Error code 10 on a Vauxhall Insignia is a hard one to pin down. A quick google doesn’t turn up much and a bit of off tangent clicking can get you into all sorts of dark corners of the internet (bookmarks updated) although I am sure that there are a few of you reading this from the Vauxhall community either yelling at your screens or emailing me the answer. Well, in the absence of any firm technical indication I am going to have to go for “Holy crap that was fun, but play fair, I need a rest..” You see I have just spent another weekend at the famous Nurburgring and not only did I get to have some time on the Nordschleife but a 20 minute blat around the GP circuit too!
Crawling out of my warm bed for a 4:45 start did not fill me with much glee. Even the thought of whizzing through some beautiful countryside along some fantastic driving roads with the prospect of driving round the very pinnacle of racing circuits at the end cannot take the sting out of the eye creaking, woolly mouthed stagger that every sensible person has at that time of the day. Of course, there are those that are bright as a button at 5 am but these are very weird and best avoided.
A large coffee, and the prospect that I could snooze in the car made it all better and soon we were being packed into the train and ready to blast under the channel to France. Except that the loading team were all French and forgot how to pack a Eurotunnel train with cars, this did not bode well as we watched the train that was due to leave after our one slip quietly ahead of us. Then the safety announcements began… and then they were repeated… in French.
With the chorus of ‘Start the £$%&*$£ train!!’ ringing through the train at last 40 minutes later we were watching the sun come up over northern France.
The trip to the ‘Ring takes about 5 hours from my house, its a bit dull as most of it is Motorways, but the upside is that for the most part, the system is fast, efficient and you tend to get to your destination the decade you set out, unlike most of the UK network. So you can imagine our surprise that as we approached Brussels, full of excitement and ready for a weekends motor sport fun and larks we ground to a halt and then refused to move for the best part of an hour and half. All I can say is thank god for Ipad Scrabble or I think morale would have hit rock bottom. All of that faded as we hit the unrestricted Autobahns of Germany and the foot was welded to the floor and a nice healthy 200 Km/h (124MPH) was achieved on the GPS, very exciting and very useful to make up time.
The Nurburgring has changed. One wag coined the phrase ‘Nuro-Disney’ and I think he has a point, let me explain. The last time I was there, the whole experience consisted of two car parks, one overpriced place to buy coffee, a Porta-Cabin with a woman in it selling ‘Ring stickers and T-shirts that spoke no English and a hut to pay for your lap. Now the place looks like one of those god awful industrial parks that have a Cinema, Pizza Hut, Carpet Right and Halfords all sharing the same car park. There is a mass of totally pointless spaces, trendy shops, eateries and even a rollercoaster (which I was told failed its safety inspection and has never run.) The best bit is that you cant spend any money in any of the eateries… you need a special Ring card that you charge up like a pre pay card. I am waiting for them to issue ‘Ring dollars with little pictures of the track on them. The whole place stank to high heaven of ‘Cash In’ and I hated it.
So did everyone else it seems as the place was deserted. The lady who was running the showcase Nissan ‘space’ that was filled with the latest GTR in both its road and track going guises looked genuinely relieved to see our little group poke its head round the door for a squint at the cars and a bit crestfallen as we trudged out. But all was not lost and don’t let this god awful garnish of unashamed commercialism put you off in anyway because the car parks are still there stuffed with a huge variety of interesting cars and of course, the track is still as challenging, terrifying and amazing as ever.
The first lap was done very gingerly as it was raining. The ‘Ring will kill you ten times faster in the wet so a nice gentle drive was the order of the day and it was most enjoyable, like seeing an old friend, but just remember to treat this old friend with respect or you will end up dead or broke or worse both. Luckily for me I was with a bunch of the nicest guys you could ever want to meet. Each one driving a different car, each one at a different level of skill but all were friendly, welcoming and happy to talk about the track, their cars and share their experience. I cannot stress enough how important is is to go with someone with a good understanding of the Nurburgring, its a wonderful thing but you have to know what you are doing. I have to extend my thanks to you guys for once again making the trip safe and totally unforgettable.
The cars we took were a varied bunch. A bright yellow M3, a stock Insignia, a Subaru Impreza that was about as non stock as you could get and a Ford Mondeo that would soon scare the hell out of its driver. The M3 is a work in progress, but what progress has been made already is very impressive. A chat to the driver revealed that his main concern was uprating the brakes and junking the heavy leather seats in favour of something lighter. He has a bit of a reputation for removing weight wherever possible, and is not adverse to getting the grinder out to shave every last ounce of unnecessary bulk. On the track the car felt very planted, there was bucketloads of grip and the car lapped up every corner thrown at it. Power was good it never once felt out of its depth and was easily able to hold its own and although there were no ‘ohmygosh’ moments, the brakes really did feel overstretched.
I was an observer for the the other cars, so cannot really comment on how they felt but watching them on the circuits they did their respective drivers proud. The Subaru looked very at home on the GP circuit and it was smiles all round from all that drove it. Normally this is not open to the public but for 40 Euros you could take your car around this amazing track for 20 earth minutes that actually felt like seven seconds. The GP track is well worth a lap or two, its not too challenging if you keep the speed down but there are some tight turns that will catch you out. Good fun, but not in the same league as Spa, just an hour or so away, for a start there are less angry German lady officials who angrily tap signs written in German and expect you to understand that you cant take pictures from the pit lane.
This brings me nicely to the other part of the trip, the social side. After a hard day zooming in circles we headed back to our home for the night, to get ready for one of the nicest meals I have eaten in a very long time. We stayed in what can be described as a holiday chalet, but not the nasty little hovel you expect to find at Butlins. This is Germany and they really know how to do things right, this place is a large slice of heaven on earth, sorry but there is no way I am going to tell you where this place is, its my little secret! As a group we descended on a wonderful restaurant, hosted by a wonderful lady who served us, you guessed it, wonderful food. Mix in some great company and you have the perfect end to the perfect day, but we were not finished yet.
Sunday morning and we are breakfasted and ready to go home, some what grudgingly but a cheeky few laps of the ‘Ring later soon put the smiles back. A leisurely drive back to the terminal was interrupted with the suggestion of a detour to Bruges for a little light supper and a coffee. This was an unexpected stop off, but a very welcome one as Bruges is absolutely beautiful and worth a trip in itself. The pictures speak much louder than words so Ill just leave a few here.
Once again an unforgettable trip to an amazing place with some very excellent people, I’d like to thank each and every one of you. Lets do it again very soon, code 10!