A Motorsport PilgrimagePosted: September 26, 2011
For most people of faith a yearly pilgrimage is the most important reaffirmation and renewal of faith of their lifetime. Although IND’s staff comes from varied cultures and backgrounds, we are still able to come together for our own yearly pilgrimage to Germany- the promised land of European sports cars. We do our best to travel to Germany every year to revisit our own icons of the car industry- Eisenmann’s Stuttgart based manufacturing facility and the world famous Nurburgring. Each year the trip reaffirms our love for European cars and motorsport, and motivates those of us fortunate enough to make the journey to redouble our efforts at home.
Our trip officially started at the beautiful Heidelberg Suites Hotel, which would serve as home base for the trip. The hotel was built at the turn of the 20th century and stands today as one of the best private hotels in Heidelberg.
Heidelberg itself is an incredibly picturesque city with a perfect balance of classic German architecture, amazing historic sights by day and a surprisingly active night life once the sun sets.
Before we could get to work, we knew we had to stop by one of our favorite pubs in Heidelberg for some good German beer and dinner. The Palmbrau Gasse restaurant is a great place to eat and relax, and the IND team comes here every year to start our journey.
Of course for any automotive enthusiast, Germany’s Autobahn is an attraction in itself, and we watched with glee as our 750i made rapid work of our transit from Heidelberg to Frankfurt the following day. The new F01 chassis is incredibly comfortable, quiet, and fast, making a perfect Autobahn tourer.
All of us instinctively headed toward the same entrance upon our arrival at the massive Frankfurt convention complex- opening the beautiful glass doors led us directly to BMW’s absolutely towering display. BMW put their best foot forward in introducing their display with an entire hall dedicated to M cars. We were amazed to see the new F10 M5 in two colors, the new 1M, and an X6M, all in the dedicated M display. Beyond this hall stretched several city blocks of BMW heaven, including all of BMW’s new offerings as well as some classics.
The IAA show featured many incredibly machines, but one of the most amazing was this Lotus Renault F1 car, in classic JPS colors.
Hamann brought several impressive pieces to the show, including this nearly 700hp Hamann “Hawk” SLS. The car’s amazing power output and extensive use of carbon fiber parts in a beautiful 4×4 weave were welcome evidence of a tuning company finding itself yet again after years of excellent products.
My personal favorite sight at the IAA show was the Weismann display. I’d seen Weismann’s cars in photos and videos online and have always paid close attention to these classically styled roadsters because of the company’s use of BMW engines, but I had never previously enjoyed the opportunity of seeing these cars in person.
Weismann’s styling is at once truly forward thinking and also strikingly reminiscent of American and European classics of the past. It’s a perfect blend of the best of what came before and what will follow in the future. Seeing the beautifully detailed interiors and exterior details in person was an absolute privilege.
Finally after exploring most of the show we made our way to our home away from home at the show grounds- Eisenmann’s own booth. An performance parts manufacturer showcasing their work at IAA is a very rare thing indeed, and is a testament in itself to Eisenmann’s longevity as a business. Seeing Eisenmann’s booth at the show was truly humbling, as it quickly reminded me that Eisenmann GmbH has held OE manufacturing contracts for longer than most exhaust manufacturers have been in the exhaust manufacturing business.
Eisenmann’s staff had mentioned that they had a surprise for us, but as we walked up to the booth we were not prepared for the shock of seeing our E92 M3 track photo displayed proudly in Eisenmann’s booth in stunning poster form! Making this photo a reality took the calling in of some big favors, as IND closed all of AutoBahn Country Club’s north track for an entire day to do our shoot! Seeing our work here in Frankfurt was a real honor. Mr. Rolf Eisenmann himself was present at the show, and seeing all of us glow with pride signed a couple of the posters as a gift to IND.
