I had never heard of the Nurburgring Nordschleife (North loop) until I started driving computer sims. That’s not unusual for a racetrack in Germany but this is a pretty notorious racetrack. At most tracks there are a handful of corners to learn and the job of finding the braking and turn in points, the maximum speed that can be carried through the turns, and finding the driving line itself almost seems doable. In contrast the Nordschleife is 20.8 km long with 73 corners and feels like a cross between all those twisty mountain roads in car commercials and a treacherous rally circuit.
Construction on the ring was completed in 1927 and the German F1 Grand Prix was hosted there for several years until 1976 when the drivers declared the circuit too dangerous to drive. I’ve found some old videos on YouTube to provide a sense of the place. Be warned, there is some serious late ’60s/early ’70s camp in the following clips.
After watching the introduction to the previous video by François Cevert I realized I wasn’t approaching this project with the right attitude. Subsequently, I have sought out some of my ’70s polyester shirts and have taken to waltzing around the house with my top 4 buttons undone. As I’m older now, of course, there is more waxing and shaping required to achieve the aerodynamic clarity I need and this preparation can cut into my practice time. Some days, it’s all I can do to get into the cockpit at all in the time available to me. Also the champagne has a tendency to gum up the keyboard and the Gitanes stink up the house fearfully but I feel one must achieve the lesser in order to contemplate achieving the greater.
The following is a summary of the fastest recorded lap by Stefan Bellof:
Nowadays the track is mostly used for closed circuit testing by some auto makers and some lesser racing series. The public is allowed to drive on the ring as a toll road and from the videos on YouTube it would appear that a healthy industry caters to tourists wishing to take their own car or bike onto the ring. Here is one of several sites providing information for potential visitors:
with the History, Warning, Safety, Laptimes, and Fluid Leaks sections all worth a (somewhat sobering) read. From the Laptimes section:
“Third, if you do have a serious crash while timing a lap, the police report will include details of any stop-watches, dash-timers, etc, they find. Your insurer will then invoke the ‘time-trial’ exclusion that is standard in every road policy, and you will find yourself personally liable for the GT3 you hit or the biker you injured.“
Yeesh. Since you can’t get insurance if you say you’re driving on the ring, since your insurance company would be unlikely to believe you if you said that you accidentally wound up there, since your health care wouldn’t cover your expenses if you had an accident there, and since you’d be treated like a criminal if you were found with a stopwatch under the seat after your rollover it seems that a computer simulation is the only sane way for mortals to experience this track. No need to worry about insurance, tires, fluids, or bodily harm. Rain only occurs when the options setting is on and laps are always run when the sun is high in the sky.
Why seven minutes flat? The following video shows an interesting comparison between real life driver Hans-Joachim Stuck on the track and a driver in GTR-Evolution matching his progress turn for turn. Note the impressive similarity between the in-game track model and the real track. Also note the somewhat intrusive in-game advertising lining the track
I don’t drive exactly the same track that they do in the video; the track in the video is the full north loop plus the new Nurburgring. I’ve measured the time for the portion which strictly the north loop at roughly 6:57. So I expect 7:00 will be a very hard target to meet and perfect for having something on the horizon to strive for.
One problem with racing simulations is that the more realistic they become, the more the user has to resemble a real race driver in their performance in order to obtain similar times. Modern race car drivers are actually extremely fit with some recent F1 drivers competing reasonably in world class triathlon events. Those who know Helmut Pudding know an athlete not of this category, so some of the current driving simulations taken without driver aid are really too frustrating to be enjoyable. At the same time the tools available to aspiring racers are also impressive. Over the next few articles I hope to show just how deep the rabbit hole goes.
This week my best time is a somewhat pokey-ish 7:42.653. There are still vast portions of the track that are blanks to me and hardly a lap goes by without a serious case of guardrail guidance so I’m confident this will improve. Oh yes, the car at the top of the article is the BMW M3 GTR racecar I’ll be driving in-game. It’s difficult to find a list price on something like this due to the way these cars get certified for their racing categories, but the 2001 street version of the car was 250.000€ or $US225,000 with a race ready version being worth far more.