The flight from Narita to Frankfurt was harsher than expected, a long flight lasting 11 and a half hours.
Though I was told “They’re probably going to stop you at Frankfurt customs with all your camping gear…”, I was able to pick everything up with no problems at all.
We rented cars when we arrived, 1 car per group.
In this tour I was also joined by two famous GT players; Japan’s fastest time trial driver who’s been flying around globally for the world of Gran Turismo, one Mr. Yamada (aka “YAM23”) and Mr. Yamanaka (aka “yamado”). Yamada had just flown back to Japan 3 days prior to leaving for the Nürburgring on June 14: He had just come back from a prize trip he earned in the “BMW Z4 Challenge“; where he was invited to the “M POWER EXPERIENCE 2014 Istanbul”. So he’s been flying around like a works team driver all over the world.
He must have been exhausted but when Yamauchi san greeted him with this grand smile, I think it made his trip well worth it.
The “GT player” group rented this BMW 520d Touring. For a long stay, diesel cars with their long range is a recommended choice; but 3 pedal manual transmissions are the mainstream in European car society, which is a bit rough for those who’ve gotten used to automatics in Japan. But I was surprised to find out this trip that if you ask for it when you make your reservation, that they will prepare an automatic for you.
As soon as we had all our gear loaded in the BMW, Yamauchi san called to me: “Alright, come with me in the GT-R on the Autobahn!”. It took a bit of time to find the language settings for the navigation that was set in German, but off to the Autobahn we went.
So not only was I on the Autobahn for the first time in my life, but I was in an R35 GT-R and with Yamauchi san driving! …A truly rare experience indeed!
On the Autobahn, there is no speed limit unless it’s a dangerous section. Even your everyday family car is doing 160km/h or more on average.
Then there we are, going over 280km/h, at a speed faster than the speed range of your everyday FIA GT3 machine! But the fact that I don’t feel any fear at all goes to say lots about the quality of the drivers behind the wheel on the Autobahn. At sections under construction with speed limits, everyone drops precisely to the specified speed. There’s definitely less drivers here who breaks the rules as compared to Japan.
I start seeing “Nürburgring” on the signs: And here’ a bit of trivia for you. Nuremburg, made famous in Japan because of a Japanese football (soccer) player is in a totally different location than Nürburg. If you misspell your destination on the nav by accident…you’re going to be in for it so be careful…
And finally, we arrive in an area where you start seeing parts of the Nordschleife, the North course of the Nürburgring. Though it’s a full week before the race, you can already hear dance music blaring from the sound systems of the campers. The drivers say they can sometimes hear the music while driving in the race, so you could imagine just how loud they are!
We arrived at the Nürburgring, where a monument modeled after castle Nürburg greets its visitors. Yamauchi san himself shows us around the paddocks, a very privileged tour to say the least!
Seeing the scenery as we arrived at the GP course paddock, I’m overwhelmed by a feeling that I can’t quite make out into words. For someone like me, who’s taken thousands of pictures of the Nürburgring in the Photo Mode of Gran Turismo, it was like “Hey, I know that pit building!” “Hey, I’ve taken pictures of that Fan Bistro Tent!!”
Its really almost impossible to put into words, but it was opposite of what I imagined before coming to the Nürburgring. Rather than having “reality popping out at me from the virtual world”, on the contrary I felt like I became one of those human objects in the virtual world.
On our way back to the hotel to meet the GT Player’s car, someone driving by in a Lancer Evolution called out to Yamauchi san.
Apparently the guy wanted to know where he could get his hands on GT-R parts. I think this is the “family feel” you get at the Nürburgring, where people of all races and ages talk to each other as though they were old friends.
We then went to get gas at the famous gas station of the Nürburgring. This isn’t your ordinary gas station; according to Yamauchi san this is also a shop that has the most complete lineup of Nürburgring souvenirs you’ll find anywhere.
You can sometime find rare items you won’t find in the official shops at the circuit, so it’s a stop you should definitely make when visiting the Ring.
The hotel we checked in for the first night after dinner was a simple cottage style place called Pension Diana.
Though we checked in very late, the manager is very cordial and friendly, and he gives off that tell-tale vibe that he’s a motorsports fan himself.
Lacking sleep from the night before the flight, I bid you all good night…
Tomorrow I’m going to drive the Nürburgring Nordschleife for the first time in my life….Needless to say I’m a bit nervous!!