But we didn't come here to fight pylons, we came to conquer the Green Hell - a racetrack so dangerous, only precious few races are run there. The Nordschleife is, as you may know, a public toll road, and there are multiple times per week when any licensed driver can pay 21 euros for a lap in whatever street-legal machine carried him or her there. No one seems to know how often, statistically, that lap results in smashed bodywork and a bruised ego, but judging by the number of mangled cars I see on tow trucks in the area, it's a lot. And I certainly hope that won't be happening to my $140,000 rented chariot.
Despite the pounding in my chest, my fears are alleviated within seconds of pulling out onto the tarmac. The AMG Driving Academy has divided the Nordschleife into nine sections, and we run each section in a lead-follow arrangement with our instructor, professional race car driver Roland Rehfeld. Each section starts out at a moderate pace, with Roland's voice crackling through the radios - advice on where to place the car on the track, what's ahead of each crest, and most amazingly, what each of us are doing wrong. Driving with one hand, radio in the other, Roland is constantly monitoring his rear-view mirrors. He sees everything, and calls us out by name. I clip a curb and get scolded in a thick German accent "Jason, that's hell of cheating." D'Oh! At the completion of each section, we double back (running the Nordschleife backwards!) and do the section over and over again.
That's right, there are no other cars to deal with - the Academy rents out the entire Nordschleife for two days! And even though the sections all start to run together by the end of the first day, you've passed each curve enough times, with enough instruction, that you're starting to build confidence that the next day will be even more fun.
Except that the infamous Green Hell weather greets us the next morning. Driving through one section at a speed that would get you ticketed on any U.S. interstate, Roland jokes over the radio, "as you can see now, you can now see nothing." And he isn't kidding - the fog was thick enough that we can barely see the car in front of us. But this is part of the experience - the Nürburgring's location in the Eifel mountains provides for constantly changing weather patterns. It can be warm and sunny on one part of the track, and a few miles down the road, it's foggy and raining.