I took a ton-up taxi on the road to hell

Andrew Eames drives his old banger in the tracks of the motor- racing aces on a former F1 course in Germany

SABINE RECK is the sort of taxi driver that a chap's dreams are made of. A cool blond in soft yellow leather and a black BMW, she smiles sweetly, welcomes me aboard, and murmurs "relax". She knows where I want to go without me saying a word. My testosterone, if not shaken, is about to be stirred.

But a ride with Sabine is not quite what it seems. One minute I was prepared to be putty in her hands, and eight-and-a-half minutes later I was a snivelling blob glued to her front seat by my own sweat. We'd both kept all our clothes on, no blows had been exchanged, and Sabine was chatting away blithely as if this sort of thing happened 25 times a day. Until her rubbers wore out.

Sabine Reck is the taxi driver from hell - Green Hell - the race track more correctly known as the Nordschleife (or old Nurburgring), in the forest-clad hills of Germany's Eifel region. Until the new Nurburgring was built up the hill in the 1970s, Formula One Grand Prix used to be held here. Today, Sabine still covers the 14-mile circuit at speeds of up to 160mph, with only a touch on the brakes for the 73 right-angle bends. I have never taken a corner so fast. After every 25 "taxi rides" her BMW needs a new set of tyres.

Her passengers are sometimes sick, and beg her to slow down. I pointed out with some smugness that I hadn't done either, but Sabine just smiled. Thanks, Sabine, you know how to make a chap feel better.

Doing 73 bends with Sabine is, believe it or not, part of a package holiday by Moswin Tours of Leicester. No prizes for guessing that it is geared to those who like to burn a bit of rubber themselves. To start with, there's the getting there, four hours on motorways and then an hour on sweeping country roads from the Channel ports.

Tacked between the Belgian Ardennes and the Rhine valley, the Eifel is volcanic, lush, forested, inhabited by wild moufflon (sheep) originally released by Hermann Goering, and its Ahr valley is one of very few red wine-making areas of Germany.

It has a history of being overlooked. In the days when fine scenery meant poor peasants, it used to be known as "Prussia's Siberia". The idea of a mountainous racetrack started as a job creation scheme, but the combination of steep chicanes in serene green proved a potent attraction.

The ring mesmerised decades of world-class drivers, until cars became simply too quick for it. Jackie Stewart christened it "Green Hell", and an accident in which Nikki Lauda was badly burned in 1976 finally led to its closure as a Formula One circuit. A neighbouring hilltop was cleared and a new grand prix circuit - the Nurburgring - was built, a mere 2.8 miles long, with all the right dimensions and safety measures for Formula One. The Luxembourg Grand Prix takes place there today.

But the Nordschleife was never dismantled. Lower grade races still take place here and people flock from all over Europe, and not just for the chance to blow cobwebs out of their carburettors. The track puts a new spin on the Sunday afternoon drive: on non-race weekends, it opens to the public.

Not everyone wants to take their prize wheels through hell. Actually, the BMW torrent nearly put me off. Then inspiration came from an unexpected quarter: a coach party from Blighty. If Ramblers of Hastings could do it, then so could I. My battered old Peugeot diesel has always been good at downhill, and for the first few kilometres I was pleased with how we coped. The windscreen filled with blurry images: a ribbon of tarmac sliding around in a pool of green. The car smelt of burning rubber, and the rev counter decided to have a rest.

Then the track started to climb. Uphill has never been our strongest point. Meteors with wheels began to appear in my rear-view mirror, and I was aware of the 12th-Century Nurburg castle peering snootily over the treetops at the crawling Englander.

At this point, I became aware of the advantages of the woodland setting. Assuming that no one in the castle had binoculars, only woodpeckers and pigeons could judge my performance - except for the finish, and I had a solution for that. Chugging along the final straight, I reached for a cassette. We rounded the last corner touching 30mph, but the car was booming with the opening bars of "Bat Out of Hell".

FACT FILE

nUrburgring

In the driving seat

Moswin Tours' (tel: 0116 271 9922) Green Hell weekends include return ferry crossings, three nights b&b accommodation in the Dorint Hotel, five journeys around the Nordschleife with your own car and one with the Ringtaxi, two 10-minute karting sessions and entrance into the museum, for pounds 289. For independent travellers, a single round of the Nordschleife costs 17DM (pounds 6), 12 rounds cost 165DM.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes