Car Guy's Trip: Nurburgring, 8 Kart Tracks, Prague and Amsterdam

Mods: I know this technically isn't a "Motorsports" item, but considering we are track whores and such... it made sense to post here...

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Its a Friday afternoon and the weekend has officially started for millions of people. Id probably be more aware of this weekly event had my vacation not started days earlier. Not only did my vacation begin earlier in the week, at this moment at around 3:30PM, I find myself pushing an engine passed 7500rpms and prepare for a shift from third gear into fourth. Out of my peripherals to my left and right, I not only see, but nearly feel the flurry of trees passing by. Im peering through my tinted blue-chrome visor towards the horizon, in hopes of being able to identify my bearings...looking for SOME clue of where I should be directing this vehicle Ive found myself strapped in. As I crest the hill, I catch a glimpse of a retaining wall on the right side and immediately let out, what could only be described as, a yelp. My innate desire for self-preservation tells my body that I should avoid this wall and tug on the steering wheel to dart left. Without much fuss, let alone much effort, the car responds before I could finish my battle cry and I find myself hunting for the next turn of this menacing course. Im at the famous Nurburgring in Germany in a rented Lotus Exige S240, Im giggling like a school girl, and Im with three of my closest friends in Europe with another week left in our vacation.


This trip starting with a very simple idea I had, I want to go to Europe and drive the ring again. I had visited the Nurburgring in 2006, where I drove a 2004 BMW M3, borrowed from my brother who was stationed in Germany. Since the last time I went to Germany, I brought my girlfriend along and needless to say, there were many things I didnt get to do in Germany that I wish I had, preventing a lot of the car-nut activities I wanted to indulge in.


This time, I would make sure all significant others would not partake in this trip to avoid any distractions. Thus spawned rule one. I had thought that it would be easiest to travel throughout Germany if I kept the group to four people, and thus without much effort, I enlisted two close friends, Karim and Blaine. They agreed immediately and the fourth spot remained open and was quickly snatched up by Jack, and after a date was selected, tickets were purchased which also confirmed the group of four who would venture to Europe.

The four of us are self-proclaimed car-nuts, pistonheads, gearheads, however you want to label it. All four of us have been involved in motorsports on an amateur level, either competing in time-attack style competitions, kart races, or open track events. Whenever we see a modified car, we do double-takes. We respect all forms of motorsports, but are primarily involved in track driving and competitions. A month prior to the trip, we took a trip to Laguna Seca Raceway to run at a Speedventures event. Cars are a passion for us and having the opportunity to drive the Nurburgring would be an incredible experience, especially with three of your closest friends.

Fast forward roughly 10 months later, we land in Frankfurt, Germany. The flight, although long, wasnt as bad as we had thought, with several media devices keeping us entertained. A special shout-out goes to the FX animated series Archer. If you havent found this gem, you should Netflix it now. After acquiring our luggage, we made our way to the passenger pick up point and met up with Christian, who was a German friend of Blaines. This was a much nicer greeting than my previous arrival in Frankfurt, where the airport was surrounded with protesters and police in riot gear carrying submachine guns. Plus, Christian was kind enough to provide us with transportation to Heidelberg, where we would stay for the night.

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Being car guys from the states, seeing Christian's car, which was an Opel Vectra...basically a Saturn. This car wasn't anything special, however, there would be times where the autobahns restricted speed limit would be dropped and our German driver would plant his firm firmly down on the accelerator and push the Opel for a high speed run. His highest speed obtained ever was 220kph, which was roughly 137mph. During a banzai run with four additional passengers, and a hill, we were able to go 222kph (138mph). At one point, there was curve in the road where the full packed Opel lurched around as the speedometer was hovering in the 200kph range. I wouldnt have even noticed had I not had the best view of the road and gauge cluster from my center-rear seating position. This position also had me nervously watch as we buzzed passed other vehicles going significantly slower than us. Thankfully German licensing methods are tedious and expensive, putting some of my faith into the ability of our driver.

The next morning, we woke up early and made our way further south towards Munich. We had planned on stopping at Stuttgart for the Porsche Museum, but as we were driving along, I had spotted a sign for Hockenheim and mentioned to Karim. Karim had a sparkle in his eyes and mentioned that F1 travels to Hockenheim Ring, and so we made a quick pitstop.

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After our quick pitstop, we make our way to Stuttgart for one reason, and one reason only. Porsche.

