The circuit called the Nürburgring consists of two parts; a 5.1km GP course where the F1 race is held, and a 20.832km north course (Nordschleife). To most of the world, the Nürburgring generally refers to the north course that is known as being the holy ground of automotive development. Its length of 20 kilometers per lap is longer than a full circle around Tokyo on the Japanese urban highway. When you compare the farthest points, the Shibaura junction would be around where the Flugplatz is, and the Hakozaki junction would be around where the carousel is. If you’ve been on the Tokyo highways you’d realize how incredibly expansive that is.
This north loop is also a rare track in the world for its “Tourist” system, where there are days in which anyone can drive their own cars or even rental cars with safety equipment on the track.
If you aren’t sure about your own driving skill, you can also get a passenger ride on the Nürburgring Taxi. If you’re lucky you might experience the driving of the fastest female driver on the Nürburgring, “Sabine Schmitz”. But you should also be aware, even the Ring Taxis do crash every once in a while!
When you go to the Nürburgring circuit, you’ll find there aren’t very many GT-R’s around. For the same reason it’s the center of attention here, and it manages to turn the heads of most everyone when parked in the lot. And if its THE Mr. Yamauchi driving… of couse its time to break out your camera.
This morning, I’m taking a passenger ride in the GT-R with Yamauchi san at the wheel. Judgment day is here, a journey to really compare the virtual world to the real world…
Initially I thought we were just going to go for a light cruise… but we begin to blow past all sorts of tourist cars…. Ferrari 458’s, Corvette Z06’s, with INCREDIBLE acceleration. The jaw dropping experience leads you into a physical and mental fear like no other. The comment Yamauchi san gave when he drove the VLN for the first time in 2009, “that I had stepped one foot outsides the bounds of society I’ve known” was exactly it.
The most G-force I’ve ever experienced until now was an acrobatic flight in a helicopter. But in this ride, I experienced this overwhelming force of gravity that was far beyond that flight. So this is the environment people race in…
Since he’s carrying a passenger he’s obviously driving with a good margin of safety, but I was surprised at the extremely high potential of the GT-R. And then I felt Yamauchi san to be someone from a world far far away. The fact that he’s been racing at the Nürburgring since 2009, and that since 2013, he’s become this person who is able to drive at a pace equal to those of the top groups in the SP9 (FIA GT3) class, in the top category in the races held here…
I felt it vastly incredible that a person could take in information gained from the real world through a device called Gran Turismo, and reach this incredible level. The world of Gran Turismo is built by a team that really knows how scary the real Nürburgring is.
The yellow flag during the passenger ride was an accident in the tourist run. The number of accidents here also left a deep impression in my mind. An old BMW 3 series, even the newest R8. Both crashed, no mercy nor favoritism here. And the course was closed several times for bad crashes while we were there. But I would guess there’s a whole new world you discover when you learn the ropes and the limits.
Switching passengers several times, Yamauchi san also took breaks in between.
Meanwhile the two GT players went to get gas for their first time overseas, at the gas station mentioned in the earlier entry near Döttinger, full of Nurburgring Souvaniers.
After stopping the car, they checked the pump number and filled the tank with the “Super Plus” high octane for the GT-R.
Once full, you go to the counter inside, tell them the pump number and pay. Pretty close to how the self serve stands in Japan work.
Successfully refueled, they return to the tourist parking lot. Then Yamauchi san says “Yamada, why don’t you take the GT-R by yourself and try driving the north loop?”. A surprise offer, and of course that’s an offer he can’t refuse, being the top Gran Turismo player of Japan and all. That’s uh, a yes.
This is him driving:
Though he had only been around the loop once in the passenger seat, his lines are clean and smooth.
His comment after driving, was regarding “-the incredible tire grip of the GT-R, the vertical G’s you normally don’t experience in a normal circuit, and the concentration required to worry about fast cars behind you. And if you worry too much about cars behind you, you might all of a sudden encounter a slow car in front of you, or cars in front may have stopped due to an accident. The fear of encountering any of these things persist. And though the undulations and banks you can’t feel from the TV screen was bigger than imagined, you can drive almost the same lines as in Gran Turismo.”
The passenger rides were also taken by not only the GT players but by the creators of Polyphony Digital as well. There were workaholic comments like “I started seeing the wireframes of the road surface ” … and I have a feeling they each gained something that will serve as a hint in creating future versions of Gran Turismo.
There was one story of Yamauchi san which I thought was just a joke at first:
The entry point to the Tourist, is mainly from this back straight, but actually there is another entry point from Adenau.
In Adenau there is a supermarket that Yamauchi san also uses quite often during his stay, but it’s located far from the hotel. That’s when he had this great idea; “I could enter the Nordschleife from the Adenau tourist entry point and drive the north loop back to the hotel!! But If I go too fast it’d crush all my groceries so I had to drive like the Fujiwara Tofu guy in “Initial D”.” We got a good laugh out of that but it’s a true story.
While the course was closed for a red flag we finished lunch, and in the afternoon, we drove the Renault Clio RS200(with roll cages and other refinements) rented at the north loop rental car “Rent Race Car“.
Though I had ridden in Yamauchi san’s passenger seat, I was unsure about the loneliness of driving alone, or whether I’d be able to have faster cars go by me smoothly… but off I go!
I’ve watched hundreds of onboard images from the tourist drives and scenes from the Nürburgring 4 hour races (VLN), but honestly speaking I thought very little of the speed ranges involved in the lower classes of racing. But I found that the driving even in this range was of a different dimension here. I now have a newfound respect for entrants in the SP2 class…
And just to let you know, I’m one of the worse drivers in the world of Gran Turismo. Put positively, I research how to be “passed smoothly” in the game, so my first drive on the Nürburgring was accomplished with a different set of skills gained from GT than for Yamada.
Dinner tonight was at the bar of the Dorint Hotel. There was no end to the talk about what each of us felt at the Nürburgring.
Tomorrow, the waves of cars racing the Nürburgring 24 hour race will be here!