Of course no IND visit to Germany would be complete without our yearly tour of Eisenmann’s production facility in suburban Stuttgart. Many of you have already seen our detailed tours of Eisenmann’s manufacturing facilities, but for those that have not, please follow these links:
As usual, Eisenmann’s expert fabricators crafted performance exhaust systems entirely by hand. Returning to Eisenmann’s facility year after year is an affirmation for us at IND that craftsmen are not yet dead in the world, and that there is still some room and some appreciation for true top quality hand labor. Despite the advances in machine manufacturing technology over the past century, there is something absolutely irreplaceable to watching a fabricator create an exhaust system with their own hands, piece by piece.
One of Eisenmann’s key strengths has always been the company’s age-old ties with OE manufacturers like Porsche and Mercedes AMG. These relationships serve to continually ensure Eisenmann’s technological superiority, and a constant exchange of ideas between OE suppliers and Eisenmann GmbH. We are no strangers to seeing rack after rack of OE exhaust system at Eisenmann’s facility, destined for Porsche and AMG cars all over the world, but this year’s visit seemed to reveal an especially busy shop floor. Eisenmann’s Porche manufacturing operation occupies a separate fabrication building along with a separate warehouse, and both seemed absolutely packed to the brim with Porsche exhaust systems!
Eisenmann’s manufacturing facility is a stone’s throw away from Porsche’s own satellite assembly and delivery buildings in Hemmingen, and is a short 20 minute drive from Porsche’s main facilities in Stuttgart, so each year’s journey to Eisenmann is naturally
followed by a stop at Porsche’s wonderful museum. Seeing Porsche’s historic race cars, and the incredible GT1 in particular is a sight that only gets better year after year. This car was truly an achievement of it’s era, and Porsche is kind enough to simply park one at their museum with no barriers preventing you from walking right up and touching this incredible piece of engineering.
Although the Porsche museum itself is always a great experience, sometimes it is the things you might encounter outside of the museum that will truly amaze, and this year’s trip did not fail to disappoint. On our way out of the museum, we walked right past a parked GT3 4.0! This incredibly rare car is even more striking in person than in Porsche’s own press photos, and made all of us stop and stare. The 4.0 engine’s 125hp per liter output is nothing short of shocking, and between the beautiful livery and the amazing sub-7:30 Nuruburgring lap time made for a sight that stopped all of us in our tracks.
The following day was filled with even more surprises for the IND team. Our close friend Ralf Krenzer insisted we visit his home town, Sinn. Sinn is a small down just north of Frankfurt, and although we know that Ralf is never one to disappoint, we were absolutely unprepared for the sights he had planned for us. We met Ralf at the local BMW dealership where he stores his M3 GT4 race car. The M3 GT4 is a factory built effort from BMW and is a truly impressive sight. As amazing as it is to see this race car in person, we did not expect for Ralf to offer for us to follow him through the mountains of Sinn as he put the GT4 through it’s paces!
Seeing this car parked unassumingly at a gas station was a bit like spotting Angelina Jolie at your local grocery store. As hard as everyone involved worked to keep a semblance of calm, we were still at a gas station in the middle of the German country side looking at BMW’s newest factory-built racing effort. This was simply not a normal sight!
The GT4 is truly impressive in person. Feeling the light weight of the CFRP doors with Makrolon plastic windows, listening to the exhaust note, and watching the car move through the German mountains with such confidence was an experience none of us will ever forget.
Ralf led us through the twisting mountain roads to another small town. We followed Ralf into what was obviously a residential neighborhood, confused by what business he and his GT4 might have in a small German suburb. Finally, Ralf pulled over and parked, and we followed suit. We approached a very well decorated but otherwise standard suburban house, still unsure of our reasons for traveling to this suburban home, until we finally walked within sight of the three car garage. The garage door was already open, and what we saw within that garage was literally the most incredible, shocking, and amazing thing any of us saw on the entire trip.
The garage held three cars which I never expected to see outside of a BMW museum: an E30 M3 built to complete DTM spec, an E46 M3 GTR, and an M1 Procar. Not only were these three cars all located in one place, but they were parked in an otherwise normal suburban home. Amazing!
