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  Author    A tail of five circuits  (currently 4,526 views)
Graham Bichard
Posted on: July 20th, 2019, 14:13:49 Quote Report to Moderator
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Something a little bit different you might be interested in, maybe not.
If you've followed my MM build from the early days you may remember seeing a young helper in the background of some of the photos, passing/losing spanners and screwdrivers in a bid to help.
Well that little helper finished his GCSE's in June which begs a couple of questions - have I really been building the car that long, and am I really that old?  The answer I'm afraid to both is yes!
Anyway my wife suggested, because of the hard work George had put in for his revision that it would be good to reward him by taking him away on a road trip.  Needless to say I thought this was a great idea - he really did put the effort in studying for his exams.
So we thought about what he might like to do and I did some preliminary planning - Route Napoleon down to Monaco to do a lap of the circuit there?  Perhaps going over the Stelvio on the way to Milan for a pizza and a look at Monza perhaps?  The North Coast 500 perhaps (or some of it at least)?
So last Thursday I packed the camping gear (which his younger brother saw me doing - 'What you doing?' 'Just clearing the shed out, now off you go!'), and come last Friday and we told George what we'd planned and what did he want to do/where did he want to go.  His first choice was to go to the British GP at Silverstone.
Okay, let's head down that way and we'll see if we can get tickets for the race, so while I drove George googled only to find out that the race on Sunday was sold out.
Hmm... okay, so what shall we do now - where do you want to go?  By the time we'd gotten to the first services stop we had a plan - 'Go to the Nurburgring for a lap'.

Excellent, I thought you might have said that first (and I'd put a bit of thought into this option) - how do you fancy going down to Brooklands, spending a day at Mercedes-Benz World before going over to Nurburgring, also having a day in Spa before visiting Zandvoort before getting the ferry home? Great.
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Graham Bichard
Posted on: July 20th, 2019, 14:29:22 Quote Report to Moderator
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So I'd googled and found a couple of Premier Inn's near Brooklands and we headed down there for the Friday night - all normal stuff apart from the fire alarm going off at 0100hrs!  But by mid-morning we were at MB-World:

We're both now MB fans being lucky enough to buy a W204 diesel estate a few years ago but I've got to say, while MB-World is basically a glorified car showroom it does have some really nice cars, some interesting displays and being free for the most part, is a great day out.  Both Geo and I agreed the C63 Black would probably be our car of choice for the trip having enough space for the camping gear and being a great tool for a lap of the Ring:

Closely followed by the AMG GTR which was a lovely colour (Emerald Green) which looked black in some light, a wonderful dark metallic green in direct sun:

The exploded F1 car was interesting:

If for no other reason than to show the 'basics' are exactly the same as a modenr road car (though obviously built of the very best materials, to the very best of standards).
One other car there did catch my eye, and I couldn't help but thinking would be another perfect European road trip companion:

Perhaps the most elegant way of travelling.

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Graham Bichard
Posted on: July 20th, 2019, 14:42:59 Quote Report to Moderator
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As well as the displays that were put on, on the MB test track (by the Silver Arrows display team) we were able to watch the British GP F1 qualifying session while there:

After a full day at MB World, including walking out to the start of the Brooklands banked section nearby we went to fill up seeing another section of banking over the road before setting out for Dover and a cheap, overnight ferry:

We got caught in a road closure on the M20 (I think) which slowed us down getting to Dover, but we had plenty of time, had something to eat and took a walk around before going in to catch the ferry:

It's good to see there appears to be a bit of regeneration going on in Dover - a new marina looks to be almost complete in the outer harbour area, along with refurbishment of some of the buildings near the port entrance.  All the years of travelling through Dover, and my childhood holidays being in that part of the world (my father was from Kent), it was sad to see Dover a bit 'down at heel'.  Hopefully things are turning a corner for them.
On entering the port we were offered an earlier DFDS ferry crossing.  Okay, but if we drive through to the Ring that'll mean we arrive in the very early hours.  Not really a problem as I 'd read that the run direct from Dunkirk to Spa/Nürburgring isn't the most interesting.
It took perhaps 5 hours to get to Nurburgring - no need to press on so nice and steady and 50-ish mpg, when we passed Spa before turning East to the Ring, the whole circuit appeared to be lit up.  I'm assuming it was Spa lit up, down in the valley to the right - I can't think what else it would've been.
As we approached the Ardennes/Eifel the weather took a bit of a turn for the worst being misty and damp, but at 0600hrs we arrived:

