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"
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.
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 -
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.
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!
The NGK chicane (left) and our
american guests Dianne and Bill posing with the Fastvoice NSX. Pics
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
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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
filmed by the on-board camera of my
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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