Friday 21st April 2006

Let me take you back to almost exactly a week ago, as we drove deep into German countryside, looking for the Nurburgring and our hotel. Pav was extremely tired at this point and just wanted to rest after such a long journey. I believe Jav was the same, but perhaps he just wanted to throw Dee out of the car after having to put up with him for over ten hours. We were nearly there, I could see the signs, I felt we were nearly there. As we headed into the main road, the signs clearly started that we were in the right place. Then it was a case of finding out hotel, which was not going to be too difficult. We saw the sign for our hotel, the Dorint Novotel, but it was on the right hand side of the right, opposite the entrance, which we drove straight past. Then we headed towards the village of Nurburg, only to discover our mistake and then head back and parked outside the hotel entrance. There were three Porsches parked outside and our BMWs looked very average. Walking in, we checked in, given rooms 353 and 354.


Then we went back to the cars, grabbed our luggage and headed upstairs through the glass elevators. I had asked the receptionist, Nadine if food was still being served but it was too late, but we were told of a bar down the road which served until late. So the plan was to dump our stuff and then head back out and get some food. When we reached the third floor, we were all impressed by the quality of the hotel but there were further surprises to come. Right at the end of the corridor, we found our rooms, using the cards to get into 353, I tried to switch on the lights, but then realised that hotel card was also the only way to power the room, so I placed it into the slot by the door, and sure enough the television, lights and air conditioning came on. Straight away I was taken by the view. Dumping my bag, opening the door and taking a look outside. There was not much to see, apart from the bright orange lit petrol station in the middle of the grand prix circuit. We had arrived. I just smiled. What an amazing view, what great rooms. I called home to let them know I had got to Germany safely. I am sure they could hear the happiness in my voice. This was going to be a weekend to remember. Turning back into the room, I finally noticed the television screen and then grabbed my camera to take a photograph.

