Edmunds Feature - Nürburgring Ring Taxi

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jul 12, 2007.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    A Passenger-Seat View of the World's Most Dangerous Racetrack

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    One lap in the Ring-Taxi costs about $250.

    By Nick Kurczewski
    Date posted: 07-11-2007

    As the speedometer streaks into triple digits, the track seems to get narrower and the menacing steel barriers look much closer. The BMW M5's 500-horsepower V10 barks as the rev needle swings past 7,000 rpm, and our first reference point as to where we are on the track is felt as much as it's seen.

    Flugplatz, the "flying place," definitely lives up to its name. A crest in the road gets the M5's suspension on tiptoe and our breakfast is in our throat. Not noticing (or caring much) about her passenger's greenish hue, our taxi driver doesn't let up. She picks up even more speed into the crushingly quick Schwedenkreuz left-hander; one of the "fast bits" she admits is her favorite on the daunting and sometimes deadly Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit.

    That's right, our taxi driver. And the craziest New York City cabbie has nothing on this, the BMW Ring-Taxi. Despite the risks to man and machine, "the Ring" (as it's commonly known) is open to the public during most weekends in the spring and summer. That also happens to be when the world's wildest taxicab is open for business.

    The Meter Is Running (Fast)

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    Driving the Ring is one thing, but seeing it tamed by an expert puts the experience on an entirely higher level.

    The two Ring-Taxis currently in service are completely stock BMW M5 sedans, each sporting a bright white paint job with huge logos emblazoned on the doors. It's not subtle, but still loads better than any cruddy yellow Crown Vic we've ever been in. Each M5 receives new tires every two days, or after about 40 laps. The brakes last slightly longer; new pads are required only every three to four days. The 18.5-gallon fuel tank is the biggest culprit. It needs filling up after as few as six or seven laps. Take a moment to calculate those mpg figures and be prepared to pick your jaw up off the ground.

    All of this might explain why one lap in the Ring-Taxi costs €185 (about $250). That's a considerable sum for even the most die-hard Nürburgring fan. Luckily, each Ring-Taxi has room for three passengers who can then split the fare. Rides fill up quickly. In the summer months, booking a Ring-Taxi ride often means a two-month wait. To be fair, finding a cab in Times Square on a Friday night takes only slightly less time. Depending on the weather, the Ring-Taxi is open from April through early October.

    A normal day's schedule includes 20 rides for each of the M5s. As we had the 9:30 a.m. time slot (the first of the day), we were hustled to the car as soon as we'd signed all the necessary paperwork. The parking lot leading to the track entrance was already packed with wildly turbocharged Nissan Skylines, Porsche 911s with towering wings, and everything from tricked-out motorcycles to lumbering buses loaded with tourists. For those who choose to drive themselves, a four-lap pass costs €64 ($86). Those big, hulking tour buses pay slightly more.

    The World's Fastest Toll Road

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    The two Ring-Taxis currently in service are completely stock BMW M5 sedans, each sporting a bright white paint job with huge logos emblazoned on the doors.

    For now we were happy to leave the driving to the experts. In the case of the Ring-Taxi, they don't get much better than our "taxi driver" for the day, Sabine Schmitz. A two-time winner of the Nürburgring 24 Hours, and a Ring-Taxi driver for more than 15 years, by her own estimate, she has completed about 20,000 tours of the Nordschleife.

    When not racing or behind the wheel of the Ring-Taxi, Schmitz is a television presenter in her native Germany. As the toll gate separating us from the track gets closer, she blips the gas pedal of the M5 and awakens the 5.0-liter V10 for its morning workout. The toll gate swings up and it's finally our turn to head onto the track.

    Unfortunately, common sense (and humorless track officials) means that there is no chance of using the M5's launch control system for a smoky burnout. In fact, other than the relentless build in speed and a sharpening of the M5's exhaust note, the first few hundred yards into our lap are eerily calm. Cars and motorcycles flash by faster and faster on our right-hand side. Schmitz deftly weaves the growling M5 past a group of motorcycles in a tricky slow left-hand corner.

    Since bikes use completely different racing lines compared to cars, judging where and when to pass takes commitment and experience. At last, the road ahead is clear. Now, rather than simply dodging slower traffic — and with Schmitz at the wheel, everyone is slower — she can push the limits of the 4,000-pound M5.

    Tail Out and Airborne

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    Sturdy Armco barriers line the entire circuit. Forget about runoff room. There isn't any.

    Clicking the steering-wheel-mounted paddles of the seven-speed SMG gearbox, Schmitz's driving is textbook-precise and accurate. Every input is smooth and unrushed. The same can't be said for our reactions to the racetrack and the speeds we're traveling.

    At roughly 12.9 miles long and with more than 70 corners, the Nordschleife winds up and down, through hills and forests, and around the Nürburg castle that looms over the 80-year-old track. Sturdy Armco barriers line the entire circuit. Forget about runoff room. There isn't any.

    Major corners are marked with signposts and, like a regular highway, there are mileage markers. Kilometer posts 10, 11 and 12 flash past at Bergwerk, Kesselchen, the famous banked Karussell hairpin, and we're still barely halfway into our lap. Despite all the signs and markers, for a Nürburgring newcomer every corner seems to flow directly into the very next one. Our heads bob left and right as the G-forces build. Suddenly, Schmitz kicks the M5's tail out at more than 60 mph.

    The 9.5-inch-wide rear tires howl in protest, while the view of the track moves from the windshield to the front passenger side window. Easily catching the lurid slide, a devious smile appears on Schmitz's face. "It's to warm the tires," she says, at once cool and totally unconvincing. We do our best to act unfazed and are equally unpersuasive.

    An Unforgettable Fare

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    Our "taxi driver" for the day is Sabine Schmitz. A two-time winner of the Nürburgring 24 Hours, and a Ring-Taxi driver for more than 15 years, by her own estimate, she has completed about 20,000 tours of the Nordschleife.

    Barely 10 minutes after the toll gate first swung up, Schmitz eases off the gas pedal. Our lap is at an end and the next fare is already waiting back in the pits. We're queasy, exhilarated and awestruck — driving the Ring is one thing, but seeing it tamed by an expert puts the experience on an entirely higher level.

    Schmitz had told us that "after the Nürburgring, every other track seems boring." Stumbling out of the M5, we weren't about to argue. It won't take you to the airport or train station, but you'll never regret hailing the Ring-Taxi.

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  2. Read more...

    Read more... SPQR

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    I would like to do that some day.
     
  3. AaronOC

    AaronOC Guest

    you are trishield
     
  4. Checker-Stripe

    Checker-Stripe Survey says...

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    .
     
  5. ChosenGSR

    ChosenGSR Mama always said you'd be the chosen one

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    :coold:

    On that note I am packing my M3 and heading out to Summit Point, WV. HPDE weekend :coold:
     
  6. Mint Berry Crunch

    Mint Berry Crunch Active Member

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    Looks like I know what I'll be doing this weekend.
     
  7. Virality

    Virality New Member

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    I guess I'll try to do that one day
     
  8. BavarianMotorWe

    BavarianMotorWe New Member

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    The S-curve down the street from me is calling my name. Be right back.
     

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