People (well, two people) have asked for me write up the 4days Barry and I spent on the Nordschleife and Spa Francorchamps Trackdays at the end of Sept and early October, details of which I posted on the FC UK Facebook page.
Iíve broken this down (or will break it down) into three post, this one, Nordschleife fastest lap, day two and then Spa, if there is interest. Hope this is the right section to post, if not, Iím sure someone will move or advise.
Barryís Nordschleife and Spa fest.
At the end of August, I took Barry to Cadwell Park for a Pre-Nordschleife shake down, this was after all the winter fetterling that heíd undergone, if your raising the question of, how is late August a shake down after winter work - good point, letís move along!
This winter work was aimed at three things
3. Feel good factor
Last year at Nurburgring, Barry had a few issues, at around 110mph the induction pipe popped off, earlier the EBV played up forcing the car into limp (no boost) mode, and I was loosing some coolant. Therefore I decided in conjunction with a performance upgrade from FC Performance (Leighton) to replace all the induction pipe work and importantly the clips, as Leightonís enhancements included replacing the stock EBV that work got sorted to.
Under the bonnet I moved the battery to the boot (along with washer bottle) cleaned all the electrical connections (no mean feat) re-wrapped all the loom, placing much into plastic crinkle conduit (why Fiat did not do that in the first place) to stop rubbing of the cables. Cleaned and repainted the front cross member (a partial under bonnet refresh) had lots of the under bonnet metal components sand blasted and powder coated, things like Intercooler mount, cross strut, ABS frame, slam panel etc, etc, just so I could lift the bonnet, know everything is sorted and be proud of whatís under there.
I also took part in the fibre glass bonnet group buy and now have a fabí lightweight bonnet thatís taken at least 30kiloís off the front of the car.
Leighton worked his magic and provided his Stage 2 performance upgrade which in simple terms was a super spool turbo, FMIC, injector upgrade, and piggyback on ECU to give me a three stage map (though on track I just run it in full power (nutter) mode only) this gives me 307 BHP (letís just call it 300)
Added with the various weight loss activities Iíve undertaken since getting the car (think the car is just under a ton now), I reckon I have around 300BHP/ton which is pretty nifty.
Joe (FCSS) undertook a ton of work, including completely renovating all the brakes, we fitted CL6 pads which Iím sure youíve seen my various posts on this, but these pads along with the weight loss has made this Coupe a demon late breaking machine - but more of that later.
Joe also modified the gear linkage and I now have a lovely short shift on my 6 speed box (have to admit, on track I never use 6th gear)
I also tracked down two water leaks in the coolant system, a pin hole in the steal pipe that runs above the alternator and a weep in the bottom right of the rad, not being able to secure an oem rad, I bought the 40% larger Direnza alloy rad in black, which is excellent and I have no hesitation in recommending it, even thrashing the wotsits at Cadwell, the coolant tempís stayed spot on!
So back to Cadwell.
My initial laps were quite conservative, but I quickly found the performance enhancements made a sizeable and annoying difference to the car, annoying for the other trackers as I was a bugger down the straights.
Unfortunately I noticed the car was missing as I was pressing on and of course first port of call was to blame the engine tuner. So during lunch, took all the plugs out and found water in chambers 1 (lots) and 2 (not so much) with mental apologies to Leighton, I cleaned all the plugs removed all the water etc and car ran like a dream in the second session - how does water get down there? Happened to my other Coupe too!
During this trackday, Cadwell, itís not the best circuit for a Coupe, the handling and more my faith in the cornering capabilities of the car meant I was too heavy on the brakes, coupled with the brake pads allowing me to brake well into the 100yrd mark (and often into the 50yrds) that they got very hot (though the braking efficiency seemed unaffected), seeing smoke coming out of your front wheels is quite disconcerting I have to say.
Overall though, the day proved all the work hung together, car (once plug holes were cleaned) was totally reliable, tempís all manageable and apart from some geometry needed on the front, I was good to go for the Nordschleife/Spa fest.
Before setting off for Germany, I ordered another set of Toyo R888Rís which I had fitted to a spare set of rims, checked all oils and fluids gave him a wash and checked all the pads, wheel bolts etc and twiddled my thumbs as Iím never this well prepared before a track event (Iím normally still up under the car fitting things to it at midnight - lol!) oh, and as I need to drive Barry from where we stay to the circuit on public roads, got him MOTíed which he breezed through and had all his geometry checked and aligned.
