Monday, July 15, 2019

Exploring the Nürburgring

The morning after the race felt a bit surreal as, in an incredible logistic effort, all the teams along with the thousands of spectators had left the circuit overnight. Besides a few trucks still leaving the paddock and some minor cleaning ongoing you would have never guessed that the biggest GT race in the word had taken place on this very circuit just 12 hours prior.

This was an ideal scenario as it allowed me to enjoy life at the Nürburgring without having to deal with lines and crowds. As you can imagine the whole surrounding area revolves around the circuit and there is plenty to do and see. First stop was the iconic Nürburg Castle. Easily accessible from the the track it offers a great aerial view of the region and its calm atmosphere was a welcome change after two intese days trackside.

Walking around town you are reminded at every corner how deeply motorsport history is rooted in this place.

The circuit also hosts a very well curated museum where you can explore the history of the track and German motorsport.

You would find a great variety of racecars, memorabilia and small attractions and I would definitely recommend a visit.

Another must-stop is the famous ED Tankstelle service area, down the Döttoinger Höhe main straight. This is an iconic place renown for being the go-to service area during track days as well as a great food spot and souvenir shop.

The Döttoinger Höhe area is also home of what could be easily described as “motorsport-land”: a long boulevard where some of the major car makers, racing teams and parts manufacturers run their R&D facilities, taking advantage of being conveniently located next to the best test track in the world.

My first stop was at Manthey Racing, Porsche backed racing team and possibly the equivalent of Omori Factory in the Porsche universe. The staff was very friendly and besides picking up a few souvenirs I also had the chance to get up and close with their Nordschleife record holder GT2 RS MR democar.

Most of the other facilities, like Öhlins, weren’t really open to public; nonetheless it was cool to see some of the most famous names in the world co-existing so close to each other.

I wonder if the staff ever feel the urge of peeping inside their neighbor’s yard from time to time.

Of course, no Nürburgring trip would make much sense without a few laps on the Nordschleife. 

I drove 5 laps in a VW Polo GTi fitted with upgraded brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport 4. As a Nordschleife first-timer with very limited driving ability and track experience I can best sum up those laps as one of the best adrenaline rushes of my life. I also booked a passenger lap on a McLaren 600LT on sport tires, definitely the fastest (and most expensive) taxi ride I’ve ever had. 

The famous parking area in front of the gates was a fantastic place to cool off in between laps and enjoy the atmosphere trackside. From lightweight beaters to some of the finest track-ready machines on sale today, the diversity of cars lapping the ‘Ring during these sessions is just incredible.

The famous Devil’s Diner in the middle of the parking quickly became my go-to afternoon coffee spot.

Speaking of food, German cuisine might not be the lightest, but a good schnitzel is hard to resist!

The 4 days I spent after the race were absolutely fantastic. I have been to a few circuits, but nothing quite matches the blend of history, passion, tradition and technology that you would find at the 'Ring.

The local hospitality was great and there is so much to do and discover both on and off the track. As somebody who is lucky to live in a country with a very distinct and unique automotive culture I really enjoyed exploring such an iconic place and I’m sure I’ll visit again.

Danke, Nürburgring.

Until next time.

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