With the Mercedes-AMG GT S through the “Grüne Hölle”.
On historical raceways.
50° 20′ 46″ N, 6° 57′ 58″ E are the coordinates of the “Grüne Hölle”. Rudolf Caracciola, Sir Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda are among those who have left their signature in burned rubber on the Nordschleife and its 73 curves cut through lava rock. Men in their – at times – flying machines. Steering assist, automatic transmission or ESP? None of the above. And me? I approached the Grüne Hölle on my Playstation with driving aid mode active to have even the faintest hope of coming close to something resembling a racing line.
My car has fishtailed into the guardrails or scraped its side along the barriers often enough.
A hint of doom.
At 6 o’clock on an autumn morning the Nordschleife doesn’t seem so appealing. It’s cold, damp and eerie. A good thing that I’m protected by fire-resistant overalls, gloves, kangaroo-leather racing shoes and a full face helmet. Before me, a silver Mercedes-AMG GT S crouches down flat. The vital statistics are impressive: 510 hp, 650 Newton metres and the thing is supposed to accelerate from zero to a hundred in 3.9 seconds. If not this car, what else would be able to conquer the Grüne Hölle? All aboard, doors closing!
A hell of a ride through the darkness.
A brief, dead silence, then I hear voices. On the left, someone is whispering the track record, “7:38.14”, in low tones. On the right I hear “Wet track, risk of death, you’ve got a family!”. My heart is pounding and I can hear the blood pumping past my inner ear. Concentrate! Time to get those 510 horses going.
From the AMG DYNAMIC SELECT drive program, I select RACE and as the sonorous humming during idling slightly intensifies when I slip the Jet selector lever into D, the thin soles of my racing shoes cautiously make contact with the accelerator. Off into the darkness, interrupted only by the burning swathe of light emanating from the LED headlamps.
At kilometre 7, I approach the Fuchsröhre corner, probably at around the same speed as a touring couch might. My body begins to tense up less and I start breathing again. At kilometre 13, the Karussell threatens – whatever you do, don’t stay in the middle of the track, or else the vehicle will hit the ground! Then I take a deep breath as we head towards the Hohe Acht which, at a height of 746 metres, is the highest point of the Grüne Hölle.
The indicators in the instrument cluster seem to be OK except for the speed being too low and the stop watch running too fast.
Rush of joy.
In the morning light, the long Döttinger Höhe straight shortly before kilometre 19 seems to end only at the horizon. The front end of the Mercedes-AMG GT S rips apart the fine mist. Calmly, but with unbridled power, we shoot towards the end of the lap. Kilometre 20.8 – it’s time to heat up the XXL pizza-sized carbon brake disks. Just one more right-left combination and take a deep breath: mission accomplished! An indescribable feeling of happiness spreads through the car. My pal taps me on the shoulder. The sardonic muttering of his pitman – “You were overtaken by a couple of kids with ride-on cars” – barely penetrates my ears as if they were plugged with cotton.