The car belonged to Mercedes-Benz Classic and they’d built it to encourage others to bring out their old Benzs and race them too, so the idea was that they’d wheel it out from time to time and let a journo and a proper racer share the drive. Next on the list after Klaus and me were Chris Harris and David Coulthard. And Mercedes, being Mercedes, they’d not only built it so it was stronger than the main vault door of the Bundesbank but so entirely standard and therefore slow I had to change down from fourth to third just to get it up the hill from Bergwerk to the Karussel. And I am not kidding.
I went first and suffered the embarrassment of struggling to keep up with the pace car on the warm-up lap, but eventually, we were off and running. We were, needless to say, right at the back of a 150-car field but I soon got into the swing of it, learning not to use the brakes unless there was literally no alternative, maintaining momentum wherever possible and making the Fintail pick up its skirts until the old girl was positively flying. Or that’s how it seemed to me.
Then I had a problem, I forget what but I think a detached plug lead, so crawled round the majority of my last lap on three cylinders while back in the pits the crew thought I’d binned it. They fixed the problem in a few seconds but what few places I’d made up had long since been lost again. Even so, Klaus was good enough to grin at me as he saddled up and re-joined the race. I stood on the pit-wall to see how close to my times this old retired racer in his 60s could get.
The answer was not close at all, but only because his first flying lap was 35 seconds faster than the fastest lap I’d done all weekend. Even at the Ring, that’s a big, fat chunk of time. I think I probably decided not to look after that because it was just embarrassing. But I did later get to see the in-car footage which showed that Klaus was not only using bits of track I’d shied away from but was also using bits of track I literally didn’t know existed. By the time we were done, Klaus had taken this hopelessly slow car from the hopeless position in which I’d given it to him and gone and won the class. With someone of the same calibre for a team-mate, he’d have probably won the race…