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      10-23-2011, 01:09 PM   #1
Alpina_B3_Lux
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PHOTOSHOOT - Nürburgring training - 9/2011 - 335i E90 LCI + Ferrari, SLS, McLaren...

Warning: This report has gotten a bit out of hand length-wise. So if you suffer from attention deficit syndrome or are used to reading witty one-liners only, skip to the photos! Otherwise, enjoy…

Why?

Those of you who have followed my threads about the various modifications I have been doing to my car (see all of them here: 335i E90 LCI - Experiences and review of various modifications (long!)) know that since I bought my car roughly 2 1/2 years ago it has become much more powerful, faster and more agile (and, last but not least: more fun!).

However, one component that was not able to keep up with this was…the driver! So during the season of spring and summer 2011 the main objective was for me to "tune the driver" - allowing me to feel more comfortable with what the car can do and how it reacts in certain situations when pushed hard. Obviously this cannot be done on normal public roads - sure, as I'm living close to Germany you can easily drive fast on some unlimited portions of the Autobahn, but just driving fast in a straight line does not really require lots of skill (except watching out for other drivers that are not familiar with high speeds…) and is from a handling perspective really uninteresting. Ergo, I needed to go to a racetrack.

Where?

I'm fortunate to live around 100 miles from the "Nordschleife" of the Nürburgring, the famous "green hell" as it was dubbed by Jackie Stewart, and have been visiting this track for a few years with more than 150 laps under my belt. Helped until now by a few experienced friends and in particular expert driver and forum moderator (UK) E92Fan who has taught me a lot about this track, its delights and its difficulties, I wanted to further improve my driving skills on this track.

Why the Nordschleife?

There are quite a few other tracks close to where I live, the most famous of these being the circuit at Spa-Francorchamps that is also used for Formula One racing. However, for most amateur and professional drivers the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring ranks no. 1 of all race circuits - as it does for me. Why is that so?

First of all, what is called the "Nürburgring" as such is not a race track as one could assume, but rather a complex dedicated to motorsport and which currently features two different circuits - the old "Nordschleife" ("North Loop") built in the 1920s with a length of almost 21 kilometers (13 miles) and the modern Grand Prix circuit built in 1984 with a length of a bit more than 5 kilometers (3.2 miles). It is the latter that is nowadays used for Formula One racing (every two years), the older Nordschleife being reserved for slower race cars such as touring racing cars. Both circuits can be combined, which is for example done during the famous 24h race that takes place each year in June. And yes, there also existed a "Südschleife" at one point in time, but this is no longer in use as a race circuit today.

Now, what makes the Nordschleife so interesting? Well, first of all it's the pure length of the circuit: Almost 21 kilometers! This is extremely long for a race circuit, and to my knowledge unique in the world. Today's circuits are much, much shorter, which can be observed by comparing it to the new Grand Prix circuit that is about 1/4 of the length of the Nordschleife - to make it easier to observe by spectators and less expensive to maintain. For the driver, however, this provides an incredible amount of variety. The circuit is so long that it takes at least 100 laps to more or less fix it in the driver's memory - remember, with an average fast road car it takes you between 8 and 10 minutes to complete one lap! There are 73 (!) bends, each significantly different from each other in radius, width, sideways elevation or slope and some with bumps in the middle.

Secondly, the Nordschleife is situated in a very hilly region that is called the Eifel, a geographically speaking very old part of Germany that was once volcano country (the last eruption took place around 10.000 years ago, however). This also means that there is a significant difference in altitude over the whole track - around 300 meters between the highest and the lowest point, with up to 17% incline and 11% decline. This makes it much, much harder to drive than almost all other circuits (which are usually flat), as the constant changes in altitude obviously have a significant influence on how the car behaves, how its weight is shifting, where you have to brake or accelerate and at which point you can turn into a corner. This is also a main part of what is so fascinating about the Nordschleife - not only is it extremely long, but you have so many different possible driving challenges and speeds mixed in there that it is never boring - and of course the Nordschleife is again totally different when it's wet…!

Driving on the Nordschleife - and description of some interesting passages

Here's how the complete circuit looks like (with the Grand Prix circuit in the lower left corner), together with the names of its most famous parts:



You enter the circuit on the long straight that is called "Döttinger Höhe" and which you can only drive through at full tilt during track days - which is why during the "Touristenfahrten" (see below) most people time their laps using the term "bridge-to-gantry", i.e. from the first bridge after entering the circuit until the gantry after the last corner (called "Schwalbenschwanz", see picture herabove).

I've compiled a description of some interesting parts of the circuit herebelow - and in order for you to be able to see what I'm writing about, here's a YouTube video of famous race driver Walter Röhrl driving on the Nordschleife in a Porsche GT3 (cf. indicated point in the video for each section) :


• Starting after the bends through the Hatzenbach section, there's a steep incline that you drive at full throttle (starting at 1:10 in the video), the usual braking point being behind the hilltop before a fast right bend - this is where I always scare passengers as you're accelerating until almost 200 km/h up the hill and don't see what's behind it (at around 1:21 in the video).

• Then there's a very fast section through the Flugplatz and Schwedenkreuz section - one of the fastest, where experienced drivers accelerate up to more than 240 km/h (around 1:42 in the video) before braking hard into the Aremberg bend - which is not only almost 90 degrees, but also slopes downward (around 1:49 in the video).

• Then there's the famous Fuchsröhre (fox tube) (between 1:54 and 2:12 in the video), also very fast (you can see in the video that you can drive it almost straight in spite of the bends) and first steeply downwards and then going uphill and at the same time with a left bend (around 2:09 in the video) - this is one of the hardest sections for any suspension, and extremely scary for any inexperienced passenger when at 200 km/h or more your suspension is in full compression because of the incline.

