One car. One driver. One track. Welcome to Jalopnik's RING TESTED on /DRIVE.
Sometime last summer, Matt Hardigree phoned me up and says he’s got a great idea for a new series for a Jalopnik feature on /DRIVE. Now the last time Hardigree came to me with a “great idea” I ended up in a Mexican jail with a three-legged donkey named Frank and a one-eyed stripper named Lucinda. Or was the stripper named Frank?
Me: So what's this “great idea” of yours?
Matt: I am going to get you a bunch of really awesome cars and I want you to drive them around the Nürburgring and film it!
Me: Suuuure, right Matt. So they need to up the dosage on your meds again. Put your wife on the phone so I can have her take you in for evaluation.
Matt: I’m serious. I’ve all ready got a bunch of cars lined up for you to test!
Matt: Umm Hello?
Me: I love you man. (Sniff)
So with that I am happy to announce the premiere of RING TESTED, where I get to live out every gearhead's fantasy and get to drive some of the most awesome cars in the world around the infamous Nurburgring Nordschleife a.k.a. The Green Hell. All for your viewing pleasure.
We’ve got a pretty sweet lineup of cars already shot and ready for /DRIVE’s maestros to work their magic on. There's an ABT Audi R8 GTR, Montune Ford Focus RS, BAC Mono, and one of my all time fav’s: Lancia Delta Intregrale Evo 2. But first up I get to turn some laps in Ferrari’s future classic Ferrari 458 Italia. Spoiler Alert: I do NOT die a fiery death.
Since Ferrari is not about to lend us one of their $350k cars to some American racer to abuse at the Nürburgring (no matter how many VLN class wins he has) I decided to give my buddy Ron Simmons at RSRNurburg a call to see if I could somehow talk him into letting me borrow one of his fleet of track-prepped rental cars that he has sitting around in his garage. After a few
bottles glasses of vino I managed to con convince him to let me take the Ferrari 458 out for a few laps.
Now that I had car in hand my second task was to find some time where I could get on track to do some filming. One of the little known facts is the the guys that run the 'Ring are not all that thrilled with multitudes of drivers filming their antics during the touristenfahrten (meaning tourist drives not tourist farts just in case you were wondering).
Their stance on in car cameras has relaxed slightly this year but try mounting a camera anywhere outside the car and you will find out how intimidating it is to be yelled at in German with a line of cars behind you all waiting to go on track. So the only way to get on track and do any filming is to get on track a day when it is closed to the public.
As much as I tried to convince Hardigree that the best option was to rent the entire Nurburgring (with the helicopter for overhead shots) for me to do my laps he inferred that half of his budget for this project was used up on his lunch today at the 99¢ menu at Taco Bell.
So a quick call to my buddy, Darren Langeveld who runs the popular Destination Nurburgring track days secured us a spot in one of his always sold out events. However, with this came a plea not to go into racer mode and terrorize his other trackday customers.
This ended up being no problem as Ron Simmons was now sobering up from our previous nights “wine tasting” and was basically implored the same thing as Darren. So no crossed-up, late braking, dive bombs on unsuspecting Miatas. Check.
Actually, after talking with Matt some more what we decided to do was because all of the traffic out on track would make setting a quick laptime all but impossible was to make this a road test (track test if you will) of all these various cars and give you guys my impression of what it is like to drive these cars hard on the greatest track in the world.
I'll be sometimes close to the limit and sometimes not, but either way I'll be driving it hard enough to let you see (and hear) what these cars are capable of.
As the sound of Ferrari’s V8 is so awesome at speed we decided to we wouldn’t do a voice over and that would just point out various interesting bits in this post for you to look for.
With that intro out of the way lets get on with the show.
:25 Dottenger Hohe Max speed on the circuit. Fast cars will be 180mph plus with slow cars entering the track from the tourist entrance at 50mph!
1:00 T-13 Lots of Radicals out today. Very quick and very hard to see. It’s hard not to think of them as rolling speed bumps
2:00 Hocheichen Track prepped E43 M3. Lots of these out always. They seem to be the favored track car here. Very quick if driven well. As this is my first lap feeling out the Ferrari I thought it best to let him by even though I had to back way off the throttle in order to avoid re-passing him right away.
6:00 Klostertal Ok maybe I should have kept him behind me. This section is usually flat or flat with a bit of a lift for the kink Kesselchen.
6:45 Karussell This shows how rough the Karussell really is. Insanely hard on all cars but especially race cars.
8:40 Surfer’s Paradise I have no idea what car this is.
9:50 Dotenger Hohe The front straight is very bumpy at speed as well. My foot actually bounced off the pedal here
9:58 Bridge Still reached 186 mph before lifting for slower traffic under the bridge.
10:30 T-13 Waiting for my camera car to catch up. Seems that 350 hp in the Focus RS is not enough for the Ferrari.
11:38 Flugplatz As stiff as the Ferraris suspension is look at the way it floats over the jump here.
12:00 Aremberg My camera car is being driven quickly by AMG Mercedes test driver Uli Baumert who does 20,000km at the Ring and yet the Ferrari is so much faster everywhere.
12:26 Fuchsrohre One of my favorite sections of track however the 458 is a bit skittish through here. There are a lot of bumps and camber changes at high speeds that the car doesn’t seem to like. The front end is very pointy and direct which helps in the lower speed corners but makes it very knifes edge in the high speed portion of the track.
12:44 Adenauer Forst Skyline, hehe love it!
14:20 Ex- Muhle Look at how quickly the Ferrari coming off the steep up hill corner. The car feels super planted and can use all the extra grip that the massive elevation change gives you through here
15:30 Klostertal GetSpeed Porsche GT3 Cup Car as raced in the VLN. The Ferrari is quick but no match for a purpose built race car.
16:00 Karussell Rush hour at the Karussell. This is what makes setting a fast lap here almost impossible
16:20 Hohe Acht Catching slower traffic here is tough as the track is very narrow and windy through this section. It takes two cars cooperating to make a pass happen.Slower cars can hold up much faster cars all the way to Brunnchen if the want as the GTi proves.
18:40 Dottenger Hohe Tough corner coming on to the straight. It falls away from you as you get to the apex so you get big understeer through here but as you exit the track flattens out and you get all your grip back. The Ferrari is massively stable through here and you can use the throttle to control the understeer through the corner.
And thats a wrap for our first episode of RING TESTED. And see once again I did NOT die a fiery death!
As I’ve said before stay tuned, we have more in store.
Robb Holland is a professional race car driver who currently competes in the VLN series at the Nürburgring and will run a full season of the BTCC next year.