NSX files, project Germany: Track day at Nuerburgring GP 30.08.2004
(for a one lap QT movie click here
for one really wet lap click here)

Losing my "Ring virginity" nuerburgring-karte

Yes, you've read it right: I have never been at the Nuerburgring, not on the famous Nordschleife nor on the newer GP track - not even as a spectator. This year I managed to get a training day with the german Pistenclub e.V on the slightly remodelled Grand Prix track with a modified chicane (which wasn't used at that event) and a larger Mercedes-Arena. Total length is 5.148 kilometers with a track width between 10 and 25 meters.

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The Fastvoice NSX in the wet Mercedes arena (right) and somewhere on the track searching the next corner (left). 
All pics (if not signed "by me") by: Michael Pietsch/PVW

What a debut: The region called "Eifel" served its typical weather - short sunny periods followed by massive rain showers when you least expected them, temperatures between 10 and 18 degrees Celsius (about 600 meters above N.N.), strong winds - not really the weather you'd expect for the end of august. So this was a double competition for me: Unkown track and tire change gambling. This free training day included 2 run groups - one with about 40 cars in my "non street legal" group and over 60 cars in the group with licence plates; each had four stints with a total of more than 4 hours track time. At the end it turned out to be much less because of multiple red flag phases.

I started the morning with street tires on wet track and some slower laps in an instruction group to say "hello" to this track with some tricky corners and various ups and downs - by far not as spectacular as the Nuerburgring Nordschleife but still a challenge. The first surprise was when I entered the pitlane and my girlfriend on the passenger seat saw some small clouds of smoke coming from a little box behind us in the compartment. Just before I had switched on the headlights and didn't see due to the bad weather conditions that only one of the retractable lights was up. This smoking little black box turned out to be the retractor control. When I switched the lights off the smoke disappeared but I couldn't open the headlights any more afterwards - bummer!

After about 5 instruction laps we had about one hour before the first real stint - enough time to change tires. As the sun came out I would usualy would have switched to race slicks because the track dried very fast due to the wind and the big bunch of cars in the other run group. But as I wanted to take no risk for my first hot laps on this track and was a bit lazy I didn't change and drove with my Bridgestone street tires.  Just as I drove from the parking to the pitlane there were two big surprises for me: Suddenly some of displays in the cockpit went dark and the turning lights didn't work any more. And it started to rain and I should have turned on the lights. So I only drove one slow lap to return to the pits.

Right after I entered the pitlane the cockpit displays and turning lights returned to work - what a mystic issue. Apparently no fuse was blown, I have no idea what happened there. Unfortunately the headlight retraction control wasn't involved in this miracle self repair. I went out on the track again and was nearly alone - the other cars had race slicks and weren't able to continue. That would have been a good situation: learning a new track with the right tires for this conditions and without traffic.

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A very special challenge: Driving with race slicks on wet track - by clicking on the left pic you see a small QT movie.
The Fastvoice NSX in the parking area waiting for the "fascination Nuerburgring" (right pic).

Unfortunately some "experts" wanted to go to and over the limits the whole day, so there were a lot of spinning and gravel trapped cars. The first stint was red flagged after about 4 laps because a car stuck in the gravel at the end of the main straight before the Mercedes Arena. That was one of many drivers over the day that missed the braking point there. My first laptimes on wet track were about 3 minutes - about half a minute more than I calculated before the event for dry track.

The most dangerous situation was ridicoulosly when I returned from the pitlane to our parking place. Pit number 15 was left empty to work as a "tunnel" to go to and from the pitlane, as usual with a grey painted floor. Just as the race clutch grabbed (with engine at idle) the rear broke out all of a sudden inside that pit and the car slided sideways in the direction of the opposite door. Fortunately it was like in slow motion with very low speed but the floor was extremely slippery in combination with the wet rubber of my tires. Just as I already expected an impact the car ended this slide about 30 centimetres away from the door frames - the open pit door itself would have not been wide enough to let the car pass in sideways mode.

Just before the 2nd stint our expected guests from USA arrived - Dianne and Bill from Phoenix/Arizona are both addicted to cars and especialy to the NSX (they have 2 of them) and spent some "speedy" days in Europe to watch Formula 1 in Spa and taking a few passenger rides in the Fastvoice NSX at Nuerburgring. As we were extremely busy with changing rims we had not as much time as usual to take care of our guests; instead Bill took the job as our new tech assistent - no problem for him as an experienced track driver and former vice president of the NSX-Club of North America - thank you once again, Bill!

