I used to earn a few bob doing some circuit driver coaching, mainly at Spa and Nürburgring. To tell the truth, it was faintly terrifying strapping in next to a virtual stranger before heading out onto the Green Hell.
I’m not proclaiming myself to be any sort of driving deity, but after over a thousand laps of the ‘Ring in all manner of cars and having received industry pool driver training, it’s fair to say that I know where the circuit goes.
But rather than regale you with stories of scrapes at the Nordschleife, I thought I’d render a more valuable service. So, listed below are my tips on what to do and, maybe more importantly, not do when you rock up at the Ring.
- Check that it’s open. The public (also called TF or Touristenfahrten) days are listed on an online calendar. Try this site for size. If you don’t it’s entirely possible that you’ll turn up and the whole place is closed.
- Make sure your car is in decent nick. Cooling and tyres will take a pounding at the ‘Ring. It’s not a track that’s heavy on braking, but don’t go with thin pads or flaky discs.
- Eat a pizza the size of a dustbin lid at Pinocchio’s in Adenau. Pro tip: one pizza between two people really is enough.
- Drive to the outside of the Karussell. You’ll need to go through the village of Herschbroich, up past the barbecue shelter and into the woods on a logging trail. Right at the first T-junction, left at the next fork to a dead end, then walk 20 metres. Just don’t try it in something with a tarmac-scraping ride height.
- Avoid Easter weekend if you want to get laps in. It’s a complete zoo.
- Take the time to learn the wet line. It rains a lot in the Eifel, and when it does, the usual line through corners can get very greasy. Wide round the outside is often your friend.
- Figure out which sections of the track will retain moisture. Due to orientation and trees, corners like Eiskurve will retain dew on the track for a long time. Enter at a normal dry cornering speed and you can come unstuck.
- Make sure you’re insured. Many policies have specific exclusions for the ‘Ring and some car hire companies will pay a bounty to anyone who dobs you in. You could end up with a life ban from the likes of Avis or Hertz.
- Buy a Ring Taxi lap in a hot Jaguar. And tell Dale that I sent you.
- Remember that those quiet midweek two-hour evening openings are your friend.
- Go for a fillet steak on a hot stone at the Pistenklause. If you’re lucky you’ll spot ‘Queen of the Ring’ Sabine Schmitz behind the bar. Her parents own the place.
- Avoid the big, corporate hotels and book into a place like the Gästehaus Fuchsröhre down the road in Welcherath or the Altes Forsthaus in Nurburg. The latter was used as the garage for the original Mercedes rally team, the courtyard where they stripped the paint off the cars to become the legendary Silver Arrows.
- Talk to people in the paddock and, as long as they’re not complete swingballs, try to blag passenger laps. Most people are quite happy to oblige and it’s a good way to see the track.
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- Join the crowd with a currywurst and chips at Brunnchen corner, now informally known as Youtube corner. Almost everyone speeds up when they see a crowd and despite not being a particularly tricky corner, plenty of people fall off as a result.
- Save the emergency number into your phone. It’s 0800 0302 112. And pull over IMMEDIATELY for recovery if your vehicle is leaking fluids. You really don’t want to kill a biker.
- Overtake on the left. Undertaking is a no-no and in the event of an accident, the local police take a very dim view of passing on the right.
- Know the difference between a public day and a track day.
- If you want the best track day, these are the people to go with.
- Take the drive on the public road from Adenau up to Hohe Acht. It’s a belter and skirts the track
- Check the excess if you use one of the local trackday rental companies. It can be eye-watering.
- Buy the Borch 1:11,500 laminated track map. It’s pretty indestructible, shows all sorts of local rat runs and makes a great souvenir.
- Slow down if you see anybody standing by the side of the track waving anything.
- Skulk around the factory estate in Meuspath and see if you can spy a yet-to-be-released prototype
- Cross your fingers and hope that your car doesn’t get chewed by a Beech Marten (Martes foina). As the Association of German Insurers (GDV) says, “Every driver has to expect that one morning the engine cannot be started because of Marten damage. Annoying but effective remedies against the martens do not exist.”
- Visit the amazing model shop in the Ed-Tankstelle gas station on the B258 (right next to the track gantry).
- Have fun.
- Race. Ever. It’s by far the most effective way to end up at Bongard’s scrapyard. And that goes for the local roads too. As one old hand once told me, “You can’t win at Touristenfahrten but you can certainly lose.”
- Time yourself if you’re a novice. You’ll only pressurise yourself into overcommitting. Many crashed cars are found with lap timers running so don’t make a specific BTG time your measure of success.
