I am pissed. And that is all there is to it. During the entire bloody damned practice, I have been fighting to achieve one thing. Just one small and simple achievement. Break the magic 55 seconds a lap barrier. I force myself to run lap after lap, looking for the right setup. And believe me, running many practice laps on something as bland as the Norisring weighs on a man.
Still, in the end, I succeed in dipping just below the 55 second mark… A lap in the 54’s. Only Jaques, Riddall, Frederiksson and Canola have gone one better and ducked into the 53’s. But those guys belong to other hemispheres. Common men should not interfere with their alien business.
Still, being only just behind those martians, is quiet an achievement. It is like being best of the mere mortals, in some way.
And what does it yield me?
Twentieth on the grid… Bloody sad and miserable twentieth. What will it take from a man to get a break around these high on Bavarian history hotshots?
It is thus with some reluctance that I get my BMW going when the chequered flag drops.
Fredriksson is rather eager on the contrary. He shoots out of the starting blocks like a flaming rocket. Then manages to get in between first row starters Jaques and Riddall, Canola in his wake. It’s the four stooges heading for the first hairpin four wide. This is better than short track racing D.W., you old fool.
Off course, if that is what it takes, each of the four aforementioned will have the ability to make it through a hairpin four wide. So all goes well. And out of the Grundig Kehre, Fredriksson leads Jaques, Riddall and Canola.
Along the long main straight, Jaques slipstreams his car abreast with and then ahead of Fredriksson. But the Canadian carries too much speed into Grundig Kehre and skids wide. Fredriksson is back through. And so is Riddall. The Swede leads the Brit who is followed by Jaques. Canola is in 4th but is already slightly falling back.
My start is pretty good. Vydra, in front of me, has a hard time to get his car rolling. I immediately pull ahead of the BMW Italia car on the outside. Even manage to pass one or two more cars on the same outside line. Before sticking to that same safe outside line for the hairpin.
I must already be in 17th or maybe even 16th as I stamp the throttle down to fly away towards the Schöller S. One instance of heavenly bliss before… I smack the brake through the floor. A couple of darn idiots that had gone for the inside now fail to stick to it. And just simply cut straight across my nose. Blocking me off.
Every single spot gained through my brilliant start performance is annihilated. Worse even. Some more goons just follow in the steps of those cutting me off, almost pushing me to the side. And pull ahead. I fall back to 22nd or 23th.
But now have a good run for the inside on the right hand part of Schöller S. I think.
Only to discover that the idiots unable to hold their inside line through Grundig Kehre, are now perfectly able to stick to a line that covers the second leftward part of Schöller S.
I think of just driving into the pits and park it for the day. Stroll around Nuremberg and maybe find a cosy looking brothel. Get some sleazy diversion and trick myself in believing that forgetting is possible. Swallowing away disappointment with a glass of cheap wine… only to have it all slam back even harder the next day.
But then Honey and the dunce she has picked up in a twilight bierkeller somewhere around Königstrasse, would be in the pits. Glaring at me with those dumb empty eyes screaming: “Loser!”
And thinking something along the lines of: “Hey, can’t you knock before entering the box? We could have things going on, you know.”
Followed by some pubescent winking of the eyes. The kind that looks really out of date for people their age.
Nothing is worse than facing that lunacy. So I just soldier on.
The leading trio of Fredriksson, Riddall and Jaques is leaving no doubt as to who are the ultimate Bavarian Kings of Motoren Werke. They slowly pull away from all the rest. Grant is back to the smoking tires and sliding asses drama that was his trademark back in 1971, while on John Surtees’ payroll.
He has a first peep at the lead on the run to Dutzendteich Kehre. But backs out of it. Only to pull up to Fredriksson’s outside rear quarter panel under braking for the Grundig. The move does not stick… yet. But the Swede is warned that he can better keep his guards up.
I am gaining places again. Whited is playing hide-and-seek around the Grundig hairpin. Which is kind of a silly thing to do when in a blazing white and brilliant red livery. I pull ahead of Jason and move one up.
Another car stands sideways blocking the Dutzendteich Kehre. Out of the corner of my left eye, in a flash, I notice the clear and present danger. And steer around it on a safe wide outside line. While others just get caught in the melee.
