Finally had a chance to visit the Green Hell for one of the Touristenfahrten. I have limited experience driving on a track so I booked a VW Polo GTI with an instructor through Apex Nürburg. Very glad I didn't go at the it alone. Between the countless blind and cresting corners and all the other cars coming up fast, it would have been a very stressful ordeal and presumably a lot more dangerous too.
Given my heritage, I was paired with countryman Mike who provided pointers in Dutch. In a nutshell, he would continuously indicate breaking and turning points, which side of the track to aim for and whether to hold or push the throttle. The whole lap went something like this: “go to the right side of the track … hard brake … turn-in at the sign … hold the throttle … back to the right side in a straight line … soft brake … speed is good … turn-in … on the throttle and let the car pull you out to the other side … car approaching”, etc.
I quickly realized it was best to follow Mike's instructions to the tee. Early on, despite Mike's assurance that “the speed is good” and general instruction to only break in a straight line, I felt like we were going into a corner a little hot and in a reflex lightly tapped the brake after having turned in. The Polo was not amused and the back-end suddenly got very light; quickly corrected my error and let trust in Mike override my fear from then on out. We did two back-to-back laps and the whole experience was a complete rush from beginning to end.
As for the Polo, it felt similarly sized and powered to the mkv GTI I used to own. Given the overwhelming impressions of a first-timer I left the DSG in Sport, but found the transmission hunting for the right gear quite often. Especially coming out of an corner going uphill it went for a double downshift quite a few times, losing a lot of momentum. If there is to a be a next time, I'd probably go for Apex's manual BMW 218i or Toyota GT86.
Having been the slowest driver on the track (not counting the Polish hippy van), I was very curious to also experience a fast lap. Luckily, Apex's McLaren 600LT was available for a ride-along. Riding shotgun to Apex's driver and mechanic Tim, I was now in the fastest car on the track. The G's and the unreal grip Tim pulled out of the McLaren were beyond my comprehension. Happy I didn't have to follow the one instruction of where to find the puke bag and ended up grinning throughout the 8-minute lap. Uttered some profanities at the end. A very exciting but also humbling experience.
For a first-time visit I'd definitely recommend the ride-along above driving yourself. Doing both is preferable. Highly recommend visiting if you've never been to the Nürburgring and hiring an instructor.
Here is Tim in the 600LT with Apex co-founder Misha: