By Denise McCluggage
“I Go Pro” was written for and published by “Sports Cars Illustrated”, February, 1959 and is reprinted here with the permission of the author and artist.
ANYONE WHO HAS EVER HEARD the throb of a racing engine and knew what they were hearing has heard of the Nurburgring. And well they might. It is the giant, bearded Granddaddy of all racing circuits. And yet whatever one has heard, or been told, or has seen in photographs or in movies is misleading to the point of being completely wrong. You must, you must, see it, experience it, for yourself. And you will find, as I did, that it is neither as long nor as short as you have been led to believe. It is neither as narrow, nor as wide; neither as straight nor as twisting; neither as safe nor as dangerous; neither as hilly nor as level; neither as bumpy nor as smooth; neither as hard nor as easy. It is the story of the blind men and the elephant all over again; each will define it in the light of his own experience. So there it is, one great beautiful Rorschach test some 14 miles long with 173 turns winding through the lovely Eifel countryside ringing around the Nurburg castle. It is merely a road going nowhere so it takes you wherever you want to go.
But enough of the nonsense, I am here to “go pro” remember? (Read Part 1)
Adenau is the largest town near the Nurburgring, which is another way of saying there are only small villages in the area.
But if you are going to be a dirty pro, you might as well do it completely.
I had driven some 700 miles to get to the Nurburgring. And with gas costing some ten dollars a tankful (It was the cost of the contents-not the size of the tank) it was not a cheap trip. “Gasthauses,” fortunately, are priced in accordance with the service and are about $1.25 a night. And the food around the Ring is both cheap and good.
The Ring is open to anyone who wants to drive around it as long as they go in the right direction and pay a mark a lap (about a quarter). Thus, you encounter motor scooters putt-putting about, Gogomobiles having a go and even great glass-domed excursion buses laboring up the Hohe Acht or blundering down the For Rohe. Or circling the Karussell, or entering the Schwalbenschwanz. I can drop Nurburgring place names with the best of them.
I had purposely arrived on the scene early enough to get a few informal practice laps. I bought a ten-lap ticket for ten marks (about $2.50) and proceeded to “learn” the Nurburgring. The man at the “Start und Zeil Platz” was very nice and seldom punched my ticket so I got many free rounds. (They are always free to competitors, I discovered later.)
It was soon clear, however, that the 450 DM for expenses was not going to go very far. The trip from Germany to Italy wasn’t going to be any cheaper than the trip from Italy to Germany. The two marks for painting the numbers on was nothing. But there was a matter of 100 DM for an entry fee! And unless you have an oil company contract, you have to buy your own gas for the race. And that’s the ten dollars-a-tankful stuff. I was beginning to agree with the American-abroad who remarked, “No wonder they call it pro racing; it costs so much.”
And then Trouble, coifed like Medusa, reared its head.
The first symptoms of “electrical system-itis,” a disease that apparently befalls many Alfas, had already shown themselves. The starter switch (it’s on the key) tended to stick “on.” After I started the car, I had to turn the key back slightly to disengage the starter motor. So it was annoying, but not disastrous. Until the eve of the first official practice day.
Part 3 to follow.