Riddall has tired of playing peekaboo with Fredriksson and manages a better exit out of the final hairpin. Then pulls alongside and ahead on the long main straight. Then, in Grundig hairpin firmly dispenses with the Eggenberger Beemer, claiming what feels rightfully his. The lead.
Jacob has a timid look on the run to the Schöller S. But Grant has decided that he wants that top spot and no one will stop him from getting it.
Jaques’ effort is slackening and the Canadian is falling back a bit. He would later declare that gearbox issues were hampering him. But those would soon be the least of his worries.
The hottest piece of real estate at this point is 10th place. Remmen, Riddall Sr. and Sabre are all envious to get their hands on it. Remmen has it for now, but seems slower than both Riddall Sr. and Sabre.
Remmen is however known to be a tough nut to crack when defending a position. But Riddall Sr. has the exact medicine for that, namely making his car large in the nut’s mirrors and patiently abiding the right opportunity. That opportunity presents itself under braking for Grundig. Remmen is so eager to hold onto 10th that he brakes a tad late and ends up on a slightly wide line. Riddall takes the advantage on the inside.
They head for Schöller side-by-side, Remmen having the better line for the initial right-hander. Ray makes it stick on the outside though, and exiting the left-hand part of the S-shaped turn grabs 10th.
Sabre’s turn to have a go at the Alimpo Motorsport BMW. Even if David looks faster, he does not quiet succeed in getting the job done. All the traditional ingredients of close racing are there. Side-by-side racing. Sticking noses on the inside under braking. Late braking on the inside line and pulling ahead doing just that. The other car then turning the cut-back to its benefit. And so on, and so on. It is all very entertaining, but Remmen stays ahead.
German race control hands Acerclinth a drive-through penalty. I move one further up.
Back in the top 20 by now, I do not even look ridiculous there. On the contrary. I rather easily keep up with a slow train running slightly out in front of me. And prepare for some laps of reeling them in, while mentally anticipating how to pass them.
Far back, two green and white factory BMW’s appear in my mirror. Those guys are far behind, so I don’t worry much.
I complete lap 7, and have a look in my mirror as I speed out of Dutzendteich Kehre. The factory cars are still there but nowhere within striking distance.
I start lap 8, and just before the fast right sweep leading up to Grundig Kehre, I have another quick peek in the mirrors. The factory cars are still far behind.
Braking hard for the hairpin called Grundig Kehre now. Man, this feels great. Slowing this massive low sleeked stingray from close to 250 kph down to barely 50 kph. The entire fat ass of the giant ray squirming and pushing like a dog in heat who got hold of a bitch. Constantly trying to get in front of the car’s nose. But I keep it firmly planted. Don’t even lock a wheel… avoiding dreaded flat spots.
And aim for the Grundig Kehre’s apex. In a perfect symbiosis of stability and control. Hitting the apex spot on and… BANG! I have one of the factory green white rascals up my behind.
I start to scream something along the lines of: “Fu…” As anger quickly shifts to terror. My car is rolling… I will end up on my roof… This is not good. This thing is barely higher than a GT40. I’m gonna end up with a headache. A serious one…
Luckily, the car only stops rolling when it is back on it’s four wheels. Ready to get some more abuse from none other than me.
Only thing is, I’m facing the track in the wrong direction. A gust of throttle, a brutal release of the clutch and a simultaneous yank on the steering wheel solve that. And here I go again.
The factory car has disappeared in the distance. Obviously, I think. As I hustle my Bavarian stud past the pit lane, I notice that the green white factory entry has rejoined its box. Well, at least, I am no longer dead last.
The heat gets to Remmen and he fails to stand it. He brakes massively late for Grundig and ends up spinning on the outside of the turn. Sabre is through.
Kowalski makes a successful move on Bos for sixth. The Belgian fights back and this situation has all the potential to turn into a boiling steamer in the wink of a young girl’s eye. The quest for the glory days… It is what, at some point, always ends up making this race driver lot loose all common sense.
I am driving with the conviction and motivation of a French chef amidst a McDonald’s kitchen. Honey is apparently no longer entangled in silly games with her new dolt and holds out a board. Indicating that I am about one hour and three quarters behind Czlapinski. Still, larger deficits have been turned into leads in the space of about 40 laps, each requiring an unbelievable 55 seconds.
So, I keep hammering away.
Thim and Hlavac enter Grundig two abreast. Hlavac seems to have the advantage but is slow getting out of the turn. Too slow for Thim’s liking anyway. The Swede slightly bumps the Czech’s rear, but it is enough to turn Hlavac around. Thim seems all but fazed by it and does not hesitate a second to grab 8th from the Czech. Pretty canny at best, that move.
It would only take Hlavac two laps to rectify the situation and claim 8th back.
Ibanez abandons and my ascension of the top 20 continues.
The gap to Cezariusz is dwindling rapidly. And pretty soon, the horizon of my no man’s land of sorts is populated by Czlapinski and Chapman. I reduce the gap, but it takes time.
Then, my piece of real estate on the track threatens to become overpopulated as Miller appears in my mirrors. Old Dave is going to lap me. And does so some laps later. But Dave is not that much faster than me. I can more or less stay in his wake…
A devious little plan forms in my mind. I stay on Miller’s tail. Miller catches Czlapinski and Chapman and some others. All of them get blue flags and move over for Miller. And then see a second M1 flinging into their mirrors.
“That guy is another leader in a desperate fight for position with Miller… right?” I hear them think.
“Oh no, oh gee, let’s not get caught in such ferociousness and give him room…”
And there goes sly as a fox Voigt, winning three spots at once. If he were a president, they should call him tricky Dicky.
As we hit free stretches of road, Miller starts dissolving into skylines of unattainable success and fame. And I am back to cruising through a solitary Nuremberg park. Janik way out in front of me.
Kowalski presents himself to lap me. I grant my conscientious consent.
Hlavac is all over Bos now, aiming at getting 7th. Bos’ style of driving is often overwhelming. Defending the inside harshly. Braking very late into corners, with the potential of dive-bombs never far away, to gain places.
It is no different at the Norisring. Bos has his work cut out dealing with Hlavac. His driving is so protective that it almost looks desperate. The Czech smells it from a mile away and starts pressing. With success, as he soon passes Bos through the Schöller S.
But Bos fails to accept that and, almost like a sulky child, engages into an impossible late braking attempt into Grundig Kehre. It turns sour and the Pooh-car bumps into Hlavac’s side. The Czech keeps it straight and stays in 7th. I can however imagine the Czech not being overly happy with such moves being pulled on him.
Jaques’ gearbox issues get supplemented by a total failure of his electronics. He has no other option but to retire and relinquish his claims to a near certain third spot.
The gap that separates me from Janik has been shrinking for laps in a row. Glimpses of his wiggly sonic rear appear out of the hairpins. Then vanish around the next hairpin. But the glimpses are undeniably lengthening. Some more positions are up for the take.
The two GS Tuning cars are seriously harassing Thim. Both Riddall Sr. and Sabre seem a lot faster. But Thim has shown at Monaco that he can be a though warrior to get ahead of.
It is no different here. Thim looks slower under braking but somehow manages to get the power down better out of the hairpins. Resulting in something that could be called the Great Accordion of the Straight Sixes Waltz. But it is a rather chaotic waltz. And one that disturbs visions… Sabre even ends up hitting his teammate in the Dutzendteich Kehre.
But like all good competition dancers whose toes are stepped on, the GS cars continue. Both turning a blind eye on the bump.
On lap 31, Thim has a terribly bad exit out of Dutzendteich. Riddall is by in a blink. And Sabre is all set to follow suit. Thim defends however and holds on to 9th. But the Swede now has one eager Brit all over his rear spoiler.
Grant Riddall is meanwhile crushing all opposition. Even referring to him as Maximus no longer seems to do him the honor he deserves.
He has a scare though when Bos, who seems still possessed by his earlier zeal, spins in Schöller. Then tries to spin his car around to pursue his course without paying much attention to oncoming traffic. El Grantus is forced to take avoiding action and hits the inside fencing. Then receives a complementary bump from Bos who is trying to get going again. It all looks very clumsy, to be honest. Luckily, Grant can continue without much damage or time lost.
Hlavac presents himself as the next one to lap me. But is still very distant in my mirrors. And boy, does he abide his time to close in.
