For our 2nd day in Munich, we went to the BMW Factory and Museum, and while we were not able to secure a factory tour spot in English when we enquired 2 months early, due to Oktoberfest, we were lucky enough to get one the day of, by coming in early, asking, and coming back just before 11:30, when the tour was due.
We started by visiting the showroom that opens early, but sadly it didn't have many science/technology interfactive displays, so we then mostly waited for the real museum across the street to open at 10:00. Anyway, a few pictures from the showroom:
By 10:00 sharp, we went to to the museum for its opening:
Between 10:00 and 11:20, we just had enough time to visit the right part of the museum (the part that goes up), and we had to go back across the street for the factory tour starting at 11:30. Sadly, as per all such tours, no pictures. This was the most interesting and complete factory tour I've done amongst Telsa, Toyota in Nagoya, Mazda in Hiroshima, Ferrari and Lamborghini in Maranello. They actually showed us multiple points of the assembly line, including:
welding with an amazing robot setup where they were carefully welding around one another without hitting, but only barely
painting (the whole body of the car being dipped backwards in primer
assembly line bits where robots and humans were mixed in a way that the robots could not crush the humans :)
seeing how due to lack of horizontal space to expand, they had to build more floors and the cars go on elevators to other floors after being carefully inspected by a camera system for defects
people doing wiring
assembly of windows by humans and robots
and the final bit where the cars are driven onto a dyno for final testing indoors
None of the other tours we did showed some many parts of the assembly line. Kudos to BMW for doing so.
The factory tour lasted around 1H45, so after it was over we went back to the museum to visit the bottom/left section, which was more a collection of all kinds of cars, bikes, engines, even aircraft engines, and various technology panels. Also quite interesting.
In the end, we were there until 14:30 or so, much longer than planned, but it was worth it:
After our first night in Trier, we went to see what we didn't have the time to see the previous day, but being sunday, most museums were closed (hence our rush to see them the previous day), and we were done by 15:00 or so. This gave us (well, really me) the opportunity to go to nearby Nurburgring and drive 6 laps there on the famed killer circuit :)
Sadly, due to other time commitment, I had had 0 time to practise the track on a computer beforehand, so I just showed up with 0 idea of how the turns were going to go, blind crests, or anything, but to save myself, I booked a private coach who rode with me during those sessions. I got lucky to be assigned to Winnie and he was absolutely awesome, he gave me the instructions I needed during each lap so that I would not drive off the track, and at the same time allowed me to drive as fast as I thought was safe (and I'll freely admit that I drove to the edge of my comfort level for a track I don't know at all). I was really impressed that he didn't keep telling me to slow down or asked me to work my way up slowly, which wasn't going to be possible with just 4 laps or so (in the end we were quick enough that even with a refueling stop, and him driving one lap to show me, I got 6 laps and he got one).
