Part 8

Nurburgring circuit, Nurburg, Germany. The circuit is 60.8km/38 miles from Koblenz, 77.4km/48 miles from Bonn and 138.6km/86 miles from Aachen. A nearby town well-worth visiting, if only for excellent restaurant meals, is Adenau (10km/6.2 miles). During Nurburgring race meetings it is difficult to obtain accommodation. Boos (Eifel) Village (7km/4.4 miles south-east of Nurburg) is a source of both reasonably priced accommodation and excellent eating out at the ‘Gasthof Zur Quelle’. Construction of the race track commenced in 1925, opening for its first race meeting on the 18th June 1927* which featured motorcycles. The entire track, or ‘Gesamtstrecke’, was 28.27km/17.56 miles long. It included the ‘North Loop’, or ‘Nordschleife’, which was 22.7km/14.1 miles long and the ‘South Loop’, or ‘Sudschleife’, which was 7.7km/4.8 miles long.

Additionally there was the ‘Start/Finish Loop’, or ‘Zielschleife’, which was 2.25km/1.4 miles long.# It was not until 1984 that the ‘new’ Grand Prix circuit was completed which was a mere 4.56km/2.8 miles long and was based on the northern part of the ‘Sudschleife’ Loop. For 2002 further alterations resulted in a 5.15km/3.2 miles long track. Jackie Stewart after winning the 1968 German F1 GP at Nurburgring termed the circuit the ‘Green Hell’.

Competitors were allocated space in a barn-like garage, a row of which stretched alongside the pit lane. In each one there would be some five or six racing cars parked. At one AvD ‘Oldtimer’ GP we were in the same garage as the tall, lean, upright, elegant, svelte, Swiss, upmarket purveyor of the finest automobiles, one Lukas Huni. With his hair swept back he appeared the embodiment of a German/Swiss aristocrat – without the duelling scars. The red bodied 1957 ‘Maserati 250F’ (straight 6, dohc, 2494cc engine) he was racing was stunning as well! We found him a most charming and friendly companion. He was driving the Maserati ‘on behalf of another’ and it was claimed to be the ex-Juan Fangio car in which he won the 1957 German GP at Nurburgring.

Grumpy in his Arnolt Bristol Bolide.

However a number of other 250F conveyances also make that claim. The records show that eleven ‘interim’ chassis were built (1951-1953) and thirty five 250F chassis completed (end of 1953-1958). That does not necessarily mean they were all manufactured. In 1957 three ‘Maserati 250F T2’ ‘works cars’ were fitted with V12 engines (dohc, 2491cc) but they proved most unsatisfactory power units.

At one AvD ‘Oldtimer GP we were involved in an auction firm’s sale. I described in Part 4 the ‘Arnolt Bristol Bolide’ for which we bid and finally purchased but not the actual bidding details. Early in the day of the auction we calculated that the car would ‘come-up’ whilst I was motor racing. Thus it was decided that one of our team, Geoff Spencer, would act for me until I completed my race. As matters turned out my event took longer than we calculated so our friend Geoff continued bidding in thousands of euro when the most he could ever recall putting his hand-up for was in the hundreds of pounds.

As I continued not to appear at the auction Rose decided she would take over the bidding. At just below 100,000 euros she thought we had won the purchase but a minor irritation arose in the shape of a rather disinterested and dishevelled German. At about that point I appeared in my ‘racing-ovies’. Rose would not be beaten and fortunately the ‘Teuton’ backed off and the ‘Arnolt Bristol’ was ours, if for more than we might have paid. There was some difficulty in completing the purchase ‘there and then’ but eventually we were able to slot it onto the top deck of our trailer and set off for good ‘Old Blighty’. There was a postscript to that purchase which could have proved disastrous. The strapping down of the ‘Arnolt Bristol Bolide’ was incorrectly carried out.

Whilst traveling along the German highways fortuitously I glanced back in the van’s wing mirrors and realised something was amiss with the top car on the trailer – the ‘Arnolt Bristol’. I pulled in to a rest area to access matters. The car had come loose, moving forward over the stops of the top ramps. Fortunately some stowed racing tyres hampered that forward motion, forestalling a disaster. After some hours we had unloaded the bottom race car, lowered the upper trailer deck, refastened the top car, re-raised the top load, driven the bottom car back onto the lower deck and refastened it.

One year I entered a Nurburgring day/night race with the ‘Arnolt Bristol’. When completing the race entries it seemed a splendid wheeze but reality was some rather tense racing during the night-time laps.

Grumpy again in his Arnolt Bristol Bolide.

What I had not allowed for was that the Nurburgring circuit is prone to a sudden, almost dense fog that appears from nowhere. In addition the poor power of the headlights resulted in some ‘interesting’ driving when the darkness had descended. Fortunately the car and I eventually crossed the finishing line unscathed.

An unfortunate, if as it turned out fluky escape, was that which occurred to the wife of a fellow competitor. The rather slight woman was standing in the paddock entrance to their garage when someone pressed the metal concertina roller door to the ‘down mode’. Quite unaware of the impending doom she remained where she was until the wretched device hammered down on to the top of her head and started to crush her to the asphalt. Very fortunately someone realised the situation and halted the doors downward motion. Rose rushed up to assist (as an ex-nurse would) and coaxed the female back to some state of well-being prior to her being carted off to the nearest medical centre.

On the lighter side of these anecdotes were the UK couple who were supposed to be racing at Nurburgring but made the error of heading for Nuremberg at the far, east end of Germany, fairly close to the Czechoslovakia border. They only realised their mistake on reaching Nuremberg where they had to make a very fast, 390km/242 mile, 4½ hour return journey to their correct destination.

Incidentally Nuremberg City may be recalled as being where the post WW2 trials of many of the Nazi officials took place.

The last of my Nurburgring recollections involves the possibly ‘unofficial Count’ of Nurburgring who at that time lived overlooking the circuit.

One year we were asked to his residence after a day’s racing for an evening’s wining and dining. Part of the festivities was the auctioning of a very large, wooden fashioned, working table-top cuckoo clock trophy that had been fashioned to celebrate Juan Fangio’s 1957 Nurburgring success.

Needless to relate, encouraged by a plentiful supply of wine, I managed to win the auction and still have the item tucked away at our French home. However Rose has not encouraged me to have it in the house so it is hidden away in the adjacent barn.

By Geoffrey ‘Grumpy’ O’Connell