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Formula Motorsports

The Eifel Retribution

By Michael Tashjian • October 29, 2015

“Ring-Fazination” is an exhibition stationed next to the “GP’ or “new” circuit on the southern end of Nurburgring. Kids and parents alike enjoy games and entertainment in a virtual surrounding. Just a “click” north within the bounds of the facility lie the ultimate amusements..a true parallel. hence my synonym of the Nordschleife.

Journeyman drivers know the feeling. You arrive at a new track and find yourself wrapped in the unmistakable aura of fear. Not for having an “incident”, heaven forbid. Recognition of course difficulty, coupled to peer pressure and loss of youth, an inevitable conflict in a driver of age and wisdom which he must address prior to the drivers meeting.

English Channel crossings can be macabre at the dawn of dank winters end; indeed the powerful sea sprayed salted air under my feet as I stood at the bow of an unfolding French dawn. The vast concreted port of Calais lay before my feet. Loudspeakers tolled as livery and tourists padded their way along the transports decks, and I stole time to unwrap my mind’s thinly veiled trance replete with pictures of turns arriving way too fast for me. Monocratic in tone, the systematic notice echoed our arrival throughout the quarterdeck of this wind swept Channel ferry, becoming more momentous as the enormous gangplank hydraulics moaned in the background. Such cumbersome weight giving way to the marmalade skies of a French embarkation zone. A ticking within me began.

Randy Sesson, our clubman in London, held his Range Rover readying at idle as I proceeded to engage the mandated English lock mechanism of his 993 modified Twin Turbo. With Europeans gripped in fear, the containment procedure of a much dreaded Foot and Mouth disease mandated my crossing a wetted trough upon arrival in territorial France. Subjective delousing complete, we made serious tracks due east along the French coast. Preponderancy occupied my drive with the subsequent morning driver meeting creeping in and around any thoughts of enjoying this continental traverse.

Crossing the boarder into Belgium at speeds averaging 180KPH with nary an official stamp nor gendarme in sight, our efforts led us south then east again. Morning mist burned away hours before as the midday sunlight gave salute to our passing by Spa-Francochamps, a world class race course in which I had my first professional drive. Ahh! Spa and the Ring, duets of an earlier passage of rite, a validaton of youthful exuberance, late braking, and early apexes encapsulated with the hubris of life without end, one big party. Less than two hours later, my lips quenched with the hospitality of a good German beer, we relaxed to plan our driving stints at the most formidable racing venue in the World, the Nordschlief, The Nurburgring! Enjoying a local cuisine consisting of wild boar and venison, an old friend joined us. His 600 Kilometer excursion, made very briskly by the 12 cylinders of his Mercedes, helped in promoting our discussing the purchase of a GT3RS and logistics associated within this process.

Hotel Rieder, pictorially typical to this region, has a guest book in which documents the great motorsports figures who, for more than half a century, awoke to the visual effect that accommodate Eiffel mountain living, in and around the Nordschleif. Their signatures remain a reaffirmation of how this region has been so untouched from the outside world, in the decades since my first stay. Ensconced by this sleepy hamlet a mere 3 kilometers from my temple of the tarmac God, our morning window opened to a picture of endless pastures and mountains beckoning the driver within us all.

Attention is carefully paid at a driver meeting, for the Nordschleife section of Nurburgring. Along with the usual safety discussion comes something unique to this venue, CPR and a host of other ambulatory principles. You see, when you drive 170 turns, drivers must look out for one another. If an accident occurs, one must pull over and minister to the helpless in the wreck, mandated by the shear magnitude of the arena we play within. Several minutes, or more, may pass before medical treatment professionals arrive at the crash site. Novice drivers drew in the flavor of this experience with gaunt looks at each other. Unfortunately, these ambulatory methods would be needed throughout the competition. A comprehensive skill of course recognition and concentration throughout your driving stint was underestimated by the too fast or foolish.

Taught by several veteran regional drivers, my earlier experiences with this track and its 300 meter elevation change disciplined the first several laps. “Mauk”, my teacher had a German affectation with my name, “Mauk, ve moost drife dees truck ass ve drife de roads arooond dit.” Vernacular aside, his meaning was that negotiating these many turns would have to be made as if you were driving a country road-at racing speeds. He also taught me to break down the track into the well-defined sections, mandated on the track map. Most importantly, he stressed the mind and how it would tire of the intense concentration before my young body would succumb with fatigue.

Similarities with Bridgehampton could suffice for any of you who became familiar with blind turn recognition. Blind turn description does little justice to the actual awakening one receives at 220 KPH, negotiating a rise then dropping into a sharp bend in the forests of Adenauer with nary the thought of preparing a set of pedal and wheel movements that went to the left, no, right, no left-BAM, your dead! Better keep your wits about you!

Weather is very much an issue of attention within the confines of this mountain region and at 20 Kilometers in length, “Jurassic Ring” in April was mystifying. Intense rain greets a fast car, very fast indeed; yet three “clicks” further along and the sun warms the spectators aloft in the high sitting perches. Well positioned for best views of short sections of road, festooned with signs greeting their favorite drivers, and some not so popular.

I try to choose a really scary part of the “ring fazination”-as some call it, and I can’t. Maybe it has to do with the volumes of puzzled parts that scare the shit out of me.

Being fast there is remembering every section, intimately! Co-driver Randy benefited by my prior experience, I benefited by a humble approach to certain sections. The first third and last third of this Black forest cake was within my grasp by the third lap, as I re-familiarized myself with the old landmarks taught to me so long ago. It was after Adenauer Forest on our way down to the lowest sections and working back up through Bergwerk that kept me from a confidence level I adopted when younger.

Kesselchem made me look good as my right foot has a comfortable plant on the accelerator and at the 120 degree right turn, before the Karrousel there was confidence in 4 wheel drifting. Viewing several wrecks there, I thought it interesting that the Karrousel was and is very easy for me to drop into and pop out carrying good speed up Hohe Acht, setting up my ensuing drift along Wipperman. Schwalbenschwanz is important as are all turns coming onto any fast section should be. Upon clearing a minor incident, we move onto the fastest part of “Jurassic Ring”, a killer straight that seems to go on forever. Quickly shifting up to 6th, one eye jogs to the gauges and looks for 6200RPM, the complementary eyeball is watching the cars we’re passing. Seeing 300KPH for what seems like forever could be terminated if one does not respect the bridge and its kink to the left; a hint of lift on gas pedal and minor wheel correction and SLAM, the gas pedal is punished again, albeit for a short stint arriving at Hohenrain.

We logged over 70 laps and my best time was 8:04. Randy’s level of skill grew to a point where I felt he was most comfortable. The first day was driven with the GP circuit included, very cool, sadly boring if driven exclusively.

Ten hours of pounding rain dogged our ride back to Calais, then onto London’s Hyde Park, my flat, my respite. There is no substitute, bring on the “Fazination”! It does separate and disintegrate the men from the boys!