Three Rock Mountain  

Nürburgring - Drivers



Kein Hochbeschwindigkeitbegrenzung beim Ring! As I said earlier, the number of accidents on the Nordschleife would appear to be an invitation to local politicians to have the place closed down in the interests of social policy. On reflection, it's probably kept open to keep nutjob drivers off the local roads and close to a properly-equipped trauma centre. Having said that, I'm of the opinion that accidents happen from a small selection of the many types of drivers you find around the circuit. Allow me to indulge in some amateur taxonomy:

1. The Terrified:
The Terrified are the easiest species to spot on the circuit - they're the ones trying simply to stay alive. They may actually have wandered out onto the circuit by accident. However it came about, they deeply regret being there and are cruising slowly around to the exit, hugging the right-hand kerb all the way. They will conduct only a single lap of the track before departing never to return. Tales of the various demons they met on their white-knuckle lap will form a staple of their dinner party conversations for years afterwards, followed always by the vow "Never Again!". The Terrified are keeping to normal road speeds on their tour and as such are unlikely to slide off the side of the track. The Terrified will not have an accident as a result of their driving. As a mobile chicane, they are however likely to cause an accident and consequently become swept up as collateral damage, for example by thinking it's safe to move over to the left this next corner because those bikes look to be half a mile behind...

2. The Virgin Driver:
The Virgin Driver hasn't done this before (or not very often) and as such will resemble the terrified in many ways, for example having a marked propensity to move over to the right to let faster traffic past. Unlike The Terrified, they will actually be using their mirrors and indicators and not just acting out of fear. The Virgin Driver will be a capable car nut with a keen sense of their own mortality. They'll be moving significantly faster than The Terrified, but will still be braking significantly in advance of any corners. The Virgin Driver is unlikely to have an accident unless they're very, very unlucky.


3. The Boy Racer
Bloke with a mullet leaning against vomit-green tuned BMWThe Boy Racer is an infestation of modern youth culture, driving 'tuned cars' - used & abused Japanese imported cars pimped up with a load of stickers down the front wing like the credits of a movie, a sound system powerful enough to handle U2 concerts, and an exhaust pipe large enough for badgers to live in. Real car tuners are to be found at the Nürburgring - one of the fastest cars I saw there was a 1970s Austin Mini van. It made a noise quite unlike any other Austin Mini I've seen and its pace led me to believe it is no longer powered by its original engine. A little research on the Internet showed that this is indeed the case, as somebody with a particularly Teutonic sense of humour shoehorned a Honda engine twice the size of the original into the Mini's engine bay. The first thing a tuner will upgrade in their car is the brakes. The first thing a Boy Racer will upgrade is the stereo. This is the essential difference between the two species. As the Nordschleife is the perfect ecological niche for the Tuner you don't see many Boy Racers there. Some do come along, presumably to demonstrate their manhood to the assembled. They do venture out onto the track and are immediately given such a scare that they instantly transmogrify into members of The Terrified, albeit with a slightly higher accident rate due to the propensity of their cheap-ass glued-on aftermarket wings and appendages to detach at any meaningful speed.

4. The Former Virgin
The Former Virgin is the first of the really high-risk categories. This driver has done a few trips to the Ring and has thundered around it hundreds of times on his Playstation. He's bought the t-shirt and probably the season ticket as well. He's been around and survived. Now it's time to see what he can really do, trying to set a competitive time. He's going to really push it out of the corners and see how late he can leave his braking, oblivious to the fact that both he and his car drove 800 miles earlier that day just to get there and both are a little tired as a result. The Former Virgin is most likely to be found buried in the Armco barrier on the outside of a deceptively tightening corner he mistakenly thought was further along the track.


5. The Ringmeister
I can't hear you, Sonny! Speak up!These guys are hardened veterans and have an adrenaline dependency problem. You can tell by the thousand yard stare they have - in their heads they're mentally reliving corner sequences and clipping points. The circuit is absorbing their lifeforce, piece by piece until all they can think about is lap times. The Ringmeister is almost certainly a biker, driving a Japanese superbike that costs more than a round-the-world cruise. They can afford it though - The Ringmeister is no spotty adolescent. He will be in his 30s or 40s, the flushes of youth having long given way to gimlet-eyed experience. No innocent Boy Racer, The Ringmeister fully expects to come off his machine at some stage - he's wearing the latest in spinal protection jackets and has the very highest levels of medical insurance. He also has a burning ambition to set a sub-8 minute lap time. And this is why The Ringmeister is our second high risk category. He's so intent on achieving the perfect lap and preserving the racing line that he may not notice until too late the idiocy of the Boy Racer or the timidity of The Terrified. He may just overcook it and get his entry point to a sequence wrong and be flung headlong into the surrounding forest. Such are the risks of being The Ringmeister. He'll tell you it's worth it.


So far, so intimidating. But when you get into it, it's not so bad. OK, that sounds like your mother telling you to immerse yourself when you complain as a child that the sea is cold. It requires courage to commit. By the way - as a child I was brought swimming to Dollymount Strand, not Tenerife - it was cold by any objective measure. The Ring car park ought to be a bubbling cauldron of adrenaline- and testoserone-fuelled alpha male chest-beating...but it's not. That gang of menacing bikers hanging around the upper park are chatting about how nice the weather is, not challenging passers-by to knife fights. On the track, faster traffic coming up behind you will wait patiently for you to move over (admittedly they will sit right on your tail while doing so, but this is a racetrack after all) - in similar circumstances on the autobahn outside, impatient BMW drivers will flash lights, honk horns and briefly consider just plain driving over you if you don't shift quickly enough.

Part IV - The Hardware

© Kevin O'Doherty 2007