It seemed like the day took forever to come around and, like the World Cup itself, it was over in a flash but on Friday we set off from Twickenham on a footballing pilgrimage to Cologne to see the mighty Togo take on France. With a dash to Dover to catch an early ferry followed by a drive through four countries just to make the kick-off it was always going to be a long day and we made it with, well a few minutes to spare.
The atmosphere was fantastic and you could really feel the extents to which Germany had gone to make all the visiting fans feel welcome. The World Cup was – literally – everywhere. It was a pity the game didn’t really live up to expectations – everyone seemed to lose interest once France had scored their second (teams included). Though the two conga lines that formed behind the goals at either end provided an entertaining distraction from the drudgery of the last 20 minutes.
Then it was off to the Nurburgring for a quick lap – something I’ve always fancied doing. Trouble is I’ve always fancied doing it when I’ve owned interesting cars – Porsche 944 S2, 964, Fiat Coupe Turbo, Ford Racing Puma etc – but the opportunity never arose. Now, when the opportunity does arise, I happen to be driving a Golf TDi. Hmmm.
Well, it was an experience – and a pretty terrifying one. Lapping the Nordschleife numerous times in Project Gotham Racing wasn’t really adequate preparation! For one thing the gradients come as a surprise – and so does the sheer volume of traffic. Most of them taking it very seriously. Every 2nd car is a 911 and many are track prepared with roll-cages and behelmeted (is there such a word) drivers! Then there are the bikes. I do have a motorbike but you wouldn’t catch me riding it around the Nurburgring. That takes some serious guts. So apologies to everyone that had to drive around me (I did keep right all the way around) and hats off to all the bikers that overtook me.
The most entertaining sight of the day was the camper-van we saw pootling around at an even slower speed than we managed. If you ever get the chance I’d recommend it but be prepared for a fairly nerve-wracking experience. MikeT asked me if there was any safety-briefing or “minimum requirements”. Ha! You walk up to a machine, purchase a ticket and stick that in the entrance barrier as if you were in a multi-storey car-park. You don’t even talk to a human being! Oh, and if you’d like to get an idea what a trip round the ‘ring is like if you have the right car and the right talent, have a look at this video (that’s no ordinary 964!).
Then it was a drive up to Bruges to enjoy the remainder of the weekend at a more gentle pace. What a contrast to Germany. I know Belgium aren’t in the World Cup (I know how they feel) but the world’s biggest sporting spectacle seems to have passed them by entirely. Trying to find a bar to watch the Argentina vs Mexico game was a serious challenge on Saturday night!
The weekend ended with the customary trip to Calais finest supermarches to load up on festive spirit before driving the final 100 miles or so with sagging suspension. I’m glad I didn’t have to carry that lot round the ‘ring. What a weekend!