Road trip is just wunderbar

Published on: 02 Jun 2014

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What do a bunch of amateur racing drivers do for a holiday?  Go to a race track, of course!  Phil Oliver and Andy Laurence from Downend hopped into The Ronson (a 1996 Mercedes C230 obtained for free on account of a leaky fuel pipe that was easily fixed), whilst Sandy Smith from Mangotsfield jumped into his trusty Abarth Punto to convoy with the others (two Porsche 911s and a Lexus IS) to the legendary Nurburgring in Germany.

Meticulously planned, there was a stop on the way at the similarly historic circuit of Spa Francorchamps in Belgium, which is conveniently located next to the motorway!  The circuit originally comprised a selection of country lanes and remained open to the public until around 15 years ago.  The original circuit where the likes of Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill and Jim Clark showed their skills still exists linking the nearby villages, whilst the shorter version is now permanently closed and, as luck would have it (well, meticulous planning) was in use as the convoy arrived.

It wasn’t long before a Mustang passed by on three wheels, dumping oil all over the circuit, sending cars spinning in all directions.  A leisurely drive was taken down the route of the old Grand Prix circuit.  Everyone was stunned at the Masta Chicane that passed between farmhouses and was approached at 190mph in cars without seat belts.  Some of the old circuit features such as Armco remain giving a stark reminder of the dangers of motorsport in the 1960s.

After a moment of reflection, the convoy moved on to Luxembourg for some cheap fuel.  In the tradition of road trips, someone had to break down and in a convoy of reliable German and Japanese cars with an Italian anomaly, everyone was surprised to find it was the Porsche 911 Turbo that lubricated the road with its coolant.  The driver was not pleased to have to be rescued by The Ronson.  It was not Top Gear rules, so a 4 hour wait for the recovery vehicle meant the convoy finally rolled into Nurburg at around 10pm.

Over the next two days, every driver got their chance to attack the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit.  For Phil, this was his first experience driving on a racing circuit.  He was nervous but attacked the circuit with gusto, scraping the front mud flaps of The Ronson on the tarmac as the car wallowed around the track, guided by the pace notes called from the experienced memory of Andy Laurence.

Interspersed with the Nordschleife laps were opportunities to watch the other cars on track, a visit to the museum and sessions on the Grand Prix track used for the German Grand Prix when Formula 1 cars visit the country.  The trip back turned into a Cannonball Run emulation after one person mentioned the time of the earlier ferry.  The convoy rolled onto the earlier ferry as the very last cars before the doors shut.  On reflection, Phil said “all in all, the best road trip I’ve ever been on” whilst Andy agreed adding “if Carlsberg did road trips, they’d have to change their advertising strategy.”

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