Porsche headquarters is housed in Stuttgart and our trip to Germany wouldnt be complete without stopping by to see what all the fuss was about. Unfortunately for us, the Porsche Factory tour was closed, but their museum was not. This allowed us to see some of the original Porsche cars, all the way to some of the newest. For a Porsche fan, the museum housed an incredible amount of amazing machinery and for race fans, it contained a good deal of race cars to make your heart sing. Whats also amazing is that you could literally lean against all of the cars if one so desired, although its not recommended. We were able to get our heads into the cockpits of many of the cars and smell the fumes that the drivers had to endure.

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Leaving the Porsche museum, we make our way into Munich, but get sidetracked when we find an outdoor karting track called Australian Karting.

I make a point to go to karting whenever I travel, and wanted to share that tradition with the guys. The guys were all about karting, as all of us had been to several kart tracks within Vegas, as well as California. Nestled in a forest, this kart track looked like it hosted several kart racing events, with a wide track, tricky corners, and a restaurant with a nice viewing area. The staff consisted of a teenager who split his time between working on repairing karts and assisting customers. This were karting in someones backyard carried through into the karts as well. The gas-powered karts we drove were entirely too under-powered for the track, which meant you drove the entire track with the accelerator floored. Had we been driving karts with a few more horsepower, this would have been one of our favorite tracks of the trip. After our 20 minutes of time, we were flagged to pull into the pits. Exiting the karts, we never found out how well we did or didnt do, as times werent provided, nor did we feel like asking the overworked staff member. Instead, we used the toilets and went about our trip.

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We headed into Munich to find our hotel, with Christian giving us a basic tour, showing us the BMW museum location, and the Olympic stadium site. Our hotel was located in the center of the city, allowing us to easily walk from our hotel to many sites. The GPS had directed us to a large intersection, but we werent able to find the hotel exactly, so we parked nearby at another hotel and walked to find ours. This became somewhat of a task, as the hotel wasnt a large, well known lodging. After coming across a door that lead to a corridor that contained a few doctors office, we found a small, unassuming sign that read Locarno Hotel, and a flight of stairs that led to our hotel. Climbing the stairs, we learned that the hotel spanned the upper half of the building and was significantly worse than our previous hotel. Our room had three twin sized cots, and a roll-a-way bed. For air-conditioning, we had a small 10 fan that was bolted to a shelf that was at eye level. The room lacked a toilet and shower, but did have a sink. Our floor contained four rooms, one shower and toilet combination, another closet-sized room for just a toilet, and a final, slightly larger closet, than contained just a shower. Whats worse is, our room had a lovely view, and extremely audible wail, of the railcar a few stories below that ran hourly.

I was surprised that I woke up the next morning feeling rested, considering the roll-a-way bed I was sleeping on, and the railcar rumbling passed every hour. We managed to get up early enough for breakfast, and made our way to EuroCar for our rental. Our rental was a Skoda Superb, a vehicle that was motivated by a four-cylinder 1.8L turbocharged engine that made an awe-inspiring 160hp. By awe-inspiring, I mean, a complete turd. Its based on the Jetta chassis, and had the same proportions as a Passat. The interior was plush and nice, the exterior drab and boring. The gear shift was akin to a mid 80s Nissan Z, and to get the car moving from a standstill required 90% throttle, otherwise it would bog. Although a huge step up from the Opel Vectra, it was still a boring and underachieving vehicle.

The, we make our way towards Kart Palast, another kart track, just north of Munich. With some creative short cuts, we find the building, which looks like most indoor karting tracks without much fanfare or signage to promote its business. Stuffed in a large building, entering Kart Palast, theres a stairwell when you immediately walk in, but no clear indication of where you need to go to race or sign up to race. It appears to be an office building moreso than a karting track. After some investigation, we proceed passed the stairs and find a large restaurant area, with indoor putting, a bowling alley, and of course... a bar. The bar is where you sign up for the karts, which was housed upstairs. We sign up for the next available race, which had us waiting for roughly 45 minutes, where we sat, had a drink and explored the building.


The kart track was clean, the karts looked fresh and new, and the track had display boards that clearly identified the kart number and the lap times. Whats even better, Kart Palast displayed split times, which helped you determine how well you were, or werent, doing in the middle of each lap. We would first do a 10 minute qualifying run, to determine our grid placement for the 25 minute race. The karts, the track, and layout, all were remarkable. The course flowed well and provided several places for clean passing. Unlike the first kart track, we were also racing alongside other customers who were extremely courteous and aware of faster traffic, moving over to allow us to pass. This driving etiquette would repeat itself throughout Europe and every kart track we go to, which is rare for us since at most American kart tracks (hell, on the streets too!), people are completely oblivious of whats behind them. The 10 minute session would seem to go on forever, until we were finally flagged and placed in our qualifying order. This provided a nice break to stretch out our hands and arms before the 25 minute race. The 25 minute race goes on without much fanfare until the checkered flag when we pull into the pits. We grab our timesheets of our seemingly endless qualifying and race times and make our way back towards the center of Munich.


