My Trip To “Hell”

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Green hell
Lately I find myself reflecting on a trip to Nürburgring a couple of years back. A legendary stretch of road in Germany known to all petrolheads. The classic Nürburgring, the Northern Loop or Nordschleife, the Green Hell or simply The Ring is considered to be the ultimate driver’s challenge by many. It is so (in)famous it gets excluded from a number of insurance policies by name, the general “don’t go on the racetrack” clause of course fails to cover this one way, non-speed restricted public toll road that happens to run in a loop …

We approached the area by car, a lush green forest meets the eye, one can see precious little of the track from the surrounding public roads, but somehow you can feel it. As you get closer to the small town of Adenau there is a noticeable increase in the number of supercars you encounter and I’m willing to bet the vast majority of them are there to get thrashed on the ring; not to strike a pose.

Once settled into our accommodation it was time to head to the nearest grocery store for some beers then on foot to a nearby lookout point to soak in the atmosphere and enjoy said beers in public. All perfectly legal, love Germany for little things like that. The lookout gives you a fairly decent vantage point from where you can see about 3 corners and a decent straight. That was when it dawned on me; this place breathes racing, it is like a never ending bike / car rally, the towns in the area have a semi-permanent tire smell, the roar of various engine configurations rarely stop, everyone you see is a helpless speed junkie.

With respect to Jackie Stewart, I couldn’t call this place hell at all; it felt a lot more like what I’d expect from heaven. It bites back though, staring at cars racing past for hours on end I picked up on who seems faster and more consistent in the group. One Porsche GT3 RS was particularly fast, lap after lap, until it hit the wall right in front of us as if to remind everyone this track is nobody’s friend. I could hardly sleep that night from all the excitement the next day held. After a quick visit to the lookout point the next morning drooling over countless supercars it was time to get a taxi unlike any other taxi in the world; the BMW M5 Ring Taxi.

I called shotgun of course, the whole thing was my idea after all, my dad and brother-in-law jumped in the back, as we get going the low fuel warning pops up. “You’re in luck” our driver explains, “we are light on fuel so this will be a quick lap”, sounds good, let’s burn some rubber already. The next 10 minutes were a bit of a blur, from the moment we hit the track the V10 got zero respect from our driver, we out dragged a Ferrari F430 into the first corner, none of the other supercars posed any challenge whatsoever, our pro clearly knew what he was doing. The ring taxi is a bit like the poor soul who has to fetch the balls at a golf driving range, everybody and their dog targets it, but this was a sad day for ring taxi hunters as one challenger after the other got measured and came up short.

The M5 rarely touched ground with all four wheels, the breakneck speeds at which our psychotic driver threw the car around extremely bumpy surfaces ensured you basically expect to die around every corner and the car hops and skips from apex to the corner exit where it just grips to make the corner at the very last instant. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to speed, I’ve been to a couple of track days, and I’ve been the passenger of a pro around a racetrack before, but nothing, and I do mean literally nothing, compares to the Ring, the taxi and its drivers.

I had a smile that would not stop, my dad was quietly enjoying it all, and the brother-in-law had moments of giggling like a school girl, notably while approaching the unsighted Carousel corner at high speed. I looked at the expert footwork and hands of our driver, and then I saw his smile, pure sadism as he pushed harder and harder to get more giggles from his passengers. It was the best 10 minutes of my life! It took a while for the adrenaline to subside enough for me to remember I had some reservations about being driven around the ring as opposed to driving around myself, silly me, I would most likely have killed myself. The track is just insane; long, narrow, more corners than anyone can recall, many other drivers as crazy and inexperienced as I am, quite a recipe for disaster.

I desperately want to return someday, and behind the wheel even, but I wholeheartedly recommend the Ring taxi to first timers, it is the best rollercoaster you will ever get to ride.

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