A once in a lifetime experience
#1 You are about to enter possibly one of the longest posts in CT’s history, so before you move on, you should probably go get something to drink/eat. In case you don`t have enough time to read the full article, watch the compilation video.
#2 Content on this post is in no way a representation of what I’m capable of. Some of it got eff’d up by dirty camera sensors, corrupt SD cards and wrong camera settings. All of which was my own god damn fault.
Here I am, casually sitting in my bedroom with my laptop, scrolling through feeds after another day full of boredom. Nothing in particular as usual passes over the screen, a Speedhunters feature here, a new camera review there. All the regular stuff I’ve been used to. All except for one post that caught my eye. A post by Boosted Boris on CarThrottle about some giveaway. A chance to win a trip to the Green Hell. For a long time, it has been a dream of mine to visit the Nürburgring and have a lap or two at it. “I never ever win anything anyways” I thought to myself. So immediately I didn’t give it a second thought and moved on with my business. A couple days passed and I saw the same thing being posted on Speedhunters. “Crazy. They must be really looking for somebody to win.” This time I decided to check it out, because the prize was something that has been sitting on my bucket list for as long as I’ve been living in Germany (about 8 years). What really intrigued me after opening the Ring Garage’s(RG) website and reading the details was the following condition:
“We ask you to be creative and to use Need for Speed’s Wrap Editor to design a Ring Garage inspired livery on a BMW M4”
This was something that really caught my attention. It sounded like a challenge. Like a fun challenge. And the prize list had at least four things I could immediately cross off my bucket list. Traveling to Nürburgring, driving it myself, meeting the Speedhunters crew (also Boosted Boris) and being featured on their site. This was just a small part of the awesomeness that was waiting for one lucky winner.
It was worth the shot. Even if I didn’t win, I’d still have fun by just participating. Right?
Taking my chances
I fired up Need for Speed and started being “creative”. Multiple failed attempts went down the drain instantly. I was thinking to myself; there must be a reason why the current RG designs were so multicolored. Not quite like
but more like this one.
Almost every panel had a different pattern to it, yet it was simple and eye-catching all at the same time… The answer is - racecars. What often happens to racecars? You guessed it - they crash. Replacing a full body livery is a complicated process and can get really expensive really fast.
So with that thought in mind I started making something unique but relatively simple. While making the livery, from time to time I checked the #ringgarage on Instagram for designs from other people. Many of them were just replications of RG’s current design. That didn’t make any sense to me, because I’m pretty sure that the boys at RG wouldn’t need any help in applying their own design to the M4. But some of the designs were so good, I felt like I never stood a chance in taking home the victory.
About 5 hours of tinkering with the NFS’s wrap editor and some 191 layers later I ended up with this
Following day after reviewing the design, I still felt OK with it, but I had a feeling that something was missing still. Since the design was already posted for the competition, I decided to do another one. This time I wanted to go all out and create something that would grab everybody’s attention and would be the star of the Nürburgring. I didn’t even take into account the rules I set earlier. This one was mostly for myself, to see what I was capable of. It went through many different iterations, wrap editor trickery and a whole lot more time than the previous one. But this one had to be the one. I finished the design on the very last day before the competition ended and posted it on Instagram.
After a while, I received the following message on Instagram;
This was the moment I started shaking a little, because that could only mean one thing – I’ve won the competition! It was very difficult to wrap my head around it at first. It felt surreal. Not long after it was announced to me personally, an official winner announcement went up on Speedhunters. Only then it hit me. This whole thing was for real and that there’s already at least one thing I can cross off my bucket list; me being mentioned on Speedhunters. At times I wanted to pinch myself so I would wake up, but, to be honest, there was no time for me to realize what was what. I had to get ready for the best trip of my life.
After the announcement, I was left with one last decision to make - with whom do I share this experience with. It was actually a very clear choice. It had to be my friend and roommate Rinalds.
Rinalds was very influential in designing the M4. After each major update of the design I went and asked him, what he thinks of it. So he was also partially involved in the creation of both liveries. You could say it was a team effort.
The big day came sooner than expected, or at least felt like it. We had about three hours and almost 300km drive to the Nürburgring ahead of us. Of course we didn’t want to get there late and miss any bit of it, so we took off at about 6AM.
