Everyone needs to experience the thrill of the Nürburgring | Thank Frankel it’s Friday

07th October 2022
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

Today I was meant to be writing about my participation in the Spa Six Hours last weekend, but as the car broke four hours into a six-hour race and I was due to take the final two-hour stint, it looked like I was a story short of a column. Until I thought about the bloke who was at the wheel when, through no fault of his own, the gearbox casing cracked. It was my nephew Louis, and before he got to Spa, he’d been somewhere else first.


Louis is in his mid-20s, works hard for Bonhams, and, until a few months ago, drove a 15-year-old VW Polo. But he loves cars like I love air and water so he took a deep breath and put an order in for a Toyota GR Yaris, the most brilliant hot hatch of our times. It arrived earlier in the year, so instead of going straight to Spa he and a mate went and did a tourist day at the Nürburgring first.

“It was one of the greatest things I have ever done,” was his considered opinion shortly thereafter. “It’s like nowhere else I’ve ever been,” he continued, “however much you think you have prepared yourself for it, when you get there it’s just completely different.” At which point we had to pour another beer down his throat just to shut him up.

But none of those grizzled middle-aged veterans listening to his stories in a Spa hotel would say he was anything less than entirely correct. The Nürburgring is unique and it’s actually reassuring to hear it’s still capable of blowing the mind of a comparative youngster even though he’s probably done more laps on his PlayStation than I have in real life.

Image courtesy of Motorsport Images.

Image courtesy of Motorsport Images.

I can remember my first lap. It was 1994, so I was probably two or three years older than Louis is now. I’d gone out there to try and cadge a ride in the McLaren F1 which was doing demo runs for potential customers on the ‘new’ circuit. But I was early, the Nordschleife was open, I had a few Deutschmarks in my pocket and the key to a Porsche 968 ClubSport in my hand. And you’d have done the same, too.

I seem to remember each lap cost 9DM, which was around three quid at the time, so off I tootled to find out more. And although someone had told me it was 12.9 miles long, it appeared so much longer that had there not still been painted kerbs and Armco barrier, I’d have convinced myself I’d wandered off the track and out into the Eifel Forest.

Eventually I got back to the start literally none the wiser, so set off on another lap hoping that by some strange osmotic process I’d somehow know where the track went. Not a clue. It was like I’d seen it for the first time. I probably did five laps in total by which point I knew my way through the Hatzenbach, along to Aremberg down and up the Foxhole and that was about it. A third of the track at best. And by ‘knew’ I meant I could accurately predict in which direction the track would go next. Braking, turn in, apex and exit points? You’re kidding.


How on earth did anyone learn the place? It took me two more visits, each on track day weekends, a total of four days essentially doing nothing other than lapping the circuit, to be confident enough to commit to its many blind brows, varying radii and other traps designed to ensnare the unwary or over-confident. And only then, when you could string an entire lap together without having to look at the treeline for clues as to where it might go next was its full majesty made apparent to me.

Later I was employed by the same track day company to drive punters around showing them all the places they were likely to fall off in the hope it might reduce time wasted recovering wreckage and rebuilding barriers. It worked remarkably well.

And how I wish I was where Louis is now, because despite the fact he ranks it up there alongside being born among the great days of his life, what he doesn’t know is that the best is still to come. I, on the other hand, am getting rusty. It’s been a few years and while I can mentally still do a lap in my head, I know I have to think about it harder than once I did. Maybe next year we’ll go together, discover I’ve forgotten as much as he’s remembered and both have a fabulous time getting to know it again. In fact, that’s what we’re going to do, and if I’m not writing about it this time next year, you should take me to task over it.

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