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BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!

Old 08-16-05, 08:56 PM
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BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!

A while back I asked for exercise advice for driving, as I had this school coming up. Thanks for everyone's responses, getting in better shape saved my *** on this adventure.

I was in Germany for nearly two weeks, doing a pre-tour with a bunch of the other members of "Team Nordamerika" before the school. I shot about 900 digital pictures, I'm including some of the highlights here.

We visited an automotive and technical museum in Sinsheim, which occupies two huge buildings and a large outdoor area. They have a sweet collection of F1 cars, and on the roof there is a Concorde and a Tupolev SST.

We went to the Hockenheim F1 track, for Thursday night open track sessions. This is crazy ****: For 12 Euros per session, you get about 15-20 minutes of running. No tech inspections, no helmets required (though we wore ours!) and NO PASSING RULES. It was like driving in a race, with crazy Porsche race cars dive-bombing you into turns, and station wagons full of kids in booster seats, all on track at once. Plus one nutter on a slammed quad ATV with track tires on it. They did have the good sense to have the motorcycles in their own sessions at least, and the Germans are very good about seeing you in their mirrors when you come to pass them.

We went to Spa in Belgium for a club race. The event program said it was a historic Grand Prix, but the races we saw were all fairly modern cars. We were allowed to freely wander the paddock and garage areas, and even go into the pits, right up to the pit wall, as long as we stayed out of the way.

Next up: Der Nurburgring!

Holy crap, this track is intense. I had put in quite a few laps in GT4 to get a rough sense of how it worked, but it was nothing like the real thing. The elevation changes are huge, the difference between the lowest point and the highest point is about 900 feet. We arrived the day before the school began during public laps. For 15 Euros per lap (less if you buy a multi-ticket) you get to take one lap of the track. Again, no tech, no helmet, but passing is allowed only on the left. There is a huge variety of vehicles out there, from full-on race cars to lorries and tour busses! (2 Euro per passenger is the bus fee)

My friend and I took a few laps as passengers with members of our group, and then did one lap each, and were quite impressed with the track.

On to the school itself:
The school breaks everyone down into 12 groups. Each group gets a section of the track to practice over and over for an hour and a half or so, then rotates to the next section. I was sharing a car with a friend, so every 2-3 runs through a section we would trade off driving. This is done with in instructor car at the head of the pack, and two "coach" cars within the pack. Our instructor was Robert Fassl, a BMW factory test driver who has literally thousands of laps on the ring.

Our groups first two sessions were spent doing exercises instead of driving the track proper. The first session was a skid exercise, where you drive down a ramp into a water-slicked parking lot. As you hit the bottom of the hill, you cross a metal plate. When your rear tires go over the plate, it kicks you sideways, sending you into a spin. Driving out of the skid is no easy task.

Second session was a drunk slalom exercise. They gave us goggles that supposedly simulated being drunk, and we had to negotiate two slaloms... one on foot and one driving! We also did a sober slalom, timed against a clock, which contributed to our grade at the end of the school.

One that nonsense was done with, we proceeded to do the track sections. This lasted for two days, with full lapping sessions around lunch time.

On the third day, we got almost two hours of full lap practice time, then did a graded lap. During the graded lap, instructors stood around the track at key turns, and judged how well we executed them.

Once graded laps were over, the track reverted to public laps, and we did a whole bunch more laps on our own time. This continued the next day as well.

Highlight of the open laps: We were driving a rented BMW 116i, which looks kind of like a Mazda 3 and has a 1.6L engine producing about 120HP. I was driving, and got my doors blown off by a 911 Turbo on one of the straights. Very shortly afterwards, we realized that I was a much faster driver than the 911's driver. My friend starts yelling "get him! get him!!!" so I increase my pace a little bit, and after a couple more turns I'm about a foot off his bumper through a turn called Breidsheid, which is a 3rd gear double left next to a little town, with a nice hill that's always full of spectators. Immediately after that there is an uphill right that can be taken nearly flat out with our car (just a little tap to settle it) and we were on him until the straight that follows it. After that he put his foot down and we didn't see him again, since there's a 1.5-mile uphill straight shortly afterwards. A little while later we did the same thing to a Mercedes AMG wagon through carousel and the turns right after it.
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Old 08-16-05, 09:00 PM
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The famous 6-wheeled F1 car, crazy-*** racer quad, and the bikes at hockenheim getting ready for their session. There must have been 200 bikes out at once.
Attached Thumbnails BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0145.jpg   BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0244.jpg   BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0254.jpg  
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Old 08-16-05, 09:02 PM
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Cars getting ready for their session at Hockenheim.

Spa in Belgium...

GT40s in the public parking lot!
They let us poke our heads through the pit wall glass to take photos!
Attached Thumbnails BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0256.jpg   BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0382.jpg   BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0506.jpg  
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Old 08-16-05, 09:04 PM
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Rotary power in Belgium! Those cars were super sweet.

