The Ardennes are calling!
- 08 May 2023 |
- Member stories
Text | Photos:Manoj George
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, also known as the Ardennes Rollercoaster, is a stunning track and nestled in the forests of the Ardennes. I exchanged a few WhatsApps with Team Dentz, well known from radio and TV, and esteemed GT3 colleague Ronald. Then we booked on the modern new Pistenclub website. I think it's just as brilliant as the new e-learning module for obtaining the Pistenclub trackday licence, but more on that later.
The winter months with snow, sun and rain slowly passed. Finally, April approached, as did the anticipation and the question of whether man and machine were ready at all. The answer was: man is fit, but the machine (car) is not yet. Normally it's the other way round, but the author and driver spent various weekly hours in front of the simulator during the winter months and was thus able to maintain his track knowledge.
Back to the machine: The GT3 required a general inspection and it got it at the workshop of trust in Rosbach v. d. Höhe, at Seebach-Fahrzeugtechnik. This is an experienced business with a focus on Porsche racing enthusiasts and owner Marco has been a successful Porsche Sports Cup driver himself for many years. In any case, the car got a fresh dose of brake fluid as well as the badge. A must for every ambitious trackday driver who regularly checks the brakes for stability.
Afterwards, the question arose as to whether a service was needed on site. Up to now, it was possible without, but since Corona, the "comfort bear" has moved in and I didn't have to ask the passionate motorsport mechanic Yannick and his buddy Manu for long. For many years, Yannick looked after a pair of racer friends on numerous race tracks in Europe and, like his "wingman" Manu, is experienced in Porsche Sports Cup.
Who hasn't experienced this? You let off 0.2 bar, drive two or three laps and suddenly you have 2.4 bar on the rear axle because you misjudged the air and asphalt temperature. So you drive back in, unbuckle six times, let out the excess air, buckle up again and suddenly the stint feels over. Those who are still on the road with HANS and Co. appreciate this service. At least that's what happened to me, and there was another factor. Circuit tracks put a one-sided load on the tyres, which can be remedied - ideally on site - by regularly repositioning the wheels and thus ensuring even rubber wear.
Before every trackday, I ask myself the same question: should I travel on my own or someone else's axle? The pros and cons are well known, but in view of the rising prices for used cars from Zuffenhausen, today the choice fell on the trailer. I was very lucky to have access to a double-axle trailer from FIT-ZEL. They say it's the Mercedes of trailers, because it has a low ramp angle, a hydraulic self-tipping mechanism and can be driven forward quite comfortably. Speaking of driving it, while loading up the GT3, my daughter Layla and I were watched by an excited little boy who said to his mother, "Mum, I got that as a Playmobil car." This is indeed true and Ravensburger also brought out the car as a 3D puzzle. On the afternoon of Easter Sunday, we went to the team accommodation in Bernister/Malmedy packed with daughter, jacks, torque spanner and co. The attempt to enjoy delicious Belgian fries and beer almost failed, as to our surprise almost everything was closed, only a smaller "Heiden-Fritterie" in the industrial area of Malmedy was still serving meat croquettes and fries.
Easter Monday greeted Layla with low temperatures and me with rising nervousness. I'm always like that, as soon as I see a race track, my bladder presses. We were welcomed in the usual friendly manner by the Pistenclub team, together we applied the stickers and while Layla warmed herself in the sun, I headed towards the drivers' briefing. Instructor Christian Bock opened the briefing, which ended quickly for me anyway, thanks to my Pistenclub trackday licence.
I would particularly like to highlight Christian's reminder about insurance cover. He made it unmistakably clear that the race track Spa and the organiser Pistenclub declare a waiver of liability, but that we as participants are fully liable among ourselves. So whoever causes damage is responsible for it. Unfortunately, this is all too often forgotten in the adrenaline rush.
A little air out of the tyres and then we carefully made our way over the Eau Rouge onto the Kemmel Straight. Wow, to be back on the track after eight months was a great feeling. I have to admit, it took longer than expected to gradually "get into the groove". The track knowledge was there, but the courage to move the tyres to the grip limit was lacking. No big deal, I thought, because we had the whole day. And that's exactly how it was, from lap to lap the confidence in one's own abilities increased and in between we were supplied with plenty of chocolate by Ronald, the special envoy of the Easter Bunny.
My daughter waved thanks and that allowed me to round off my first trackday of 2023 by bringing along a good friend from Frankfurt. She travelled with her husband Max and his friend Urs, is a passionate rider and had no idea what five hundred released horses do in the Ardennes. Tessa put on my helmet with intercom, Yannick harnessed her and I finally connected us via the Peltor intercom. With my right hand raised, we gingerly headed out onto the track. Gently, I accelerated and explained the ideal line as we drove. Before each turn, I announced the braking, turn-in and acceleration points. The enthusiasm still lasts today and the decision for Spa-Francorchamps was spot on, I'll be back - no question about it.
Thanks for reading with interest and many thanks to Dirk Weidner from the Pistenclub for the opportunity to share my impressions here.
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