Incidently, the way to Nurburgring was when I got to drive on an Autobahn, and barely managed to get our Renault Mégane to reach 200kph (that had to be downhill). The 1.5l diesel engine couldn't go past 190kph-ish when level. Obviously I've driven much faster in the past in better cars, but that was the fastest I've driven legally on a public road :)
I only got 200kph for 2-3 seconds and wasn't fast enough to get a clear picture
Needless to say that generally driving in Germany has been a pleasure, people have lane discipline, roads are good, and even when there are speed limits on freeways, many drivers don't seem to be overly worried by them :)
Eventually we made it to Nurburgring, I checked in at Hotel Parc Fermé to sign my live away and allow a 7000 euro desposit from being taken from my credit card in case I didn't bring the car back in one piece :) Given that I was driving with Willie, I wasn't overly worried that would be a problem :)
the renault RS cars were well built with a half cage and paddle shift (although on top of a slushbox it seems)
nice stitching for a race car :)
public driving was only open for 2h15, the plan was that I'd get at least 4 laps and each lap would cost 60 euros extra (ride ticket plus wear and tear on the car)
I got to see a bunch of other cars that had just come off a track day:
and then came time for our turn
Jennifer was a trooper and got a few pictures of me when I got in and out
As expected, the track was a handful, but a lot of fun. Random impressions:
anyone can go, with just about any car. That alone is scary
no helmets. My instructor even said they prefer no helmets because otherwise it's harder to talk (at least the Renault car had a full roll cage)
More blind turns and crests than I can remember about everywhere, one crest I had to brake before and after the jump so as not to plow off the road in the next turn
however the part that scared me the most was passing people who were too busy driving to give me a "you can pass" turn signal, and not knowing if they were total tourists that never saw me and were about to close the gab or run into my passenger door (you can only pass on the left at the ring)
Yet, with the awesome help of the coach I had rented for the 2H (for a not cheap 300 euros), it was an awesome experience. I'm impressed how he let me go that fast without fearing for his life and shouting at me to slow down, especially since there were clearly turns that I wasn't doing quite right and never really had time to improve much in just 6 laps. Given that, this was the best 300 euros I ever spent for 2H of someone's time :)
I was kind of happy when I barely managed to get 200kph out of our crappy renault mégane 1.5l diesel (!) on the autobahn, that took a good downhill, but that was nothing compared to going pass 200kph on the Nurburgring for a few short seconds :)
Sadly I was not able to properly record my last and fastest lap (09:22), but here is my previous lap (09:28). Considering my first lap was a 10:13, I was definitely getting faster with each lap, but 6 laps weren't enough of course:
For comparison, my instructor did a nice clean lap (except for the yellow flag we got at the end):
It was nice to be back at Droid and Friends again. It had been a while since I had ran the full 5 mile track (as opposed to 4.3 miles with bypass) and I had forgotten how tough it is on the car and tires if you are truly pushing to be fast.
my brand new pads have been working, but still get too hot and turn white
The good news is that I had fresh tires and that my brakes did not misbehave for a change. My only issue were my tires that were eventually overheating, and my catalytic converters that were doing the same. I was however soon able to match my previous best time of 3:33 before my tires got greasy. By the afternoon, the track got more greasy and I started getting slower, as usual.
And like I've done at some other days before, for reasons I can't explain, on my last session out, I just got my best time of the day. Somehow on my 2nd lap I shaved a full 3 seconds off my best morning time, both because I was driving better and deeper in some corners than I was in the morning, and because probably the track got just a bit cooler and my tires were still cool for the 2nd lap (my subsequent laps were 3:31).
This was an awesome way to end the day, 3:30 for a (admittedly fast) street car on (admittedly good) street tires is not bad for me. I'm sure with a better line still, there are still a couple of seconds I left on the table, but I was happy enough with this for that day :)
My friend Arnaud got himself a sweet F458 race car, and because he was driving it just a few times a year (just like I would), he offered me a half share in the car, which I happily bought from him. This coming day with 3 Stooges was a perfect day to try the car.
Being a race car with 5 point seat belt, I had to get a hans like device for my neck and attach points to my helmet, and learn the functions of the car. After that, I went out for some laps and it didn't take long for me to beat my best ever time from my McLaren (I went down to at least 1:57 without even trying too hard).
you jack it up by throwing compressed air in the back
After that, being a race car, it started throwing some codes, so I had to get in to get it inspected and get the codes cleared, and when I went back out after lunch, sadly I probably was a bit tired and in food comatose, as well as not used to how wide this car actually is, and I dropped a wheel in turn 8. The car instantly hooked and went out, ruining the tires and putting combustible grass all over, including around the engine and exhaust. There was no real damage to the car, but having to clean all that up took a while and then Kevin found that one body bracket (a small cheap piece) had to be replaced, and then that a tire was ruined and had to be changed. By then, it was late enough that the day was going to be over anyway, so I headed home.
Given that, it could have been better, but it was a nice introduction to the car.