Only for the brave
Take 73 bends.
Add an elevation change of over 100 metres.
Join it all together with over 20 kilometres of tarmac and you’ve got what three times F1 World Champion Jackie Stewart called the Green Hell. A hell that almost 40 years ago nearly claimed the life of Nicki Lauda.
“…what three times F1 World Champion Jackie Stewart called the Green Hell”
That hell is the Nordschliefe. More commonly known as the Nurburgring. And that’s where NGK Europe decided to launch their assault of one of the toughest fought racing series in Europe. The VLN.
VLN is probably Germany’s most famous race series. Comprising of ten races, nine of which take four hours, the season highlight, the ADAC Ruhr-Pokal-Race scheduled for September, takes six hours. Race entry attracts vehicles from up to 30 different manufacturers and sometimes more than 200 teams. Drivers range from enthusiastic amateurs to full blown pros. So the racing is shall we say interesting?
NGK’s chosen tool for the series is the Ferrari 458 Challenge. A 4.5-liter V8 mid-mounted engine delivering 570bhp, sparked of course by NGK, provides the momentum. Ceramic brakes attempt to deliver the inertia. Body panels crafted in carbon fibre add lightness. The current driver line up of three Brits, Robert Smith, George Richardson and Adam Sharpe provide the skills. The Nurburgring the thrills and spills.
At this point it’s probably worth refreshing ourselves exactly what the challenge is that face this intrepid trio every time they venture out.
Robert Smith, George Richardson and Adam Sharpe provide the skills. The Nurburgring the thrills and spills.
The current track record was, believe it or not, set back in 1983 by the immensely talented and equally fearless Stefan Bellof. Somehow he managed to hussle his Porsche 959 round the circuit is a buttock clenching 6 minutes and 11.13 seconds and at an incredible average speed of 202.073 km. Unfortunately there wasn’t a camera on the car for that time set in qualifying for the 1000km race. But as luck would have it, sports car racing legend Derek Bell did have one on his Porsche when he did a ‘mere’ 6.37 lap at the same meeting. Have a look and be amazed…
But of course it’s not just racers who have added to the mystique of the Green Hell. For years car manufacturers and magazine testers have had an semi official competition amongst themselves for claiming the fastest lap for their production models. The ultimate goal being to achieve a sub seven minute time.
And a very exclusive club that has turned out to be with only three currently claiming membership.
In 2013 a Porsche 918 Spyder clocked a somewhat disputed 6:57, though that failed to better the time set by a road legal Radical sports racing car which clocked an even faster 6:48 back in 2009. Whilst this ‘competition’ officially doesn’t exist any longer, this year a Lamborghini Aventador SV joined the club, just squeezing under seven minute barrier with a 6:59.73. Though of course he wasn’t really trying…just a co-incidence if you get our drift.
But while the pros tackle the circuit with a degree of trepidation and maximum respect, it’s the wannabe racers, perhaps spurred on by their X Box prowess in Gran Turismo, who turn up in their fearless thousands, pitting an incredible variety of car, bikes and even vans against the green hell! Unfortunately ability is often swamped by ambition. This results in a fair few no claims bonuses, and sadly the occasional life, being surrendered on its tricky twist and turns.
So with the season just over half way through, VLN drivers are probably facing their greatest challenge as the autumn mists and rain of the Eiffel mountains start to make their presence felt. Buoyed up by a podium finish in their maiden season, the NGK team are pushing ever harder and you can get the latest news of their progress on their website at www.racingk-team.com. We wish them well.