Classic cars training at the Nürburgring
There’s a feeling of uneasiness in the air. The chief instructor has just welcomed his guests and is telling them about reaching 303 km/h along the Fuchsröhre, forces of 5.5g and speeds of 350 km/h at Döttinger Höhe. "But we’re not doing that today," he quickly adds. The faces of the 60 or so people present relax immediately. "That’s what Timo Bernhard achieved during his record drive on the 'Northern Loop' in the Porsche 919 Hybrid. But today, it’s just all about having a fun, enjoyable experience."
This is the classic cars training part of the Porsche Track Experience at the Nürburgring Northern Loop circuit. Here, it’s not about record times, but about "getting to know your car better, experiencing the Northern Loop and, above all, going home grinning from ear to ear".
Basic and warm-up training
Is there anything better than exploring the world’s most thrilling racetrack in a classic Porsche? Certainly not for the lovers of 356s, 911s and trans-axles. They come from all over Europe, many of them by road. Some even undertake trips of 1,000 kilometres to get here. And the numbers continue to grow, as driving a classic Porsche is becoming ever more popular. And it’s no wonder: There could hardly be more emotion per cc, per decibel of sound and per square millimetre of metal.
An old Porsche is a valuable item. Not just in an emotional sense. This is why everyone wants to take theirs back home with them safe and sound. Including the many participants who have never experienced the smell of burning rubber on the Northern Loop. As it makes the participants feel more at ease before they take on the 'Green Hell' the next day, the instructors start off the training with the basics – knowledge of driving physics. This is carried out in the driving safety area beside the Grand Prix circuit.
This warm-up on the day before the actual training can also be booked as an extra. Rudi, for example, did just this: "I’d never been to the Northern Loop before and I’d like to get around here quickly," says the Schwetzingen native, laughing. He received the training session in his own 993 S from 1997 as a gift from his son. Alexander from Erlangen also wants to finally try out his 964 from 1990 in a sporting setting. In a safe environment, of course. This is where the warm-up featuring slalom drills, µ-split braking and, in particular, drift exercises on the wet circuit really come into play. They leave a lasting impression on the participants. Just like the advice from the instructors. They give a lot of time to the participants throughout the entire warm-up, which enables them to determine exactly how they are doing and give some valuable tips and tricks for the drive, including from the passenger seat if desired.
How to deal with bends
As historic Porsche vehicles need to be driven differently compared to modern models on one of the world’s most difficult racetracks, a little theory is not only necessary, but also important from a safety perspective – just like at all events in the Porsche Track Experience. Consequently, there is a meeting discussing how to deal with bends on the evening before the big event. "Classic cars should avoid all kerbs," the instructors say there. "Because they are usually slippery and will disrupt the older vehicle. The chassis of young Porsche cars can do much more. And their electronics can fix driving errors simply and safely." There are also bends such as Aremberg, for example, which should be approached differently without ABS than with a vehicle with braking assistance. Load changes are also usually somewhat more pronounced in the case of classic cars – drivers of old 911s in particular should therefore always keep the vehicle going and not abruptly take their foot off the pedal. But then there is no end to the enjoyment. Even if it is raining, which is always a possibility in the Eifel and particularly on the Northern Loop. But then you’ll need to move your classic Porsche like "hedgehogs reproducing", as they say. A knowing smile passes through the group.
Time for vehicle check
A mandatory vehicle check is carried out by experienced Porsche mechanics before the training begins, and before the participants head on to the Nürburgring. After all, the loads acting upon all components can be very extreme. "We check the tread and age of the tyres, as well as the brakes and brake fluid. If the water content exceeds 3 per cent, bubbles can form and the vehicle will no longer be able to decelerate reliably," explains Porsche mechanic Jens.
Small to medium-sized problems are fixed there and then. This also applies to technical defects during training, which are always possible in the case of old vehicles. "When it’s wet, ignition problems can occur," says Jens. "The magnetic switches of the starters sometimes spin when it gets hot." Additionally, a plastic clamp on the accelerator cable might break, a fan might have too much play, the windscreen wiper may need to be activated, the shift linkage might have to be adjusted. Then the car park next to the track turns into a workshop.
Margret and Bernd from Mayen, the friendly guardians of the track, comfort the waiting participants. The couple has been looking after the car park and gateway at the entrance to the Northern Loop for the last eight years. "We are delighted to see every vehicle that pulls up to the track," says the 73-year-old motor sports enthusiast. "It reminds me of when I turned up here in my Fiat 1500 when I was young." The couple, who have been married for 53 years, embody the fun that awaits the aspiring racing drivers. "We’re always in a good mood!"
Finally, first laps on the 'Green Hell'
The participants’ spirits will be even higher when they receive their walkie-talkies and headphones. Then it’s finally time to take to the black tarmac of the 'Green Hell'. The first laps are undertaken slowly in groups of eight in order to get to grips with the 73 bends on the track. One instructor drives in front of each group in the current 911 GT3, and one behind. They are specially trained to put themselves in the position of the drivers behind them and to respond to their needs at any time. They can also see everything – steering and observation technique, driver reaction to load changes, sitting posture – everything must be right. Not so easy with a track width of just 12 metres and an elevation gain of 300 metres between the lowest and highest points. Suggestions for improvement are provided throughout the entire guided laps as well as compliments for perfectly implemented instructions.
The groups are divided up shortly after. This gives the more confident drivers the opportunity to step things up, while the others can focus more on their driving technique and ideal line. Then, practically right from the start, you will have increased adrenaline levels and optimal driving thrills.
"After the first lap, I was covered in sweat," confesses Porsche driver Björn, "but then..." Then the enjoyment kicks in – the roar of the boxer engines, the smell of patinated leather, the scent of petrol over the Eifel. Up to 96 cars can tear around the famous 20-kilometre track at the Nürburgring at the same time. Tradition meets precision – mastering the track which opened in 1927 between extinct volcanoes in an old sports car from Zuffenhausen, getting better, more precise and faster with every passing lap, is a truly unforgettable experience. You can take a break after one, two or, at most, three laps, depending on your personal preferences, to compose yourself, take a break and have a drink. And, of course, for a little petrol talk here and there. After all, everybody shares the same passion here. And that brings everybody together.
The highlight, and conclusion, is the opportunity to partake in open driving sessions for those who want to. This requires maximum concentration, as now it’s down to you, and you alone. You need to recall the ideal line; you are fully responsible for the valuable piece of machinery you are controlling. However, with a little respect for the car and the track, the 'classics on the classic' is all about fun, above all else.
Secure a ride as a co-driver
The professionals will show the participants how fast a lap of the Northern Loop can be completed in a classic racing car. And the lucky participants whose names are selected from draw will even secure a ride in the car as co-driver. Then you will go through Hatzenbach, Hohe Acht, Bergwerk and Brünnchen, some of the most famous sections of the Northern Loop, in cars such as the 964 or 993 Cup Racer from the Porsche Museum. Why not come and see for yourself this year?