Welcome to part one of my new series, A Young Enthusiast's Trip To Europe. Throughout this post and several of my upcoming ones, I will preach to you all about my time in Europe as a young automotive enthusiast traveling with another young automotive enthusiast. In this series, I will attempt to explain German automotive culture, European motorsports culture (Le Mans, DTM), and my personal experiences as a young automotive enthusiast traveling abroad to different automotive museums, races, and other automotive landmarks.
In preparation for this trip, I readied my SLR and acquired two GoPros to record most of my trip. I mounted both GoPros on the windshield of the car, one facing the cabin, one facing the road. Mounting both GoPros right in the center of the windshield allowed me to charge the cameras with the outlet in the car and a dual USB plug.
As a young automotive enthusiast (get used to that) reading sites such as Jalopnik, I always saw stories about the Nürburgring and wondered what the big deal was. It's just another racetrack, right? Well to find out what all the hype was about, I booked the flight, texted my friend, and started planning for what would be one of my most memorable and enjoyable experiences to date.
I flew into the Fraport from JFK in early June. Unfortunately my flight wasn't nearly as exciting as Ballaban's flight on Lauda's airline, but I made do. I picked up my mietwagen and took the rest of the day to find my hotel and get to know the car I would be living with for the next two weeks of my life.
The car that was available to me wasn't the car I originally preferred. My preference was for an A-class or GTI, but unfortunately these were all snatched up. My choices were either an Audi A3 diesel or a BMW 118i. Worried that the A3 might be underpowered for my trip, I opted for the BMW 118i. This is where the fun began.
I was handed the keys to an almost brand new BMW 118i hatchback, fitted with M-package, leather seats, sat/nav, rear parking sensors, and of course a manual gearbox.
After taking this all in, I ran to my friend who was still shocked that some magical flying machine just carried us to another continent and then even more shocked that I was just handed the keys to a BMW. Once we started to breathe normally again, we grabbed our bags and took off to the parking lot where the 118 was waiting.
Now, some of you may have noticed that in my Nürburgring video I was driving a BMW 118i with an automatic trans. That is true. I did have an automatic 118i. But I had a manual 118i first. Hear me out...
I may have over estimated my manual skills when agreeing to the manual 118i. Before June 11th, I was a pretty unknowledgable manual driver and didn't have much experience behind the wheel of a car fitted with a manual transmission. I got into the manual 118i thinking I would be able to master it. This was not the case. I stalled at traffic lights. I stalled at STOP signs. It just wasn't pretty. But lucky for us, I actually planned for this day to be used to get comfortable with the car, and that is exactly what we (attempted) to do.
After all the stalling, we found our way to a small and unpopulated side road outside of Frankfurt. I parked the car, set up my GoPros, and started to teach myself the ways of the manual. It wasn't pretty.
After all that, I actually was able to get the hang of it, for the most part. But still wasn't completely comfortable with the manual. Let's just say, um, there was a lot of jerking.
I soon realized that it probably wasn't the smartest idea to take a car that I wasn't fully comfortable with around Europe, or on the Nürburgring. So I returned to the Fraport and had my manual 118i swapped out for an autotragic.
It was at the first STOP sign I stopped at with my new automatic 118i that I realized the F20's featured a start/stop program that I was unfamiliar with. It would've been really nice to have been told about that before I got the first 118i, but whatever. It was an interesting sensation having my brand new automatic car stall on me. This is when I realized that half the time I thought I was stalling at stops, it was actually the car trying to save gas.
I soldiered on with the automatic to the first night's resting spot. Unfortunately, not much resting took place. After watching reruns of some horrible German South Park translation, at around midnight, I grabbed my jetlagged friend, rushed down the stairs to the parkplatz, and made a dash for the unrestricted section of the closest autobahn.
Photo credit: Aaron Brown