We’ve all seen some pretty incredible machines, many of them built by people we might never meet, who live thousands of miles away, and speak languages we don’t understand. The language of the automobile, however, we understand. We look at their cars. They look at our cars. Things make sense. Being a gearhead is universal. This story involves two gearheads, three countries, a limited edition Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, and hot laps around the infamous Nürburgring.
I got an email a couple months back from Andy, whom you might remember owns one of the exceedingly rare Lancer Evolution IX GTs (link to the old GBXM site), he wanted to tell me about a recent trip he’d made to Nürburg, Germany, some 800 miles away from his home in northern England, to run the ‘Ring with the Evo wagon. We snagged these pictures from Andy’s recap thread on MLR.
Some of my German friends in Baden-Württemburg had mentioned the ‘Ring was pretty rough on cars and they weren’t particularly interested in running it, so I asked Andy what he did to prepare the Evo for hotlapping one of the most infamous courses on the planet. His answer? “‘Ring prep was nil. I don’t bother with games at all, but am considering it may be good to learn the track. I didn’t find it too hard on the car. Tyre temps were reading 75°C (167°F) after two consecutive laps, but that’s the same as a sunny day at Castle Combe.” Andy wasn’t nervous, either, just eager.
Andre hails from northern Indiana, practically Chicagoland, in the United States. In his mid-twenties, he’s already had a number of predominately Japanese vehicles – Mazdas, Nissans, DSMs – and he was spending six months in the Stuttgart, Germany, area as part of his Master’s Degree program. He’d made the requisite pilgrimages; touring the Mercedes, Ferrari, and Porsche museums, Audi’s Neckarsulm factory, and even Le Mans, among others. When a buddy hooked him up with a rail pass with just a day left on it, Andre found himself planning a trip to the infamous Nürburgring on a day’s notice.
Upon arriving at the ‘Ring, Andre toured the museum and various gift shops. The World Series by Renault was on the circuit and he caught a couple exhibition races, but Andre hadn’t come to the ‘Ring to watch, he had come to be among the gearheads – to partake of die Grüne Hölle (the “Green Hell”) – and he made his way through a slight drizzle to the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant he’d heard about so many times.
Setting foot in the parking lot, Andre found himself in gearhead heaven. He spent the next four hours walking around taking pictures, examining modifications, and talking with owners who had come from across Europe to test their machines (and their skills) on the Nordschleife. He went to register for a ride in the BMW Taxis, but they were no longer accepting passengers that day. Determined to get on the track, he returned to the car pack, sizing up the competition; was there anyone whom he could trust with his life for a spin around the track before the last train of the day back to Stuttgart?
He remembered the guy with the white Evo IX wagon. First of all, it was a cool, rare car, with work done in all the right places to be a proper track weapon. Second, the owner (Andy) seemed a tad wiser than the average bear and therefore less likely to go out and showboat, landing them both rides in der Krankenwagen. Andre got the impression he had been around the block a few times with the car and had a good feeling for what the Mitsubishi 5-door could – and could not – handle. And, finally, having spent some time sitting with Andy and talking shop, he felt like they were already firm friends, even having met as strangers in a foreign country. He explained to Andy why he wanted to go for a ride and off they went.
“As a matter of fact, Andre was in the passenger seat for my quickest lap. He was studying in Germany and turned up to spectate at the ‘Ring for a day out. He told me he had considered asking many drivers for a passenger lap and I was first on his list, mainly due to the wagon, of course! He offered me 50 Euro for the privilege, saying fuel, tires, wear and tear, all needed money and insisted on paying for his seat time. I told him that, at 24 Euro per lap, he’d be having two laps, then.”
“We went around so many times I lost track of time and missed the last bus of the day back to the train station. But being the good guy he was, Andy offered to drive me into town to the train station. Without his help I would have been stuck with nowhere to sleep on a mountain with bipolar weather conditions for the night. I am still so very grateful.”
“I asked how far to the nearest train station and he said about 25 to 30-odd miles. In order to catch that train back to where he was studying, he needed to be at the station, ready to board, within an hour. All I did was was what anybody would have done in a similar situation. I said, ‘No problem. I don’t think we’ll have any problems getting you there in plenty of time.’ We made a quick stop on our way for some lovely 103-octane juice for the Evo, which Andre insisted on contributing toward.
“Andre’s a true gent. As I dropped him at the railway, we exchanged email addresses. He’s a very nice guy and it was my pleasure to have him along for a couple laps of the ‘Ring (one of which was my fastest lap, 9 minutes, 16 seconds). It was only right to make sure he got started on his return journey. It’s nice to make another friend in the US.”
This is my 9.16 lap,
“Overall this is definitely the gearhead’s Mecca! Probably the only place in the world where anybody in anything (road legal) can get out and go hard. I loved the track, how dangerous and ridiculous it really is; especially compared to our American world of lawsuits, idiot-proof-safety-everything and Big Brother Surveillance.The Nürburgring really gets back to the common-sense-and-you-live mindset that is necessary for us to enjoy our lives to the fullest.
“What I loved about the people is the purpose everyone seemed to have for being there. At the Nürburgring, you’ll see all sorts of cars and bikes, and yet they all have the same goals and mindsets. Nobody is there to impress the opposite sex, or flaunt their money, or stunt, or any of the other less important things involved with grassroots motorsport scene at times. They were all there to improve themselves; to make their their machines better (through tuning and modifying) or to make themselves better (through finding the perfect line), all measured equally under the dispassionate gaze of the clock.
“The beautiful thing about the clock is that it is not biased in any way. There was a guy in a 500 series flat black Ford Focus RS on the track, passing up everyone (including Porsche 911 GT3s, a Corvette, a 1-series M, and us in the Evo), and for that respect was given. Didn’t matter if it was “just a Ford Focus,” as many might say. That doesn’t matter at the Nürburgring, and that’s the point. To each his own when it comes to autosports, but if you do this, do it because you love to drive and drive hard.
“Definitely put this on your list of things to do before you die.”
Is this a cool story or what? One gearhead, hundreds of miles from home, getting ready to test his pride and joy, a limited edition vehicle he daily drives back home, meeting a fellow enthusiast from the other side of the planet at one of the most famous race tracks in the world, and working together to have a fantastic time.
- Have you ever visited a motorsport venue outside your home country? Tell us about it!
- Would you like to get to hang out with gearheads on the other side of the world? Where? What would you like to do?