Thursday, 30th June/Monday, 4th July 2011 – Nurburg, Adenau, Jezus-Eik, Germany, Belgium
It occurred to me that I never did finish talking about Monza, and it’s too far away now. So instead I’ll go into detail about the last two trips, knowing that we have another two over the next three weeks.
We started July at the Nurburgring, in the middle of the Eifel for those who don’t know. Now the Eifel has one major problem; it has a very unpredictable micro-climate,where the only thing you can guarantee is that at some point in the weekend, no matter the time of year, it will be bloody freezing. That said we set off in good spirits none the less and had a reasonably good journey despite the inevitable traffic jam on the Brussels ring road. Once we got through that it was fine, though it was interesting how the road from Eupen to the ‘Ring was a pot-holed disaster until about 500 metres from the Belgian/German border. After that it became very smooth and well-maintained. However the appearance of order was deceptive as it turned out… but we wouldn’t find that out until Friday. Meanwhile, we hit the hotel around 14:30 which was slightly too early to get into our rooms at the Dorint. So we did the only thing we could and repaired to the bar for a Bitburger beer.
It was only later when we did get to our rooms, overlooking the track, that we discovered there was something interesting going on out there. In fact the noise that came in through the window as we started to unpack was something we couldn’t ignore. As it turned out one of the things going round there was this:
That’s not something you see every day from your hotel window, is all I can say. Anyway, having finally unpacked, I went for a swim in the hotel pool, and then we trundled off to have dinner at the Pistenklause. The starters were scary in their size, and the prawns cooked on the stone were delicious if messy.
None of us could manage dessert, so eventually we rolled out of there and back to the hotel in what was now a torrential downpour.
On Friday morning it was still raining heavily, and for July the temperature wasn’t what you’d describe as normal. And that wasn’t the only thing that wasn’t. We walked over to the paddock, and made out way to the media office to find the other half dozen journos/photographers and no one else. No media officer for the circuit, no one to sign on with, no one to get a photographers pass from. After a lot of confusion, and only once the series coordinator got involved, did the woman who had initially told me she knew nothing about it admit she had the tabards under the desk and could issue me one and a pass – at least she could if I gave her 50 euros first! Programmes were not to be had, and there was nothing to suggest where I could or couldn’t go. In fact the only way to know whether part of the circuit was in a red zone (where photographers are not allowed because it’s considered too dangerous) was to go there and see if anyone shouted at you. It was a good game…
To be honest in the morning I didn’t feel like going far anyway. It was cold, soggy and horrible. On the other hand, there were some good photos to be had so I went anyway, despite my recently released from its cast ankle hating me for it. I staggered back to the paddock afterwards feeling decidedly soggy… and we discovered the snack bar (the Imbiss) where curry wurst went a long way towards improving my mood.
We also discovered we’d all been boosted from the press office and would all have to use the photographers room a level down, with no view of he circuit and where you couldn’t hear yourself think for the noise of the aircon conduit running through the room at head height. That wouldn’t have been so bad if the wifi had been working, the electic sockets had been plugged in, the screens had been turned on, and timesheets had been available. Granted there was coffee, cake and sweets, but I’d have preferred information. It’s so much easier to do the job if you have an idea what’s going on! Anyway, as it was a free practice day it wasn’t too much of a problem, and we knocked off early to go shopping for wine and beer in Adenau which is very pleasant though not as medieval as it would like tourists to believe.
Eventually we found a drinks supermarket where we collected a crate of Bitburger, and a case of Ahr wines and then we were overcome by the need for coffee and cake.
After that it was then time to go back to the hotel and get showered and dressed before dinner at the Blaue Ecke in Adenau. Before that we dropped in at the Cockpit Bar in the hotel where we got nearly sabotaged by the bar manager who made us drink Eifel Geist, one of those herbal schnapps mixes that can be used to clear your sinuses (and possibly eat through armour) if necessary!
Having tested the Blaue Ecke earlier in the day by having coffee and cake, we expected a good dinner and it was pretty impressive too (though there were suggestions that the food in the bar, as opposed to the restaurant, wasn’t too good).
Saturday we got up, breakfasted, and staggered across to the paddock, where we found the best bet was to turn one of the tables in the press office round so that we could look at the screens that would otherwise have been behind us without getting tangled up into the electrical points attached to the desk. After that, we found that the electric cable at the far end wasn’t actually connected to the sockets in the floor, and we didn’t have the necessary connectors. This was getting silly. Just as well we’d brought our own adapter and extension lead. It meant we could at least plug the laptops in. Then it was a case of turning on all the TVs, which was helpful, and would have been more so if anyone running the place had seen fit to turn the sound off on the channels broadcasting from the circuit-side cameras. Unfortunately they were all broadcasting different radio stations. The cacophony was unbelievable but we really did need to know what was going on, and there didn’t seem to be any future in relying on the press officer to make sure that happened. The press office was plentifully stocked with coffee, cakes, etc. yet again, but still no information… and again we had to piggy back off the FIA’s wifi router to communicate with the outside world. We survived, though it wasn’t easy to figure anything out – we only got the times for the first race grid by going outside to the scrutineering bay and writing them down from the copy on the competitors’ noticeboard there. Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought the point of a press office was to provide information, not prevent anyone from getting access to it! But what do I know…?
Anyway, having got through the day’s work it was time to avoid the schnapps again before driving across to Adenau again for dinner at the Sonnenhof, which was stunning. It was particularly welcome given how cold we’d all been all day, so thawing out was important and couldn’t really be achieved at lunch despite the potato salad and the curry wurst.
On Sunday we figured out that the best way to work in the morning, especially as my ankle was still playing me up despite the huge bucket of ice it had been immersed in the previous evening, was to build our own press office on the hotel balcony. The TV system at the Dorint has full access to the timing screens and all the circuit TV feeds. As there was a table, two chairs and an electric socket on the balcony overlooking the track, it was the perfect solution. It was a bit cold, admittedly, but we only had a 20 minute race to watch and would then head across to the paddock afterwards. That was actually the best policy as it turned out. We managed to see what was going on, and for the afternoon race we stood trackside just down from Turn 1, where most of the action was clearly visible. It was a lot easier than sitting in a room with no view at all…
Work done and photos sent we retreated to the hotel, to shower and apply aftersun to the sunburn we’d collected when the clouds finally cleared away around lunchtime. The hotel was suddenly very empty as most of the people who had been staying had headed for home. We had a different plan, which was to have dinner at the neighbouring hotel, in the Restaurant Nuvolari. If I’d had a chance to check out the Save the Ring site beforehand we might well have eaten somewhere else, but whatever the situation with that, the restaurant did produce some exceedingly good food, so we ate it and then treated ourselves to an after dinner drink back at the hotel before bed.
We might have tried to go to bed earlier if we’d known we were going to be woken in the night (at 4am) by what sounded like someone rolling barrels of fuel down the pit lane and bright lorry headlights shining through the gap in the curtains. God knows what was going on, because I couldn’t see anything untoward, and they eventually shut up around and hour later, which meant I did drift back to sleep.
Monday saw us get up at a sensible time, then try a different route back to the motorway, this time by driving up the Ahr valley and picking it up from there. We know that if we get the chance next year we’ll probably take an extra day and meander up that way ourselves, stopping off for wine tasting and buying and maybe having a night in one of the delightful looking towns en route. Even with the slow pace we managed through the valley, we still made it to Brussels in time for lunch (as ever at Jezus-Eik just to the east, this time at La Grillade, which seems to specialise in French and Tunisian dishes).
It was a good lunch and made a welcome break before we completed the drive back via the Eurotunnel, staggering in through the front door around 11pm.