The E30 M3 was a truly impressive machine with a sequential transmission, beautiful roll cage, and DTM-spec 2.5 liter S14, faithfully replicated down to the slide throttles and the 360hp output!
The E46 M3 was no less stunning. The car was complete with composite body work, an equally intricate roll cage, sequential transmission, BBS Motorsport center lock wheels, and of course an S62 V8 engine.
The M1 was possibly the most incredible sight of all. The first thing I noticed when I walked up to the car was the signature of famous racing driver Walter Röhl on the hood. Sitting in this car was like being one with a piece of motorsport history. The Procar body work was completely original and in tact, and simply knowing that the amazing inline 6 engine was behind the driver’s seat was enough to send shivers down my spine. When I told the owner of this beautiful machine that his M1 was my favorite of his collection, he casually agreed by saying “yes, I love this car very much as well, I just had it on the Nurburgring last week!”
If Germany is the promised land of motorsport and car culture, then no trip to Germany is complete without a visit to the true center of this culture, the Nurburgring. One of my favorite things about visiting the Nurburgring is that the frequency of amazing cars increases dramatically as you approach the track. Performance cars begin to dot the landscape even as early as one hour’s travel from the world-famous race course. We spotted this E46 M3 CSL when we were still a great distance away, and following the car to the ‘ring made the journey there that much more exciting.
Finally, we had arrived. To motorsport fans everywhere, the Nurburgring is the absolute center of the world, and many of those fans seemed to be at the track on this day. The landscape was absolutely drowned in sports cars! Our eyes were constantly moving from car to car as we struggled to take in the sights and sounds around us. I have never seen such an amazing quantity of rare sports cars in one location before- we counted 9 E46 M3 CSLs, at least 30 Nissan GTRs, over 30 Porsche GT3s in various form, three E92 M3 GTS’, and so much more! The Nordschleife was packed.
We spotted these two 1Ms almost immediately upon arriving at the ring, but nearly immediately after walking up to the cars our gaze was stolen by another, even more rare sight. The car in these photos is not just any M3 GTS, but a G Power supercharged M3 GTS! Seeing an M3 GTS in person is one thing, seeing an M3 GTS at the Nurburgring is another, but seeing a Supercharged M3 GTS at the Nurburgring is something else entirely! The car’s driver drove off after we’d bombarded his car with cameras, and proceeded to attack the corners of the Nordschleife.
As I’d mentioned, just one GTS would simply not suffice for a track like the Nordschleife, and this second M3 GTS reinforced my point.
This E46 M3 was one of my favorite cars of the day because of it’s color coded roll cage and wheels. It was a great looking car, and it’s driver was clearly enjoying it.
As I’d mentioned earlier, there were many E46 M3 CSL cars driving the track. I never thought I’d be able to say I saw “M3 CSL after M3 CSL”, but the ‘ring was absolutely flooded with cars that day!
Even BMW’s own E90 M3 ‘ring taxi was out frightening any passengers willing to go for a ride!
This GT2 was one of our favorite sounding cars of the day. The noise it made as it flew by was absolutely earth-shaking, and is burnt into my memory to this day.
These photos may give some idea of the amount of traffic on track that Saturday. Cars were passing our viewing area literally nonstop, with car after car barreling into the corners. I have never seen such driving at open lapping days in the US!
Even leaving our viewing area was an adventure. This lineup of cars would garner attention practically anywhere, but was absolutely the norm at the Nurburgring.
We visit Germany each year, not to simply take a trip or take a vacation, but to remember precisely why all of us work at IND. Our journey this year took us to some familiar sights, and also to some new experiences that we will never forget. Our commitment is strengthened, our love for sports cars is once again reaffirmed, and our resolve to do our very best at IND is redoubled. This is exactly why we make our pilgrimage, year after year.