Breidscheid Revisited - May 2000 Trip

The Tale

If you're here for the photographs, scroll down a bit.

Having been around the track fifteen times or so having the lines pointed out (almost all of which I completely failed to remember), I decided that I was almost duty-bound to return with my own car. I arranged to go across with Paul and Martin again for the weekend of 12-14th May. However... on the 14th of April, I went to an EasyTrack airfield day at Kemble airfield near Cirencester and I managed to break something fundamental. I was coming out of a corner rather quickly and was met with a rather nasty bang and some clunking noises. On further investigation, it appeared that I had thrown a rod and there was no danger of my car being repaired in time for the Nürburgring visit.

Undaunted, I headed for Hertz's website. Given the option of "Economy", "Compact", "Compact Four Door" and "Executive", I opted for "Compact" on the assumption that it would be somewhere between Cinqicento or a Mondeo. I arranged to pick this up in Aachen on the Friday afternoon and Paul agreed to give me a lift across there.

We arrived in Aachen during the early afternoon to pick up my "compact" car. In the eyes of Hertz, "compact" materialised in the form of a nice silver Ford Focus.

Diesel Estate.

Whilst not exactly the perfect 'Ring vehicle (people parked all around me in the car park because they presumed I wasn't going onto the circuit), it proved perfectly all right. We arrived at the ring at around 4pm and met up with Martin who'd been there already for some time. Paul rather bravely offered to accompany me for the first lap and we crawled around gracefully. The conversation was split between me saying "good God, this thing is slow" and Paul saying "err... no, you want to be over the other side... this one is rather tight...", and similar. I had a couple more laps on my own and began to vaguely remember parts of the circuit.

A few drinks were had on Friday (among multitudes of British bikers at the Lindenhof) and on Saturday morning I headed back towards the 'Ring for some more entertainment. I began to remember a few more of the lines and I could feel quite a tangible improvement, not least because I was beginning to get a better handle on the car. The main problem I had was that it was quite a bit larger than my car... by the end of Sunday I had driven twenty laps of the 'Ring without any large incidents, but had managed to drive over the kerb three times in the car-park (a little embarassing) and knock over the cone at the end of the restricting chicane when leaving the start of the circuit. I thought that nobody had seen, but someone came up and thanked me...

I must admit that as far as diesel family estate cars go, the Focus handled quite well. The brakes were excellent (well, they were at the beginning of laps), body roll wasn't nearly as bad as I'd expected and the only slight problem was a tendency for the back end to go walkabout if you lifted off mid-corner. This only happened once, and it was only because Paul asked me if it did so I checked. It did.

On Saturday afternoon, I opted to take a few rides with people if I could scrounge them. I accosted a chap named Julian with a Carrera RS who gave me a highly entertaining run around, apart from something of a near-incident in an over-enthusiastic attempt at Schwedenkreuz. He cheerfully said "oops!" as we ran alarmingly wide, but recovered it neatly in time for Aremberg. A fellow named Tim was there for the first time with a very tidy racing Mini and took me round for an extraordinary lap (not least because of the racket). He would go happily whizzing into corners far too fast and then brake halfway around. Now I don't know that much about car control, but I do recall someone telling me that braking halfway around a corner was on the big list of car no-nos. However, the Mini would just wiggle around for a bit and continue on the desired course... a very strange sensation. He then rather bravely came around with Paul and I in the Focus and bemoaned the fact that he had to leave that evening.

Highlights of the weekend would have to be:

  • Passing a 911 (the driver of which was presumably asleep)
  • Passing a motorbike at Breidscheide and getting some enthusiastic waving and clapping from the crowd
  • Locking up rather amusingly at the end of Pflanzgarten 1 (more waving from assembled)
  • Foot on the floor on the way up Kesselchen and being passed by motorbikes going 100mph faster
Paul timed a lap for me on Sunday afternoon and from Anteniusbuche to the gantry after Döttinger Hohe was 11 minutes 25 seconds. Not exactly record-setting but I do find that on Espen's site I have the highest-placed time for a Ford Focus Diesel Estate. In fact... I have the only one.

The track closed at around 3:30pm on Sunday because of an accident and Paul and I decided that then was as good a time as any to head back home. We checked out of Jung Stroof and drove back to Aachen, where I popped the car keys into the Hertz letterbox and left it outside. Apart from rather a lot of squashed flies on the front, it looked in remarkable condition for a car that had done a quarter of its total mileage on a racing track. Paul agreed that, tempting though it was, giving it back with a Nürburgring sticker on the back may not be met with much hilarity. Pity.

The Evidence

Click on the photographs for an enlarged version.

My 'Ring monster, parked around some machinery of similar pedigree.
Same shot, other end of car. Never let it be said that my web pages are dull.
165kmh down Schwedenkreuz... I rather hope the Hertz people don't go browsing too often.
The BMW Driver Training School - I'm not exactly sure what this is but it involves 16 BMW M Coupes and I want a go.
Our motor-vehicles, parked outside Jung Stroof.