Goodwood, Nurburgring and trying to murder a 307 diesel!
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  1. #1
    Cal
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    Goodwood, Nurburgring and trying to murder a 307 diesel!

    I have just returned from a six week holiday in Europe, chasing car\motorsport related passions. I thought some of you might be interested in reading about some of my adventures. I have omitted just about everything that is not related to vehicles. Therefore if you are planning a similar trip and would like my opinion of the most enjoyable “other”spots, just ask. I apologise if this is too lengthy for some people.

    I didn’t really want to be in Europe in the crazy summer season, if I could help it. However, the two motorsport events I really wanted to attend, were The Goodwood Festival of Speed and The Old Timer GP at the Nurburgring. The maximum amount of holiday I could talk my boss into, was six weeks. Therefore I based the trip around being in the UK for Goodwood on July 11-13th, tour Europe and end up in the Eifel Mountains for the Old Timer on August 8-10th.

    I landed at Heathrow on Sunday the 6th of July at 6am, very tired from the flight. I went straight away to pick up my rental car for the day, a Hyundai Getz. I drove straight down to Brands Hatch for an historic meeting. Once at Brands, any thoughts of being jetlagged quickly evaporated into a revery of barking exhausts and the aroma of burning race fuels. The gentlemanly spirit, which accompanies these UK events, is wonderful. The atmosphere in the paddock was little different than one would have expected to witness in the 50’s or 60’s. Cortinas, Minis and Imps mixing company with D-types, AC Cobras and GT40’s. Awe inspiring stuff indeed.

    Brands, is one of the great circuits. This meeting being run on the full Grand Prix circuit. I could not believe how steep and blind Paddock bend is. Few tracks offer spectators a closer view of the action than at Dingle Dell corner. (just renamed Sheene Curve). The old cars are facing you when they slide toward the apex. One BRG Mk2 Jaguar was particularly entertaining. Holding opposite lock for what seemed like an eternity.

    Unfortunately in one of the final races of the day, a fellow in a beautiful old Allard entered Paddock a bit hot and understeered off into the sand trap right in front of where I was standing. It entered the sand sideways and then proceeded to complete five barrel rolls in the air before coming to rest back on it’s wheels. The car was in a terrible state and everybody was extremely concerned about the welfare of the driver. It wasn’t until just the other day, when I picked up the latest copy of Classic & Sportscar, I learned he is still in hospital recovering. I was glad to hear this, as I had feared the worst. It was a hideous accident.

    A week later, after many late nights drinking with old friends (all Aussies) in London, it was time to head for Sussex for the Goodwood Festval of Speed. I arrived on the Thursday afternoon and set up my tent in a field adjacent to the closest pub to Goodwood. Very kind of the publican to allow me to camp there for the weekend. I promised to spend much money at the bar. It seemed everybody in the pub that night was a petrol head. They were fascinated that I had planned my holiday around historic racing events on the other side of the planet. Nothing strange about it to me. I even met Clive Chapman, Colin Chapman’s son. I would also have a few pints with Neville Hay over the course of the next couple of days..

    The Friday is probably the best day to look around the paddock at Goodwood, as it is not as crowded as the rest of the weekend. Like any of the premier historic meetings on the international calendar, the magnitude of the history, which confronts you, is way too much to take in. While trying to admire Niki Lauda’s 312T GP car, the Brabaham Alfa fan car is in your peripheral vision. This sort of thing happens constantly for three days. Cars that you would spend half an hour or more looking over in any other circumstance, are drooled over briefly while making your way somewhere else. Each and every one of them of major importance to the sports history, in one sense or another. This is before you even spot your first celebrity. Once again Goodwood drew the big names, Moss, Gurney, Ickx, Brabham, Hill, Surtees……the list goes on and on. Then there are the current F1 drivers, Coultard, Montoya, blah blah blah.

