May 21, 2008

Axis Ringball 08 part II: Vomit comet and other stories

CG picks up where we left off yesterday....

Day 1

What can I say, first day in three years with clear blue skies and a dry forecast. Too good to be true. Big downside? With such good weather everybody and their mother decides to go for a lap. 5-6 blocks long lines coming out of the parking lot were the norm of the day.

7:30 am I picked up the Blue 996 Carrera at Theo’s place. As usual impeccably set up: KW suspension, race seats and harnesses. The car was still in street mode and the PCM Nav proved very practical to navigate around the small roads around the track! (AC: rennlist nudge!)

Driving the 996 makes you realize how good the 997 is. In my opinion the 997 is a quantum leap in development. There’s more in common between the 997 and 996GT3 than between the 6 Carrera and 6 GT3.

Engine felt strong and grip level, albeit on Michelin PS2s was good, but the front end is a different animal than the rest of the car. With all the camber changes on the track the nose on plenty of occasions completely floats and wonders around and you can literally move the steering wheel a good 90 degrees around the center with no-effect whatsoever (Typical on a place like the downhill into Fuchsröhre).

Other than that and the brake fluid boiling while on queue in between laps, the car was a joy to drive and required the typical 911 technique: Hard brake, make the front end grip and early committed throttle on exit. Favorite section on this car was between the Karrusell and Planzgarten (Hohe Acht, Wipperman, etc.). Well planted on deeply cambered transitions, but on the fast sweepers like Dottinger-Hohe (last corner) or Schwedenkreuz, the car alternated between a front end skip and initial oversteer.

I think I pushed hard on all the sub 100mph sections but never near the limit on the really fast turns. Impossible to get a clean lap with so much traffic that gave us a good share of “events” during the day plus a couple of close-call incidents dealing with slower traffic.

3 tanks full worth of laps (eu$240 just in fuel!!) and it was a great day. It was a breeze to drive the 996 Carrera, as we could chill out in A/C comfort in between runs. Stee came in for some passenger rides at noon and lunch break was perfectly timed for a 4 wheel brake pad change at Theo’s and we were back in an hour for more action. Was only able to install the Traqmate for the last 4 -5 laps of the day, and recorded a couple of 8:20s BTG times, and adding up best sectors led to a probable 8:15 BTG time. Not sure where that stands for a 996 on PS2s but it felt more than enough for my own willingness to keep the shiny side up. Fastest speed was on the “straight” and jump before Schwedenkreuz: 147mph. Fuchsröhre I was not able/willing to flat out and recorded 132mph. A younger me with no wife or 3 kids would have probably been able to keep it pinned to the floor in that section…

Well rounded day that ended up with the perfect alcohol enhanced debriefing at Pistenklaus. The Nordschleife is such a cool place where almost 100% of the people and visitors you encounter in the region are awesome friendly cool tracktards (just like us!!). Great night that included several track incident stories coupled to lots of beer and the Steak on Stone de rigour… 

Happy ending to an awesome but traffic heavy day at the NRing.

Vomit Comet


I was warned by Dale that my first day was going to include some "Dude where's my car" moments. RSR was short on cars but Dale stepped up and promised me the use of his personal, just bolted together, very shiny red Alfa 75. The caveat was that he needed to instruct two guys in the morning.

Stee and Carlos were lapping just behind Dale in the distance when all of a sudden they see him jam on the brakes (turns out he does use them on special occasions) and pull over violently. Stee had just enough time to see one of the students rush the guardrail and spew over the side. Fine, it can happen, big breakfast...too much beer the night before... fine.
Next up, after the sighting lap, the students get into their own car and are supposed to follow the instructor's (who is in radio contact with them) around the track. I decide that I might as well see the track some more so I jump in the passenger seat with Dale. Off we go for three of the most excruciatingly slow laps around any circuit ever, dudes on bicycles were passing us... OK maybe not that slow but I doubt we ever broke the 70mph barrier.

But 3 laps, how long could it take? What I did not count on was that after each and every one of these laps one of the students, or both had to stop and go puke in a bush! Unreal, after EVERY single lap!

After the barfers it was Stee's turn for the lead follow exercise. Then, finally and thanks to Stee's prodding (thanks Stee!) Dale handed the keys over and I could finally have a go. I had never driven an Alfa 75 and it was a pleasant surprise. Sure they are relatively cheap 1980's Italian cars with questionable electrics but they are also the last of the rear wheel drive and thus, proper Alfa Romeo. Sure, they have solid rear axles but they also have a transaxle with the gearbox in the rear attached to the differential that's pretty fancy weight balancing. The engine sounds great, the brakes adequate and the handling, with the RSR suspension kit is super neutral. I think CG Stee and I will get more into the driving specifics later on though, all kinds of 'Ring related considerations like "Bikers, will killing one actually ruin your day?"*. Because of the traffic and the many closures due to...bikers, I managed five or six laps on Sunday, a good warm up for Monday when it would be quieter.

After hours, Ron arranged a track walk (... we took buses to sections and then walked) another recomeded activity. Amazing how the track looks from that prospective and the little things you can learn when you have time to look around. Make sure you check in with RSR to see if that might be happening on your next trip.

* attention bikers.... this is meant as humor. It's a rhetorical question regardless of how insane you may be!

To be continued...


  1. My former boss had an Alfa (milano to us yanks) 75 that he drove everywhere, and even flew our to New Jersey to buy a backup Alfa 75 when this one was getting tired.

    The car made great sounds, most of the warning lights were taped over in black electrical tape, and there was always a slight burning smell...but man...the car made great sounds!

    Can't wait for the rest.

  2. I've done a few days at the 'Ring when I lived near there for a short time. I NEVER saw the line all the way up into the village! That SUCKS. I guess the GT4 crew is in full effect afterall...



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