- Think that you’ll be able to drive an 8 minute lap because a Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R did way back when and cars are so much more capable now. Imagine on-sighting a twisty country road at an average of 154.5km/h. It would be utterly terrifying to most. That’s what an 8 minute lap of the ‘Ring will be like.
- Think that just because you’ve done a hundred laps on Forza that you know the track. While games can help in figuring out which way the circuit goes, the cambers, kerbs, surface changes, meteorological changes, elevation differences, other traffic and all the other things that can trip you up are not.
- Use faster cars as a guide. You have no idea who is in the car, or what is under that car’s skin. It’s an easy way to get sucked into trouble.
- Block faster cars. If something arrives in your mirrors, it’s faster than you. Indicate and pull over to the right. It’s not an invitation for a dice. The mental overload of managing the rush of corners and the steady stream of faster cars behind can be hard for most to process.
- Use the kerb. Faster drivers may, but there are some kerbs at the Ring that you can safely hit and others that’ll send you into the Armco with the slightest kiss. Until you know one from another, take a clean line.
- Ignore the marshals. Especially on busier weekends there’s a flow through the paddock that needs to observed if big traffic queues are to be avoided.
- Indulge in the Spectacular Loser Overtake. The Dottinger Hohe straight on the way back in is best used to cool your brakes. You’re not going to win any respect by screaming past decelerating cars and arriving in the car park with your pads ablaze.
- Try to do too many laps. This isn’t Winton. You can have a great day out at the Ring doing four or five laps. Heck, I’ve had great days doing none. A lap is 21km and will require your full concentration. Don’t overtax yourself.
- Attack Schwedenkreuz. If there’s one corner on the whole lap that you shouldn’t try to shave time on, it’s this one. It’s a killer. Take the time to learn the line here.
- End up on the grass at Adenauer Forst. It’s the classic Nürburgring noob mistake. The tree line leading into this corner on the crest of a hill leads you to believe it goes fairly straight and then the track does a 90-degree turn to the left. People will laugh at you.
- Drive like a plank in the village. It’s a small place and you’ll be recognised.
- Forget that there’s an exit halfway round at Breidscheid Bridge. If you or your passengers aren’t feeling in tip top condition, it’s a worthwhile out.
- Be tempted to pop your Nürburgring cherry in some 400kW supercharged monster. Honestly, you’re going to have a stack more fun in something like a Suzuki Swift or a Fiesta ST.
- Get overconfident. Almost every novice makes the same mistake at the ‘Ring and that is thinking they know where it goes only to realise that they don’t. The section between Karussell and Brunnchen that includes Hohe Acht, Hedwigshohe and Wippermann is always the last section anyone learns and getting it wrong here can be scary.
- Get too pent-up when the track is closed due to an incident. These crashes can self-perpetuate as people get impatient then all rush out like headless chickens when it reopens and cause another bingle. Let all the yeehaws set off at once, give ‘em a few minutes and then pick your moment.
- Try to be a Youtube star by drifting through Brunnchen 2. The fail compilations are full of these nuffies.
- Grind pepper onto the hot stone when you’re enjoying your fillet steak at the Pistenklause. I once gassed Jeremy Clarkson doing this and he wasn’t amused.
- Underestimate Kallenhard. It’s a benign looking corner but it catches a lot of drivers out.
- Forget that there’s usually a stream crossing the circuit after Bergwerk when it’s raining. If you’re flat chat in a powerful rear driver here, it can spell big grief.
- Expect the Ring Racer rollercoaster to be working. It was built in 2009 at a cost of €12.3m and it’s a non-starter.
- Set your sat nav for Nuremberg. It’s Nürburg. You’ll end up 400km away if you get that one wrong.
- Get caught at rush hour on the Brussels Ring Road if you’re travelling from the UK. Just don’t. You can thank me later.
- Forget that Spa is only 120km away on some lovely driving roads. It’s well worth a trip and some companies, such as Destination Nürburgring, will do a double header package featuring both circuits.
- Beat the living daylights out of your car in Karussell. It’s a very rough, steady state corner that goes on for longer than you think. Aim the centre of your car over the point at the end of the concrete and accelerate cleanly uphill.
- Paint a giant cock and balls on the track at night. It’s not original and shiny new paint will shut the circuit if the marshals deem it dangerous.
- Start a grass fire with your exhaust in the overflow car park.
- Visit in April if you’re a hay fever sufferer. The local pine trees generate industrial amounts of yellow pollen that coat everything.
- Try to head out on track in a caged car with no helmet. Or with a super noisy exhaust. Or nonstandard plates. Or anything else that’ll give the marshals an excuse to bin you off. You’ve come a long way for this. Don’t screw it up.
So that’s about it for the time being. If you have any other specific questions you’d like me to answer, hit up the comments. Cheers!