• Some time later and after the tricky Wehrseifen left bend (at 3:15 in the video), right after the section indicated Ex-Mühle (ex-mill) and at around halfway through the circuit there's also the second exit called Breidscheid in the left bend (starting at around 3:30 in the video), and quite a tricky section when the track is wet (I once saw a car sliding down the hill towards the Breidscheid exit entirely sideways ). The next right bend (3:36 in the video) is fun with our biturbo cars and in particular with a limited slip differential as it's steeply upwards and you need loads of torque and grip there.

• Then right before the Bergwerk (mine) - a savage right bend (starting at 3:54 in the video) - there's the section where Niki Lauda crashed in 1976 (at 3:49 in the video), and after which you can accelerate again and reach high speeds through the section called Kesselchen / Klostertal (between 3:59 and 4:26 where Röhrl catches up to the red Ferrari). This is also where the huge crash happened a few weeks back and where the M3 Ringtaxi crashed together with 7 other cars.

• Another interesting section is the Caracciola-Karussell (called after a famous German race driver) which is a banked left corner that initially was part of a rain ditch but used by Caracciola for the first time in racing the Nordschleife to gain time (driving towards the yellow Opel sign at 5:01 in the video).

• The next few kilometers are quite curvy and less fast than the previous sections; a popular viewing point is the exit of the right bend in the section called Brünnchen ( Röhrl drives towards the bend at 5:57 in the video). After this you have the notorious Eiskurve (ice curve) (at 6:13 in the video) which is extremely treacherous in the wet.

• Then comes the section Pflanzgarten (planting garden), famous for making cars actually fly if you go fast enough (starting at 6:23 in the video). Finally there's a fast section followed by the second carousel called Schwalbenschwanz (at 7:05 in the video, right before the last huge right bend called Galgenkopf (gallow head) (starting at 7:15 in the video), before accelerating down the Döttinger Höhe towards the finish line.

Having fun yet?

Thanks for bearing with me until now. I know it's a lot to read!

How do you go onto the Nordschleife?

I mean, after all it's a race circuit. So how come you're allowed to drive there? And with a four door sedan, even??

Officially, the Nordschleife is a public road - a one-way toll road without speed limit, to be precise. It is regularly open to anyone with a road legal car or bike, such times being called "Touristenfahrten" (tourist driving), one lap costing currently 24 EUR. In particular during the week-ends it is often extremely busy there, with more than 150 cars on the track at the same time and fast race-prepped cars with roll cages alternating with buses, camping cars and mom+dad driving their mother-in-law around (hear the screams! ). During the week the Nordschleife is mostly rented by the "Industriepool", i.e. car manufacturers testing their prototypes, and which is where all those spy photos we see come from.

The problem with the Touristenfahrten is that the difference in speed and experience of the drivers is often enormous, and frequent accidents close down the track, sometimes for hours. Another possibility therefor is to drive on the circuit during dedicated track days, when the whole circuit is rented out to one organiser and only a limited number of cars can drive there. There you usually only get petrolheads with their toys (some cars being dedicated to the track, called "ringtools"), and the speed differences are smaller and the behaviour usually more civilised (not always though…). Less traffic, more laps to be done - sounds much better! During such track days, there's also always the possibility to rent an instructor to teach you how to better (and faster) drive your car - an excellent idea in order to benefit from other people's experience and accelerate your own learning curve.

I had done just that in July with a group of like-minded friends from Luxembourg and Germany - you may remember my report (see here: 335i E90 LCI - Track Day Nürburgring Nordschleife). All that isn't cheap, of course - only participating at a track day at the Nordschleife costs around 550 EUR, with instructor and petrol you'll be at around 1000 EUR per day. But it's worth it, I can assure you.

The event - two days of Nordschleife training with sport auto magazine

This time was a bit different, though. The German sports car magazine sport auto) - justly famous for its detailed "supertests" that include testing a sportscar on the Nordschleife and the Hockenheimring - regularly organises two-days training sessions on the Nordschleife and I booked one of these events at the beginning of September.

So how does this work?

There were around 120 cars participating at this event, and you may be surprised to hear that this was one of the few times where I felt undermotorised with my car. Around 80% of the cars were Porsche, and most of these were either GT3 or GT2 (!) cars, with a few Porsche Turbos thrown into the mix. The rest was divided between a few M3 and Nissan GT-R, Corvettes and Ferraris. A really impressive array of supercars! Most of the people were German, Austrian or Swiss (i.e. from German speaking countries), but there were also a few other nationalities - in my group there were two very nice guys from Sweden, for example, and there were even some US guys that flew in only for this event.

And: You won't believe it.


There were even a few women driving!

We were all divided into about 20 groups (so 6 cars per group) with one instructor for each group, who was always a professional race driver. My group had a very nice instructor who was test driver for Pirelli. All instructors had cars that were put at their disposal by car manufacturers - the majority were Porsches (Cayman R, 911 Turbo, GT3, GT2), a few BMW M3, an Audi RS5 and TTRS, and even a Mercedes C-Class AMG.

After some instructions in the early morning we all lined up in our groups, and the first day was mostly dedicated to driving in our group behind the instructor (positions changing after each lap), who was in constant contact to us through radios that were distributed before starting to drive. All groups were lined up on the Döttinger Höhe, and each 30-60 seconds or so one group would be allowed to go on the track, and we followed each other while listening to the information our instructor was giving us about each bend and section of the track.

Only problem: The weather. It's always fickle in this region, and during both days it was almost constantly quite cold and wet. Now, the Nordschleife is dangerous under the best conditions, in particular due to the absence of margin of error for the driver, but in the wet this gets of course even worse. