Sunday, August 5, 2007

Nurburgring, 2002

After discussing this year’s dramatic results of the German Formula 1 event... Mary Ellen suggested that I write about our memorable experience of staying at the Nurburgring. And having just watched SPEED TV’s Formula 1 Debrief of the European GP, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to chronicle this most enjoyable trip to Der Fatherland…

2007 European GP Race Report

European GP: Nurburgring – June 21-23, 2002
Trying to get some sleep after arriving in Colone the previous day. While staying at our wonderful guests Vladi & Uli’s, we’re awoken by the piercing sounds of several “frilling” birds at 4:30AM. SHEISA!!! (SHIT!) Around 6:15AM we’re startled awake by a violent thunderclap ensued by hard rain, thunder ‘N lightning! The perfect way to begin your vacation… We go back to sleep again, finally getting up around 1PM. Talk about trying to cure your “Jet-Ragg,”eh?

It’s funny how Mary Ellen complained about this since I was the one who should be dragging my ARSE! You see, I was still fanatical about CART and decided to do an Open Wheel double. Two days prior to leaving for Germany I’d gone to Portland for a three day weekend at PIR. (Portland International Raceway) Having been determined not to miss the annual G.I. Joe’s 200 CART race...

Thursday evening
Vladi drove us to the Nurburgring. Upon pulling into the parking lot, Vladi jumps out and arranges for us to camp there. He tells us it’s OK to set up our tent here, informing me the cost is 30 Euros for the weekend. (Pretty Damn Cheap for four nights, eh?) Vladi tells us he’ll pick us up here Monday night after work. As there’s NO way in HELL he’ll try after the race. (Especially since there’s just one 2-lane road to the venue!).

Setting up our tent, we’re situated in a little tent compound, part of an offshoot of the main camping area. Being one of the few tents alongside the lone two lane road past the track; afterwards we briefly explore the surroundings, walking up to a closed entrance gate to the racetrack. Then walking through the tiny town of Nurburgring, purchasing a Braut ‘N Bitburger for a late lunch... Next perusing the countless souvenir shops before returning to our tent; having a light dinner at 10PM... We’re serenaded by the massive crowds around us lighting off fireworks, blasting air horns while having a good time partying. There’s lots of loud music and we even have our own “wanna-be” DJ. He’s “crooning” along with the songs and making comments while mixing his music. For some reason the Rolling Stones “Little Red Rooster” is a crowd favourite. Finally drifting to sleep around 3:15AM…

Friday morning
after awakening around 7AM, We finally get up at 8:30AM for breakfast. Departing for the track at 10AM... We’re missing the start of the Porsche Super Cup practice.

As I still cannot believe that I’m at the Nurburgring. As almost six months prior my good friend Yutaka had come to my Apartment to help me order the race tickets via the internets, since I’d never ordered anything on line before. We made careful study of the entire track layout. This included printing out the track map as well as watching the prior year’s event. Then Yutaka made my purchase for two seats at the Coca Cola chicane, just prior to the pit lane entrance.

Arriving at the souvenir villa Mary Ellen purchases a large Columbian flag for her “man,” Juan Pablo Montoya. (Remember him? He used to drive in Formula 1 before defecting to “RASSCAR!”) Draping the flag over her shoulders like a shawl, we go to our grandstand seats - as I can still vividly recall the looks of disbelief tossed our way as we made our way up the grandstand stairs. With a smirk on my face I watch a man’s (Dressed in Ferrari red pants, light jacket and Ferrari cap) head snap, doing a “double take” as Mary Ellen passes by. He looks at me completely dumbfounded!

We watched the morning Formel 1 practice session (11AM-12PM) from our seats. It sprinkled during the first practice. (Thank God we didn’t have to sit thru this years deluge!) They are so FUCKING FAST!!! It was really entertaining to watch the drivers making their practice pit entrances. They “simply” slow down for the final corner and “peel off” for the pit lane. Then they stand on the “loud pedal” once again, accelerating hard back up two gears. In just fractions of seconds they nail the carbon fibre brakes just before crossing the white pit lane speed limit line…

(Silly me, I thought I’d have NO Problema reading my chicken scratchings… Of course it ALL depends on how much information is written in chronological order; Ja Volt! So I just had to break out my 2002 Grand Prix program and read some German to figure out why my notes are so contorted 5-years later…)

During the second Formel 1 practice session (1-2PM) we hear some of the Germany vs. USA world cup soccer game over the loudspeakers. (Germany defeats us 1-0) Upon leaving the track we order another Bitburger, which tastes great. (No, it’s NOT less filling, either… Since its REAL Beer!)

Returning to our little tent “camp,” just past the Schumacher Fan Club compound which seems to house about 3,000+ Germans! Since we’re literally right across from the track we’re serenaded by the screaming sounds of the International F3000 cars while having a quick lunch. There’s what sounds like more of the football game, which I can hear intermittently over the track’s PA system. The Germans are singing quite loudly, so I assume that they must have scored? As another barrage of fireworks are set off. Next our little tent is buffeted by the cascading sounds of the Porsche Super Cup cars taking to the track. Which soon becomes the perfect lullaby for an afternoon siesta…

Practice Results:
1st) M. Schumacher; 2nd) KIMI; (Raikkonen) 3rd) Rubino; (Barrichello) 4th)
Trulli Scrumptious;” (Jarno Trulli) 5th) JPM; (Juan Pablo Montoya_ 6th) Ralfanso. (Ralf Schumacher)

After our wonderful siesta, (Damn its hard work going to a Formel 1 race, eh?) we decide to walk through the town of Nurburgring. As there are booths selling merchandise everywhere… Like Ferrari hats, i.e.; solid yellow, yellow & black, black & silver, etc. We walk past the BMW dealership which has Johnny Cecotto’s touring cars on display: ’95, ’96. There are three cars on display along with a bunch of his trophies. We continue walking past more merchandise booths. (Official Team merchandise, etc.)

In town a bus stopped nearby us. It was the “Strip-tease Party Tent.”(Bus) Mary Ellen tells me that it’s full of a bunch of disgusting, leering old German men… (The whole town according to M.E.)

Around 10PM while meandering through the various booths, we stopped to buy some chocolates at a candy booth. There Mary Ellen talked for a half-hour plus to a woman from Brazil. (They talked each other’s ears off!) She was very happy to speak English to somebody; she’d lived in New York for 4yrs prior to marrying a German policeman.

While we stood there a drunken German male race fan approached us to give us Sheisa… (Mary Ellen said the entire grounds were primarily male, i.e.; 5-1 ratio) He’d overheard our conversation and wanted to harass us about there being NO American F1 drivers in Formel 1. Then he tried winding me up by saying you only have “RASSCAR!” Ovals, round ‘N round, how boring… The Brazilian lady then told him in German to leave us alone, which was so KOOL!

Afterwards we went back to the tent and I fell asleep while Mary Ellen went exploring on her own... As she says it’s one of the places she’s felt totally safe in. Even while surrounded by 50,000 carousing drunken Germans…

To continue reading, see; Nurburgring ’02 (Part 2)