The irony of that headline isn’t lost on me. My rants are not totally crazy (yet). This website is called BridgeToGantry.com for many reasons, including the most obvious one.
But back in the 20th century, social media didn’t exist. And if you’d have told me in 1999 (when I rode my first lap of the Nordschleife), that 24-hours after I uploaded a photo to the internet, maybe a million people would have seen it, I would have laughed.
Now I’m not laughing.
The general public are uploading Nürburgring photos and videos at such a rate that there’s literally not enough minutes in the day for one person to see them all.
And a hell of a lot of those uploads are to do with laptimes.
Is that a problem?
They say that the earliest form of motorsport began the same day that the second ever car was built. Not quite true, but the FIA’s forerunner, the AIACR, was formed in 1904. Why? Because motorsports are dangerous, of course.
There had to be a distinction between public roads and racing tracks. You wouldn’t want to drive your kids to church if you knew that the F1 guys were using the same road for top speed testing, right?
We know that the Nürburgring isn’t your average highway, and that the traffic doesn’t generally include well-dressed church-goers…
…but it is still a public road during touristenfahrten!
Our freedom to join the track at minimal cost depends on the Nordschleife’s status as a public road. Without that magic status, you’ll be paying trackday money and planning ahead in the calendar. (if the Nürburgring Nordschleife as a business survives that difficult transition)
So what’s social media got to do with this rant?
Well, it’s not quite as bad as those idiots who take selfies while smuggling cash on a plane. But what we’ve all been doing so far is not far off it.
- By keeping a record of your ‘laptime’ you are actually changing your social driving into real motorsports. This has implications for your insurance of course, and, crucially, for the track owners. Namely, it’s not a public road if you’re chasing times on it.
- By broadcasting your ‘laptime’, you’re actively encouraging more people to do the same. Social media is snowballing this problem into a size which can’t be ignored.
When TopGear aired that whole jazzed-up under-10-minute Jaguar thing back in 2004, we laughed. But now, 13 years later, it’s no joke.
Everybody and their granny has a smartphone now. Even your Granny’s cat has a Facebook profile. The base level airport rentals can be 200hp or more. Combine all that, and pour it into a Nürburgring touristenfahrten carpark that’s busier than ever before, and you can see where I’m going…
The Dunning-Kruger effect states that those people who have the least ability will believe that they’re the best at something. In other words, the less people know, the more they think they do know. In driving terms, this means the novices don’t see the danger they’re in, and they drive faster and more dangerously than anybody else. Laptiming isn’t just a factor in that, for many of them it’s a primary cause of an accident.
What happens next?
While an actual GPS jammer is illegal inside Germany (too many aircraft and emergency vehicles need them), I’m sure the thought must have crossed their minds to install one at a certain stone bridge and gantry.
So instead Nürburgring will do the next best thing:
They’ll check for laptimers at the gate, and they’ll look for obvious lap-timing regulars on YouTube. And they’ll be banned from entering the Nürburgring!
Prominent YouTubers, laptimers, drifters and other ne’erdowells (myself included) have all been under scrutiny of late. Some have been banned, some have been warned, depending on the severity of their offences. I’m not going to name and shame.
It’s worth knowing that YouTube and Facebook isn’t something that only the ‘cool kids’ look at. It’s out there, it’s public. It’s even more public than a noticeboard in the townsquare.
You heard it here first. Put away the laptimer in Touristenfahrten, or you’ll regret it. I already have.