We are heading back towards our hotel when we spot the BMW Museum and make a stop. None of us are BMW owners, but being car enthusiasts, we opted to stop by and check it out. For roughly eight euro, you were able to wandered through the massive halls of the BMW Museum. There was a wall full of various BMW Motorcycles, several floors with various ranges of vehicles, prototypes, and a room dedicated to M cars.

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The rest of the day was spent wandering around Munich, grabbing dinner, and then heading back to our much nicer hotel.
The following day, we begin our drive out to Nurburgring. The drive would be the longest we take thus far, but we break it up, by deciding to stop back at Hockenheim Ring and do a bit of shopping. We also manage to find another indoor karting place, appropriately named "Michael Shumacher" Karting.

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The MS Karting place is the largest we'll go to for the trip, but completely worth it. It has an indoor kart track, as well as an outdoor kart track. The indoor kart track is technical and exceptional fun, but the real fun was driving the outdoor track. Both tracks had barriers that were flat with the pavement and curved up to prevent you from crossing over. This is vastly different from the typical American kart tracks that are lined with used tires or plastic barriers. The barriers at MS allowed you to drive up on them a little, and pull your kart towards the corner. This became useful when you hit one at an apex to let it grab the kart and help it rotate.
We purchased a three-session pass, and used one pass on the indoor track, and the other two on the outdoor. The karts all felt relatively equal and well maintained, the staff was generally good about passing flags and such. What's also nice is they had a very good Italian restaurant that overlooked the outdoor track, which we ate at and it was quite good.

We continued up to Nurburg and checked into our hotel. Being it was a Thursday night, the tourist area was pretty empty. We wandered around a little bit before we headed back to our room and went to sleep. The following morning, we woke up to a pretty harsh thunderstorm. We made our way downstairs to have breakfast, which wasn't spectacular. The track opened at 2:00PM and we were asked to come by the car rental places by noon to pick up our vehicles. Beforehand, we went back to the tourist area and bought some souvenirs, typical stuff like track stickers, shirts, and hats.

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Thankfully, as we were heading out of our hotel, the weather had cleared up and the rain had stopped. This allowed us to walk to the mall where two of the Nissan owners in our group noticed the Nissan store. In the center of the store was a large display of the entire Nurburgring, along with a plaque of the pre-2012 GTR's lap time. The display was pretty impressive, which included the elevation changes within the map. Other stores in the mall included a shop for legit race-gear, a DTM car in a showroom, and a large dining area. Eventually we left to go check out some of the turns of the Nurburgring when we spotted a 3-series BMW being hustled around the track at a very quick pace. What's more impressive is the driver was doing it on a damp track!

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We leave the track and head to RentRaceCar's store front, which is located just outside of Nurburgring. I made a comment that the place is likely a house with a shed attached to it with some cars. When we pulled up, it was almost exactly as I had imagined.

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However, the shed was amazing. Outside of the shed sat two GT3 cup cars, and inside sat a dozen of Scirrocos, 3-series BMWs, and Z4s. Stuffed in the back was a new GT3 RS 4.0, a Porsche Carrera GT and an Enzo under a tarp.

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The other three had decided to rent Z4s (at roughly $1100 for six laps), while I decided to go with RSR's Lotus Exige (at roughly $1500 for six laps). The people who run RentRaceCar were very courteous and welcoming. They offered good advice, explained the disclaimers and the potential issues one might face if they make a mistake on track. Overall, very friendly and customer service oriented. They asked what I was driving and one of the guys had some choice words about the Lotus Exige, saying how it's a tricky car to drive, especially when the track is damp. Undeterred, I let the others finish their paperwork and allow them get briefed on their cars. I led them to the track where they dropped their Z4s off and they joined me to RSR.