This event was run by Destination NŁrburgring, better know as DN, this will have been my third DN, last year I did it in Barry, previous to that I rented a Rent4Ring Suzuki Swift Sport. These events are run over two days, full Ďopen pit laneí type driving, just come off when low on fuel, or brain has switched off (usually the latter).
The evening before there is the drivers briefing, if youíve not done one of these events before, Iíll try to describe it a little bit, the briefing is held at one of the sponsors facilities, itís a large garage complex on the manufacturers road, this is where all the car and tyre manuís have there RnD offices.
There are around 200 drivers/passengers at a DN event, so quite a few people waiting around for the briefing, registration is well run, you can pre-register so you just pick up your pack which includes a transponder, car numbers and instructions for flags and overtaking rules.
The briefing takes around 20 minutes in a room filled with 99.9% men (are women just not interested in thrashing cars??), those of the fairer sex who are there are just picking up passenger bands or keeping their partners company - I think this is a shame, still it is what it is!
The briefing focusses a lot on over taking rules and, paraphrasing, not bullying other drivers. The organiser (Darren) asked for a show of hands of Nordschleife newbies, and I was somewhat surprised to see a sizeable amount of arms being raised. Darren suggested these guys get out early for the sighting laps and get as many laps in before the circuit goes green at 9AM, he also asked with greater emphasis then any previous briefing that we respect the Nordschleife novices and give them space, briefing over we all move outside to clear our lungs of all the testosterone and Ďman odourí thatís in the air!
I meet up with some other drivers Iíve met over the last couple of years, we chew the could, admire some of the amazing cars parked in the lot of the sponsor, and trundle off with that little excitement tingle in the pit of our stomachs - that sort of Christmas Eve feeling you used to get(?) when a kid.
Iím doing DN with my mate (who got me into this trackday lark) he has a quite modded Caterham 7 which Iíve driven quiet a bit, heís a much better driver than me, and while I did a 9:22 lap last year in Barry and looking to get under 9mins, this year, heís in the early 8 mins - though to be fairish to me and other drivers heís probably in his hundredís of laps of the green ribbon by now, but even so, for a car thatís two bicycles welded together and aerodynamic as a proverbial shed, thatís some time!
We get back to our accommodation, weíre staying in the Lindner Park itís a load of holiday houses all grouped together and very comfortable. Itís a bit weird as itís a bit like an up market holiday village, but with Porsche GT3, M3ís and trailers everywhere! The staff are great, very friendly and helpful, if you are going to Nurburgring I recommend it.
I do the final fiddling with Barry, to be honest, other than putting the cars numbers on and attaching the transponder, there is not much to do - being prepared, itís a new and slightly weird concept for me, oh well, will have to have a beer instead.
After a nice evening and oddly behaving and not drinking to much, thatís a slightly weird thing about this trackday lark. You are on holiday, but also being sensible, itís like a ski holiday without all the drinking. You get that same Ďanticipationí feeling first thing in the morning, itís a bit like that feeling you have as an average skier looking down that difficult Red or Black run, you have to do it but .......!
So morning dawns and after a very light breakfast, neither of us are particularly hungry, we say cheerio to our respective other halfís and set off for the sighting laps, 8 until 9, on the Nurburgring as it 20k in length, sighting laps merge into open circuit precisely at 9AM so it gets exciting.
We get to the roundabout at the entrance onto the Ring, the DN team are there along with the wonderful Nurburgring team, checking vehicles in, if you have no DN sticker no entry, we wait behind a guy in a German registered Audi trying to get in, after a wait, heís persuaded and leaves, weíre waved in with a smile and park in the upper car park and sort our bits out.
Harnesses sorted, helmet and gloves on, go-pro eventually playing ball, I head out to do my first lap of the ring, drive up to the barrier entry, wrist bands checked and waved through, navigate the cone slalom and onto the last part of DŲttinger HŲhe, to the bridge, accelerate Barry to track speed and ď
me this car is quickĒ Iím under bridge and heading to the T13 corner complex before I know where I am! This is going to be fun, catch the tail of cars up and spend my time getting my corners sorted. Boy the cars ahead are slow, and weíre braking soooo early for the bends (most are just lift a little, especially at this speed).