Warm Willkommen

So much to enjoy and the weekend had only just begun. There was more to come, as we drove Pav’s car into the car park. This was a petrol heads dream with a bright orange Lamborghini Gallardo, several Porsches and a Corvette Z06 (with 505bhp). It was a dream for anyone with a love for the combustion engine and motor cars in general. I wanted to just spend time taking photographs all night, but my stomach had other ideas, so we headed out to meet Jav and the boys at the car and head over to the restaurant. It was coming up to around 11pm now. We parked up at the Motorsport Paddock and went it. It was extremely busy with a few fellow Brits downing the final few beers for the evening. We took a table right at the back and within a few minutes a waitress appeared and we enquired about food. She apologised that they were no longer serving but next door would be able to accommodate us for a few more hours. So we went next door, took a table, ordered some drinks and then ordered some food. I wanted to pinch myself. I had been looking forward to perhaps this exact moment for several months and I was here. I was in Nurburg with one of the world’s most dangerous racing tracks a stone’s throw away. All the planning, Google searching and pestering of friends / family had come to fruition. Sure the real excitement, the purpose of our trip was tomorrow, the highlight, driving around the track but I wanted to make the most of the weekend. My first weekend break. After dinner we headed back to the bar next door, but it was closing up, so we turned around and came back and went up to the barman and asked when they closed. Looking confused at his watch he said 4am! Dee shock his hand as we ordered some drinks and took a seat at the back of the bar. Dee, began to show his credentials as our entertainment for the weekend, by telling us various Punjabi jokes that had us in fits of laughter. Straight way I knew this boy was going to be the life and soul of the party. After a few drinks we headed back to the hotel. Strangely it was only then I felt tired. I suppose the adrenaline of finally being at the hotel had kept me going through late into the night. Our drivers of course were the real tired ones, having done all the hard work and in strange circumstances. I believe it was the first time both of them had driven on the right hand side. Back at the hotel, I feel asleep quite quickly, with the thought, great prospect of what tomorrow, Saturday would bring. The day arrived and looking back, we should have made more out of it. It is difficult to describe the feeling of being woken up by cars going around the race track outside. It is not annoying as such, because the double glazing is so good you hear so little of the raw power. We got up and lounged around the room for a while. It was around 10am before went headed down for buffet breakfast with the restaurant packed. They stopped serving at 10.30a, so we had to make sure we got helped ourselves to as much food to get us through to lunchtime. Jav sort of took charge which was good because we needed someone to set an agenda or nothing would get done. It was here, over breakfast that Dee delivered his first killer line. We had got tea but Jav had had coffee. Grabbing the coffee mug, he declared that the local tea had screwed him up and he needed some coffee to wake him up. There was a short pause before Pav replied, “It’s Earl Grey mate…” We cracked up laughing. We all jumped in the 325 and drove round to look for the track, which we eventually found after taking a detour to an new construction industrial site. Pav and I headed over to the ticket dispenser and purchased four laps at €56. The ring was busy with traffic in both directions to the main roundabout, which sits just outside the entrance to the paddock. I was surprised at how small the whole complex was. There was a small office, a tiny restaurant and bar in the middle and of course the famous BMW M5 Ring Taxi. Back to that (and Sabine) later. Jav was nervous, you could tell, as Dee (in the front passenger seat) set up his mobile in the stand, reading to hit record and film this momentous occasion. We headed up to the barrier and after inserting the card, the barrier lifted and we accelerated onto the track, the four lanes (two for bikes) are filtered into a single lane with cones to direct us onto the track and then we we away. Jav wanted to put his foot down and he was pushing his foot to the floor. The was all the passengers, shouting easy to get Jav to calm down. I think he really wanted to push the car, but found the handling rather erratic, particularly with the extra weight and not knowing what was around the next bend. It was relatively busy with several faster cars with experienced drivers taking us easy. The first car that actually did was an German plated E30 with the passenger pointing to his eyes in a gesture that the driver should be looking behind him constantly while on the track. Pav and myself then constantly kept an eye through the rear window and shouted when we saw a car approaching at high speed. Overall it was a great experience, even it it took over thirteen minutes. It was not too bad for the first time. At one bend we saw a motorcyclist running to our vehicle, with both arms up in the air, signaling us to slow down, which we did. Putting on our hazards, we turn to to the left to see two bikes on the road and the crash barrier smashed, with one rider lying on the floor. He had been going too fast around the corner and lost control of his bike. We slowly drove past the incident, as an ambulance was called. There was perhaps only a few more miles to go but we kept it easy, there was no rush to the finish line. They do not call it the most dangerous track in the world for nothing. So far it had lived up to the billing. As we pulled off the track there was a big queue of vehicles also leaving the Ring. We then headed back to the hotel, dropped off Jav’s car off and changed into Pav’s M3. On this occasion, I was sitting up front. We headed back to the track for our second trip around and Pav really gave it the full throttle. Once again, the car was waited down and it had got busier on the track. We saw the BMW M5 Ring Taxi being smashed around the track at insane speeds. It tailed other cars, until they moved out of the way and then took them out in a flash. It was exhilarating to watch. There were some other crazy drivers much less experienced and in far less capable vehicles bombing around the track with a do or die attitude, we quickly let these individuals pass by. Parking up the car after our time on the track, we headed back towards the ring restaurant. As we did, the M5 Taxi drove by with Sabine Schmitz at the wheel. Jav almost shouted, “It’s her!” To which she seemed to ignore and just smiled at us, before driving back around to pick up another set of customers. We got a drink at the bar, opting not get any food. After taking in a drink as more cars raced onto the track we went to find out about the Ring Taxi for ourselves. Heading over and pushing Pav forward to speak German, only for us to discover the reception staff spoke perfect English. The bad news however, was that the taxi was pre booked until the middle of May. Next time, I’ll book that as soon as I’ve booked the hotel. We headed back towards the hotel but stopped by to the Motorsport Paddock to get some late lunch, it was nearly 3pm afterall. We ordered a big helping of food and were all quite full by the time we finished at 5pm. Jav felt sleepy and although I didn’t admit it publicly at the time, so did I. We headed back to the hotel and retired for a few hours. In the end it turned out to be less than an hour and half. I feel asleep watching television, while Dee and Pav watched the racing from their balcony. Then I was awoken by the buzz of heading back to the Ring. Dee was going to travel with Pav and go for one last lap. Prior to this, we had agreed to take our final two laps (which we had remaining on our ticket) the following morning, weather permitting, when there would be less traffic. On hearing the excited noise