I should say now that the last time Palmer had been around the old ‘Ring had been 11 years previously, when he’d come third in the last ever Nurburgring 1,000km race to be held there, sharing a Porsche 956 with Keke Rosberg and Jan Lammers. ‘I think I can remember most of it,’ he said in a totally futile attempt to reassure me. Also the track was damp and had I known then what I know now about how F1s on those old tech tyres behaved in those conditions, I think I’d have run screaming from its carbon fibre cocoon.
Instead I sat back to enjoy the ride. If you’ve been driven by any world class driver, even in a slow car on a track you know inside out, it’s usually a fairly humbling experience. Do it on the world’s longest, toughest circuit and it will likely be fairly bewildering and probably completely befuddling if, like me, you’ve never been there before. Now factor in the wet weather and, most of all the fact we were in by far the fastest car ever made and you’ll have some idea what happened next, with just the additional twist being the good doctor not being entirely sure which way the track went after each blind brow. Of which there are plenty.
Not that it slowed him, not one tenth of the second. From the Hatzenbach to the Tiergarten he was on it, touching 200mph on the way down to Aremberg, about 170mph towards the bottom of the Foxhole and right past 200mph again on the straight leading to the Tiergarten. He lobbed the F1 from entry to exit of every curve, corner and chicane, overcoming its heartfelt desire to redecorate the Eifel Mountains with our body parts by sheer force of will and a simply extraordinary talent.
By the end I’ll happily admit to being a wreck, Dr Palmer highly amused and pleased with his work. To him it was just a touch of comic relief to punctuate the serious business of persuading wealthy clients to part with more money than had ever been paid for a new car. To me it remains one of the most vivid memories of my life, the moment where man, machine and one mad race track came together to provide me with an experience that, until that very moment, I could not have conceived would even have been possible.
Lead image courtesy of Palmersport