Meanwhile, I keep closing in on Janik.
Hlavac is now straight on my rear spoiler… The race marshals are frantically waving blue flags at me but the Czech fails to make a move stick.
To avoid race control going ballistic, I brake late and take a very wide line through the Dutzendteich hairpin. Leaving the entire racing line open for the Schnitzer car to pull ahead. Race control averts its thorn and prejudice away from me. But all the maneuvering to allow Hlavac past, have allowed Janik to slightly run away.
Hlavac is now in front, but is still terribly slow. I think of maybe pulling a Miller on Janik. With Hlavac acting as the one spreading confusion. Except that for that, the bloody Czech should pull up to and then past Janik. Which he is not doing. On the contrary, he is slowing me and allowing Janik to get away.
“Is this fool doing it on purpose?” I wonder. Why the bloody hell would he do that?
Their M1’s get the better of Remmen and Ryon, who both spin. Moving me up to 14th.
Back at the Dutzendteich Kehre, things are however about to take a turn for the worse with a Czech turtle still in front of me. Out of the hairpin, onto the long straight, effing Hlavac fails to get up to speed. He is crawling, limping, stumbling… blocking me.
“You fucking rogue bastard!” Bestial howls echo through the car, as I almost rip my entire gearbox out of the Bavarian shit box.
And Janik ever steadily pulling away.
I have no choice but to unlap myself along the long straight. Out of the Grundig Kehre, the Czech is however miraculously back up to speed. And the marshals are straight back to the frantic blue flag waving.
“What is this?” I bellow at the red Schnitzer car. But Hlavac obviously is as deaf as a coonhound.
What is his point, I wonder? He is never gonna catch Kowalski. And Ray Riddall is nowhere near enough to have a go at his 6th spot. All he is doing, is ruining my run on Janik.
Still, he now finally seems to have made up his mind about getting up to speed.
As we steam out of Dutzendteich, we are almost back on Janik’s tail. One more lap, I murmur, and 13th is mine.
But then the chequered flag drops… another dream evaporates. But who cares? After a while, even this inures. As long as there are tracks and races to attend. Nothing ever is final really.
The Grand Coat of Supreme Dominance meanwhile fits Grant Riddall better than ever before. He takes yet another crushing victory. With Jaques retiring, Johnson dropping the series and Fredriksson having retired at Monaco, the Grant’s lead in the standings is becoming of vertiginous proportions. Still, as the main man himself would point out after the race, he has been there before nine years earlier, driving Formula 1-cars. And the finale of that season still ended up being a nail-biter.
The frenzy of the race weekend is ebbing away as the first trucks are already leaving the track. I’m loading the M1 back on the trailer. A man walks up to me, hand reached out. It is Yves Plaçais, fabulous 1971 Can-Am Champion for Ferrari. He was at the wheel of the factory entered car that collided with me at Grundig.
Any remaining irritation and anger over the incident recede quickly. Out of 10,000 of these racing idiots, I will gladly express nothing but contempt and scorn for 9,990 of them. All selfish little sumbitches who care for nothing but there own tiny little square inch of fame, they are.
But Yves is one of those other ten. All by himself, he is the living proof that the concept gentleman was in truth conceived nowhere else than in France.
He carries a V2000 cassette. A fan in the crowd made an amateur recording of our incident. We watch it together and it is clear that our collision was really a racing incident. Yves came from far behind, true. Which explains me never having seen him. But he stuck brilliantly to the apex. So, if I would have noticed him and left some room on the inside, we would both have made that turn without scratch.
Yves also has a giant Charolais T-bone steak. And a bottle of Châteauneuf du Pape, Jerôme Quiot Domaine du Vieux Lazaret; 3 quarters Grenache and one quarter Mourvedre. Few things accompany a good steak better than the fierce cherry flavor of the Grenache.
So we walk to a restaurant on the banks of the Grosser Dutzendteich and ask the cook to put the Charolais on the grill.
“Blue chaud, bitte,” Yves says.
And asks the cook to fix us a salad.
As the cork is softly pulled from the Châteauneuf, the times to forget finally arrive. For a brief while at least.
Full broadcast of the race is HERE. Great show once again.
Standings after round 4 – courtesy of Lukas Vydra.