is judged about right, the brakes were superb, so I can confirm that standard calipers, braided hoses, Motul 600 fluid, brake ducts, Brembo High Cardon discs and Carbon Lorraine RC6 pads are a force to be reckoned with. I was more than happy with the R888s, if anything I think I prefered them to the A048s, but only just. The engine was exactly the same as every other time I have used it on track, it still feels as it did when I bought it, a good strong 180bhp. It makes me sad that most probably the last time I will use the Clio on track, but it will be remembered by me for moments like in the highlights reel I put together. I will miss it a lot!
All the professional pictures as you can see are from Frozenspeed, fantastic work from some of the best vantage points on the circuit.
The videos below are two of the better laps of the 16 we recorded, the other is a highlights reel.
Al and myself both agreed that the Destination Nurburgring trackday is better than extended tourist weekends despite the cost, I think that in future we may well try to look for better tourist driving oppourtunities but more frequently. I would strongly recommended the Destination Nurburgring days, Darrens team really understand why we travel to the Ring and how to make the most out of it.
What I am driving next time I go is an unknown, but it will be sooner rather than later….
Full Lap 1
Full Lap 2