McLaren SLR - could not believe we were seeing this rare beast! It sounded amazing - like a NASCAR but with a supercharger type whine, which may of been a race gearbox.
While Tessa and I were staying at the 'Ring we spent 2 days watching the manufacturers testing their cars around the track. There is obviously nothing to stop one doing this, and filming as they go past. Indeed, almost every week you can see a 'scoop' photograph from the 'Ring in car magazines such as Autocar.
Apologies for the quality of these pictures - they are all stills taken from video that I took - unfortunately I cannot post video clips on this website - as soon as I find a place to do so, I will link to the actual clips.
Sitting and waiting at Adenauer Forst. I would love to have seen the McLaren coming through here as you are very close to a slowish piece of track, but we missed it here!
While we were there BMW were testing all their new models. We saw the new 5-Series, X3, 6-Series and the new small car, the 1-Series, all heavily disguised. We also saw Jaguar X-type, Mitsibushi Evo, Focus, Seat Arosa, Porsche Cayenne, Boxster and 911 and Audi cars flying round the track. Highlight was the new Mercedes McLaren SLR though - we are unlikely to see this car being used in anger again, so to see it roaring around the Norschleife was a treat!
These cars were all being driven very quickly. Tires were squealing pretty much continuously, and it was great to watch! More and more manufacturers are jumping on the band wagon of testing at the 'Ring, knowing the publicity gives them a certain 'cache'. Jaguar have recently opened a big centre there, but it is manufacturers like BMW and Porsche who have tested here for years, honing the chassis and components of their cars. BMW have a mini showroom in the village of Nurburg with a few touring car M3's in the window. But this is not a dealers showroom, for behind is a compound where all the test cars work from. As you can imagine it has a high wall and high security! As we drove through late one evening we saw an Audi TT which we had watched all day sitting by the kerbside, the driver chatting to a BMW driver - no doubt comparing experiences after another day of what has to be one of the best jobs in the world!
In all the time we watched we never saw one car get even remotely out of shape. An M3 came through Adenauer sideways in the wet, but perfectly in control. However whilst standing under the track at Adenau Bridge we heard a massive lock-up right above us, where the track descends down to a left hander over the bridge we were under. No drama though - the Audi TT appeared briefly before climbing out at high speed into Ex-Muhle.
A composite shot showing the McLaren's air brake in action. As he brakes the flap pops up progressively, the top shot shows it fully open. Now to me it looks like a very effective way of blocking all rear vision...
Air brake in fully open position...
...and closing as the car accelerates away. You can almost see the Caterham bonnet that the engineer's have taped to the side of the car behind the front wheel!
Car sounded amazing! Meatiest thing we saw, it was easily the quickest, with no tire squeal. It looked very balanced on the road, with no correction or twitching, despite the speed.
Beware - we stayed for 2 days doing this! We watched cars at Brunnchen, Pflanzgarten and Adenauer Forst, but everytime we thought about leaving the track we would hear an approaching car, and once that happens you get caught in the 'We'll just see what the next one is going to be...'!
Compostion shot showing the new BMW 6-series diving through Pflanzgarten 1. This car also had a fantastic deep engine note.
BMW 6-Series There were a few variations of this car lapping the 'Ring. One of the cars had a very large spoiler on the rear boot lid. It was obviously not a production item, and looked a little like the one seen on the back of the Noble cars, with aluminum machined struts supporting a flat wing. Not much disguise on the cars, except around the front and rear light clusters.
Prototype number clearly visible on the flanks of this 6-Series.
BMW Mini This car was thrashing around the track all day! It was very quick and looked like enormous fun. Unknown to me Tessa had started to wave to the car, which soon started to give a friendly toot each time it passed!
BMW - X3 At first I thought this was a mildly face lifted X5, but it is smaller and is in fact the new X3 prototype.
Compostion shot of the X3 coming down through Brunnchen. Credit to the driver, it was on three wheels every time!
Heavily disguised, you can see the X3 is smaller than the X5
BMW 7-Series at Adenauer Forst There is something great about seeing such a huge car come round the 'Ring. It was pretty quick, but you could tell there was a lot of electronics helping!
I will add more pictures here of the 1-Series and others when I have edited the video.