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Circuits of the past

Remember the motor racing circuits of the past!

My experience at Hockenheim

When I think about Hockenheim, I think about long straights through the woods. I think about impressive top speeds over 220 Mph. I think about the fights on the straights, and sometimes beside the straights like Piquet and Salazar in 1982, and the hard braking for the chicanes.

Many times I drove through Germany on the Autobahn to Southern Europe and saw the grandstands when I passed Hockenheim. Every time I thought, "when I have more time I want to look there". I had to wait until 1999 when I had time to visit the circuit for the first time.

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I asked to the possibility to drive at the circuit with my own car and they told me you could drive at the club circuit - the so calles "Kleiner Kurs" which is German for small track - every Thursday evening during the summer. In 2002 I planned my second visit to Hockenheim on the way to my holiday destination in Hungary. Off course it was on a Thursday.

Because it was on the club circuit, only the motodrom and a connection behind the grandstands, my expectations of the track where not much high. Although, the circuit was not difficult to learn and the corners where not really fast it was more fun to drive than I expected. Even when I drove there for the first time, there where also two Lotus Elise's, I was the quickest on the twisty track with my VW Scirocco 1.8!

Hockenheim

The first corner is one of the bests of the circuit. It's a middle fast corner which opens at the end. After a short straight (At the old GP circuit this was the one Mile straight with the highest top speeds of the Formula One) follows a slow right hand corner which is leading to the connection behind the grandstands.

After this you accelerate on a straight to the most beautiful corner at Hockenheim, which is ironically a part of the connection and only used for the club circuit. It's a real fast left hand kink and almost full throttle. Immediately after this corner you have to break really hard for a slow 90° right hander followed by a chicane which brings you back to the Grand Prix circuit.

It was at this point that I overtook several other drivers on the inside, the right side. Later, after my holiday, a was reading the rules at the backside of the ticket and saw that overtaking was only allowed on the left side, just like on the public roads in Germany!

I also read that driving at race speed was forbidden. Oops, sorry I didn't know that... On the other hand, I don't come to a circuit to drive like a tourist and watch the beautiful grandstands!

Hockenheim

Back on the Grand Prix circuit you accelerate to the fast corner who brings you into the Motodrom. At this version of the circuit you can take this fast right hander full throtlle. Not everyone had the balls to do this - or did they read the rules? - because I overtook here different cars on the outside, which was the legal side.

Than you have to brake hard for the left hand hairpin in the stadium which looks like a left hand version of the Tarzan Corner at Zandvoort. By the way, this part of the circuit was designed by Dutchman Hans Hugenholtz who was also one of the designers of Zandvoort.

Than you accelerate trough a rolling S curve which is full throttle but makes you don't see the next corner where you have to brake. That made this series funny to drive. Finally a double right turn led back to the Start/Finish straight.

Hockenheim

After my ride on the circuit I looked around, at this time they did the final touch to the new circuit, and made some photos from the circuit where was a session for motorcycles now.

Until than I had some hope there would stay a connection between the old and the new circuit to keep racing at the old track possible... That hope was gone when I saw a gravel trap and a barrier behind the corner to the new part. No connection to the old track at all!

Later I heard that the old part was completely demolished to plant trees to compensate the trees they felled for the new circuit. They sacrificed a very typical circuit and replaced it by an average modern circuit which could be everywhere in the world. Which circuit will follow?

© Text en pictures: Herman Liesemeijer

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