    The best thing about the Festival of Speed is the atmosphere and access. Unlike other events where the cars are roped off and away from the public, at Goodwood you can stand next to them, touch them and hopefully talk to the owners and/or drivers. To see and hear in the flesh so many of the cars I have been reading about for years, was fantastic. If I was to pick highlights, they would be: seeing the Moss\Jenkinson 300 SLR which won the Mille Miglia in 1955, Jim Hall’s Chaparrals, Rod Millen blasting up the hill in his 900hp Tacoma hillclimb special, the three Bentley’s fresh from their 1-2 Le mans victory and the shriek of the awesome 1.5L V16 BRM. Oh and speaking briefly with Jack Brabham. We are talking the highlights of a weekend of highlights remember.

    I visited the Donington GP collection and the track while I was further north. The GP collection requires at least half a day to look at. It houses the largest collection of McLaren’s on earth. All the cars have been collected over the years by Tom Wheatcroft and are kept in superb condition. They are sometimes taken to meetings and used in anger. The V16 BRM at Goodwood was one of his, as was an early Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo.

    Late in the afternoon I watched some bikes circulating on the Donington track. I have always loved this track. I have had other friends go to The Donington Collection, but not be able to access the circuit. I felt lucky to be able to see some action while there.

    The mainland Europe leg of the journey would start in Paris, were I met up with my father. We leased a Peugeot 307 SW turbo diesel for a month. I wanted a car big enough to sleep in the back of. The Pug is the perfect size for that, as well as being very economical. I priced a Clio Sport, but at twice the cost and no room to sleep, that idea was quickly discarded. So, in the bus, off we set!

    I wanted to visit as many old and current circuits as possible. First on the agenda was to try to find the old Rouen GP track. After four hours of driving around the wrong area, we found it by accident while leaving. I recognised the old start finish straight once we were on it. It was confirmed we were in the correct spot after finding the hairpin at the bottom of the hill. Most of the lap can still be driven, as it is on presently used roads. The foundations of the old pits can still be seen under the long grass and weeds. There are still some old concrete steps after the hairpin, which were obviously used as a spectator point. There is absolutely no other sign whatsoever, that only thirty years ago, this was the location of the French Grand Prix. A little sad really. If only I spoke French. I’m sure the locals would have a tale or two.

    On the same day, we drove to Le Mans. As it was a Sunday afternoon, a bike meeting was coming to an end on the shorter Bugatti layout. After walking around the paddock and around the outside of La Sarthe as far as you can, it was time to drive the Mulsanne straight. A lot more of the circuit is a road than I had previously thought. It is amazing to see the same row of trees on the left as you enter the Mulsanne, as have always been there. We headed to Arnage for the night.

    I was a bit of a disappointment, after a long drive, to not be able to have a good look at the Charade circuit in Clermond Ferrand. There was some sort of corporate day on. We viewed what we could from the road.

    After almost a week in Andorra and Spain, it was time for more famous circuits. One of the earliest childhood memories I have, is watching the 1977 Monaco GP, from high on the hill as a three year old. Jody Sheckter won for Wolf that day. It was however, the red Ferraris of Lauda and Reutemann, that had me captivated. It was very interesting to return there. A shame it wasn’t for the GP this time around. Many photos were taken, before escaping the heat of the sun. I can’t remember the name of the place, but there is a bar with an excellent collection of memorabilia on display as well as a fine selection of beers..

    In the harbour, was a yacht I had done some work on in Florida in 1997. A 150ft long monster by the name of “Dream”. Pity I wasn’t invited onto the aft deck to sip champagne and nibble caviar. Fat chance. Last time I saw her, I was cleaning out the grey water tanks for $10hr!

    The roads above Monte Carlo are some of the finest driving roads I have seen. It goes without saying, I tried to kill the Pug on every hairpin turn. It is now I wished I had my hands on something with some more poke. Oh well, maybe next time.