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Graham Bichard
Posted on: July 20th, 2019, 15:10:21 Quote Report to Moderator
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Arriving so early we went looking for the Camping am Nürburgring campsite - this was where I stayed years ago when living out in Germany and visiting the Ring.  The gate guard advised coming back at 0800hrs to talk to the Reception so we went to get an hours shut-eye, finding a spot (I later discovered) on part of the old Sudschleif.
When we went back to the campsite the guy on Reception informed us he could only offer us a pitch if we booked for a full 7 days as there was a Truck racing event this next weekend and he was expecting to fully book out for the week.  Not planning or wanting to stay for a full week we drove to the Ring entrance for a look around and think over our plans - should we go to Spa and base ourselves there and spend a day back at the Ring?
Anyway, there was some very nice cars in the entrance carpark:

As the day wore on (it was still only 0900hrs) the weather improved so we decided to stay - I'd seen a sign for another campsite we would look at) and while we're here and it's a tourist day - let's do a lap!
Unfortunately my action camera failed to record the lap but it was good none the less although the whole scene has changed somewhat since I last visited years ago (probably around 2004/05).  The whole place seems to be incredably busy and within a few corners of joining the track we saw a minor coming together between a (British I think) BMW track car and a Suzuki Swift track-hire car.
When I used to come down to the Ring for a weekend on the bike I remembered the British being 'poor' drivers on the track, and unfortunatelty I saw nothing during this visit to persude me otherwise.  Speaking to another Brit in the carpark who had also visited the Ring numerous times over the years had a similar veiwpoint too.
The fully loaded diesel estate aquitted itself well - I'd packed it carefully so nothing moved around, changed the oil before setting out on the trip and had the garage look the car over the week before as part of the MoT.  The brake pedal did get a bit soft halfway through the lap (but never got any worse, and I wasn't really going for it as I have in years past on track days), but this could be because the brake fluid is due changing at the next service.
What I did notice is that the speed of the cars doing a lap seems to have gone up somewhat.  By this I mean there were a great number of Porsche 911 GT3's and BMW M3's, Porsche Boxsters etc flying around.  While I thoroughly approave of these erformance car being used as intended the driving standards don't seem to have accelerated by the same amount.  Perhaps I'm just getting old...
Anyway, we did get a couple of clear patches on the way around - including the Caroussel which I went 'through' for the first time albeit gently.  In the past I've always gone around the outer, smoother part.  Lap in the bagwe went to find the campsite.
Essentially this was some guys back garden and while not exactly flat we found out that a couple were packing up and leaving who had the flattest pitch.  We waited for them to pack up and moved in:

While basic this is definitely somewhere I'd use again.
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Graham Bichard
Posted on: July 20th, 2019, 15:37:37 Quote Report to Moderator
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It's called 'Campingplatz Meuspath am Nurburgring' in case you find yourself over there and like I say is basic (four individual toilets, male/female shared sinks/showers and a cold water sink for dishes) but more than adequate and half the price (¤10 pppn) than Camping Am Nürburgring.
After setting up the tent we had a quick hours kip before going back to the Ring.  This too has changed since I was last there - it looks like they've tried to emulate Le Mans (with the fairground they have there) with the roller coaster, climbing frame etc. but the new concourse is quite impressive.
There was an event going on, on the Sunday.  As we approached the concourse a couple approached and gave us their tickets - they'd obviously been there all morning and were about to leave, we were arriving mid-afternoon.  This was very good of them.
So we had something to eat (Currywurst) before going into the GP circuit where they were holding a drift competition, drag racing (bikes and cars) on the start/finish straight, stunt riders, sprint competitions etc:

They also had a small, plastic car which I recognised - no, not an MM but this:

Now no matter how many times I asked him, I couldn't get Geo to sit on this.  Why did I want him to?  Because he had a Bobby car when he was small and loved it!  He went everywhere on it, wearing out the toes on numerous pairs of shoes!
Of all the cars present this 993 911 caught my eye:

Last modified July 20th, 2019, 16:41:59 by Graham Bichard
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Graham Bichard
Posted on: July 20th, 2019, 15:45:20 Quote Report to Moderator
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We left the GP circuit to go to one of the bars outside the track where we sat down with other Brit's to watch the British GP:

There's a very nice statue of Fangio at the entrance to the concourse:

On the way back to the campsite we called in again to the Nordschleif entrance only to find a Czech car transporter unloading, including a Lamborghini Huracan Performante and a Ferrari 458 Speciale:

It turned out their was a Nordschief track day the following day (Monday) and as we'd see these cars were taking part in that.

