Blue brakes and an evo Nürburgring gathering – evo Archive
How a very evo Nürburgring gathering came to be – and why an RS4 was returned slightly worse for wear
‘There was still a real mystique about the place 20 years ago,’ says evo’s then co-editor, now contributing editor, Richard Meaden. This point is rather rammed home by the fact that the story (‘Eight Minute Heroes’) in issue 021 begins with a short history lesson about the Nordschleife, referencing Lauda’s fiery crash, its status as a toll road and its use by manufacturers. It’s the sort of introduction that would probably be deemed utterly superfluous today, such is the increased fame of the place.
‘The story was typical of evo in that it was a bit hare-brained but it was also off-diary, so you weren’t going to read about it anywhere else,’ recalls Meaden. ‘It was pulled together through a real mix of people that we knew. We drove the cars out there with the help of some generous owners and then managed to get Nissan’s development driver, Dirk Schoysman, to pop along for the day.’
Now, back in 1999 the competition between manufacturers for the fastest lap time by a production car was still in its infancy and very much unofficial. Nissan, however, had created rather a storm with its 7min 59sec lap by an R33 Skyline GT-R. And the man behind the wheel for that and many other laps of the Ring was Schoysman.
There was talk of the R33 being far from stock, but Meaden reckons it was unlikely as nefarious as some suspect. ‘Unlike today where cars are set up specifically for a tilt at a PR-pleasing lap time, I think this was more a case of optimisation in the normal course of development. Different dampers and tyre compounds were being fitted all the time. That was the whole point of being here.’
There was certainly some mystique around the Skyline/Schoysman combo though. ‘I had only been to the Ring a couple of times back in ’99,’ says Meaden (now a veteran of the N24), ‘and certainly hadn’t been round it at any great speed before. Sitting next to Dirk was like a window onto another world. You could instantly tell how well he knew both the circuit and the car. He’s a very quiet driver, in that he doesn’t make big inputs – he just calmly shows massive amounts of commitment without breaking a sweat. That sort of calmness can actually be quite unsettling as a passenger, but it was so impressive to watch.
‘The speed came from carrying speed through sections where it was critical. Placing the car inch-perfectly at the start of a sequence of corners and almost letting this big car guide itself through. You could sense the mass involved and yet with hardly any steering input he would use all of the track, letting the momentum of the car run it right out to the edge of kerbs but no further, like there was an invisible buffer at the very limits of the track, keeping it off the first blades of grass.
‘After seeing that, I had even more respect for what John Nielsen had done with the XJ220. It felt entirely appropriate that it was a huge bear of a man like Nielsen who had somehow got the monstrous Jaguar around in 7min 46sec. I don’t think that time ever really got the credit it deserved.’
Although it wasn’t mentioned in the magazine, the Nissan wasn’t the only car that Schoysman drove that day…
‘We had also convinced Audi to lend us a brand new RS4 [B5],’ remembers Meaden. ‘We’d already tested it near Munich earlier in the month and its presence at the Nürburgring was on the condition that it was just for slow driving for the cover shot. Then Dirk somehow persuaded us to let him have a go in it. To be fair, he didn’t drive it anything like flat out… but it certainly stretched the definition of slow. I remember wincing as I handed it back to Audi with rather blue brake discs!’