Itís about 845 so Iíll get a full sighting lap, before the track goes green at 9, making a quick calculation, roughly Iíll be at the forest (Bergwerk) when it does.
Iím pleased, the old mans memory is still good and I know the corners, canít even start to sort my braking lines and entry points as the convoy Iím in is so slow, so I sit there, watching the time.
Iím wrong, our sighting lap is so ridiculously slow weíre way before the forest when the track goes green, there are some novices as they donít get it, but the guy in the debadged Beemer does get it and pulls over for me, we come down into Adenau (where, as Jeremy Clarkson notes, Nikki Lauder lost his ears) itís a great section, you come down into Adenau, there is an track exit there (where we finished DN last year when Barry popped his pipes), it then goes up right, like a roller coaster, let the car drift over to the left, boot all the way to the floor, letting the tyres do the job they are paid for, then up into the fast leftish rightish, before the hard right into Bergwerk and the long climb up Kessel, however the convoy is not playing game and I suspect they are novices, taking their lines but at 1/2 Barryís trackspeed, up out of where Nikkiís ears were lost, the guy keeps right, no indication but I take this means consent so I quickly boot it and pass him and the guy in front too, a wave of thanks and I chase the next car down into Bergwerk, god this car is going well!
Bergwerk is still a bit damp, slight chatter from the ABS, mental note to watch this next time around when my approach will be a good deal faster. Always find Bergwerk a difficult corner, it sort of sucks you in, bit like the mermaid sirens that lured sailors onto the rocks, it says hey Iím nice and wide and look easy, come on in! But itís slippery on the racing line and has a negative camber on the exit, that drags you onto the kerb and the waiting Armco, best approach is wait and then wait a bit more then turn in keeping right and ignore those wailing fishy women on the left and their waiting rocks.
Now up the long drag of Kesselchen, the sun is low and bright at this time of the morning, and with all my preparation, one thing I forgot was the windscreen - needs a clean, light bouncing off it and Iím having trouble seeing at this speed, back off a bit, Iím not the only one and wait until the sun is shadowed by the trees and I can see the kerbs that mark the very slight bends in this section, now into the short section before the carousel, this is easy and pretty flat, slight comfort brake at Klostertal and then into the short straight before the hard right into the approach of the Karrussel, Porsche thatís in front politely moves over and I pass and dive into the concrete road surface, Barry grinds his way over and Iím out lifting the front nearside and going no where. Weíre now accelerating hard, will I lift for the next bend or keep my bottle and foot in? Nope I lift and then check brake into HŲhe Acht - okay itís first run of the next two days, plenty of time to improve I convince myself. The next section is great, itís a series of sweeping fast left and rights before the infamous Brunnchen (where most of the YouTube videos are filmed), again Iím check braking and I detect a small amount of annoyance from Barry ďwhere are your balls manĒ heís saying, I apologise and tell him I left them in my wash bag this morning and hopefully during lunch Iíll get them!
I catch this black Honda Civic, heís holding his line and holding me up, the Porsche catches us up and holds station - I like him, he knows the rules, the Civic makes a mistake coming into the top bend of Brunnchen and naughtily I take advantage and sneak through on his left, Iím then down into the spectator pit that is Brunnchen and then the right up to the nasty left that I never get right, now the lovely fast complex upto the mini carousel, I love this, but itís fast and has two bends that look similar on entry, they are both blind, one goes right one goes left, making sure you donít get them mixed up is kinda important especially if you are committed. Weíre fairly committed and get it right, off down to mini carousel, Porsche has got past the mobile road block that is the Civic, but heís history just a slight memory in my head, Barry and I are 120mph down here, I break for the right before the mini carousel complex! Barry tutís - ďdude less with the brakes alreadyĒ he says, I agree sheepishly and then into mini carousel, donít underestimate this bend, it bights especially rear wheel drive cars, Barry and I are through and accelerating hard to Galgenkopf, get the turn in right at the 186 board, down to the bridge and into DŲttinger Hohe, foot to floor, letís see what Barry will do, past the Devils Diner, running slightly uphill, 140mph indicated, car solid one circuit done onto the next!
I look down, oops, boost switch is in position one, I did all that in low power mode, right, switch to position 3, 300BHP - bring it on!