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RSR is located down a very narrow road and is situated in a shop that can only be described as a back-yard mechanic's shop. I had arrived at 1:00P and couldn't find any of the sales staff. Instead, we wandered the side yard where we saw some of their rental cars, as well as a caged RX7, a E30 M3, and a handful of other interesting cars. At 1:15p, I was greeted by one of RSR's instructors who said he would be with me shortly.
1:45p comes around and he comes to me to informed me that, since it was quite damp out, that I wouldn't be able to drive the Exige.

What?!

I asked him if there's anything I could do, as driving a Megane wasn't that interesting to me and I would rather just go back to RentRaceCar and drive their Scirrocos. I was then told I could wait until the track opened, which would allow the instructors to drive the track and see how damp it truly was. I agreed and went back to the track. So the other guys can start driving.

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I wait until 3:00P and head back to RSR where I ask if I'm able to take the Lotus, which they finally agree, provided that I get a pass by the instructor. Easy enough. I work as a driving instructor and know what they want to see and what they don't want to see. We hop in the car and make our way to the track. We arrive in the parking lot and immediately head to the gate.

I leave the coned section, make my 2nd gear to 3rd gear shift and the instructor barks: "that was a s*** shift!"
So, this is how it's going to be. For the next ten minutes, I'm hardly pushing the car as to avoid any further reprimands from the instructor, but also keep it thoroughly under control so I can enjoy the next five laps in the car with the instructor. The first lap goes by in a flurry. I don't recall anything about the car's handling characteristics, the track, nothing. I remember the instructor at one point scolded me by saying: "you're turning in way too late and it's scaring me."... my only thought was "and?"

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I pull back into the gate and the instructor gives me some helpful pointers and releases me. "I'm free!" I think and I enlist one of my friends to jump in. The next lap, I spend more time concentrating on what the car is doing and the track layout versus the colorful commentary from the passenger seat. The car's acceleration is good, feels similar to the S2000, where it takes revs to really get going. The shifter is absolutely horrid and complains going into 2nd gear, but otherwise the car felt very good without any CELs or other fault signals. The Lotus I had was wearing street tires and not the normal r-compounds, which is also why I may have gotten a pass to drive it. As everyone has ever said about the Elise/Exige, it's psychic in how it handles, "go-karting handling", etc, etc. The car is incredible in how well it allows you to put any one of it's four wheels on any part of the track and with the S240 trim, has plenty of power to get up the hilly sections of the track.

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Ultimately, my next five laps would fly by, and I was able to net a mid eight minute lap time in traffic with a passenger. Not the fastest ever, but I am certainly happy with the time, knowing that I left plenty on the table and only scared myself three times. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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The other guys didn't bother timing themselves, but due to my abnormal competitive streak, I had to know. Once we left the track, we ended up going to RingKart, which was situated in the tourist mall. It would be our final stop before making our way to Amsterdam. The karting track at the mall was decent, we may have been a bit overwhelmed with the activities of the day, but the track didn't seem that interesting. Alas, at the end of the day, between the four of us, we had spent a total of $5000 at the Nurburgring, between rental cars, souvenirs, hotel lodging, food, and drinks.

Over the next four days, we would go to Amsterdam, Prague, than back to Frankfurt. To quickly summerize:

Amsterdam:
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- We did a kart track there. Scariest track ever, with elevation changes and a jump!
- Don't remember anything else about Amsterdam :)

Prague:
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- Also raced a kart track here... the most dangerous kart track ever. The karts didn't have any bumpers around the wheels... and if you ever raced karts and have touched wheels... you know how dangerous that can get.
- GORGEOUS city. Absolutely breath-taking.

Frankfurt:
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- Eh. Kart track here was alright.


REFERENCES:
Airline
Condor Airlines
http://www.condor.com/us/index.jsp

Sight-seeing
Heidelberg Castle
Address: 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidelberg_Castle

Porsche Museum
Address: Porscheplatz 1 70435 Stuttgart, Germany
http://www.porsche.com/germany/aboutporsche/porschemuseum/

BMW Museum
Address: Am Olympiapark 2, 80809 Mnchen, Germany
http://www.bmw-welt.com/web_rb/bmw-welt/de/index.html

Hockenheim Ring
Address: Am Motodrom, 68766 Hockenheim
http://www.hockenheimring.net/


Food / Drinks
Apple Pizza
Address: Herrenwiesenstrae 2 69126 Heidelberg, Germany
http://www.applepizza.de/?site=order

Hofbrauhaus
Address: Platzl 9, 80331 Mnchen, Germany
http://www.hofbraeuhaus.de/en/index_en.html

Augustiner Brau
Address: Arnulfstr. 52, 80335 Munich, Germany
http://www.augustinerkeller.de/en.htm


