15 minutes at Pflanzgarten*
This next post is a guest blog from my friend James. I havent had a chance to sit and write about my experience at the Nurburgring yet as i’m still sorting through all the photos. So here, James describes his first Nodschleife experience. Enjoy.
I find a spot at the fence that doesn’t involve getting too intimate with some strangers and start to take it in.
I have made it to endurance racing Nirvana (well, one of them).
Beyond the chainlink fence I am now leaning on, lies the Nordschleife ready to watch one of the practice sessions for the Nurburgring 24 Hours.
You can watch videos, play Gran Turismo, read stories or whatever, but nothing prepares you for actually seeing the track for the first time. Firstly it’s impossibly narrow and the inclines involved only really perceptible when you see them for yourself. I’m closer to the track than you can get at most British venues – and none of them hold the challenge, the mystique and the reputation of the Nordscheife.
Though it’s still early in the weekend – Thursday night to be exact – the fans in the campsite are already living up to their reputations. On the track a riot of colourful graffiti decorates the tarmac. I have no idea who or what Eiserberg (or something like that) is but I’m about ten foot further down toward the 17km marker that where he is or “woz” according to the white block capitals written across the track.
Fans up and down the fence are clutching tankards, and bottles of beer. My back is warmed by a fire behind me and the smell of the food cooking over it is making me hungry (I have yet to be introduced to the concoction that is Currywurst yet).
Above the following corner fans have constructed viewing gantries from wood and/or scaffolding to give them a view over the catch fencing.
An unseen stereo is blaring out pop music. Lady Ga Ga, The Black Eyed Peas – songs I never thought I’d associate with anything now synonymous with this moment in my head.
Over the music I hear the German commentary, which not speaking a word of German is less than helpful. My German barely extends to a few words – I sort of know the words for thank you, but am less sure of how to pronounce them – “Danker” or “Dunker” – but I can feel the anticipation growing as more and people start to prepare cameras and phones to capture the cars coming into view down the hill.
The first sign – to the non-German speaker – that the cars are on their way is the sight and sound of helicopters following the field through the forests that envelop almost the entire Nordschleife.
Engine noises ebb through the air, a promise of what’s to come yet there is no indication of exactly how close they are as the sounds rattle through the trees. Each time I hear a noise I snap my head left expecting to see the first car bounce into view, but each time there is nothing but empty track.
When the cars actually are on their final approach the noise is unmistakable – to the point I wonder how I could have thought any of the previous noises were anywhere near.
The first car cascades through the left hander that brings them into my view, down the hill, into one compression – and out – into another – and out – then over ‘my’ crest – wheels lifting from the track visibly before the tyres re-adhere to the track in time for the brief braking zone for the following right hander as they disappear from view.
The entire passage from left to right – into and then out of my view – takes only a few seconds, (read brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp-swoosh-jump-brrrrrrrrp and you have idea of the exact time) but after the first batch of cars have gone past I am very conscious of the huge smile I have plastered across my face.
I had no idea of what my expectations from this place were but I’m sure it’s exceeded them.
After a few laps I learn the cars to watch, the cars that pop and bang in the braking zone – the P 4/5 Competizione – the cars that get the most air – the Lexus LFA – and the cars that make for spectacular viewing.
The Audi TT RSs have a habit of sparking from their diffusers was the land after the jump – the force of braking and gravity combining to push them into the ground as they start climbing again even before they’ve reached the start of the next corner.
In front of me the track is becoming smeared and smudged. Hot tyres – I presume – picking up the white paint of the graffiti then laying it down over the next few revolutions. Marbles appear – again I presume – where tyres lose contact with the track but still spinning grope for the track in search of grip.
Smoke from the fires and barbeques drifts past, round and over me and over the track, the smell of food hanging in the air.
It’s an experience I will remember forever. My first view of racing on the Nordschleife. An assault on the senses.
*I was at Pflanzgarten for much, much more than fifteen minutes.