Part of the challenge of the Nurburgring lies in not crashing into things while staring at the scenery.
Attached Thumbnails BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0538.jpg   BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0539.jpg   BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0642.jpg  
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Old 08-16-05, 09:08 PM
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More scenery.

We parked our line in the carousel for a photo-op and to talk about the line through the turn. Getting out of and into a car parked in there is quite a challenge. We also found piles of lugnuts and other parts lining the bottom of the bowl.

Our instructor, Robert Fassl, explains the technique of the carousel.
Attached Thumbnails BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0647.jpg   BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0652.jpg   BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0653.jpg  
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Old 08-16-05, 09:12 PM
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In-car in the carousel.

Our trusty steed rests for a photo-op on the long straight. We were originally scheduled to do an exercise there called "leaning against the barriers" where you learn to slow down a car by rubbing it on the guardrail. BMW had supplied some former test cars that were going to get sent to the crusher to use for this exercise, but we were the last group to get to this section and the cars had been destroyed by the previous users. We ended up doing braking drills instead.

View of the castle Nurburg from the F1 track.
Attached Thumbnails BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0657.jpg   BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0672.jpg   BMW driver school at the Nurburgring!-dscn0702.jpg  
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Old 08-16-05, 09:13 PM
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View of the F1 track from the top of the castle tower.
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Old 08-16-05, 09:22 PM
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Damn, that looks incredible! You must have had a great time, I'm very jealous!

Are you posting some of the other photos elsewhere?
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Old 08-17-05, 04:14 AM
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Awesome trip!! Does BMW package the entire trip/school?
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Old 08-17-05, 07:19 AM
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It's put on by a German BMW club every year, for the last 40 years. The American side of things is put together by BMWCCA, they arrange the trip and payment for people from the US. The fee varies by the rate of exchange; this year came to $1350 for the school, plus hotels, airfare and rental car. Lunch is included on all school days, and dinner banquets the night before it starts and the last night. A little pricey, yes... but you get hours and hours of track time... the first two days are 8am-8pm including lunch, and it's the Nurburgring. The track is so long and varied that it forces you to become a better driver. It's got every kind of turn and turn combination on it.

A little more info about the trip here:

http://www.autobahntours.com/nurb_itinerary.htm

As I mentioned, they do it every year, it's worth looking into for next year if you're at all interested. I may do it again next year if the budget allows.
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Old 08-17-05, 11:23 AM
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you lucky dog. i am truly envious.

that actually sounds fair for what you get. I'm gonna have to check this out. Hope the wife doesn't want to come
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Old 08-17-05, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Gene
We were originally scheduled to do an exercise there called "leaning against the barriers" where you learn to slow down a car by rubbing it on the guardrail.
Now THAT would have been worth any amount of money! Awesome trip, Gene.
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Old 08-17-05, 11:53 AM
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Wow what an awesome trip. That was well worth the money you paid for it.

10 years ago I spent a year running driver's schools with the BMW club. They are very nice people, and they don't look down on you for driving a Mazda at their events. At some other Marque clubs I have run at, I have felt snubbed just because I wasn't driving "their brand" of car. The BMWCCA people are really nice people who enjoy driving fast.
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Old 08-17-05, 12:42 PM
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that sounds like a pretty sweet trip....

I didn't have a chance to read it in detail... but BMW does provide the car right? What about insurance in case of a mishap?

What tires were on the BMW? R compounds?

I plan to go to Munich for WorldCup Soccer next summer. If the timing works out I want to incorporate that into the trip as well.

Gene- how was the beer? I'm 1/2 German and fluent. Love that country.
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Old 08-17-05, 02:04 PM
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BMW does not provide the car, except the ones used for the barrier rubbing event. The car was provided by the nice folks at a rental company in Frankfurt, who wouldn't be happy if they found out what we were using the car for. A careful reading of their contract revealed that they probably didn't want us using it there. In case of a mishap... the Nurburgring is officially recognized by the German government and police as a one-way public toll road. Supposedly cars have been covered in the past, but this year I think we actually got away without any crashed cars at all. Public laps were another story, there were lots of down bikes and I saw two smashed cars, including a Skyline that had driven from England.

Nothing wrong with the wife wanting to come, you can share a car. A friend and his wife were there, and his wife scored 3rd place in her group for the graded laps. She has lots of track time though. Lots of track time is highly recommended for this event... they set a fast pace when doing the section practice, and you better know what to do if you put two wheels off.

German beer was excellent, as expected. My buddy and I stayed out late and closed a few bars when we didn't need to be on the track the next morning.

Tires were stock.
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Old 08-17-05, 09:55 PM
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Wow, that is a nice trip! Were those real GT40 race cars?
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