    On the Italian side of the boarder there are more drivers roads to be found. The twisties in the mountains above the Cinque Terra were the best we encountered in the whole of Europe. Lack of traffic made them even better. Well worth a look if you are in the area.

    List choices of Italian tracks to visit are many. Imola was first on the agenda. The GP circuit is located in a public park. You are able to drive around on the inside and the outside, but not access the black top itself. I was surprised to see a tour bus full of Brazilian school kids. Obviously there to see the place, their hero, the late great Ayrton Senna lost his life. Tamborello.

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    On the way to Monza, a stop at Marenello was a must. Although a factory tour proved to be impossible (not for lack of trying), this town is Ferrari. With Fiorano, the museum and all of the Ferrari memorabilia shops, it is a must for any Tifosi. Unfortunately there were only a few Alfas at Fiorano. The F1 boys were already at Hockenheim, this being the Thursday before the GP. The museum is enjoyable, if rather small. An excellent engine display section, was the highlight for me. Many dollars could be spent on the massive array of Ferrari products available in the shops. Anything from pencils to an 1/8th scale V12 engine for a lazy 8000 euros.

    The pit area and grandstand at Monza was having major work done for the upcoming Italian GP. This ment the workers had their trucks on the main straight. This also ment there was a gate open, leaving enough room for a Peugeot wagon to venture onto the holy ground! We drove a lap very slowly, stopping to take photos and take a closer look at different details. Nobody paid any attention to us at all. I was even more enthralled by the old banking, which is totally intact. Those drivers must have been completely mad. Bumpy, steep and unbelievably fast.

    After another week of touring through Slovenia, Croacia, Austria we entered Germany. We had planned to go to Prague, but had neglected to get a visa. I wasn’t aware Australians needed a visa for any European country. More homework required next time. We went to Stuttgart instead. The Porsche museum is a bit of disappointment. No joy with factory tours here either. The Mercedes museum on the other hand, is first class. The collection of prewar Grand Prix cars is almost beyond belief. Highly recommended if you are in this part of Germany.

    Ring time. At least half the reason I am on this trip is to drive the Nurburgring. It has been a dream for many many years. I was not to be disappointed. I had originally planned to hire a Caterham for a few days. Without going into detail, it was not available. The 66kw, 1350kg barge would be my race car for the next 4 days. We had arrived for the Thursday afternoon session, starting at 5.45pm. We had sat on 180km\h most of the day, to get there on time. After stripping the car of everything not required, seats, tools, all of our gear ect, it was ticket time. Money is simply inserted into a vending machine for the required number of laps. The issued ticket is then merely placed into the slot and the boom gate rises. You are now on the Nordschleife, the longest and most feared racing circuit on the planet.

    The first few laps are more than a little intimidating. I knew the layout from driving “Grand Prix Legends” and watching various incar footage, over the years. That said, to go out assuming you know this place without driving it previously, would be suicide. Against the advice given to me, I decided to time my laps with a stopwatch. Just to know if I was improving my own times. The amount of bikes and Porsches that began to fly past in the first 60 seconds of the lap has got me watching the mirrors more than the road ahead. After four petrifying laps, I decide to call it a day. I need more pressure in the tyres in a big way. Toward the end of the session a yellow GT3 pulled up in the car park. None other than Walter Rohl was taking people for hot laps. Naturally I asked what was involved in making that happen. No chance. I did get my photo taken with him though.

    Friday was spent in the paddock of the GP circuit, looking at the machinery which would be competing in the Old Timer Grand Prix. More on that later.

    I had now decided to spend the whole day on Saturday at the Nordschleife. The car park alone was a fascinating display of horsepower toys. Mostly race prepared, road registered weapons. Most with cages, race seats and harnesses. As well as doing a few hot laps myself, I was just as interested in being taken for a ride in something quick. This presented itself in the form of a well set up BMW E30 M3, driven by a seriously experienced English chap by the name of Wayne. He and his mates drive from England to the Ring on every available weekend to do 60 or 70 laps for fun. Seeing the “green hell” from this angle, rates as one of the best experiences of my live thus far. In Wayne’s words: “About as much fun as you can have with your trousers on”. Later in the day, I also managed to wrangle a ride in an Evo 2 Lancia Delta Intergrale with 300hp. Nice.

