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Don't forget that cars driving on the Touristfahrten sessions at the Nurburgring must be road-legal. For UK visitors that means it must have a valid MOT (although I've never heard of this being checked). Slick tyres are not allowed.
Manufacturers test their cars at the Nurburgring not only for marketing reasons, but also because the Ring inflicts pain on cars like no other test course. Depending on how fast you go on the Nurburgring, a lap will either inflict no more punishment than a spirited drive around country lanes, or it will live up to the cliche that one mile on track is worth ten or twenty on the road.
If you decide to visit the Ring only once and don't regularly go to track days, make sure everything works to roadworthiness standard, and drive within the limits of yourself and your car. Please check your car carefully before going through the Ring barriers, because crashes due to brake failure or fluid leaks are expensive and dangerous. See the Insurance and Fluid leaks pages for more information.
Follow this check list before you leave home and again before you go on track. If you want, go to one of the garages on the Repairs page to have your car checked for €25 or so.
Brakes require about twelve strong on/off cycles to warm up. The first mile after you enter the Nurburgring is a long straight (ish) section down and up a hill, followed by a couple of slow sections where the start/finish line is on the Gran Turismo lap on the PS3. Use this section to get your brakes up to temperature and ensure they work. If you don't warm up the brakes, they can easily warp, leading to heavy vibration and an early end to your track time
Modifying your car for the Nurburgring
Remember that typical driver tuition on track days runs at about €20 for twenty minutes, and in terms of lap time improvement will deliver more than any upgrade, certainly in the early days. After you have invested in tuition, if you plan to go to the Ring often or are a regular on track days, you might want to upgrade your car. There are two costs associated with this - cash, and comfort. How far you go depends on your tolerance for loss of both of these.
Some popular car upgrades, in rough order of cost, practicality, and usefulness:
Improves power to weight ratio (BHP per tonne, or KG/BHP) and handling. Equivalent to free horsepower, but usually comes at a cost to comfort. This is when you find out how useful back seats can be, and the heat absorption qualities of the carpet you removed. As a general guideline, 200 BHP per tonne, or 5KG per BHP is a very good benchmark to aim for. Don't forget that if you dramatically reduce your car's weight, you may need to reduce the spring rates, damping force or ride height to compensate.
Brake pads, discs, and fluid
Stopping is the most important thing you will be doing on track, but the Nurburgring has a lot of long straights to cool brakes so it's unlikely this will be your car's weak point. You don't need to be able to do 100 mph to 0 in three seconds, but if your brakes can't last a full track day (ie the pads or discs are destroyed, or the brake pedal goes spongy), you need to have them upgraded.
Similar to brakes, the long straights at the Ring help keep engine temperatures under control. The most important thing - primarily for the safety of others - is to ensure you don't leak any fluid. Flush out the cooling system and replace hoses if necessary. If possible increase the radiator size and add an oil cooler. These will all increase your engine's track life, and will make your car less likely to overheat and leak fluids. Keep an eye on temperatures on track; if you break down on the Nurburgring, prepare for the most expensive recovery bill you will ever pay.
Good tyres can be felt instantly on track when compared to bad, but identifying a good tyre before purchase is confusing. Generally a good brand equals a good tyre, but there can often be pleasant surprises at the lower end of the price scale. Needless to say, any road tyre needs tread to work. Don't forget also that summer tyres lose efficiency rapidly when asked to work at below 5 degrees celcius.
Road-legal slick tyres are a strong positive benefit on track, but it can be impractical to drive to the Ring on them because they obviously won't channel water away as well as road tyres.
If you feel your tyres starting to lose effectiveness due to heat, back off the power and brakes, and think about taking the car back to the pits.
Firmer suspension through springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars usually means less weight shifting all over the place when you change direction, whether under braking or taking corners. Less suspension movement also generally means more of the tyre will be in touch with the tarmac for more of the time, since it won't be bouncing around all over the place. It is important to leave yourself sufficient suspension travel to accommodate the compression at the bottom of the Foxhole after the Aremberg curve, and Pflantzgarten after Brünnchen curves.
Upgraded bushings (the rubber bits attaching suspension components to the body of the car) will reduce body movement but will have a significant comfort cost.
A roll cage will stiffen the chassis, reducing compliance at the suspension mounting points. It also makes your car significantly stronger in the event of an accident