WHEN THE GOING GETS RUF
…the Ruf get tough – and it doesn’t come much tougher than a trackday at Hockenheim – at least as far as high-speed cornering’s concerned. That series of sweepers into the start-finish zone is awesome.
At least once a year the Ruf family clubs together for a rally in a blissful scenic location, which often incorporates a trackday session on a race circuit. Numbers vary, and Ruf owners at this year’s gathering number a dozen cars, plus a few regular Porsches of the GT3 persuasion, as well as our road-trip Cayman.
We’re greeted at the trackside Hockenheim-Ring hotel by Alois’s PA Claudia who’s arranged a presentation and dinner for the Ruf-owning (and aspirant owner) attendees. Alois and Estonia are late, having had a slight altercation en-route from Pfaffenhausen in their SCR, squeezed onto the barrier by an errant Golf in an autobahn contraflow. No, matter, little harm done, and the party goes ahead.
In gorgeous sunshine, the Ruf and Porsche cars form up in the pit-lane, divided into three groups according to competence – and I am flattered to be directed into the ‘most experienced’ one. First up, we are shown onto an expansive skidpan within the paddock where a pair of instructors demand we emulate their GT3-style antics on the coned route around the tarmac. PSM is turned off, and I dial the Cayman’s wheel-mounted settings round to Sport Plus. Some drivers perform better than others, even in my ‘experienced’ group. Two hoses are gushing, so as I’m circulating the car is getting a drenching. ‘More aggressive application of throttle and brake,’ my instructor yells at me through the window, ‘and use just 1st gear,’ so I jab the pedals accordingly, relying on tyres and the Cayman’s mid-engined poise whilst twirling the wheel to avoid rotating the car.
Next up, I have had the thrill of driving the SCR really hard on the wide expanses of the actual circuit – an awe-inspiring experience in itself - and judging braking distances is key because I’m travelling extremely fast, using all the revs and diving into the turns, aiming at marker points on apexes, riding the kerbs a little bit and powering out onto the straights. It is a thoroughly riveting exercise, and I am very warm indeed. The instructor in his 996 GT3 dictates the pace, followed as closely as possible by a retinue of Rufs and a handful of modern 911s, and each one takes it in turn to follow him, so after completing a lap when you’ve been right behind him you peel off and the next guy follows on behind the instructor. Is he being kind to me? I have the SCR pretty well up behind him, and on the longer straights I have no trouble holding onto him. I fancy I can brake later into the turns but he is swifter out of them. Anyway, it’s academic as it’s so much fun, lapping a circuit with such a poignant depth of history as Hockenheim has, in amongst the Ruf fraternity. They’re staging the German GP here in 2018, and it will be amusing to reflect that I’ve driven the Sachs-Kurve flat, in an SCR, ahead of the stars.