    In total we completed six laps on Saturday. I found myself stuck in the 10.30’s. 10.34, 10.33, 10.34…… The Pug was okay on the downhill sections. Uphill it was atrocious. All I could do, was plant the right foot and wait a few decades for the thing to climb. With 40 PSI in the tyres, my confidence was building. Tomorrow I would press on a little more.

    The Old Timer Grand Prix is another very good historic event. On the Saturday evening, a race for 50’s and 60’s sportscars is run into the darkness. Sitting up on the hill enjoying some German beers, it gave a slight insight into what it must have been like to be at Le Mans back in the day.

    Sunday would be spent watching some racing followed by a final five laps of the real Nurburgring. The series run in Europe for ex-F1 cars, is brilliant. A Tyrell six wheeler, Lotus 77 and Mc Laren M23 all in the same race. Great stuff. The sportscars and touring cars were also impressive. I really enjoyed seeing the alloy bodied Alfa GTA in action. Another had passed me (very sideways) into Adenauer Forst, on Thursday evening. Dad even managed to grab a photo of that happening.

    I collected another five lap pass for the Nordschleife, late in the afternoon. I pushed harder this time, managing to pass a few 911’s, a Maserati and even a few bikes. The ABS bit me rather hard into Wehrseifen. For a second, I thought was going to end up in the fence. Glad I didn’t, as apparently one pays for ones armco by the metre here! The car was sliding at the very limit on almost every down hill bend. On my final lap I got a good clean one in. 10.25 was the final time from bridge to gantry. I don’t think an SW is capable of much more. Not in my hands anyway. In retrospect, it was sensible to drive something like this on the first visit. Next time I will be ready for a clubman or something of that nature. There will be a next time within five years.

    We visited Spa on the other side of the Belgian boarder, the following day. We watched some club cars circulate before checking out the old Spa. Unlike Rouen, some of the old circuit is marked with signs. Masta was very easy to find. Inconceivable that old F1 cars would exit this just centimetres from the front steps of somebody’s home, at 180mph! No wonder Jimmy Clark hated the place.

    Zandvoort , in Holland was to be the final track visited. The sand dunes of an expensive seaside resort town, is a strange place to find a race track. When it is in one of the most expensive and highly populated countries or all, it is even more bizarre. Surely it’s location alone, must mean it’s days are numbered. We found a 400hp/600kg, road registered clubman to be quite a sight to behold. More Ferraris and Porsches were also being mercilessly thrashed within an inch of their life.

    All told, for a car nut, this is a fine way to spend a holiday. Many memories that will last a lifetime. The Nurburgring WILL be revisited.

    Cheers,

    Cal. cheers!
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  2. #2
    Gone Fishin' Ray Bell's Avatar
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    Originally a part of Cal's most interesting post
    <strong>.....Inconceivable that old F1 cars would exit this just centimetres from the front steps of somebody’s home, at 180mph! No wonder Jimmy Clark hated the place.....
    Ah, what a trip! The disappointments may have been real, but the adventure and the things you managed to do will be solid memories for a long, long time...

    Oh, and those steps... just to show you aren't kidding...

    <img src="http://www.ddavid.com/formula1/images/spa.jpg" alt=" - " />

  3. #3
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    Cal, that rates as probably the most interesting post ever on this forum. Brilliant. I'm jealous...

    Good on ya.

    Stuey


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  4. #4
    UFO
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    Great story Cal. Mrs UFO and I are heading to France and UK next year, so I look forward to seeing some of the same sites as you have.

    Check your email for more pls

    Craig K
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  5. #5
    Fellow Frogger! neil's Avatar
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    Who cares?

