During my recent trip to Germany, Harald von Langsdorff and I took the opportunity to drive a street car around the current Grand Prix track at Nurburgring. This provided a great view of the track from the perspective of the racers, although we were traveling much, much slower. For a cost of about 40 Euros, people can take their street car onto the current Grand Prix track for 20 minutes and pretend that they are Michael Schmacher. This was an opportunity that could not be passed up. I had never had the opportunity to be on a modern Grand Prix track before. There is a huge difference between the older Grand Prix tracks and today’s tracks. And there is no greater side-by-side comparison than between the old and new tracks at Nurburgring.
We bought the ticket at mall-styled building beside our hotel and drove around to the track. Getting onto the track was a little challenging as there were no signs or other distinguishing feature to let us know how and where to actually get onto the track. After driving around the infield paddock area for a couple of minutes, we found a line up of cars waiting to go on the track. I would say that we were in a group of about eight cars that were flagged off at one time. We were at the back of the line when we started.
Starting Grid Area at the Nurburgring Grand Prix Track
Our car was a rented BMW 118i convertible, but the spotty weather compelled us to keep the top up. The BMW 118i was a decent car on the road, but with the exception of a MINI Cooper we were probably the slowest car in a field made up mostly of Porsches. The BMW 118i was equipped with turbocharged 1.6 liter inline 4-cylinder engine. This engine produces about 170 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and provides 184 lb ft of torque from 1,500 rpm to 4,500 rpm. Although we never timed the performance of our BMW 118i, it has been reported that the BMW 118i will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 7.4 seconds. The observed top speed was about 220 kph. While these are decent numbers, the BMW 118i is no Porsche. In 20 minutes of track time, we were lapped by several cars. Now we weren’t driving to the absolute limit of a the car, but we were pushing pretty hard.
View of the Starting Lights at Nurburgring
One of the interesting views from the track is the view of the starting light. This is the first reminder that this is a significant race track.
The map below shows the overall configuration of the new Grand Prix track. Only at Nurburgring would a track that is over 25 years old be called “new”.
Map of the Nurburgring Grand Prix Circuit
The above map is generally correct except that the Audi Kurve has been renamed the Michael Schumacher Kurve.
Exiting the Ford-Kurve and Approaching the Dunlop-Kehre
I was just the passenger in the car as Harald drove the BMW 118i, but my observation was that of all of the curves on the track the Valvoline-Kurve/Ford-Kurve portion of the track seemed the area where the car struggled the most. It seemed that in that corner we needed lower profile tires, as I could really feel the tire roll. A well set-up car would be very important on this portion of the track.
The Michael Shumacher Curves at Nurburgring
The Michael Schumacher curves were an S curve at the top of a slight rise that in our car could be taken flat. Apparently the Michael Schumacher curve is the only curve in Grand Prix racing in which the person that the curve is named after has been able to go through that curve while racing at the Grand Prix level.
View From the Track of the Dorint Hotel We Stayed In While at the Nurburgring
Several days ago I posted a brief report about the hotel we stayed at while at the Nurburgring. As you can see from the photo above taken while exiting the Coca-Cola Kurve, that the hotel room balcony would be a great place from which to watch a race.
In summary, it was great fun to be on the Grand Prix track and certainly it gave me a new perspective on current Grand Prix racing and provided a contrast between today’s safety-minded race tracks and the older style racing tracks that had minimal safety considerations.