Upon arrival I was immediately stunned by the amount of sportscars driving around. GT3RS’s were a more common sight than a VW Golf on a public road. So many unique cars were parked and driving on and off the track, I just couldn’t keep my finger off the shutter button.
After some waiting at the Touristenfahrten entrance, we finally met with the organizer himself, Boosted Boris, at the Devils Diner. Without even realizing, he already brought a surprise for me with him. Speedhunters Dino.
One of my inspirations and the reason why I’ve started with my own car photography in early 2015. For some people it might not seem like a big deal, but for me it was something unreal, to see somebody whose work and passion for photography I was inspired by. I was trying to keep calm, but once in a while my inner fanboy would just slip by my common sense. Sorry Dino…
At that point even more recognizable people arrived one after the other. Chris Harris in an all fancy looking green M3
and Alex with the whole CarThrottle crew.
As usual, Alex was fighting with Phil, while Boosted Boris made fun of him.
After some talks and laughs it was finally time to claim my first actual prize. Driving the Speedhunters, RG GT86 around the Nürburgring.
I was very self-conscious, because I never drive any good cars on a daily basis. In fact, I have never even owned one. But still, I was very confident before going out on the track. I was familiar with every corner of the Nordschleife already, because at home, I’ve clocked more than 1000 laps in various simulator games. My friend also jumped in the RG CT86 to do a couple of laps himself. It was incredible, finally being on the track and having a go at it in real life. I did make a couple mistakes by not being in the right gear going up hills. But I think I had a pretty decent line through most of the track. It was surprising to me just how different everything looked compared to simulators. It felt like you had way less field of view, which meant the track felt tighter, and zero vision over the crests. Thankfully I knew where the track was going so I was able to prepare myself for next corner. I have to give it to the instructor. He was perfect at explaining the braking and turn-in points of every part of the track. It was 100% understandable and extremely helpful.
At the end I had a BtG time of about 10:15, which was faster than I expected it to be. I loved every part of it. When I jumped out of the car, the adrenalin was still flowing, but I felt surprisingly calm. I had a feeling of accomplishment. Cross that one off my bucket list…
At the headquarters
After heading back to RG, we were greeted by something really special - Potter and Rich MC8 Gen II Audi R8 that Alok Paleri from Speedhunters was kind enough to bring to RG for everyone to have a look at. I must say, this was the most extreme car I’ve ever seen in real life.
This, 1000hp+, supercharged, RWD converted and Cartonfibre Audi LMS Ultra kitted R8 is stunning. Best of all, it is road legal. You can read more about it here
Towards the evening we had some food and went to the RG hotel. There the guys from Speedhunters and NFS had some talk and a couple of beers. I was mesmerized and basically didn’t participate in any of the conversations. I just sat there, listening to the stories they were telling. This in its self was something really special to experience, an insight into the life of a true Speedhunter.
The second day couldn’t have started any better than with a wakeup call by the rumble of the earlier mentioned R8. Even before I got out of my bed I was already hyped for what was coming. We headed down to the RG car park where the boys were already preparing for the CTMeet. The weather had cleared up and we already started to warm the engines, until the unexpected happened.
Me and Brad Hennessy both noticed something flowing under the infamous CT Phil. Oil. Lots of oil. Phil was losing blood on the RG car park and losing it fast. Great timing you, awesome little googly-eyed beast. Alex decided that Phil was not going to miss the CTMeet. So we quickly jumped into our cars and headed straight to the Nürburgring Driftpark while Phil had at least some fluid still left in him. No drifting or nonsense on the public roads happened on our way there…
The CTMeet was massive. Many different and unique cars for every taste.
From old-school JDM’s
to aggressively built track tools
and a couple of street going monstrosities.
Budget definitely wasn’t the limiting factor for the amount of awesomeness and creativity.
Of course, none of this would’ve happen without awesome people.
It all went very good until it got way better than I anticipated. While I was shooting the arriving cars out of nowhere, it passed me. Perfectly stanced, in almost the perfect color. Something I have never seen in real life, but has been a dream of mine, to own one someday. A third gen Mazda RX-7. I don’t think anybody has seen me disappear as fast as I did. I immediately chased the car down to its parking spot.
