I was really anticipating BMW's run at the Nurburgring with last year's F1 car. The track record is held by a Porsche 956 driven by Stephan Bellof who put in 6:11 lap during practice for an event.
So I was really, really disappointed to learn that:
- The car was being run on demonstration tires which have very low grip
- The car had a downforce-killing ride height of 4cm in the front and 8cm in the rear. (In F1 terms, this is like a Jeep with a 24" lift kit.)
- The car did not run through the banking of famous Karussell corner
- The car hit a maximum speed of 275 km/h (about 172 mi/h) on the 2.5km Döttinger Höhe straight--which is easily done with a high HP road car
- The car slowed down for photos at parts of the track
- The best time was 8:34
Even if you assume that 8:34 included the GP circuit and knock off 1:45 for a slow lap of that distance you still wind up with a Nordschleife time of about 6:45, far slower than Bellof's 956.
Here's BMW's press release. Lame.
BMW has written another chapter in motor sport history on the legendary Nordschleife at the Nürburgring. Today, Saturday, a modern Formula 1 vehicle was driven round the 20.8 kilometre race track for the first time in 31 years in front of a crowd numbering 45,000 BMW Sauber F1 Team driver Nick Heidfeld was extremely enthusiastic after three laps in the F1.06:
"This drive was simply incredible. I thought it would be great to drive on the Nordschleife before I started out. But it was even better than I had expected. This racing track is the best in the world. I'd really like to have emptied the tank. It was a very special moment when I left the grand prix circuit in the direction of the Nordschleife. I was really shaken up at the Bergwerk section and on the Döttinger Höhe. I'll never forget today as long as I live. Another particularly special experience has now joined the many fantastic childhood memories and racing successes."
BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen said: "We wanted to give fans a special treat. And I believe we have done this with the entire BMW motor sport programme. The BMW M3 GTR that Olaf Manthey presented today was welcomed like an old friend. The car is actually much too athletic for the museum. Naturally, the high point was Nick's drive with the F1.06. We had implored him to be careful. The day was a homage to the fans and to this unique circuit in the world of racing. For once, the lap times were a secondary consideration."
Despite unusually hard demonstration tyres and short transmission ratio, Heidfeld notched up a top speed of 275 km/h on the long straight called the "Döttinger Höhe". The second lap was his fastest lap and took 8:34 minutes. A camera car took shots of the 29-year-old on some sections of all three laps and Heidfeld slowed down for the photo calls.
The F1.06 was adjusted for maximum ground clearance to drive on this uneven traditional circuit - four centimetres at the front axle, eight centimetres at the rear axle. No other modifications were carried out on the vehicle. One special measure was necessary for wireless communication. Team Manager Beat Zehnder travelled with the camera helicopter in order to secure the radio link over the entire distance instead of sitting on the pit wall as usual.
As far as BMW is concerned, the Nürburgring is rather like a second home, not simply because of numerous past successes - including 18 overall victories at 24 hour races and a one-two Formula 1 win. BMW Motorsport is also the partner for the VLN endurance championship at the Nürburgring, with one of the races being held today (Saturday). BMW Driver Training, BMW Ring Taxis, the BMW Performance Centre and a permanent racing-car exhibition in the "Erlebniswelt" leisure park are fixed institutions at the Eifel circuit.
In addition to the BMW Sauber F1 Team with Heidfeld and test driver Sebastian Vettel and the BMW M3 GTR, the BMW works drivers from the World Touring Car Championship (FIA WTCC) guaranteed lots of exciting action , as well as talking to fans and signing autograph books. Two-times world champion Andy Priaulx and Jörg Müller also played taxi driver on the Nordschleife, as did Augusto Farfus. The BMW motor-sport fleet was out in force on the legendary circuit. There was Formula 1 and the BMW M3 GTR, the BMW 320si WTCC to the BMW Z4 M Coupé. Even the smallest of all BMW racing cars put in an appearance: In the morning, Heidfeld took the inspection lap in the Formula BMW packing 140 hp.