I believe that you can’t call yourself a bona-fide car nut unless you covert the grandest piece of tarmac on planet Earth, the Nürburgring Nordschleife, aka the Green Hell or the ‘Ring.
I’ll admit that I have spent many hours and countless gigabytes of data on You Tube watching my favourite cars burning around this track. And in 2011 I had the privilege of doing it myself!
It was part of our 2011 European grand tour of the five original grand prix circuits still in use. We started in Monaco for the GP, went to Monza to watch historic GP racing, on to Spa Francorchamps just to see the famous Eau Rouge corner in the flesh (it’s much steeper than it appears on TV), Nürburgring to actually drive the track, and Silverstone for a photograph at the front gate to complete the pilgrimage.
Such an iconic track deserved an iconic car, so we hired an E46 BMW M3 as our weapon of choice for one day of maximum attack driving.
Some quick ‘Ring facts, it opened in 1927 and in its current version is 20.9km long, with 73 corners. It’s actually a public toll road and German road regulations apply. If you have an accident with another vehicle and can’t decide who is at fault, the police are called.
You are liable for the first €10,000 worth of damage to the barriers if you hit them and our M3 had a €25,000 excess if we binned it. This was quite good motivation for us to drive well within our limits.
We stayed in a town called Adenau, the ‘Ring passes through the town at Einfahrt Bridge. We arrived a couple of days before our scheduled drive day and took the opportunity to get the ‘lie of the land’ around the ‘Ring.
There is a good viewing area near the Einfahrt Bridge and there is a secondary entry gate to the ‘Ring next to the cafe that is adjacent to Einfahrt Bridge. We made this discovery by accident on the day before we were to drive the ‘Ring in the M3.
After watching the cars for a few days driving around the ‘Ring we decided we couldn’t wait a moment longer to do it ourselves. The only problem was we were in our diesel Mercedes C Class hire car and our toddler would have to come along for the ride to.
Being I didn’t want to be a completely irresponsible parent, I carefully read the big sign of rules outside the cafe and about three-quarters through it was written ‘children permitted in approved car seats’.
My husband has never seen me move so fast; I ran to the cafe and bought us a ticket for one and half laps and within a couple of minutes we were driving on the ‘Ring with all the other car nuts in their BMW M3s and Porsches.
At the main entry point we were required to come off the track and re-enter again for our proper full lap. As an extra bonus the GP circuit was open, so we got to drive around it as well. What an experience!
The next morning our time had come, we collected our M3 from the hire company about ten minutes away from the circuit and met our co-driver for the day. If you ever get to the ‘Ring, I highly recommend getting a co-driver who can guide you around the circuit.
Our co-driver had done more than 10,000 race laps around the ‘Ring and was essentially telling us what blade of grass to turn in on for each corner. He believed that one day and about twenty laps with him would be all you would need to have a very good understanding of the track.
When we arrived at the ‘Ring my co-driver drove the first lap for me, which was extremely quick. We then pulled into the main car park for me to take over. We swiped our entry card and I was now driving around the ‘Ring, what a thrill!
I was slower than many others out there and spent a lot of my time trying to stay out of the way from the quicker guys and girls. In my defence this was only the second time I had ever driven a left hand drive car and I’m a woman, so I struggle with turn left or right instructions at the best of times. To my credit, I didn’t hit anyone and still managed 200km/hr on the fastest part of the track.
We had spent many hours practicing the ‘Ring on Gran Turismo before we left and I I think it helped it a bit. The funny thing was on the game we both kept getting the Adenauer-Forst corner wrong and when we actually drove the track for real, it was the corner we both messed up every time.
My favourite part of the track is from Einfahrt Bridge to Steilstrecke, it’s just so quick and you are taking the corners flat out, the feeling is simply awesome!
My four laps took less than hour to complete and my husband was all done by lunchtime. But this was a day to savour being that we may never actually do it again.
It was another Bucket List item ticked for us and we will never forget it. And if the memory does begin to get a bit hazy, we have our very own ‘Ring video to watch again and again.
I just love this place and when we win lotto, in addition to buying a Ferrari, we want to live somewhere in Europe within an easy drive to the ‘Ring, so we can head there for a few hot laps whenever the need grabs us. I'm wedded to the 'Ring and I will forever love it!