While the owner was getting ready to climb out of the car, I must have already taken a gazillion shots of it.
I was completely speechless by how perfect it was. I went to the owner and kindly asked him, if I can sit in it. Thank god he let me do it. And boy, was it way better than I have ever dreamed of. The visibility, the seating position, the dials, everything. Just perfect.
Amazeballs was all I could say. An extra thing to cross off my bucket list.
After getting out of the car, some guy went up to us and judging by my sweater asked me, if that was my ride. Yeah, I wish… It says on my sweater “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a Mazda RX7. And that’s pretty much the same thing” and has a big image of an FD3S on it. Happy coincidence? Maybe. I guess that was one of the reasons why the owner let me get in the car in the first place.
Sideways feels faster
While the CTMeet took place in the open area of the Driftpark, people were getting Drift-Passenger rides on the track around it.
Then it was time for a Mexican drift-off between Car Throttle and Speedhunters in RG’s CT86 and SH86 around a soaked roundabout. Who can hold the longest drift was to be decided in this competition.
CT’s Jake Orr has never drifted before, so he used every minute of the free practice. Of course, right after he found out how to turn the traction control off.
And I got to speedhunt the Speedhunters… :)
Unsurprisingly the event was moderated by our fellow CTZen, Boosted Boris.
Jake did really good for his first time but, at the end, it was team Speedhunters who took a 3:0 victory.
Then it was time for me to get a passenger ride in a 400hp Nissan 200sx.
It was amazing, hearing the noise of the V8 under the hood and feeling the smooth transitions executed by the driver. I have done some drifting around carparks and stuff myself, but this was so much better.
After that we were on our way to the GP track for the main event of the day.
Upon arrival we headed to the Pit-Box 6
where we were greeted by a few race-ready Porsches and a couple of other cars.
Out on the Pit-Lane, even more insane machines, all preparing for the VLN practice session.
Being there felt really strange because I’m used to see this kind of stuff only on the TV or the Internet, not in real life.
It’s really hard to put it to words how great it was to be there in the middle of it.
After a few shots I had to prepare for my shotgun lap in the RG Cayman.
It was me and Brad getting a passenger lap. We had to decide between us, who’s going put the race suit and helmet on first. A quick round of RPS and Brad had to get ready for the ride. After they took off I had some 9 minutes to relax and gather my thoughts. I couldn’t wait to get out there, with a professional driver, on the Nordschleife in almost full race mode.
Soon enough they rolled back in the pits and I had to take over the race suit from Brad. I think it was pretty cold that day, but I couldn’t be bothered. I was pumped.
Just check out the scenery…
I think a video tells a lot more than a thousand words. So here is the ride
As I stepped out of the car, I was Interviewed by Boosted Boris. English not being my native language, it was even harder for me not to fumble words around after a ride like this one. Now, let me tell you, what was it really like.
After leaving the GP track and entering the Nordschleife - it was on. I gave the driver thumbs up that everything was great. From that moment on I felt, he was really gunning it. The corner speed this car/driver had was mind blowing. The G-Forces were insane, all thanks to a good suspension setup and full slick tires. Jumping over curbs was brutal, but felt phenomenal at the same time. What I was most surprised about was the braking performance. As soon as the driver touched the brakes, it was like hitting a brick wall. Race harnesses are the best thing ever. Without them, they would still be peeling my face off the front panel. Such rapid corner carving really activated all of my petrolhead senses. After getting out of the car, I didn’t feel dizzy, but I knew my face was pale from pure G-Forces and after a couple of minutes, it turned red… I think my body explained better how awesome that ride was than I ever could.
The Sacred Ground
In the evening we drove to the Nordschleife for a track walk. We started at Brünnchen and went over Hohe-Acht all the way to the Karussell. It was astonishing, walking the track and not flying through it at mind boggling speeds.
As you drive the Nordschleife, you can definitely feel the change of elevation. But once on foot, you realize just how extreme it is. It was actually really hard to climb up the Hohe-Acht.