of the boys heading back to the track, Jav got up and said he would go aswell. We rushed down to the car park, grabbed the cars, only for me to leave our ticket in the safe and have to rush back to our hotel room to get it. We then headed back to the track, but after seeing a few friends from the E36 Coupe forum we went off road to park up and chat to them and head onto the track in some kind of convey. Just to the side of the main roundabout was a big track of farmland, open as an extended car park for cars as they waited to head onto the Ring. It was packed and as we drove around to park our cars, Jav’s 325 got stuck in the mud and had to reverse out, wheel spinning backwards. There was no way Pav was letting his precious M3 get stuck in the mud so it was time for some stunt driving. He put the shift into reverse and just put his foot to the floor. The cars behind just had to move out the way. We then headed back out of the car park. One problem, there was just one road and about five cars coming in our direction head on. No cars were moving and it took a German to get out of his car and actually direct the traffic around. It was here we met up with Yat a nd a few other boys off the forum. The track had just been closed for an accident for nearly an hour but had just reopened. However, we were warned that has it had been closed for such a long time, it would be advisable to take it easy. Many people suddenly go crazy after having to wait for so long to get their turn. Dee set up the camera on their car to film us on this circuit and record all the action. As we only had one ticket, we had to watch out for any marshalls and insert our ticket but leave it lose so that Dee could reinsert to register the final lap credit. We were off but the warning were credit, it was extremely busy but with only one passenger the ride was much better and the car handled well. Pav had already tightened the front suspension to enable it to glide through the corners with little trouble. Although this was perhaps the busiest the track had been all day, Pav found it the most rewarding lap, perhaps because he knew the capabilities of his car and some parts of the track. The walkie talkie was constantly buzzing with Dee letting us know of cars coming up close behind. The 325 kept up well and even had an opportunity to over take but did not, for the sake of the film. We headed back to the hotel and went to our rooms to plan our evening. It was around 7.30pm when Jav said we would drive to the nearest city, get a nice meal at a restaurant and then hit a club or bar. Pav and myself headed downstairs to use the computer in the lobby. There was someone using it, so we waited patiently, only for a Pierlugi Collina look alike to start using the net and spend time watching videos from the Ring. There was little chance of us getting on there, so we opted to ask the receptionist, Nadine. We asked what the nearest cities were. She enquired as the reason for our excursion, “What for, to make party?” I wanted to start laughing but instead just nodded and we were told of two cities nearby. Köln was about an hour drive away north, while Koblenz was about thirty minutes away. Personally I would have preferred Cologne, as it is the oldest city in the country but understood we needed to get the logistics of this Saturday night out, just right. Heading back to the hotel room, we told the guys of our findings and we started to get ready and within twenty minutes or so were in Jav’s 325 heading putting in our destination into the Tom Tom software. Jav put on an MP3 CD on his stereo and from the opening few cords I knew this was a song I would like. However, there was a major problem with his ICE, resulting in a piercing buzzing feedback from the amp, which made songs heard at low volumes (particularly in the rear) unbearable. To compensate and improve the quality, the volume was blasted up. The song he played was a smooth RnB track by Lloyd featuring the angelic vocals of Ashanti. I knew straight away that this was a song I would download the moment I got back home. I asked about the song title, but there was no need, the chorus came up soon enough. Only for the scratched CD to begin skipping and for Jav to ultimately turn off the stereo. The track was called Southside and the debut single from the album of the same name released in 2004. I am surprised it missed my radar, as I am such a big fan of smooth RnB. You know the type, songs you would listen to while driving to pick up your gal. (This was confirmed later, when I discovered Jav had also copied Savage Garden – I Knew I Loved You on the same disc). We eventually found the city centre after driving around for a few minutes and parked up on what appeared to be a main shopping street. As Jav reversed, Dee who had been sitting next to me at the back woke up from his beauty sleep and said, “Bruv, your not going to find any clubs here, trust me…” Thanks for those words of wisdom after we had driven some fifty miles. There were some 17 year old girls waiting at a bus stop, so Pav and I (urged on by Jav) went to ask them about any club that was near by. Just up the road and on the left, we were politely informed. We thanked them for their time and ushered the guys out of the car. They crossed over the road and we walked up to the club. There was quite a crowd of people outside but no real queue. We walked up to the door, to find three doormen, one who was bald. He said ‘Nein’ in stern voice, closing the door in our faces. Pav and I looked at each other and shrugging our shoulders headed up the street. We looked for other more friendly bars, but everything was quite busy and it was getting late. It must have been coming up to 10.30pm by now. We walked around for a while, through the main square to find a nice cosy Italian restaurant, where we were warmly welcomed and ordered some food. After quite a lavish meal, where the starter was bigger than the main course, I felt surprising full and sleepy and in no mood for dancing. It was several minutes after midnight by the time we headed back to the car. Jav was tempted to bottle the door of the club that had rejected us. It may be 2006, but attitudes in some parts of the world have not changed. You would be worried that this country is about to host the biggest sporting event on the planet in a few months. Due to a malfunction with the Tom Tom, we did not get back to the hotel until 2am. I felt sorry for Jav, he was driving at night, without any idea if he was heading the right direction, with all his three passengers sound asleep. Apart from the odd curse to the GPS system, I did not hear anything but woke up towards the end of the journey. By this time Jav’s concentration was lapsing and he blasted on his stereo to aid his conentration. Singing along to a garage track, Monster Boy – I’m Sorry. I thanked him when we eventually got to our hotel, but I think he just wanted to fall onto his bed and rest. Sunday, perhaps looking back was a wasted day. We got up quite late and noting that the track was quite wet tried to have a bit of a carefree day and see where it took us. After breakfast we chilled in the hotel for a while before heading off to the castle. Castle Nürburg is perhaps the second most famous part of the village (after the racing track) ‘burg’ actually means castle, which explains many of the city / town names across Germany. We headed over to the castle and took a walk up to the top of the tower. The castle is clearly visible from our hotel balcony and is the imposing local landmark through day and night (when it is lit up). We walked up to the main gate, to discover it cost €2,10 per person. Then looking through the ticket office, there was nobody in, so having handed all our change over to Pav we decided to leave him carrying it. Walking up the stony road, there were just a few local tourists on this quiet Sunday afternoon. Most people had opted to stay in bed. Stopping to take some photos, we brave the narrow entrance and climbed the stairs to the top. The view was amazing and you could make out our hotel and the main paddock where you join the Ring.

