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TrackChaser update

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  • Vanden Eynde Roland
    Hello colleagues, March has traditionally been the month the racing season started in both Belgium and the Netherlands. Hence, I got quite a fair number of
    Message 1 of 331 , Mar 11, 2013
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      Hello colleagues,

      March has traditionally been the month the racing season started in both Belgium and the Netherlands. Hence, I got quite a fair number of autocross track visits in March on my list. This year is different. There is absolutely nothing on in my home country and its northern neighbour. It's not because I already have all the tracks that race, but because there are no meetings. One of the major reasons for this is that it gets more and more difficult to find farmers lending their fields for a race as well as getting the necessary permits. My two most local sanctioning bodies haven't got any race on their schedule yet. One has mentioned they plan to have their first race in August; the other might not race at all.

      Still, there are opportunities to get in the odd new track. As it involves a bit more driving and I spoiled myself by taking two extended weekend breaks to score my first two 2013 tracks, why not continue to dwell on this theme. My targeted event was a farmer's field autocross in the German hamlet of Aschendorf, a part of the small thermal town of Bad Rothenfelde (near Osnabrück, Niedersachsen). As Straelen, where we regularly buy our groceries, was on the road to the track, Aline and I left after work on Friday and we took quarters at the Straelener Hof, a hotel I had stayed in with the Smiths in 2010. The weather had been very spring like during the week, but it gradually became duller and colder. Still we could have a nice evening stroll after another fine dinner at the El Paso restaurant. As the Smiths know, one should not be fooled by the name. It used to be a Texmex restaurant, but 11 years ago a group of friends from Montenegro took it over. They kept the name, but changed the cuisine, which is now a blend of German and Montenegrin. The place is huge (they can sit close to 250 people) and three quarters of the seats were occupied.

      Saturday morning, it was drizzling and coldish. After a hearty breakfast (Aline was very charmed by the Champaign version she opted for), Aline headed for the town centre, while I drove off to the nearby motorway for a two hour trip to Aschendorf. Traffic was fluid and it was easy to find the track, as it was visible from the main road to Bad Rothenfelde. It was a small and narrow oval in a sandy meadow. The field was rather small as well and consisted of two categories: contact and non contact. Usually, both categories are subdivided in classes based on engine capacity, but with fields of 15 cars in the contact class and 13 in the non contact one, it was decided to let all cars of one category drive together in three 20 minute heats. Although I'm not at all a fan of bangers, I have to admit they put on far better races in the two heats I watched than their clean racing counterparts did. When it started to rain mid afternoon, I felt it was time to get back to Straelen, take a hot shower and do some grocery shopping at the local Kaufland supermarket, before indulging another great dinner at El Paso.

      After another nice night and another excellent breakfast at the Straelener Hof, it was time to end this weekend break. At the moment I don't target another new track before the end of March. In the meantime, Aline and I will continue our travels with a week in Puglia (Southern Italy), starting from March 20, but that will not involve any race meeting at all.

      Roland

      -----------------------------------------
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    • Vanden Eynde Roland
      Hello colleagues, Long before I found out trackchasing ever existed, I had a habit of going to some late season races on southern French road courses. I ve
      Message 331 of 331 , Nov 12, 2013
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        Hello colleagues,

        Long before I found out trackchasing ever existed, I had a habit of going to some late season races on southern French road courses. I've long since exhausted those new track opportunities, but still there are a few French road courses I have to visit. Last weekend I added a rather remarkable one to my portfolio.

        Why drive an entire day if a high speed train brings you there in half that time? Since I discovered the multitude of possibilities of the French high speed trains, I like to take advantage of their services whenever suitable. Unlike my two previous train travels, this time, I couldn't get round Paris, but still that wasn't such a problem. I boarded a train to Paris Nord just past 11.15 a.m. and 75 minutes later it got me to Paris. In the north station of Paris, I had 85 minutes to get to Paris Bercy station by underground. It only took me 25 minutes to do so and I had ample time to take my numbered seat on the train to Clermont-Ferrand. Another 90 minutes later I got there. I had booked a hotel (Hotel des Commerçants) only yards from the railway station. The weather was a little cold, but sunny and after a long walk I had enough of an appetite to go for an early steak dinner at a Hippopotamus. These are chain restaurants a bit reminiscent of Applebee's.

        On Saturday morning I got back to the railway station to fetch my hire car at Sixt. They gave an excellent rate and handed me a Renault Twingo with only 75 miles on the clock. Unlike in Montréal, I didn't add thousands of miles to it, as my target for the day was less than 35 miles from the town centre. The French tyre manufacturer Michelin has its roots in Clermont-Ferrand and the centrepiece of those roots is its research centre at Ladoux (Auvergne region). This complex, officially called "Centre de recherche Michelin de Ladoux", is a beauty. It's in lush green surroundings. Inside a 5 mile high speed trioval, it harbours several testing grounds for dry weather tyre testing, wet weather tyre testing, braking, etc. The dry weather testing is done on a 2770 metres long flat track with numerous corners. It is on this track that twice a year countable races are held. Last Saturday, two Porsche clubs (one local and one Swiss) held a sprint and endurance meeting. This being a tyre test track, it has neither pit lane nor specific paddock area. I had to park my hire car on a piece of concrete where trailers and cars of team members were parked. Another part of that concrete area was turned into an improvised pit lane. In the morning, they held three 20 minute sprint races for various Porsche classes, while after a two hour lunch break (although there was only a local hot dog stand to get food from), allcomers got on the track for a two hour endurance race. The twisty nature of the track made for good racing, but the track surface was rather slick and there were spins galore. But as this track was surrounded by large grassy runoff areas, no cars were severely damaged. Not being a great fan of Porsches (I like Ferraris and Maseratis better), I left halfway the endurance race and had a nice drive in the hills surrounding Clermont-Ferrand. The entire landscape consists of extinct volcanoes and it's really gorgeous. I got back into town at dusk, handed the car back in and after another nice dinner, I had a good night sleep.

        Sunday morning, I got on the train back to Paris. Just like on Friday, the journey went by smoothly. So much for my contribution to tracks in November, as the rest of the month will not involve any new trackchasing for me.

        Roland

        -----------------------------------------
        Visit our website! http://www.nbb.be

        "DISCLAIMER: The content of this e-mail message should not be
        construed as binding on the part of the National Bank of Belgium
        (NBB) unless otherwise and previously stated. The opinions
        expressed in this message are solely those of the author and do not
        necessarily reflect NBB viewpoints, particularly when the content
        of this message, or part thereof, is private by nature or does not
        fall within the professional scope of its author."
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