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A first flying lap around the Hockenheimring // Memories of happy days at the German track

Published by Jim Newman

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Credit: Jim Newman

Hockenheim; the site of Rubens Barrichello’s first win and Jim Clark’s last drive. Like many Formula 1 tracks, this one has had it's share of tears shed on the unforgiving tarmac, both in joy and in sadness. On this day in 2005, it was the former.

With the winter snow all melted away and the spring shakedowns completed, it seemed my turbo Nissan 200SX was finally ready for it’s first trip to Hockenheim. Having received a freshly rebuilt motor after I destroyed the last one somewhere between the first and second carousel’s on the Nordschleife, and the one before it while doing autobahn tuning pulls on the A62 (Vettel of ’09 had nothing on me in terms of blowing up motors), the car was running excellently and was in prime shape. I gathered my gear, hopped in my RS13 (the chassis code for my model of 200SX), fired it up and set off from my sleepy village of Miesau-Bruchmuhlbach.

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Credit: Jim Newman

We (my roommate and I, we, I mean I don’t have multiple personalities and refer to myself as we) arrived at Hockenheimring early, before the gridding of any cars and decided to kill time while the bikes were still running the track. This site has it’s own race museum so we figured that it was a good a place as any to spend an hour or so. We also wanted to take some time and hang out to see if the weather would clear, as I’m no Senna and prefer dry tarmac.

The race museum, at first glance looked to be quite awesome, until you came up to their cars that were as wooden as George Washington’s teeth (little American humor there for you, we'll see how well this goes over, I mean, if you told me Winston Churchill jokes, I don’t think I’d get them). Some cars were more suitable for a campfire than they were for a Grand Prix.

Not Kimi Räikkönen's McLaren
Not Kimi Räikkönen's McLarenCredit: Jim Newman

Their attempts at mockups of cars that did not come from Ikea were also remotely funny.

Argh, Hans, this looks nothing like a Ferrari!
Argh, Hans, this looks nothing like a Ferrari!Credit: Jim Newman
It's ok, just slap a Michael Schumacher decal on that Formula Ford.
It's ok, just slap a Michael Schumacher decal on that Formula Ford.Credit: Jim Newman

Later on in the exhibit, they finally had some actual vehicles that were not posing as something they weren’t.

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Credit: Jim Newman

With our tour of the museum over, we realized so was our wait. It was time to hit the track!

When we arrived in the pit parking lot, we were instantly the center of attention, not because my car was so awesome, but because it was hideously ugly. Performance was all I cared about so I routinely neglected to care about the appearance of my venerable RS13. I stuffed the car into an embankment at Spa several months before, so with the body work required to make it look somewhat presentable, also came a rattle-can paintjob. The car was white on a cloudy day but looked more like a cow (white with black spots) in the sun. Luckily for me, it was still semi-cloudy, so no one on the track had to worry about being hunted down by a turbo bovine beast.

Our cars arranged on the pit lane in grid fashion, we awaited for the pit light to turn green and release us for a parade lap to heat the tires. Weaving back and forth, I took this time to reflect on the memories I’d had of this course. I thought of the many motorsport heroes of mine that had braved the same corners I was about to tackle and felt honored. I thought of Senna, for whom a corner here was once named. I thought of Prost, who was involved with Peroni’s career ending crash here in 1982. I thought about - Well, I thought about how stupid I looked that I was getting overtaken by a Renault Megane because I was I busy day dreaming and didn’t notice that the installation lap was over…

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Credit: Jim Newman

With my game face on, I set about tackling the track.

Full throttle to nordkurve, dash of brakes, throw the car in and pray it sticks.

Down to the first hairpin, stab the brakes, rev-match to second, crush the apex, come out of the pocket hot! Through parabolika, rag the motor for all it’s worth, speeds reaching 140mph.

Make sure you didn’t leave your manhood at home as you come to the second hairpin.

Toes firmly planted on the brake, ABS clicking like a hoard of locusts, reach your heel over to find the throttle to blip so you can nab second and shoot out of the corner.

Everything was running through my head, the same way I had envisioned it the previous evening and the many sleepless nights I spent building the car for this moment. My knuckles, scared and scabbed from turning spanners on my motor and suspension, gripped the wheel as my heart raced. It was only my first day on Hockenheim, my first flying lap even, and I was hooked. I’ve driven on many different tracks in many different countries, but this, by far, was and still is my favorite.

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Credit: Jim Newman

Welcome back to the Formula 1 calendar, Hockenheimring!