Cheap thrills in a hot hatch

May 20, 2015

A trip to the legendary Nürburgring race track in Germany has got to be on any petrol head’s bucket list. But how to make sure all the holiday money doesn’t go on fuel?

The wrong side of an 850-mile round-trip, the likelihood you’re driving something juicy, and a few laps once there, could mean sleeping in your car.

Help is at hand. The Focus ST Diesel, the first diesel-powered car in our award-winning hot-hatch series, achieves 0-62 mph in 8.1 seconds – and 64.2 mpg.

But can a diesel ST be a proper hot hatch – as well as a fuel-efficient choice? No arm-twisting needed to convince us that an impromptu cross-channel pilgrimage to the ‘Ring was the best – and most enjoyable – way to find out.

We packed a bunch of video equipment in the boot, dosed up on coffee and left London at dawn. London being London, we were still of course dogged by a fuel-sapping traffic jam heading on to the M2.

But two hours later we were in Dover, and on a ferry bound for France – where yet more tailbacks failed to dampen our spirits as we drove through Belgium, the Netherlands, and finally into Germany.

Crossing the border near Aachen, we were impressed to see we still had nearly two-thirds of a tank. We still hadn’t put our ride’s ST credentials to the test – but that was about to change.

Built in the late 1920’s, the Nürburgring circuit is not for the faint-hearted. With more than 70 corners – many of them blind – it’s little wonder three times Formula One world champion Jackie Stewart dubbed it “The Green Hell”.

Judging discretion the better part of valour, we handed over the keys to our very own Lord of the ‘Ring Paul Wijgaerts – veteran of more than 7,000 laps of the 13-mile circuit. He had sunglasses. And at this point we had over half a tank left (a tick in the box for diesel economy at least).

Filming Paul hit speeds of 130 mph on this unique circuit was probably not going to help on this front, but there are worse ways to spend a sunny afternoon in central Germany. Oh, and it certainly meant a big fat tick for the boxes marked fun and fast.

Several circuits later we finally tempted him to hand back the keys with the promise of a succulent steak at the appropriately named Devil’s Diner, then we set the satnav for home – with less than half-a-tank remaining.

Tempted to eke out the fuel, but determined to stick to the brief, and to road regulations, we made good progress back to the coast, through the Channel Tunnel, and returned to our journey’s start at Tower Bridge – just 18 hours after setting off.

As for completing the trip, nailing a hot lap (or two), and still having change out of a tank of fuel? Watch the video and all will be revealed…