View from Castle NürburgView from Castle Nürburg

All across you could see the beautiful green moutains of the Rhineland. Breathtaking, majestic, peaceful, with a tiny trace of fog descenting over them. A glorious view and well worth the walk up. Sure this was a lad’s weekend away, all about the cars and the track but it was great to spend some time away from burning rubber and actually take in our surroundings. I feel too many people go to places, all across the world and never actually seen anything. They go with this predetermined agenda to complete a set critera of objectives but come back unsatisfied. Two final incidents to mention, the first while still on the continent. We were about fifteen to twenty minutes from Calais and having switched drivers, I was riding with Jav in the 325. A dark Renault Megane estate was tailing Pav’s M3 but as we keeping up a steady speed in our two car convey, there was no option for him to undertake. Jav noticed him in the rear view mirror and requested they pull over to let him come up behind us. Then Jav would let the cat out of the bag! Accelerating he came up behind us, hoping we would move out of the way and then took both hands off the wheel to shrug in disapproval. This Frenchman was angry now. A few minutes of driving at a steady 110km/h, Jav put his foot down and accelerated away into the distance. The black Megane tried to keep up but with little affect. Then Jav slowed down again and really start to taunt the driver. He asked Pav to pull off to the slow lane ahead, so we drove up pulled up next to him and matched his speed, then opening our window preceding to have a long winded conversation about nothing. I was in stitches in the passenger seat, watching in the wing mirror as this temperatures started to boil. Jav was loving every second and seemed to be a veteran at the game. Eventually the driver did pass, but we only had the satisfaction of seeing the passenger, on the phone (to the police perhaps?). On the other side of the water, as we drove back to Wycombe, we listed to Invicta FM. It was the only station worth listening to in range, BBC Radio 1 was playing some heavy dance, even though it felt like a Sunday evening, it was a Monday and I had to keep reminding myself it was so. The Fridge presented by Stephen Sullivan winding down after a Bank Holiday Weekend. Callers were requesting their own songs and the first to be requested as we listened was A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton. (Wikipedia is amazing, I’ve only just discovered from reading the hyper linked entry that Vanessa’s boyfriend is Stephen Jenkins, the lead singer of 3EB!). This song was perfect for the drive home, as we had covered nearly 1000 miles on our weekend drive to Germany. The second song requested was the Candlelight Mix cover of Heaven by DJ Sammy. A moment to sit back relax, we were almost home and look back at the weekend, with a smile. The low point of the weekend came when I got home, it was at 22:42 I called the RAC. My battery had run flat and needed kick starting. Of all the talk about having problems with Pav and Jav’s cars, it was my car back in London that let the side down. I had work in the morning and there was no point in me waiting to call them in the morning, so I called them straight away. Within fifteen to twenty minutes On Time arrived in the big pickup trailer. The roar of the diesel engine must have woken most of my street, but I did not care, I need to bring my car back to life. Surprisingly when it did eventually start, I was told I would have to drive it around for about an hour to make sure the alternator started to charge the battery enough for a cold start in the morning. So I planned to speed down the M40, turn around at Uxbridge before it becomes the A40 and then head back home. When I signed the paperwork, the rescue guy, told me that he had been down to Nurburgring himself several years ago for a long weekend, racing trucks! Wow, everyone into cars has been to that place and now, so have I.

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