…As I rounded the final corner I kicked the clutch and laid flat on the gas. I left a long trail of smoke as I sped onto the long back straight.
I had done it. Sub 10 minutes is a trophy many reach for only to realize their arms are too short. Not only had I done a sub 10, but I did it on my first day at The Ring. as I pulled into the lot near the start women cheered and clamored to the window of the Lambo as men stood on the hoods of their cars in a standing ovation…
…I rolled out of bed a tad groggy from my nap. I dressed and made my way over to Ring4Rent.
A training session was already in progress so I filled out the remaining paperwork and attempted to make my payement.
My stomach sunk as I saw my dreams slipping away. Had someone hacked into my account? Did I spend too much on my stops in Brussels and London? I checked my account. Plenty left so what was the issue? I would rather have not come, than to come this close and not be able to drive regardless of what I had said before about ‘Just seeing it would be enough.’
Luckily the machine proved moody and after the third try the payment was cleared and sat ready to listen to my instructor. I had read a few words of admonishment the night before and studied a few videos on youtube of people making fools of themselves on the track.
I also watched my favorite Ring video the Zonda R record setting lap.
The advice I had read was echoed by the staff at Rent4Ring. The first lap is the most likely lap you will have a crash. Experienced drivers have the worst wrecks.Drive safe and have fun. If you are not having fun repeat the first step. Even though I have been drifting for 8 years I don’t consider myself an experienced racer. I’ve done far less track days than drift events or even auto cross. Aside from that I would be driving a FWD car, something I had not done in many years.
Everyone was super friendly from the instructors to the mechanics. They are in it for love which you cannot fake.
The owners of the company, cousins Fredy and Ralph were great guys. They chatted with me about how they ended up moving from Sweden to Germany to open the business. They told me about their past racing experiences and their current projects. One language translates world wide and that is car nerd talk.
They are living a dream so many share but they remain humble and approachable. I’m definitely glad I chose to go with them to share my experience with.
I was fitted to my Suzuki Swift and off I went. The Start/Finish was busy but not over run as it is in the summer months. Cars that I only had seen in photos littered the lot.
I took a moment and parked before I went out on my first lap.I slowly walked the lots looking at all the cars and observing the people.
Even though it was cold the whole place was warm with excitement.
After completing a lap around the lot I hopped back into the Swift and pulled up to the gate. I scanned my card and the arm lifted. I slipped the clutch and hit the gas to move off and the car did not budge. I was so nervous with excitement I forgot to select a gear. After the cone chicane I gave the car some beans but not full throttle.
I wanted to take it easy on my first go to ensure I finished a complete lap without dying in a blaze of glory. I also wanted to experience being passed by some high dollar exotics on the famous circuit.
No ammount of video games or youtube footage can prepare you for the beautiful scenery (even on a cold overcast day) or the sensation of the turns and drops The Ring affords.
Even on cold semi slick tires and race pads I could tell the Swift was a great car for this exact application. Easily repaired, light, good aftermarket makes for a good track rental. The modifications were spot on as the car turned in well and responded to braking predictably.
I left the traction control on just to keep myself in line even though I think its worse than a minger for a nanny. I checked my rear mirror fanatically and stayed to the right paranoid of an unruly driver ruining my day.
After what seemed like an eternity I reached the final bridge where I coasted down the long straight soaking in the occasion. I had complete my first lap at the greatest track in the world…I could not believe it.
I parked and walked around taking more photo’s and chatting with a few people.
I checked out the gift shop and made a mental note of what to purchase.
After clearing the cones I finally gave the car full throttle. The second lap I was more aggressive hoping to pass at least one car. I was still so nervous and excited and it showed in my driving. Sloppy gear changes, missing apexes, braking too late, braking too early made me laugh and scold myself out loud. After passing and S4 I gained some confidence. I chased down a Porsche with a slightly sloppy driver. A few corners and I was able to pass him as well. I smiled as hot air swelled my head.
Then came my humbling moment. Tires squealed and my armpits filled with nervous moisture as I made my way off the tarmac onto the grass headed straight for the wall. In slow motion I instinctively resisted the urge to look at the wall and hit the brakes. I had one experience with a track wall and I quickly learned what not to do. I pulled off the gas and stared at the road and made small subtle corrections while checking my wing mirror for oncoming drivers.
I instantly began replaying those videos I had seen on youtube of people lacklusterly banging into things and damaging their cars. Shaken I continued on at a slower pace with decreased concentration only to under steer into another turn moments later. Clearly I was not ready to attack this track full steam so I lowered the rpm and just enjoyed the rest of the lap. The Porsche I passed happily passed me back and we jogged onto the final straight.
…I had done it. I had completed the Green Hell and not killed myself or the car…Good enough. Sub 10 minutes can wait for another day.
You learned the first lesson … staying humble !
here is one of my laps in the R4R swift !
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