I had for many years considered myself a paid up petrolhead, I could happily talk cars for hours with anyone who would listen… yet here I was at a ripe old age (into my middle thirties) and I still had not taken a car on track or indeed visited the motoring equivalent of Lourdes that is the Nürburgring. All mouth and no trousers perhaps; well it was time to change all that.
Thankfully a post on Pistonheads in the Cerbera forum revealed I was not alone, plenty wanted to go but there had always been an excuse and an “I’ll get around to it one day” attitude. So we metaphorically spat on our palms and a pact was formed, we would go and better still, we would go en masse. For many it would be both our first time on track and first time at the Ring, but what a way to start! A date was set and Cerburgring 2007 was born.
Some 5 months after the first idea and after endless banter on the PH forums (starting with epic bravado, lapsing into increasingly extravagant excuses the nearer we got to departure), around 20 Cerberas and one or two ‘friends’ assembled at Dover ready to launch our ambush on the continent. The car had been behaving itself rather well of late leaving my man-math-o-meter with a healthy credit balance, that really needed sorting; I had decided therefore that to do the trip justice I would ditch the somewhat questionable TVR alloys and invest in new set of lighter and stronger wheels, shod with some Toyo T1-Rs as recommended by a fellow Cerb driver.
We had been forewarned that a group of TVRs rumbling through Europe usually generated interest, and so it came to pass. Every petrol stop seemed to take forever as locals questioned what these strange and noisy cars were, and of course where we were heading. With glib pride we were able to puff out our chests proudly announcing that we were, of course, heading for “The Ring”…
After a night’s stop in Düsseldorf, an early Sunday start saw us hitting a blissfully quiet autobahn for the final dash to Nürburg. For the first time I could legally explore the regions of the speedo that the Cerbera does best; concentrating on the matter of driving and not having to keep an eye on the roadside for any Battenberg liveried removers of fun, it was on this morning that I first took a car north of 150mph for the first time in my life, hitting a GPS indicated 155 before deciding that was probably enough for now. Glad to say that the old gal felt remarkably sure footed and worry free at these speeds and really did feel like it was only just getting properly into its stride.
Arriving at the ‘Ring some (short) time later and the car park was already full of all sorts of carnography, a few of group had opted to stay locally and were also already on site. Without further ado, I headed for the entrance barriers. It was here that things started to derail for me, moving through the barrier one of the marshals signalled me over to the side; oh bugger…. a noise test no less. It was now I realised with almost immediate hindsight, that the RAF roundels which back in Blighty had seemed like a cracking wheeze, were perhaps going to prove not to have been the smartest of moves. Sure enough I was sent packing with a “Go ‘ome, eet ees over for you today”.
The damage done, I retired to our encampment, promptly followed by quite a few others. We had a contingency plan and some bolt-on track day cans worked for most; sadly my exit pipes were non standard and oval, meaning the fitting of these was impossible. Time ticked by and more and more people returned with almost post coital facial expressions; I sat however, being Mr Grumpy in the corner. Then the glimmer of a chance arrived, it was mentioned that an additional entrance at Adenau was manned only by the old boy running the café there.
A couple of us shot down and (after purchasing yet more passes as the originals did not work here) we were actually on. What followed was a giant release. I had mentally worked myself up to the conclusion that I was, despite being the instigator, going to return home still with the Nürburgring on my to-do list. I managed 2 laps on the trot, rejoining through the barriers on Dottinger Höhe thus avoiding the noise marshals still prowling 10m away at the main entrance barriers. It was all over in a flash, despite me probably setting a world record pace….for being slow.
I pulled in to find my mere 2 laps had in fact still taken their toll, the car had started to hunt a bit and was misfiring on load. Thankfully we had a support van with us; a new set of HT leads fitted and a lambda that was beginning to fail was diagnosed. In light of this I opted for no further heroics as I wanted the car to get me home again after all. Regardless, the deed was done, it was all that was needed – I rushed to the sticker outlet, bought myself the coveted map outline and promptly applied it for all to see on the car’s side. Job done.
The return trip passed in a blur but the bug was definitely caught; not some 4 weeks later a group of us from the trip decided we needed some more and this time headed for a track session on the Brands Indy Circuit. Brands in comparison to the 12miles or so of the Nordschleife, seemed at first glance to be somewhat Mickey Mouse, but throwing your car for the first time into Paddock Hill Bend quickly proved why it is able to hold its head up as a respected circuit – a mere stripling it may be at 1.2 miles, but that just means the scary bits come around all the sooner.
The rear end of 2007 also saw another opportunity to return to Germany: a friend and fellow Auto-Journalist, Phil James, was to be racing at Spa over the weekend of the Spa 6 Heures. Whilst we were in the area watching that, it would have seemed rude not to drive the additional hour or so to have another play on the ‘Ring, and so it was that another great day was spent in the Eiffel Mountains. We were even joined this time by a certain black Vette driven by AJ’s own David Yu, who had turned up to show us both his metal and his mettle.
Having spent 2 days watching the racing at Spa however, witnessing the spectacle and beauty that is Eau Rouge up close, I was distracted and it seems that another seed had been sown. I had passed up the opportunity of a trackday there on this trip due to both financial and time constraints, but I knew, just knew, I was going to have to come back…
Main Image Photo Credit : John Hawes