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Last trip of the year, september 9th to 12th, last report of the year.
I'm (almost) sure that at the time when I booked the hotel for all of my trips (late February) the weekend was listed as fully open (Saturday and Sunday), with an extra-long afternoon opening on Friday. That's why my booking included that particular weekend, plus the friday.
Unfortunately, they changed the schedule later on, so I recently realized that on sunday the Nordschleife was NOT open to the public. And looking at the event calendar, I realized that the closure was due to the "1000km" race that was part of the program of the Oldtimer Weekend.
So, I cut short my trip and arranged for return on sunday, and made sure we were leaving early enough on thursday, so that I could sneak in a few laps that very afternoon ... Carla decided that she was not taking her mountain bike, because she expected the weather to be cold (actually, she's getting lazy ...) and this made loading and unloading a bit quicker.
And quick could also be the trip, if it wasn't for those endless roadworks in Switzerland. They also put up a sign that says that some of the roadworks will go on til 2012!! Two-thousands-and-twelve!! That's another year and a half of roadworks!! Wouldn't it be quicker to build a new motorway from scratch?!?
When I see something like that, I cannot help but think of a famous line of Harry Lime's character (played by Orson Welles), in the movie "The Third Man": "In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." (By the way, Graham Greene, who wrote the screenplay, reported that this particular line was actually added by Orson Welles himself).
But I must be honest: we don't have no Michelangelo or Leonardo anymore, down here, and either we do roadworks that go on forever, or we simply don't do them at all (no matter how much needed they are) ... However, we arrived at the hotel early enough, the weather seemed to be reasonably nice, and I was on my way to the Nurburgring well before expected opening time. As I said, the weather seemed reasonably nice ... but it wasn't. As soon as I came out of the Mosel valley, a big black cloud appeared in front of me, exactly in the direction I was riding to. And it got bigger and blacker. I was tempted to go back, but it was not raining (yet), so I went on. It stayed dry until Kelberg, then, in Zermullen, it was pouring. It was like having someone throwing buckets of water at me. But Zermullen is just a few kilometers away from the Ring, so I continued, hoping for the rain to stop soon. And it did, not much later.
The track was very wet, but it was almost desert, so I went out for a very slow lap and found out ... that it was a lot of fun! I really had the track almost to myself. I could practice all the lines I wanted, look at all the dots and signs and references ... of course I could not go fast, but it was a very pleasant experience. And the track was getting dryer and dryer, so that on the last couple of laps I could dare exceeding 200 km/h before Schwedenkreutz.
On my fifth lap, while accelerating towards Quiddelbacher Hohe, I found a plastic cone in the middle of the track. Now, to you guy who dragged the cone for a few kilometers, I think it is stupid enough to hit a cone at the entrance of the track (are you that much in a hurry?), but it is even more stupid to drag it away under your car, not knowing if and when you are going to release it (perhaps directly in front of the wheels of a biker following you at 190 km/h, in Schwedenkreutz?).
There's a lot of (stupid) guys stopping right after the cones, to do all kind of (stupid) things, like checking tyre pressure, adjusting stopwatches, waiting for (stupid) mates, etc.: for once you had a serious reason to stop: why didn't you simply stop and remove the cone?
The only thing I could do was to inform the marshalls as soon as I was back, but they said the were going to close the track in a few minutes, so they did not bother much. They let me in for my sixth lap, and when I was back the track was closed.
The next day, friday, opening was scheduled for 14.15, so we went to Koblenz, to a huge bicycle shop, looking for some winter gear and for a very important new gadget. I bought a "cycle computer", with a lot of accessories, that can measure and display speed (of course), cadence (how quick you are pedaling), heartbeat frequency, temperature, altitude and slope (%), then send everything to a computer to elaborate it in various types of reports, probably including some PowerPoint presentation. And it's wireless! Now, that's real techno/sport/voyerism.
Unfortunately, I'm afraid the thing cannot pedal by itself ...
So, happy with my new purchase (I'm still reading the manual, to understand at least how to install it) we went back to the hotel and got ready to show up on time at the Nordschleife. The car park was somewhat busier than the day before, but I've seen worse. When they opened, I was the very first vehicle out. It wasn't to last long, as I always take it very easy on first lap (you never know what you'll find, that wasn't there the day before), and soon I had a few cars passing me. Several vehicles were also entering the track at Breidscheid, so, yes, I was the very first vehicle out, but I wasn't the first vehicle back. The track was also still damp, in quite a few places, so that I preferred to stay on the safe side. It got better, for a while, then it started to rain.
Unfortunately, among the cars (and bikes) passing by on Dottinger Hohe, there were no sport cars from the sixties (like Ford GT40, Porsche 908 or 917, Ferrari 512, etc.): I would have loved to see some of those, roaring by. I could not recognize the cars on track, but, as you can see, some were slower than expected:
And some were quicker than expected:
By opening time, I was a bit afraid that all those old cars might have spread a lot of oil all over the place, but much to my surprise the track was in pristine conditions. I have a lot more to fear from "modern" cars, as it became obvious in the course of the day.