It was time for a group photo. Except nobody had any idea how to activate the shutter timer on the camera. By the time they found it, it was already dark. Thankfully nobody farted right before the shutter released… Right Steve? :D
After that we were on our way to the world famous Karussell. This was the place which I’ve always wanted to visit on foot. I have this running series of photos of my feet in many different places. I haven’t released any of those photos yet, but this is a special occasion;
7th block, 28 meters before the exit of the Karussell. I have to admit; this is the most unique one I currently have.
Later our Carmrade Boris took us up the 400m+ long and 27,5° degree steep test track. I felt pretty good up to about half way point of it. The rest I really struggled not to die. Thanks, you Russian maniac. On our way back, descending from Eschbach to Brünnchen, you could see some lights over in the parking lot. It got me thinking about stories I’ve heard about 24h races and that specific place. At night, all lit up, ongoing party, music and hot sausages. As a driver, you bust in, full speed to this amazing view and as you drive past the car park, the smell and the base from outside finds its way into the car. How amazing would it be to actually experience that?
The following day was VLN 2 race day. Getting to the track was extremely exciting because I got a ride in Mcchip-DKR, supercharged, Mercedes C63 AMG, now famously called the “C93”.
Yes, it’s a 6 flipped upside down and yes, it has 930hp. You wouldn’t believe the music this thing plays when the throttle pedal is being bothered.
We were driving from place to place around the Nordschleife and watching cars flying by. Now was the time I could finally take some photos while not being in the middle of something way cooler…
The Ring Fever
Sunday was an extra for us. Originally we didn’t plan to stay for four days, but I wasn’t going to miss the German Timeattack at the Nürburgring. Since the Timeattack started only later that day, we drove to the Touristenfahrten entrance. Throughout last couple of days, we met up with some really awesome people who were having tourist laps around the Ring that day.
They were kind enough to take us for a few laps in their private cars. But there was a problem. The more laps I had around the Nordschleife, the more I fell in love with it. My bank account said no, but my heart said go for it. So I booked another two laps in the RG, Speedhunters GT86.
Machines vs Clock
Timeattack was something I really wanted to see because every true petrolhead knows - Timeattack is the place where the most extreme DIY stuff is to be found. And this was definitely no exception.
I was like a child in Disneyland.
Some of the builds I could inspect in detail for hours
and I couldn’t ask for a better location to shoot these masterpieces.
Not everything was fair and square on the paddock and around the track. Some teams with big budgets and factory support behind them were also competing against the little ones.
But it was the smaller teams that captured my attention the most.
As we were slowly heading back to the Ring Garage, we stumbled upon a couple of very rare classic mercs in the parking lot.
This one still had its battle scars along the side.
Attention to detail to these old school vehicles is astonishing.
Isn’t this sl300 an amazing vehicle for the final moments of the best trip of my life? I think it was perfect! Except maybe for that one RX7 further down the car park… :D
And that’s a wrap
And just like that it was time for me and Rinalds to head back home.
I would love to be able to express how much this trip meant to me, but I’m actually not physically able to. There just isn’t a language to explain such feelings, emotions and experiences. I have completely fallen in love with the track. The atmosphere around it, even when the weather didn’t cooperate. It just captured me like nothing else ever has. Even when there’s nothing going on, the Nordschleife just whispers “speed” and “danger” at you.
The beauty of it isn’t something you can easily put to words and not one picture ever has captured it the way it really is. You have to see it for yourself. It’s just as legendary as it is beautiful.
There was however one major thing that I did not expect to happen – the amount of amazing people of Nürburgring and beyond.
People we met there were definitely the most memorable thing that happened during this adventure.
I had a feeling like I’ve finally found people who speak the same language as I do. Not quite literally but more figuratively.
Many of the conversations were quite deep and eye opening.
I cannot be thankful enough for this incredible, once in a life time opportunity to Ring Garage and especially this guy, whose name still remains a mystery. His ability to organize such a huge event is beyond belief.
Of course thanks to everybody else who was there and fulfilled this adventure - Alok, Steve, Dino, Vadim, Brad, Leon, Darren, Alex, Ethan and the rest of you (you know who you are!).
And last but definitely not least, this dude
for helping me with the design, bringing my ass up there and occasionally taking a couple of snaps of me. And also by just generally being awesome.
HUGE thanks to all of you!