Friday, 31 January 2014

Watch a Truly Heroic Nürburgring Lap in a Citroën AX

Video running time - 12:48

This morning, I watched Jeremy Clarkson take a Jaguar S-Type 2.7 V6 twin-turbo diesel to the Nürburgring Nordschleife and take a few days to lap what Sir Jackie Stewart once called The Green Hell in a time of 9:59. This evening, his lap has been put into context for me by a young Frenchman in his Citroën AX 1.4 I4 non-turbo diesel... who went four seconds faster.

It took him quite a lot longer to achieve his goal of getting from bridge to gantry in under 10 minutes, though (a true lap can't be achieved unless the track is closed for you, so average Joes - and Mr. Clarkson - use the method shown here). In fact, it took YouTube user Nic BTG over seven years, over which time he spent 118 laps, nine engines (!) and five gearboxes, plus an undisclosed sum. This is his 118th lap, done on his tenth journey to Nürburg all the way from Bordeaux in France. The car he used was mechanically identical to how it left the factory, save for some minor changes. The 1360cc naturally aspirated diesel engine is running increased fuel pressure and sports the aluminium air intake from the bigger 1.5 diesel to get around the strut brace that the ageing body needed to keep it rigid (while the unreliable TUD3 engines have come and gone, the car itself has done 685,100km, or 425,701 miles). Stickier Yokohama A048 tyres have been fitted and most of the interior has been taken out to save weight, which as you can hear makes for a loud lap when you're standing on the throttle of a 20-year-old diesel engine. Said engine only has 52bhp with which to haul the AX's flyweight 725kg, so the brakes aren't often necessary and it's the fully independent rear suspension that does a lot more of the work.

Mind you, not as much work as the driver himself. This is commitment to a golden lap, one that has taken another, more long-term kind of commitment to keep the dream alive over seven years. To finally achieve something like that is something I can only imagine. Watch him hurl his "Enterprise" spec Citroën around the Green Hell like there's no tomorrow, narrowly avoiding a crashed Nissan 350Z, avoiding much faster Porsches and BMWs as they soar past and doing everything he can, using everything he's learned during his quest, to keep it on the grey stuff and get the golden lap. Awesome.

The quote at the end translates from French as "We need to force nature to go as fast as our minds."

The full YouTube description is below:

Citroën AX 14D « Entreprise » -- 1993 -- 685.100 km -- 1,360 litre diesel engine 52 hp -- 720 kg
The car is stock except: xenon lights, front tyres (A048), increased fuel pressure, strutbar (because of the mileage of the body) and an aluminum intake from 1.5D engine (because of the strutbar).

This record lap was done on Saturday August 17th 2013 at 8:37am.
It was the 118th Nordschleife lap for this car and my 10th attempt trip (1115 km away from Bordeaux in France).
Lap timing equipment = mobile phone with Harry's Lap Timer and a XGPS150 Bluetooth receiver.

It took me a lot of time and patience to achieve a "Bridge To Gantry" lap time under 10 minutes during the tourist drive sessions at the Nordschleife.
This challenge was definitely for fun but also to prove it could be done with work, tenacity and a bit of madness too...
I have been chasing the 'perfect lap' for 7 years with no traffic, no road works, fresh air, dry track, no driving mistakes and a reliable drivetrain.
This TUD3 diesel engine is known for its poor reliability and I went through 9 engines and 5 gearboxes!
Here I want to thank all the people who spent time to help me work on this little car.

With such a non-powerful car, if you kill the momentum you're done, and in many corners I tend to overdrive the car trying to maximize momentum.
For this reason, my video is not a driving lesson at all!

During all these years I tried to be respectful of the Nürburgring tourist drive rules, the other users (faster and slower cars) and the people working on the track.
Recording movies and lap times is not allowed, in theory...but I made this video to show you don't necessarily need a sport car and a lot of money to enjoy driving.

Racing is a state of mind.

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