Karting
Australian Karting
Karts: 2/5
Track: 5/5
Overall: 3/5
Address: Robert-Bosch-Str. 19 85748 Garching b. Mnchen, Germany
http://ak-racing-shop.de/akracing/

Kart Palast
Karts: 5/5
Track: 5/5
Overall: 5/5
Address: Gadastrae 9, 85232 Bergkirchen, Germany
http://www.kartpalast.de/

Michael Schumacher Karting
Karts: 5/5
Track: 5/5
Overall: 5/5
Address: Michael-Schumacher-Str 5, 50170 Kerpen, Germany
http://www.ms-kartcenter.de/com/index2.php

Ring Karting
Karts: 4/5
Track: 3/5
Overall: 3/5
Address: Ring tourist area
http://www.nuerburgring.de/en/angebote/family-leisure/kartbahn.html

Bleekemolens Karting
Karts: 2/5
Track: 2/5
Overall: 2/5
Address: Herwijk 10, 1046 BC Amsterdam, Netherlands
http://www.raceplanet.com/karting/amsterdam/613

Kart Centrum
Karts: 2/5
Track: 2/5
Overall: 2/5
Address: Vpadov 1335, 150 00 Prague 5, Czech Republic
http://www.kart-centrum.cz/?lang=en

IndoorKart2000
Karts: 3/5
Track: 4/5
Overall: 4/5
Address: Kruppstr. 121, 60388 Frankfurt, Germany
http://www.indoorkart2000.de/


Hotel
Locarno Hotel
Overall: 1/5
Address: Bahnhofplatz 5, 80335 Munich, Germany
http://www.pensionlocarno.de/e-index.html

Holiday Inn Schwabing
Overall: 5/5
Address: Leopoldstrae 194, 80804 Munich, Germany
http://www.munich-schwabing-hi-hotel.de/20_00_00_00_de.php

Lindner Hotel, Grune Holle
Overall: 5/5
Address: Nrburgring, 53521 Nrburg
http://www.lindner.de/

Best Western Blue Tower Hotel
Overall: 4/5
Address: Leeuwendalersweg 21, 1055 EJ Amsterdam, Netherlands
http://www.hotelbluetower.com/

Hilton Prague Old Town
Overall: 5/5
Address: Petrsk 7, 110 00 Prague 1, Czech Republic
http://www1.hilton.com/en_US/hi/hotel/PRGOTHI-Hilton-Prague-Old-Town/index.do

Hotel Everest
Overall: 2/5
Address: Schnstrae 6, 60327 Frankfurt, Germany
http://www.hotelratesonline.com/Hotel/Hotel_Everest_Frankfurt_am_Main.htm

Roomers
Overall: ??
Address: Gutleutstr. 85, 60329 Frankfurt, Germany
http://www.roomers.eu/


Nurburgring Rental Cars
RSR
Address: Antoniusweg 1a, 53520 Nrburg, Germany
http://www.rsrnurburg.com/

Rent Race Car
Address: Schulstrae 15, 53534 Wiesemscheid, Germany
http://www.rent-racecar.de/index-gb.htm
 

HKPRO5

Member
:
Supercharged Protege5
^^ awesome I'm going next year around May. How did the drivers license thing work out? That's the one thing I'm worried about.
 
How did the drivers license thing work out? That's the one thing I'm worried about.
if you're a licensed driver, most of Europe recognizes it. Likewise how the states recognizes most foreign licenses...

which is odd since, we as Americans, are absolutely horrible drivers compared to Europeans. :)
 

HKPRO5

Member
:
Supercharged Protege5
So it was $1500 total to rent the lotus and 6 laps?

Earlier this year I did the exotics racing in Vegas (drove the 458) $5 laps for $400 so I guess that's a steal for the Ring...lol
 
So it was $1500 total to rent the lotus and 6 laps?

Earlier this year I did the exotics racing in Vegas (drove the 458) $5 laps for $400 so I guess that's a steal for the Ring...lol
Yeah, difference is, Exotics lets you take Ferraris/Lambos.. What's funny is, I work part time at Exotics. ;)
 

HKPRO5

Member
:
Supercharged Protege5
Lol I was there the 3rd week of June. lol it was totally worth it. I'm thinking of going again when you guys the the new Mclaren. =)
 

WillD

Member
:
Classic Red 1991 Miata, Magnetic Gray Metallic 2014 Tacoma
Awesome read. That trip is definitely on my bucket list.