And it was terrifying.
I had wanted a RWD manual, but it turns out such a thing is hard to find these days. A lot of the RWD cars are DSGs, unless you spend the kind of money I don’t wanna pay for the kind of performance that wouldn’t be safe for an inexperienced track driver.
So I ended up with the RHD (just like home, good for me), manual, Megane 3 RS. Not bad I thought, faster than my car at home, but just a FWD hatch after all. The safe choice.
I was wrong. I forgot that a minor evolution of this car held the FWD record on this very track not so long ago. And I certainly hadn’t factored in how terrifying this track is. Suddenly the car felt overpowered. I was scared to use it all. The humble Megane felt big and intimidating and worthy of respect.
I’ll rewind a little. So I mentioned recently that I hired a Fiesta, this is why - it’s the best way to get to Nürburg for this drive I had booked. I travelled solo, staying at a quaint little hotel for two nights. I spent my time walking around the town and the trails alongside the track itself, it was a great experience.
Nürburg itself is like a small town that’s mad about cars. Given the track literally runs through it, the town is all about track cars and car renting companies, and track or otherwise sporty cars are about the only thing you’ll see.
I had always sort of wondered what was inside the Nürburgring, video games never show it you know. Turns out, lots of forest, some rolling hills, and a few other towns. There are a bunch of bridges around the track for roads and paths that you don’t really see when you’re driving on it in game or otherwise.
I got to visit a heap of famous corners on foot, mostly documented in the pics below. It was almost a religious experience to see all this stuff I’ve only ever seen on a screen, and you get a good sense of how the track is always twisting or rising or falling.
Of course, you get a better sense of this when you drive the thing.
I did four laps during touristenfahrten, the first with an instructor next to me. It was all pretty chill and normal, waiting in line to join the session, chatting cars with the instructor, surrounded by X-bows and all manner of track prepared cars. Roll up, touch your card, drive through the boom gate, merge from 3 lanes to 1, restrain yourself through the cone section, and off you go.
Instantly it becomes so real. You’re going down the end of the main straight, into those last few corners before where the finish line would be. You’ve got cars in front and behind you, some fast, some slow. You’ve got a whole span of track to use and you’re meant to be accelerating. If feels like you’ve got infinite decisions to make compared to the normal road, and the ever present pressure of safely passing cars while not holding anyone up. And all the while you’re trying to process that this is really happening, you’re doing this track in real life.
It only gets worse. You go through T13 and it’s all down hill, twisting and turning. Your instructor is trying to set you up for your future laps - “move left, start braking at that sign, brake harder, turn in at the start of that grey concrete, follow the road out to the left, move right for that Porsche, brake hard at that graffiti”. You’re trying to follow his advice but there’s so much going on. You’re nowhere near the limits of the car, the limit is your mushy ape brain. You’re just trying to stay safe-ish and hold a decent pace.
I did pretty well. Not speed wise, not at all. But I was good at watching for traffic - the motorbikes and some cars seem to materialise out of nowhere, you’ve gotta be ready. I didn’t want to crash the car I guess, very expensive mistake. I wasn’t braking hard enough which I think is common when you’re used to road driving.
I couldn’t suppress the awe of being on the actual track. There’s a set of three corners they call “miss, hit, miss”, they’re all right handers and you’re meant to join them up by only hitting the apex of the middle one, missing the other two. I liked that. I think I actually said “amazing” to the instructor as he was telling me to drop into the Karoussel.
Even on four laps you see things. I saw a Golf race car turned around in the marbles, lucky him didn’t hit anything. I got overtaken by a very old Fiesta who then locked up hard in front of me at the entrance to Karoussel, smoke everywhere but he made it. I saw a 1 series get sideways on a very fast corner, I’m pretty sure one of those Focus MPV ST things did a slide in front of me. I went to overtake a slower car and nearly got hit by an M5 ring taxi. I overtook a Porsche. No crashes during the session though.
By the end of the last lap I felt sick. The undulations really get you. The twists are one thing, you’re constantly battling not just to find the apex, but to find a straight line in which to brake properly. But the hills are something else.
One section is fox hole, fuchsröhre. It’s this twisty section down hill where you can just set the car in the middle and let the road twist around you. So naturally you can go extremely fast if you’re brave enough. But at the end you need to take a left and brake hard for an uphill corner. With traffic it’s tricky, but without its a nightmare. The faster you go, the more trouble you’re gonna be in when it’s time to brake.
There are a few sections with steep down hills followed by harsh compressions. One was combined with a braking area, something about braking in the compression, you feel it in your gut. Another section has a drop in the braking area where the car goes light. You need to brake early, lift off for the drop, then brake again. Very tricky.
A few of those drops feel like roller-coasters for a split second when you’re at the top. But a roller-coaster where you control the speed, and slow is not an option.
It was a fantastic experience and I’d recommend it to anyone who knows the track.