Last week, on Sunday July 15, forty Aston Martin’s from all over Europe gathered in Boxberg, Germany, at the Bosch test center. Boxberg is the 3rd event in Aston Martin’s yearly Big 5 series of “driving experience” days for Aston owners.
I love these events. In the past I have participated in the Spa and St. Moritz events, but this was my first time to Boxberg. This being a track event, and probably rainy, I left my V8 Roadster at home and drove off to Germany in my shiny red V12 Vantage. Smart choice?
Most of the participants, about 30 of em, made use of the arranged hotel night at the Hotel Victoria in Bad Mergentheim. During the Saturday afternoon, Aston Martin flooded the hotel parking, the other side of the street and the streets surrounding the hotel. For me, that’s part of the fun of these events: seeing so many Astons together in one place.
On Sunday morning, we left for Boxberg at 8:00 AM, in a nice convoy of 30 Astons. At the Bosch test center, we were introduced to the Aston team (Petra and Marcel) and the instructors for the day. Then finally, we could get started on the huge surfaces of tarmac. Wet tarmac that is, because it was a rainy morning.
The day consisted of 8 different “exercises”, some targeted at safe driving in difficult situation, some more focused at speed. But all of them were about enjoying the abilities of your Aston in a safe environment.
1. Avoiding on obstacle while braking hard
This exercise is all about keeping control of your car while braking hard. Participants were instructed to drive towards an fictional obstacle (some cones) at speed, brake hard, then swerve around the obstacle while still braking to the max.
This was supposed to be done at high speed on dry tarmac, but in the rain this all became a little trickier. And more exciting, as some cars still got up to 90 km/h before braking.
2. Braking on very slippery surface
An exercise similar to the previous one, but without an obstacle and on very slippery tarmac. The braking surface is tarmac that is make extra slippery with white paint, then flooded with water using the test center’s built-in “sprinkler” system.
Instructions: approach the white surface with 100 km/h, then brake and try to keep the car steady by always steering into the direction you want to go. Sounds simple but it really isn’t. Many 180s and 360s were scored here.
3. Driving the ideal line / drifting
This one too was supposed to happen on dry tarmac: practice driving the ideal racing line through a long corner to the left. Start the corner on the right, hit the apex on the left, then go wide to the right again. However, the tarmac was quite wet, which turned this wide corner into an ideal drifting practice. So after doing the ideal-line thingy once or twice most drivers were like: forget the line, let’s drift!
Here’s a pic of me in my V12 Vantage, going sideways:
4. Drifting on wet cobble stones
Here’s one where we were meant to go sideways. A short corner on wet cobblestones. Very slippery and ideal for drifting. And driving a V12 Vantage, with its semi-slick P-Zero Corsa tires, made it even more slippery.
Here’s frenchman Brice doing the cobblestones in a black V12 Vantage:
Photo moment: 40 Astons on the oval
Before lunch, all Aston Martins present gathered on the large oval for a photo moment. How cool is this?
5. Ideal line driving on the mini circuit
I was looking forward to this one, hoping for a more high speed event. A small circuit created with the large oval of the test center. However, when our group was on the track, the rain came pouring down.
So our speed was lower than normal, but with the rear end of my V12 constantly breaking out, this turned out to be the hardest and most exciting part of the day 🙂
6. High speed oval driving
The most spectacular part of the day: driving the large high-speed oval. First, we drove the oval behind the instructor, slowing bringing the speed up to 180 km/h. Entering the banked turns is a strange feeling, with the car automatically going into the corner, without turning the steering wheel.
Here’s a video of our oval laps, filmed by the crazy french guy while driving:
The second event at the oval was a high-speed braking exercise. At the time our group was there the tarmac was completely dry, so we were able to get up to 200 km/h (!!) before pushing the brake pedal to the ground. Very impressed with the braking power of my V12 Vantage’s carbon-ceramic brakes!
7. Wet slalom drifting
Another spot where we could practice our drifting skills. A small slalom laid out on wet cobblestones. The trick here is to manoeuver your car around the cones by using the throttle more than your steering, taking every turn as sideways as possible. Fun!
8. Racing on a wet oval track
A race between the participants, first deciding on the group winner, then at the end of the day the big final where the best drivers from all groups competed against each other. The location: A small oval track, two turns, two straights, but with a large pool of water in the centers of the two straights.
The drivers were free to choose their own ESC setting. I settled on Track Mode, which leaves some freedom for the tail to break out without the power being taking away.
Here’s a video of my race against the french guy Brice, so two V12 Vantages going head to head (yeah, I lost…):
Personally, I had a great day. It was a lot of fun driving my V12 Vantage with the ESC fully switched off for most of the day. Normally a V12 Vantage and wet tarmac is not the ideal combination (because of its’ semi-slick tires). But here, on the wide open surfaces on the Boxberg center, the V12 Vantage really becomes the perfect drifting machine. In some situations it even became an uncontrollable monster (see the above race video), but strangely enough, those moments were the most fun parts of the day 🙂
I would definitely recommend doing the Boxberg event to all Aston Martin owners, whether they are new to their Aston or maybe already have some track or racing experience.
New owners can really get to know their car, learn how to handle it in slippery situations and experience the abilities of these british beauties.
More experienced drivers can hone their skills, but more importantly have the opportunity to take their toys to their limits, without risking any damage to their car (or themselves).
Finally, here’s some more photos take by me and Brice and a couple from the “official” photographer Sjoerd ten Kate.
(BTW: 600 more Boxberg pics by Sjoerd can be found on the Big 5 website).