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  6. #6
    Fellow Frogger! billtran's Avatar
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    Please post some pictures up!

    I'm so jealous!!!
    You're not paranoid if everyone hates you.

  7. #7
    1000+ Posts CHRI'S16's Avatar
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    WOW Cal, cheers to you. Awesome trip mate.
    I agree great post. I can empathise with you on speaking with Sir Jack, i met and spoke with him twice over the weekend of the 2000 Indy car GP at Surfers. How humble is he?, still very much a rev head though.
    I have a homemade VCD of a tricked up Supra doing the ring (north loop of course) in 7:48. Not bad considering he did it with plenty of traffic.
    The guy is a rich Kiwi, who bought an imported Supra and did it up in the UK, took it over and spent 5 whole days learning the track and then setting that time.
    -chris

    ps, pictures please.
    ... ptui!

  8. #8
    Too many posts! JohnW's Avatar
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    Cal:

    Cal. cheers!
    Cal,

    Thanks for a wonderful write up. Much appreciated, your efforts in bothering to share this.

    I can understand your comments about the atmosphere. 7 years ago I worked in Nottingham for 4 weeks, and visited the Donington collection - awesome, just awesome, and they had a newly restored Auto Union, an Alfa Bimotore and a dismantled Cisitalia if I remember. Only disappointment was no Vanwall. Amazing collection. All I need now is to hear a V16 BRM.

    I went to a Vintage Sports Car Club Hillclimb at Shelsley Walsh, the oldest operating motor sport venue in the world. It was somewhere beyond bliss and heaven combined. Even the car park. Three years ago we fitted in another.

    The paddock had some just amazing machinery - a variety of English hillclimb specials, dating back to the 1920s, and then a large range of classic machines. No fewer than 5 ERAs if I remember, a type 51 Bugatti, sundry Speed 6 and 8 litre Bentleys, a V12 Lagonda, Delahayes and the usual range of supercharged MG and Austin 7 variants, a Lea Francis (A Hyper-Leaf, the supercharged one) and on and on and on and on.

    I can't ever remember such excitement apart from the first couple of Adelaide Grand Prix events as a local resident. I saw Fangio there, right beside me, driving that Moss-Jenkinson 300 SLR on the Mount Barker Road. It's hard to imagine such machinery being in Australia, but there it was.

    Let's hope a few more of us can write up accounts of these events.

    Thanks again,

    JohnW
    JohnW

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  9. #9
    1000+ Posts Pugnut403's Avatar
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    WOW!!!!!
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  10. #10
    nJm
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    I just can't believe no one else has mentioned the insanity of racing a leased 307 Hdi SW .
    Nick
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  11. #11
    Gone Fishin' Ray Bell's Avatar
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    I don't believe it was being raced...

  12. #12
    Fellow Frogger!
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    AWESOME holiday. Exactly what I want to do. Except I'd like to add a couple of things like catching a F1 GP and a tarmac rally like Corsica or San Remo.

    SOOOO jealous, top effort!!! head_ban cheers! a_drink

  13. #13
    1000+ Posts n b j's Avatar
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    Walter Rohl was taking people for hot laps. Naturally I asked what was involved in making that happen
    Yeah I met him a few years back on the Targa Tasmania. He borrowed an original Porsche 550 Spyder from the museum in Stuttgart. It was completely unmodified and even had the original old skinny tyres (with new custom made rubber of course). At one stage I was following him through a very windy road and we were crusing along at 90Mp/h and in some straight bits it wound out to over 100mph. I was strungling to keep up and my 911 had much more BHP, much bigger and better tyres and much better handling. It was just amazing whatching this car infornt of me being driven on the absolute limit by him.
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  14. #14
    Cal
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    That would have been quite the sight to behold! I love 550's. I saw a replica at Laguna Seca a few years ago (there were real ones there too), with a 930 motor in it. Imagine that! Which 911 do you have?

    Cal.
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