We had a very special alarm clock! While lying in our tent at 8AM, I listened to the glorious whailing siren song of 22 F1 race cars participating in the morning’s first practice session - right across the street!
We arrived at our grandstand seats “just-in-time” for the second F1 practice which rand to 10:15AM? Then there was a long 2hr break before qualifying began. We walked around the portion of the track we had access to. Where Mary Ellen laid down in the grass alongside a worn down walking path; our favourite corner #63... (Original Nurburgring circuit)
Back to our seats for qualifying; as Michael Schumacher started out 9th in his primary car before switching to the spare… After qualifying we walked to the Castle on the hill overlooking the town. There we talked to some “cheeky Brits.” They highly recommended that we go to Silverstone. Mary Ellen asked what their favourite track was and surprisingly they replied Magny Cours.
When Mary Ellen told them I was a die-hard Schuey fan they gave me lots of flak. (BOO!!!) "We were right at the corner where he broke his leg. We hoped that he had DIED!!!"
I recall walking through the tiny castle, inside the dark stone building we climbed the stairs that led out onto the roof. From there we had a terrific vantage point of the entire town and off in the distance you could even see the race track. The little blobs I could barely make out? Were the Porsche Super Cup cars, yet I could definitely hear them.
On our way back through town we encountered Bob, who’s an ex-patriot. He was originally from California and his father had come to Germany to restore Can Am cars. He grew up around them and now works as a fabricator, working on cars like Lotus & McLaren. After Mary Ellen told him how I wanted to go to Road America, Bob mentioned that he’d gone there for his first vintage race and it was the grand daddy of all! The 30th Anniversary of Can Am...
Bob told us an interesting story about the ex-Mark Donohue Sunoco Porsche 917/30 I’d seen at Monterey. When the current owner bought it, it had NO engine, transmission or uprights. It cost $6 million to restore.
Later that evening we had an interesting experience. Dirk, a young German came and politely “knocked” on our tent flap. Dirk wanted to know if we were ok. Are you sick? NO, why? Well you just come and go straight inside your tent and never come back out. Do you want to join me and my friends for a beer?
So we scrambled out of the tent and followed Dirk over to a little Old fashioned (1960’s era rounded) trailer where he introduced us to two older Germans who didn’t speak any English. They handed me a large can of beer and we had a good time drinking and trying to converse about Herr Schumacher. When Mary Ellen asked what will happen after Schumacher retires they both loudly retorted “Immer Ferrari!” (Ferrari Forever!) Lots of laughter when I told them I was a “Vie-shie,” since I had NO intention of trying to keep pace drinking with them.
After a good 45+ minutes we went back to our tent and there was a further knock on the tent. Do you like sausages? And before we knew it the man came back with a plate of steaming sausages, warm bread with cheese in the crust and another 2 cans of beer!
With evening having fallen, becoming dark outside, tired and feeling relaxed after the Bitburger’s; I fell asleep while Mary Ellen went out on her own; as she told me there were several drunks everywhere and that the Dutch seemed to be the rowdiest.
She told me they were wearing T-Shirts that said: “FUCK TOM!” What’s that all about? I just lay there laughing out loud… I explained how Tom Walkinshaw had just (let-go) fired Jos “THE BOSS” Verstappen from Arrows... Replacing him with “Heinz 57.” (Heinz Harald Frentzen) As apparently the Dutch are very loyal about their race drivers! As I still chuckle about this even now. It makes me very happy to see such devotion publicly displayed and as it turned out Walkinshaw was a total “Wanker!”
Once again we were “rudely” awoken by the sounds of 22 F1 cars screaming around the track during their morning warm-up session… As we arrived at our grandstand in time for the race warm-up of the Porsche super cup cars. (Dirk says these cars make a nice noise!)
I found it very kOOL that just before the F1 Drivers parade lap they played the “intro” theme to James Bond. (007) all the drivers were loaded on a single flatbed trailer, standing and waving to the crowd. As Mary Ellen had wanted to see her man 'Monty. (Juan Pablo Montoya) and I enjoyed the rolling display of the 22 Gods! Finding it entertaining as the race interviewer was bouncing around on the flatbed trying to talk to various drivers while utilizing a cordless microphone.
After the F1 Drivers parade we went back to the tent for breakfast. Then we made our way through the massive throngs of bodies “just-in-time” for the race. (Arriving 20 minutes prior to the start) I can still recall trying to navigate thru the massive crowds of people. We “cheated” and walked up the fenced off section of roadway for emergency vehicles…
Our seats were really KOOL since we were at the bottom of the horseshoe leading onto the front straight. This allowed us to see the tail end of the grid. There were at least 2 rows of back markers gently sweeping around the curve as the field waited for the lights to turn green.
There’s an intense amount of air horns blowing every time Michael Schumacher passes by and the grandstands are literally a see of red… Although the man sitting next to me is sporting a blue Nick Heidfeld Sauber cap.
The low slung missiles simply scream by lap after lap and I can’t really tell what’s going on except for when the air horns blow. The race results would mirror the impending results of the World Cup finals. M. Schumacher who was on probation for some minor? Offense finished second behind teammate Rubens Barrichello. (Brazil would defeat Germany in the finals)
After the race we listened over the PA system to the podium interviews, before Mary Ellen asked if I wanted to walk on the track. Seeing that the track had been opened for spectators, I’m glad she persisted as it was a very enjoyable experience.
The track was flooded by spectators as we worked our way past the crowd standing around the victory rostrum.
Walking past the pit lane garages which were totally separated by the pit lane and completely cordoned off... You could still see into some of the team’s garages and we briefly listened to the sound of an engine being run-in before packing into the transporter.
We walked and walked approx. 1/3rd of the race track before turning around and climbing up through grandstands. Where we stood in line and ended up getting the very last two beers from the concession stand. It was totally SHEISA beer, but it tasted damn good nevertheless as we sat on the concrete bleachers in the sun resting our feet…
That evening Dirk’s “neighbors” came over to our tent unannounced and left us another plate of steaming sausages, warm cheese bread and another 2 cans of beer. So after eating our delicious food we went out to “kibitz” with them. Before saying good night the men asked me several times: Do you like coffee? Ja, Ja, Ja. Ok, he told me; you come over for coffee at 8AM tomorrow morning. Unbelievable! Only in Germany…
To continue reading, see; Nurburgring ’02 (Part 3)