Everyone in the world has little habits, hobbies and idiosyncrasies that make them the person they are. My latest interviewee is no different. He works hard. He likes cars. He loves driving. Most of all, he loves his track time at Nurburgring.
But who am I talking about? Some call him Lee Beckham. I call him my brother.
Hello Lee and thank you for joining me for this interview.
For those reading this that do not know you, how would you describe yourself?
Well, I’m a 40 something car driver that loves going to Nurburgring. It’s really that simple.
When did the passion with cars start for you?
The passion for cars has in general grown continuously ever since I passed my test when I was seventeen. The love for the track cars started some years ago, I’m not even sure I remember how long now! I know it was just after Top Gear started to visit Nurburgring. Then that passion grew and really got going.
Who introduced you to going to Nurburgring?
I don’t think anyone did actually. The year before my first trip, a group of us attended a car show in Holland. The following year, we went again to the same car show. It was that year that we booked a night there before our return to the UK.
When did you officially make your first trip?
My first trip was in 2005. I was driving my old 1983, Mk3 Ford Escort.
How did you feel after that first trip?
Oh, I loved it. I loved every single second of it. I was hooked. Sliders Guest House, run by the late Brendon Kierland, was a great base. The food that you eat everywhere is on another level to the UK. It’s a combination of everything really. Food. People. Atmosphere and the track. After that first trip, I knew it would be something I would be doing for a long time. Here we are….18 years later!
What keeps you going back?
The drive. It never gets boring when you drive the circuit as every single lap you do is different. I’ve heard people say, that during certain times of the year all seasons can be experienced in a single lap, due to the size of the track and the surrounding Eifel mountains. The owner of the guest house, Brendon, was one of my other reasons to go back. He became one of my best friends over there. He looked out for me when I needed help, but at the other end of the day was happy to sit up, drink beer, talk rubbish and beat me at chess. I’m 30+ trips in now and those reasons are more or less the same. The difference…..I have gained so many more friends in Germany which really just adds to the enjoyment.
Have you ever set any personal bests?
Technically Lap Timing is banned from Touristenfahrten which is Public Driving time. That’s where anybody can buy a lap or as many laps as they like really, and drive themselves. This was to try and minimise people trying too hard to beat times and each other which would sometimes result in poor judgement or worse a huge accident. I simply record each lap on a GoPro and when home I can look at the footage to determine my times.
Any worst/best times you’d like to share?
I guess there is no worst time, as any lap that you manage to complete with the car the right way up and no damage, is considered a good lap. My best time so far is Bridge to Gantry of 7:56. The unofficial way to time, is between the first Bilstein Bridge and the final Gantry on the last straight
What cars have you driven?
I started off with my 1983 MK3 Ford Escort RS1600. After a few trips, I took a 1992 Ford Escort RS2000, that belonged to my partner. Unfortunately it had brake failure and I crashed it into the Armco. Then it was a 2002 Volkswagen Golf GT TDi which I used for just 3 trips.
Next came the first 1999 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6.5 Tommi Makinen Edition to give it, its full title. This was a game changer and a much more track focused car. This served me well for over 10 trips, until the next one came along.
That was the exact same car but in White, but came with an array of modifications for driving the track. Whatever modifications are needed, I get done.
Did I mention I also took my work van around for one lap. It was slow but funny. I have also driven a few race rental cars, a Mini John Cooper Works edition and a Renault Clio Sport.
So, what cars do you drive now?
Just the Mitsubishi EVO for now. It’s the only one that is properly prepared for track use, with correct seats, harnesses, a roll cage, etc.
What maintenance do you need for your trips to Nurburgring?
It’s actually not much different to how you would maintain your road car. With the exception of a more regular service interval, changing oil twice a year instead of after several thousand miles. Checking brake pads, tyres, fluid levels, etc
What else would you like to share?
It has become quite an expensive hobby of late. As of 2023, the lap prices have now been increased to €35 per lap, and when you consider 4/5 laps will completely drain the fuel tank costing at least €60-€70 to replenish, then a weekend consisting of 20 laps for example can get rather costly. Then on top of that, you factor in your hotel stay, more fuel, channel crossing, more fuel, food, beer, more fuel, and more beer!
But will it ever stop me going?? probably not. I will always find the money even if I have to be sensible and limit my trips and laps that I do.
I have now clocked up 37 individual trips there. Mostly driven but some of late have been flown with the advantage of using a car storage company “The Crown” to store the car between trips saving the costly drive home and back each time.
My next trip, I am set to leave on April 5th 2023. So far solo, so I am still hunting for a passenger if I can find one crazy enough. We have a private track day booked for one of the days, so unlimited laps can be done, plus the number of cars on the track are limited. Then just a weekend of laps, food, beer and relaxing.
Thank you Lee for your time.