Toolmaking at the limit

What more could you want: beautiful weather, a state-of-the-art race track, a sports car and, to top it all off, an opportunity to experience one of the coveted training sessions at the BILSTER BERG.

“Coolness is the priority, show no fear and no white knuckles”. These are the principles of instructor Horst von Saurma before heading out onto the race track. Another encouraging addition: “Don’t worry, we’ll approach the limit from below.” The place: The BILSTER BERG race track, located in the foothills of the Teutoburg Forest between Kassel and Paderborn. The instructor: Horst von Saurma, driving dynamics expert, participant in numerous car and motorbike races, including 24 starts at the 24-hour race on the Nürburgring. He has been teaching the secrets of fast and safe driving since 1991.

For a Track Day at the BILSTER BERG, participants usually bring their own vehicles. The alternative: for a daily fee, the BILSTER BERG provides vehicles. For example, a 310 hp Golf R, the slimmer Polo R with 220 hp or the more powerful 350 hp of a Cayman S.

This race track is often referred to as the small Nürburgring-Nordschleife. 4.2 kilometres long, curves of completely different degrees of radius up to the very fast “Mutkurve”, slightly downhill and hanging slightly outwards. In addition, there are downhill stretches of up to 26 percent. As a rule, Horst never takes more than four participants on this day trip. Off we go: The instructor in front in the 550 hp Jaguar F-Type R. In the vehicles behind, his voice can be heard over the radio, somewhat jarring: “Follow my line exactly”; “use the lane to the last centimetre”; “take the momentum with you onto the finishing straight”. Horst talks as calmly as if he were at home on the sofa explaining how to assemble a kitchen mixer.

Brake briefly before a crest, then turn left over the top and you’re already going deep into the Mausefalle. Again the voice from the off: “When the car has settled, step on the gas”. With a lot of power, the car now climbs steeply into a blind right-hand bend. “If you turn in properly there, the next left will be perfect”. What was that again? Before the ride, Horst talked about acceleration and braking. The magic phrase is “apply the throttle”, i.e. press gently on the pedal and not fully on it. Braking is just as easy. For Horst, the vehicle is a tool, “and it’s nice when someone knows how to use his tool. He provides the operating instructions, both in theory and practice

It’s a constant change throughout the day: half an hour of driving, with time for chatting during the break of around 30 minutes. “Why do I talk so calmly?” Horst laughs: “When someone comes onto the race track, he has adrenaline rushing through his whole body, he’s nervous, his heart rate is over 120, heart palpitations aren’t far away – and then you’re doomed to fail.” The overly motivated student is quickly moving closer to the limits from above, with wild spins or even contact with the guardrail. “That’s why I consciously reduce everything at the beginning,” Horst explains.

In his words: “If you have reached the limits on the race track, you don’t have to prove anything on the road”. He adds: ” However, a driver who has been trained in sportsmanship does not get scared when surprising situations arise outside the race track. He knows that both the car and he himself as the driver can handle critical situations as well. The right reflexes are stored on the hard disk in the driver’s head. You don’t need to think about it.” He says, “A driver training course like this is better than taking out a life insurance policy!” Final note: “If someone drives in traffic the way he does on the track, he’s either insane or half dead.”

Once more on the rollercoaster: the knowledge of the tools is immediately put into practice. No abrupt load changes, or else the rear end will break away. The steering wheel lies loosely in the hands. Confidence grows with each lap. A quick tap on the brake in the middle of a right-left combination just as you did earlier in the day? No way, the car can do without it. Again the calm voice from the radio: “Steer as little as possible”; “you have to be fast at the exit of the bend, not at the entrance”; “think about whether the tyre feels comfortable”. And then the sentence that makes the students smile: “It’s nice to see things being put to their intended use, isn’t it?” Well, of course, where does a sporty car feel more comfortable than on the race track?

(Editor:, Photos: Matthias Mederer)

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