Formula One deemed it too dangerous to race here and the PC brigade still want the place shut down. Bar none it’s the most challenging circuit in the world for both car and driver. But strictly speaking it’s a public road. The disclaimer I signed described it as “not a modern race circuit. Think of it as a closed back country road”. Of course we’re talking about the Nordscheilfe at the Nurburgring, better known as the green hell.
You might, as I did, spend countless hours on a Playstation memorising the 20.81 kilometres, 74 corners and the perfect racing lines to take. However if you jump on a plane and come see the place in person, nothing prepares you for it. The games simply can’t pick up the gradients, bumps or cambers that are present.
One search on YouTube will bring up a huge array of spectacular crashes. So you don’t end up an internet star for the wrong reasons what are the tips I learnt to survive a day in hell?
1) Arrive early
It’s a huge circuit and there’s lots of traffic around so get there bright and early takes the pressure off. If you’re as excited as I was you won’t get slept much anyway. Do the boring stuff the night before, pack a lunch and water, fill up with petrol and give yourself the best chance at getting the most from the day.
2) Hire a race car
Odds are your personal car isn’t insured. Most insurance companies will have this buried in the fine print. Plus road tyres, basic brake pads and stoke suspension aren’t really up to the job all day. We hired a Suzuki Swift. Laaaaame! I hear you scoff. Not the dream car you’d ideally want however it had semi slicks, the interior mostly removed and a roll cage. It was also a manual so you could argue its more of a drivers car than any new Ferrari!
Slower is cheaper to rent so just make sure it’s engaging i.e. a manual. Swift may be the name but it lacked grunt. But it was light so the challenge was to carry momentum through the corners. If you’re a rear drive die hard a Toyota 86 would fit the bill and with a few laps under the belt the Renault Megane was a stand out or a hire a BMW 1 series.
3) Do a Ring Taxi Hot Lap first up
“It’s the best 8 minute rollercoaster you’ll ever experience”. It’s so true. I did it in a Porsche 991 GT3. One of the taxi drivers I spoke to had done 1,000 laps, all in the same BMW M4. They know the place like the back of their hand and you can still even get driven by Sabine Schmitz.
Going early gives you a free-flowing ride and a chance to sight the track. You’ll then get perspective on how bad ass it really is!
4) Be patient
Once there you’ll still face delays so be patient. Opening was delayed an hour due to extra graffiti on the track when we arrived so expect the unexpected. And there will be crashes… lots of them. If the barrier is damaged expect a few hours. Just chill and enjoy the atmosphere.
5) Warm up
Cliche ahead: You and the car need to be one. Have a stretch out, take a minute to get everything adjusted- belts, mirrors, steering wheel and seats. Then get the car up to temperature in the first half lap for tyres, brakes and gearbox fluids. Don’t be the knob that goes off six corners in.
6) Check your mirrors
You can run anything you bring. We saw everything from a Fiat Uno to a 700 BHP Audi RS6 which overtook us in the ring taxi four passengers up. The speed differences are huge! Keeping eye in your mirrors means you won’t get any unexpected surprises and can move aside without affecting your lap too much. Road karma people.
7) Ignore the red mist
Your adrenaline and heart rate will be racing. But take a deep breath and don’t be tempted to take that corner flat because you do on the Playstation or make that 50/50 pass on the guy ahead because you want a free run on the carosel. You’re better to cool off and run another lap than go banzai silly. We saw four guys go home on a flat bed. I bet arriving home to the wives would’ve been frosty!
8) Stay hydrated
I’m going to sound like your mum here (tell her I say ‘hi’ by the way…) but you’re working hard in the car so after each lap crank that air con and drink plenty. You’ll piss lots but your brain will thank you. A well deserved beer at the end of the day to relive the experience will never be so well deserved compared to a massive dehyration headache.
9) Check out the parking lot
The eye candy is outrageous and your better half won’t even get angry if you stare. It’s not just the supercars and track weapons but the locals toys. You might overlook a BMW E36 wagon parked next to a 458 but when you notice it has a full cage, semi slicks and an M3 engine swap you’ll understand the work thats gone into these.
10) Reflect on the moment
It goes without saying really but it can also be a bit intimidating and scary arriving. Especially if its wet. But drive within your limits, be courteous to other drivers and enjoy, no savour, the moments to replay in your head when you’re back at work on a dull day. I kept pinching myself saying “I’m driving on the Nordschilefe!”.
So hopefully you know have a few tips to make it out of Hell in one piece and enjoy the heaven that is driving the Nurburgring. If you’re there then pop next door to the Nurburgring Formula One circuit, or even better yet, an hour down the road in Belgium is Spa Francorchamps. Why not go for the trifecta!
Let me know in the comments below how you went for your first time out.