Porsche 996 Turbo and Audi urQuattro at Nürburgring Nordschleife
Me in my Porsche 996 turbo and Mattias in his Audi 'ACHTUNG!' urQuattro at Nürburgring Nordschleife.
It doesn't take that much to entertain two grown men, just two cars and the greatest track in the world.. ;-)
Learning the Nürburgring in a Porsche 911 - XCAR
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The Porsche 911 is a very capable car. The Nürburgring is a very scary
track. Alex Goy is not a very capable track driver. Those three statements
are both true and connected...
In the summer of 2012 we had a phone call offering every petrolhead's dream
-- two days of professional training around the 'Ring in a shiny new
Porsche 911 Carrera S. To make things nice and complicated I challenged
myself to do a solo lap of the Nordschleife in less than ten minutes after
the instruction was over. An easy task for a pro, but not for someone who
errs on the cautious side of driving like me.
The Nürburgring is widely regarded as one of the most fearsome roads in
the world. It's very long, has over 140 corners and takes decades of
practise to learn. Many lives have been lost on the 'Ring and countless
cars have lost a fight against the miles of Armco that hems the tarmac.
Having only ever attempted the Nordschleife in the virtual world before I
was understandably nervous. I was crap at it online, how would I be any
good in the real world?
I was there for Sport Auto's Perfecktions Training as a guest of Porsche.
It was an ideal opportunity to have a crack at the legend... in a legend.
My steed was a Porsche 911 Carrera S -- 400bhp of rear-engined, RWD fun.
The new 911 is a brilliant car, it's nowhere near as lairy as your mates in
the pub would have you believe. Yes, the weight is at the back and if you
turn all the traction toys off you could end up oversteering into a hedge.
However, thanks to Porsche PASM (Porsche Active Stability Management)
system it's perfectly safe in the hands of a moron. So perfect for a 'Ring
Rookie like me.
My instructor was the wonderfully unhinged Christian Menzel. He's a rather
talented racing driver and something of a 'Ring expert - the ideal person
to teach me how to shuffle around it properly.
My first lap was a nervous one -- the tales of crashed cars and lost lives
fresh in my mind as I built my confidence, learnt how much of my overly
enthusiastic inputs the car could take and began to recognise corners I'd
previously overrun on Gran Turismo.
As with most things the key to improvement is practise -- in this case
endlessly lapping the course, going faster each time and keeping an eye out for
silly mistakes. While my confidence was certainly building I still didn't
want to fall off.
As 'go time' loomed nearer I was getting better and better. So much so that
I decided to take a breather and have a ride with a true Ring Meister:
Walter Röhrl. A motoring legend and a bona fide celeb at the 'Ring, Walter
showed me what can truly be done when you have actual talent. His 911 GT2
RS was terrifyingly fast, his reactions faster. Röhrl passed cars with inches to
spare, raising a cheery hand off the wheel to thank them as he sped by.
Still, my time to shine (or die) came and Christian had one sterling piece
of advice for me: "Just bring my baby home".
As I passed under the bridge I flipped the switch on the 911's built-in
stopwatch and we were off.
I'd spent two days learning the circuit, taking in the camber changes,
elevation differences, sight lines, changes of light, different corners,
braking points and I was finally on my own.
While I hadn't memorised each corner, I vaguely knew what was going to come
next. Without a lead car ahead of me I had no idea whether I was taking the
right line or even going fast enough -- I'd timed a few of our laps before
and saw we'd managed some low-nine minute runs. That, however, was with
Christian up front. Could I manage to get anywhere close? I'd done a fast
lap before, countless times actually, but never alone,
One thing was clear -- I was far more relaxed than I had been at the start.
My first lap saw me more tightly sprung than a jack-in-the-box with anger
management issues, now I was calmer with the controls and could anticipate
what was coming.
As the miles tumbled I was worried I wouldn't make it -- I couldn't glance
down at the clock as I was too busy not falling off the circuit...
As the finishing gantry came into view a quick look at the timer showed
that I'd made it with time to spare -- 09:37. Not bad.
The Nürburgring is one of those 'life list' things that many want to do
but few ever will. I left the 'Ring with more confidence and a healthy
feeling that I'd risen to a challenge. I'd taken on the Nürburgring and
not been bitten in the arse.
Next step... nine minutes.
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