Offered the chance to join Team BILSTEIN at the fabled Destination Nurburgring event earlier in the year, how could I say no? Put simply.. I couldn’t! Time to see what my old Golf GTI race car could really do on the world’s toughest circuit.
The Nurburgring is deserved of its iconic status. It is a venue that inspires excitement, fear and respect in equal measure, creating more bar-room and Youtube videos tales of heroic wheelmanship (and dismal failure) than probably any other stretch of tarmac on the planet.
I have been lucky enough to go a few times now, and although I don’t pretend that I fully know my way round the place yet, I am starting to remember where a few of the corners go – and which gear to be in and when. That may not sound like much, when you realise the many gradients, cambers, undulations and curbs that you need to negotiate, plus the zero margin for error that most of the track offers – with literally no run-off of any kind to speak of – you begin to understand why it becomes such an addictive place to bond with your machine. Basically; if you can pedal fast here – you can drive your car fast anywhere. And, having driven an eclectic bunch of cars here over the years, including the Subaru BRZ, a race-prepped Scirocco and a hot 1-Series BMW, I was keen to see how my tired, 200,000 mile race car would fare around its many twists and turns.
Having experienced the superb hospitality of the Destination Nurburging events a few years ago, this is now the only way I will make this pilgrimage, now. Running as a private, closed event, open pitlane session by the ever-affable Darren Langveld, this is true petrolhead nirvana for those that want to lap The Ring in the company of likeminded individuals. No coaches, bikes or numpties, as are so often found on a Touristenfahrt day. Just a paddock full of cool cars, great people, and a collective desire to get out there and enjoy yourself in safety.
I trailered the Golf out there with my trusty Isuzu, not only to allow me the luxury of breaking the car and still getting home, but also to save my ears on a fairly long round trip! Darren had booked us all a superb house just a mile from the circuit, so with the sun shining fiercely and a tank full of cheap German Super Unleaded, I was ready for the track.
Team BILSTEIN was there in force, so it was a great chance to talk to Joerg Hoffman from their experienced technical team and get a few set-up and driving tips for the circuit. They also had their MDS-equipped Splitscreen/Porsche hybrid Race Taxi, created by the insanely talented Swiss tech, Fred Bernhard and his team. Needless to say, these guys were lapping somewhat quicker than I was, offering passenger rides at the same time for the worthy cause of Mission Motorsport – helping injured servicemen back to rehabilitation through the medium of racing!
As for me, after a few familiarisation laps, I was up to speed out there (well, as much of a speed as a tired 25 year old 8 valve engine can muster) Although racing is strictly banned on this event, Darren is happy for trusted mates to lap in close proximity, as long as common sense prevails. With that in mind, I asked my good friend and respected tuner, Iain Litchfield, to come out for a run in his newly sorted BMW 235i to see whether a careworn Wolfsburg veteran could hold station with the latest Bavarian Wunderkind.
It looked a good fight on paper; Iain has been here dozens of times and is a great pedaller, and the BMW was waaay more powerful, but much heavier than the Golf. I had lightness and handling on my side, thanks to a full BILSTEIN B16 package beneath me, meaning it was anyone’s guess as to how it would all turn out. It proved to be an epic scrap in the end.. The Golf trounced the BMW in the tighter turns, with the 2-series punching back hard on the long straights. The end result? Over a full lap, he beat me by just 2 seconds, despite a 200bhp advantage! It just goes to show, that a Mk2 is still a great weapon of choice on this superb circuit!
Thanks to the help and hospitality and BILSTEIN and the DN team, I had a simply wonderful time. If you want to experience the Ring in comfort, style and speed, these are definitely the boys to go with!
(MASSIVE THANKS TO Frozenspeed for the pics)