Last modified July 20th, 2019, 16:43:03 by Graham Bichard
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Graham Bichard
Posted on: July 20th, 2019, 16:05:05 Quote Report to Moderator
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So  on the Monday we had a lie in.  On the way back to the Ring we decided to try and trace a little bit more of the Sudschlief.  This it turns out passes directly outside of the Camping am Nürburgring campsite and is signposted (street name) down towards Mullenbach.  Anyone interested in these old circuits should look at 'Circuits of the Past' website - I'd downloaded ebook which detailed the Sudschief on my phone by chance).
After this we drove around the Nordschlief, stopping every now and then to take a walk.  It was while doing this that we found a tunnel leading under the track towards the centre of the track.  We decided to walk around the inside of the track as we weren't far from the Carrousel.  While there were signs stating that you weren't allowed too close to the track there was obviously areas that it was possible to get right alongside the Armco and watched the track day taking place:

When we got to the Carrousel we couldn't get right up close (for the classic Carrousel photos) as there was an official photographer just outside the Armco.
We returned to the GP track where there was open access to the paddock and watched the track day/test session going on.  To be able to get up close to some very desirable road cars and some GT race cars was great.  Amongst the road cars there were many from the Porsche Club of Alsace, one of which was a new 911 GT2RS.  We saw three in attendance that day (four if you include the 993 GT2) one of which was on the track and was immensely fast - as quick if not quicker down the start/finish straight than the race cars:

New Aston Martin Vantage race car.

The GT2RS has the black (carbon fibre) bonnet.  We watched the owner filling the water tank in the front bonnet area with distilled water - I'm not sure if this is for water injection or charge cooling, but it was great to see this car being really driven.

Last modified July 20th, 2019, 16:44:16 by Graham Bichard
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Graham Bichard
Posted on: July 20th, 2019, 16:18:15 Quote Report to Moderator
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Tuesday was when we decided to go to Spa-Francochamp for the day.  This is the only F1 race I've ever been to back in 1990 or 91.  I remember it absolutely tipped it down for the race but the day after when I left I was able to drive the Kemmel straight, dodge some cones and drive the 'new' part of the circuit before joining the public road back at Blancimont to La Source hairpin.  These days the whole circuit is ring fenced and private not public roads.
This is Geo's favourite track on Forza and probably the best track on the F1 circuit (in my opinion):.  Luckily there was a track day going on again and with the outer access gates open we were able to get access to walk around the whole circuit:

Eau Rouge really is impressive - imagine taking this flat out in a downforce equipped car!

I think every track day car (possibly with the exception of the Caterhams) were braking going into this:

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Graham Bichard
Posted on: July 20th, 2019, 16:25:13 Quote Report to Moderator
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There was an old race car going around - I thought it might be a Lola until I saw Porsche emblazoned across the rear.  This phot isn't too clear but has anybody got any idea as to which Porsche it might be:

Unfortunately on the walkaround the course was red flagged.  We found out it was this car which had crashed:

Later in the paddock this car was on a trailer being pulled by a British registered car.
What a wonderful circuit this is - if only the weather was always like this:

Last modified July 20th, 2019, 16:38:30 by Graham Bichard
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Graham Bichard
Posted on: July 20th, 2019, 16:38:03 Quote Report to Moderator
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One the way out of the circuit we went in search of food following the old Spa circuit route.  This must've been unbelievably fast - I've looked at some YouTube footage now we're back and the Masta Kink must've been something else.
Looking for somewhere to eat we came across a Store selling motorsport parts.  Further investigation showed there to be a car collection out rear too:

(Hmm... postimg seems to have stopped working.  I'll continue this in a while)

I had to take a photo of this car - I owned a Mk2 RS2000 Custom years ago - brilliant car.  Wish I had it today:

Last modified July 20th, 2019, 16:51:56 by Graham Bichard
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Graham Bichard
Posted on: July 20th, 2019, 16:59:49 Quote Report to Moderator
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After enjoying a burger in Stavelot (a lovely town), we returned to the circuit to see if we could get access to the paddock for a few photos:
Inside La Source hairpin:

Looking down to Eau Rouge:

Last modified July 20th, 2019, 17:00:51 by Graham Bichard
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Graham Bichard
Posted on: July 20th, 2019, 17:27:15 Quote Report to Moderator
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So we returned to the Ring unfortunately too late to participate in the Tourist drives so with us leaving on the Wednesday we were only to have the one lap of the Ring - I'd have liked to take Geo around again with an empty car on a quieter (mid-week) lap but it wasn't to be.  It also gives us an excuse to return.
On the Wednesday we were heading up to Zandvoort, the plan being to catch a ferry to Newcastle on the Thursday evening.  It turns out the ferry's weren't running so we ended up booking a ferry from Hook of Holland.
However on the way up to Zandvoort we managed to max out on the Route 1 autobahn when it emptied (227km/h and quiet/stable as a rock).

