Today we tied up at the modern city of Mannheim. It was flattened during the war, being an important centre for engineering, but unlike many other German cities, the people didn’t rebuild in the old style. Noted for invention, Mannheim is home to Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Siemens.
We had elected to forgo the bus trip to the medieval city of Heidelberg. I’d been there before and we were getting to pussy’s bow with cute medieval towns. Instead, we went to the Hockenheim Ring, the home of car and bike racing in Germany. They run their F1 Grand Prix there every second year. Although there were no F1s, there’s always some sort of racing at Hockenheim, and today was no exception. Car clubs and vendors such as Mercedes Benz hire the venue to run races, trials, and prepare advertising for their models. It’s booked up 360 days in the year.
Before we got to the circuit, though, our guide told us a couple of interesting stories. First there was Bertha Benz, intrepid wife of the engineer. This is such a great story – please take the time to read it. This lady took the first long distance drive in an automobile. Ever. From Mannheim to Pforzheim, in her husband’s brand new three-wheeler, ostensibly to visit her mother. She took her sons along, too. Benz might have been the engineer, but she was the force behind the operation.
The other story we heard was why it’s a Mercedes Benz. The car was named after a 9-year-old girl. Read about it here.
We’d now arrived at the racetrack, a select little group of about 15 motor sport die-hards. And me. But it’s not just an F1 track. They race motorbikes there. A little bit of interest wriggled up my spine.
First we visited the museum, where Pete and I floated around the array of motor cycles. Nortons, an Ariel Square 4, a few Triumphs, BMWs, AJS, a machine made entirely of wood – wonderful stuff.
Back at Hockenheim, we got to see the track from the VIP stands. Up there you can see the whole track. It’s not just a blur as a car travelling at 250kph+ whisks past. Our guide, who works for the Hockenheim corporation, told us lots of interesting facts, such as the G forces on drivers. One point in particular was a standout – the long straight (3) that ends in a hairpin bend (6). Drivers have to decelerate from around 300kph down to around 70kph to get around that bend. Something like 3G force is on them. We visited the control centre from which all races are controlled. All decisions are made there. A quick visit to the winners’ podium and then we went for a walk through the pits. The boys admired the new hardware, especially the new Jaguar models on display.
Then we went back to the ship, tired but happy.
I’d have to agree, it beat the ABC* tour.
*Another Bloody Castle