There was a lot of traffic
Traffic included two BMW Taxis. One of the drivers, I had never seen before; the other one, a bit older, I had seen a couple of times. I tried the exercise of following them in a couple of circumstances, and it happened to be the older guy at the wheel, both times. Compared to Sabine, he was more careful with traffic, and less flamboyant in slow corners, so he was easier to follow in traffic (usually I let Sabine go because I don't take risks for passing cars) and a bit harder to follow in slow corners (Sabine sideways is way more spectacular, but necessarily slower).
So, all in all, I can still keep Taxi speed in a reasonably safe way. Despite that, I noticed that I am getting slower than I used to be, in many places. On this trip, I never reached 170 at the right hander before Hatzenbach, or at Miss-Hit-Miss. I never exceeded 180 at Flugplatz, or Schwedenkreutz. Never passed 150 in Pflantzgarten.
So I realized I'm getting slower. And I also realized that ... I don't care. I feel reasonably safe, reasonably quick, and I enjoy the place and the ride to the maximum.
The only thing that pisses me off is that I have completely worn out my right knee slider (it lasted about one "season"), while the left one is still almost new. It has to do, of course, with the Nordschleife being clockwise, but also with the fact that my posture on the bike is not symmetric. Anyone else experiencing the same "problem"? Any suggestions?
Finally, here is a list of significant events of the trip. Some of them, I can't recollect whether they occurred on friday or on saturday: I just list them anyway.
There weren't many closures, considering the high traffic, but some where quite long.The first crash I saw was a Ducati, at Galgenkopf, missing all of its top (cockpit, tank, saddle), rider ok but not specially happy.
I saw Karl on track (long time no see) stopped with his blue golf at the top of Fuchsrohre to flag a heavily crashed BMW (car).
Saw some stupid parking.
Including these guys who occupied two precious parking slots, just to stay there and play mechanics.
These guys, probably afraid to scrape the bottom of their precious cars to the ground, did not care if they were occupying half of the road at their back:
In one single lap saw two bikes crashed, a few corners from one another: a white BMW R1200S and a red Ducati Multistrada. This time, at least one of the crashes required intervention by the ambulance.
Followed several mirror-blind bikers: I always try to pass them on the ouside, if it's reasonably safe, so that it comes quite unexpected to them and maybe this helps them remember they have mirrors.
Passed a british guy on a Yamaha R1, a bit too "racing" for my taste (and for his safety): I do not stress my engine and my brakes very much, so, after I passed him, he kept accelerating as hard as he could and I always had him on my side before the next corner. He did not have a very clear idea of where the track was going, and, even considering that, he was very slow in corners, but having him on my side, not knowing what he was going to do next, was of great disturbance and danger. So I had to accelerate hard a couple of times, to get rid of him.
Some people seems not able to understand that there is nothing to race about.
Saw Jochen's (frozenspeed.com) off-road bike in the car park (at least, I think it was his bike), but he was not around to be seen. Later on, I saw a girl with a dog (remember Asta, the dog of the "Nick and Nora" movies?) driving away in a silver Fiat Barchetta, but I did not realize until too late that she was Sofia, Jochen's wife.
There's more and more of these bikes, around:
Maybe they are becoming popular thanks to the success they have in World Superstock racing (they won all races of the series), or maybe thanks simply to the fact that they are good bikes, but they are not very "BMW-ish".
On the other end, this is an extremely BMW-ish bike:
And it is very well ridden by a quiet german guy that I met several times on track. He is as fast as me (just lacking top speed, but sure not corner speed), and always seems to have a lot of fun.
Saw a crash of two cars in Wehrseifen, nobody hurt, but from under cars "parked" on the right a stream of fluids was crossing all the track to the left.
Actually, the fluid started some distance before, because despite having slowed down a lot (fortunately, the crash was flagged) my bike slipped quite a bit, approaching the corner. When I was back to the car park, the track was still normally open, so I reported the oil to the marshalls, and they closed immediately afterwards.
On saturday afternoon, there was a long closure, and I decided that after the closure I was going to go for my last 2-3 laps of the year. They opened, at last, but immediately after the cones, a long streak of oil started, glittering against the setting sun. It was clearly visible, and I slowed down immediately, but a biker passed me at "normal" speed, and had a big slide even before the Hohenrain chicane. Not far ahead, another biker was crashed to the right at the last corner of Hatzenbach. I kept seeing traces of oil until Aremberg, and anyway did not trust the grip for the rest of the lap.
When I was back, it was closed for motorbikes. So I went for a cup of tea, and waited. After a while, they closed for cars, too. And I waited some more.
Finally, they announced that they were not going to open again for the day. So much for my planned 2-3 laps. The count of the day stopped at 14. I shook hands with the german guy of the HP2 Supermoto BMW (it was the last trip of the year for him, too) and said goodbye to the place until 2011.
I hope next year I can still afford it ...
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