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The NGK chicane (left) and our american guests Dianne and Bill posing with the Fastvoice NSX. Pics by me

At the moment when our guests had arrived the sun came out again which meant another tire change (Did you count? I stopped doing it). I had modified a battery drilling machine to help us with the bolts but after multiple rim changes the connection between the machine and the 19 mm lug nut broke so we had to continue to wrench the nuts with our own hands - another bummer. Now - some days later - I have ordered a special battery machine that is really built for that kind of jobs - awfuly expensive but that thing has nearly the same maximum brutal torque as my Ford Mondeo Diesel (310 Nm)! Maybe I can use this machine also to tow the trailer with the NSX when my Ford should fail ;-)

The 2nd stint overall and the first with Bill as passenger was a real pleasure: It stayed dry for about 20 minutes, I could hammer with full throttle through the "Hatzenbach-Bogen", reaching 220 km/h before the NGK chicane and reduced my laptime to 2:28,39.  That is slightly better than I expected but still very slow compared to the lap times of the Nuerburgring experts. I have to admit that I drove very conservative with early braking points and always lifting the throttle when faster cars came from behind to let them pass easily. And there were some really fast cars - mostly Porsches and one Diesel Volkswagen Station Wagon that chased a Ferrari 360 challenge - unbelievable, but that heavily smoking little VW was not slower than the Ferrari and a lot faster than me. On the other side some cars were more often on the grass, in the gravel or the tarmac runoff zones than on the track itself while I had no spin or runoff the whole day.

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You can download these two pics as big hi res versions wallpaper 3 and wallpaper 4

As a Nuerburgring rookie I had another problem: My eyes were so busy chasing the track, the orientation and brake points that there seemed to be no capacity left. Several times I didn't see yellow flags, one time not even the checkered flag for the end of the session. Fortunately my passenger Bill did always see the flags but he thought I had seen them too. You may guess that he was very puzzled when I continued the lap after the checkered flag with full speed. Don't these crazy Germans drive a cool down lap? he asked himself. Of course they do, but only if they know that it's the last lap for the session. It could have also occured that I passed one or two cars in a yellow flag zone - absolutely forbidden, but I just didn't see the flags - bummer! You may learn this: Even with about 6 years of track experience you still make some rookie mistakes if you're not familiar with the track.

After some laps Bill and I noticed that my water temperature gauge rose into the red zone - another bummer, because my new competition radiator had just been installed to avoid this effect that occured for the last 4 or 5 events. Apparently the old radiator with many bent fins had not been guilty of this overheating as it appeared with the new radiator too. Bill told me afterwards that he had the same problem with one of his NSXs - it never overheated on the street but always on the track. After more than a year of researching and fixing it turned out that his head gaskets (as it's a V6 engine it has two of them) had some leaks. After replacing them everything was okay again. Could it be that this was the case for my car too?

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The Fastvoice NSX in the parking lot and a glimpse through the front stone guard at the new competition radiator. Pics by me

You bet, it was. A few days after the event my tech did the same procedure that Bill adviced: Put an exhaust gas quality detector into the coolant fluid and accelerate the engine. If the detector shows an increase of exhaust gas at least one of the gaskets is blown. Yep - the detector showed smog in the coolant so my engine will be removed from its compartment to get new gaskets. And when it's already out of the car all the other stuff will be made that should be done in that case as a precaution: New timing belt, checking the water pump, replacing some rubber hoses etc. Not really a cheap maintainance but unavoidable when you track your car. My techie will also take this opportunity to throw out the A/C compressor which is the only A/C part that is still in the car - will save my some kilogrammes and may leave a bit more engine power for the wheels.

When it started to rain again we drove back to the parking area. As one stint lasted about an hour we changed once again back to street tires (you can easily see in the pics which set is used: black rims are with slicks, silver rims are with street tires) to have some more laps - this time without passenger. That worked quite okay - the car felt relatively stable with some understeer especialy in the Mercedes arena and some tendency to oversteer during braking and turning in at some corner entrances, but everything was easy to control. A big problem was the spray from cars in front of me. The visibility was nearly zero -  I didn't see any braking points, sometimes I wasn't even sure where the track was.

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At the 3rd and 4th stint I had no luck at all with my tire decisions - with me always on slicks it started to rain heavily in the minute when my run group should start or during the first lap. One time I even had to put in the reverse gear in the pitlane (usualy not allowed) to come back to the parking area because even one slow lap would have been too dangerous with race slicks in that conditions. On some lower parts the water ran like creeks over the track.

Near the end of the 4th and last stint I was brave enough to go out again on race slicks because the rain had stopped but the track was still wet. Bill was a lot braver than me because he decided once again to be my passenger with his little video camera on a suction cup mount. Besides one or two little slides (traction control always off) and some drops of sweat in the fast "Audi S" - where the rear of the car always wants to go its own way in the left hander entrance - everything went okay - I drove about the same laptimes with slicks on wet track as I did in the morning with street tires in the rain - in the region of 2:58. This pleasure ended a bit earlier than expected because it started raining cats and dogs again so it felt like driving on snow and ice with the Yokohama non-profile-tires.

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If you click on the left pic you get a one lap QT movie in high quality (about 70 MB) - it was a "hot" warm up lap;
filmed by the on-board camera of my co driver Bill - enjoy!

All in all it was a real unforgettable experience with good friends from far away - despite the long red flag periods we had run about 300 kilometres, burned about 90 litres of fuel, had a lot of work but also a lot of fun and - most important: No accident. I'm quite optimistic that the engine and electrical problems will be solved until the next event at  Anneau du Rhin - it's time enough. BTW: My new Taitec NSX-R carbon fibre hood directly shipped from Japan can be seen there too; it's the first one in Germany. You may take a first look here.

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