The perfect holiday?
Adrenaline, camaraderie, liberation, pilgrimage and octane. LOTS of octane.
Four days at the Nurburgring, two of which would be on bikes, two days at Spa, an incredible cross country drive demonstrating some of the most verdant, beautiful coniferous green lands between Germany and Belgium and a solid helping of 30 deg heat throughout is surely a recipe for any petrol head.
Include the tools of surgery, them being two green GT3 RS’s and two Nissan GTR’s, and we’re either going to get into a massive fight or gain divine insight into the makings of automotive heaven.
The bravado had started months before, of course. Depending on which car you owned, the GTR was either an extraordinarily advanced automotive equivalent of HAL, leaving very little for the driver to do, or a revolutionary step in motoring, raising the bars of expectation. Similarly, the GT3 was either a prehistoric remnant of a romantic ideal no longer suitable for today’s audience, or it was a precision, scalpel like device that rewarded it’s drivers as much as it demanded from them. Either way, hearts would be broken, egos bruised and lap times championed.
It still surprises me just how much attention the green RS gets both on the road and in the paddocks. Put two of these cars together and the effect is amplified further. On motorways, other enthusiasts jostle, sometimes dangerously, as they undertake, overtake and pull over, with cameras in hand, just to be part of the convoy. The two GTR’s equally attractive, doing their bit for the decepticons, resplendent in their high tech paint work echoing shadows of Transformers-like aggression.
The three evening sessions Thursday to Saturday at the Nurburgring are to be the most sane of the whole week. As the weather showed signs of glory, every car club in northern Europe descended upon the place creating both a Mecca for car fans, but also frustration for those wanting to do some laps. Most people choose to use the ring carpark for posing, with many others having to queue for up to an hour just to get into the car park. Saturday we couldn’t even get on to the track as some banzai driver binned his car on his first out lap, causing the circuit to close for the whole day.
That’s the risk out there. I must have counted at least 15 trashed cars in 4 days and countless ambulances ferrying drivers to the nearest hospital. Its both a problem and, perversely, part of the attraction as adrenaline addicts flock to do the (£15!!) laps, oblivious to the threat of death. With tyres squealing at 165MPH, there simply is no time to contemplate mortality.
Sunday, being the only true all-day tourist day, open from 8am until 7pm, was a true comedy day. To think that our actions were completely legal must have been a sick joke upon the Germans. As a group of four, we bullied our way across the ring as we raced, raved and raped the german track and its inhabitants. Back into the ring car park, I removed my sweat drenched helmet and felt with guilty pleasure the buzz of having enjoyed yet another eight minutes of knife edge recreation unavailable anywhere else in the world.
So which car is the ring daddy? No doubt about it, the GTR is simply unbeatable. It quite literally has been built with a single purpose in mind, to dominate the ring and it does with aplomb. The GT3’s are out powered, out handled and out techno’d by a car fit for the 21st century. Not only does it have enough power to rotate the ring around the car itself, but its clever 4WD system makes the deploying of that power so damn efficient, it does not waste a single BHP in transition. The ring has many uphill sections which makes mince meat out of the normally aspirated GT3’s, without the torque, they just cannot compete.
Still, there’s no doubt that the Nissans are one track wonders. With soaring transmission and engine oil temps, the cars are unable to do more than one lap effectively. Add to that a 4 lap fuel tank, melting tyres and overheating brakes and the allure starts to diminish.
If lap times are your ultimate goal, then the GTR is unbeatable, but there are huge compromises as mentioned. The RS’s in contrast are bulletproof in comparison. Respectively, the Porsches are back-to-basics cars with little technology aside from chassis and handling expertise.
Incidentally, we did two laps of the ring on our mountain bikes. If you have a cycling interest then you MUST attempt this opportunity. We did the bike ride during an endurance race at the ring. It really was a spectacular, challenging and unique ride that had you following the 24km circuit around the outside.
Spa was a totally different story and all were amazed at the stark differences in car performance between the Nissans and the Porsches. To put it bluntly, the GT3’s were right at home as the cars were surgically woven from one bend to another in the fast, rapid switchbacks offered at Spa. The 1800kg weight on the GTRs could offer no comfort to any amount of technology as the GT3’s danced from one section to the next, deftly balancing braking, power and chassis dynamics.
Finished off a wonderful day at Spa by destroying a set of rears with some synchronised drifting with Richard Meaden. He was at Spa with a Porsche GB Gen 2 GT3 press car, Dickie can peddle and made for many awesome laps. When my fuel trip computer showed “– miles” in range, I then stayed out for another 5 laps, thats how much I was enjoying myself at risk of coasting the starved engine to a standstill. Got some nice drift footage which I’ll put up as soon as I get the DVD.
Edit: here it is
But the most memorable snapshot I brought back with me is an insanely beautiful drive across Europe as we took a scenic route between Germany and Belgium. Suddenly, lap times don’t matter and all we’re interested in is the noise of each others’ downshifts and throttle blips, no matter the car of choice. As we briskly accelerate between narrow tree lined roads, the sound of our exhausts reverb off the low walls bouncing back into our open windows hand in hand with the glorious sunshine of middle Europe.
It really is a defining experience of what makes the perfect motoring moment. The unnecessary heel and toeing, the intentional aggressive throttle between 3k-4k rpm, forcing the butterfly valves on the exhaust silencers to open and close at will and the physical leaning into each and every bend making the travel across this time locked land a magical experience as we chased the sun into the west.
I am naturally biased but with £100k in the bank, would I choose a GT3 again, or buy a GTR and put £40k away? Let me just say I have no regrets.
Edit: First video posted. Host car is Glenn’s, chasing mine.