We arrived at Zandvoort at 1530hrs and set out to walk around the circuit.  Now, having been to Spa the day before and the Nürburgring GP circuit the day before that I'd suggest that there is to be a lot of work needed before the F1 returns there next year.  In fact I'd suggest my local circuit Croft, is more modern than the facilities at Zandvoort.  It'll also be interesting to see F1 return to this historic circuit but both Geo and I don't think it'll be a classic race - we think there's only one possibly two passing places:

It also seemed to be that the circuit was trying to make as much money as possible in a short space of time with driving experiences - by this I mean, they had Formula single seaters (four I think following a pace car), Lamborghini driving experiences (four plus pace), BMW driving experiences (seven plus pace), Ferrari (three plus pace), Porsche (Carrera's fitted with GT3 wings - seven plus pace), AM Vantage drive experiences (three plus pace) and two drift Mustangs all on the circuit simultaneously it seemed!

After walking the circuit we located a campsite nearby (at the second attempt, the first being full) and erected the 'transit' tent:

And went for a walk along the sea front which was lovely.  All these years of passing through Holland (and Belgium) to get to the ferry I really will need to come back here and spend some more time in this area.  The weather helped (as did the ice-cream) but it really was pleasant:

Last modified July 20th, 2019, 17:41:49 by Graham Bichard
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Graham Bichard
Posted on: July 20th, 2019, 17:41:15 Quote Report to Moderator
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So the next day (Thursday) was spent taking a drive to the ferry port, arriving in Harwich at 2100hrs.  Almost immediately we encountered a road closure, the diversion adding two hours (!) onto the journey home.  But at 0215hrs Friday morning we got home after almost 1600 miles and 5 circuits - Brooklands, Nordschlief, Nürburgring GP circuit, Spa-Francochamp and Zandvoort:

I could've used the time off work to sort the MM out I suppose, but I'm so glad my missus suggested this trip - we're both very proud of George and the effort he put in and hopefully we've managed to create some memories he'll look back on fondly.  I know I enjoyed it and think he did too.
And it gives me the incentive to finish the MM and do something similar in that.  After all - I've already told his younger brother if he tries his best he too will be treated the same.  I just need to try and find a way to surprise him!

Last modified July 20th, 2019, 17:45:12 by Graham Bichard
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Neil KilBane
Posted on: July 21st, 2019, 23:29:43 Quote Report to Moderator
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just a little fine tuning left to do.

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Great trip, memories that will last a lifetime.

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Graham Bichard
Posted on: December 27th, 2019, 15:51:54 Quote Report to Moderator
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Afternoon All.  And Merry Christmas!
I'm hoping some of you out there might be able to give me some advise on another trip I'm thinking about - have any of you been to Le Mans recently?
After this past summers trip with George, my wife pointed out to me that if I wanted to go to Le Mans (24hr race not the Classic event also happening in 2020) with the boys it would need to be next year.  This because of when they will both be taking exams in 2021.
Now, I'm not yet sold on the idea - I'm not really keen on taking them out of school, but they're both studying Design & Technology so am trying to think of this as 'inspiration' if I do go ahead with this.
My questions are:
Can anyone recommend a camp site to use?  Something like the Family campsite we stayed in at Silverstone in August for the MotoGP which was reasonably quiet, had decent, clean facilities.
I would plan to travel Tuesday night/Wednesday outbound, leaving Monday after the race.
How do you get the tickets - through an agent, or direct with the ACO?
Is it worth paying extra to go through an agent (ferry ticket, campsite, entrance ticket etc.)?

I would also like to do the Classic event in the future, with the MM hopefully, but any advise that anyone can give would be appreciated (and might just convince me to go ahead with this plan).

Many thanks, and hope you have a Happy New Year
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Graham Bichard
Posted on: April 18th, 2020, 21:16:27 Quote Report to Moderator
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Well Le Mans in June's out of the window, also the Classic in July.
24hr has been postponed until September - let's hope things are heading back to normal by then, eh?

Keep well!
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