Monday, 25 August 2014

Life On Cars takes on the Nürburgring

YET ANOTHER Porsche 911 screamed past as I dived into a tight right-hand corner on the world’s scariest race track.

My passenger was grinning like an overexcited schoolboy, but I couldn’t help but thinking what I was doing was slightly mad. There I was, beginning a lap of the longest, most challenging – you could even argue most dangerous – race track in the entire world, with half of Europe’s BMW M3 owners closing in from behind. What’s more, I wasn’t at the helm of the latest supercar. I was in my own car, a 25-year-old Mazda MX-5 I bought for a grand six months ago, and I was mixing it with 911s, hot Audis, superbikes and even the odd Ferrari or two.

Yet this is exactly why, if you’re a committed petrolhead so into cars you might as well have GTX Magnatec coursing through your veins, you simply HAVE to drive the Nürburgring at least once in your life.

It is, with 13 miles and 73 corners to contend, easily the longest race circuit in the world. The F1 circus abandoned it after Niki Lauda’s horrendous accident – heading to the much shorter, newer and safer Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit next door. It still amazes me that a place deemed too dangerous for F1 is open to just about everyone else, at £20 per no-holds-barred lap.

A friend and I had just fired up the MX-5, stuck it on an overnight ferry, and driven it down from Rotterdam the previous morning, which goes to show that it’s no harder to get to Europe’s motoring playground than it is to get to Cornwall or the Scottish Highlands. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the cars queuing to get onto the track – despite being in deepest Germany – had British registration plates.

As soon as I got onto the track it wasn’t hard to see why so many Brits make this automotive pilgrimage. It is, as long as you keep your wits about you and make sure your car’s up to the job, one of the few places in Europe where you can really put a car through its paces.

I’d love to brag in the pub about doing a blistering lap, but in truth I was overtaken by just about everything, as I had no idea which way the 73 twists and turns went. However, the MX-5 absolutely reveled in it, and revealed depths in its steering and handling I genuinely didn’t know it had.

There’s no logic whatsoever to a 13-mile race track where just about anyone can turn up and have a go, but I loved it anyway. 

It’s a challenging place you underestimate at your peril, but go prepared – and make a foreign holiday of it by taking your own car over – and it’s one of the most spectacular things you can do with a car.

Read more in the 20 August, 2014 edition of Classic Car Weekly

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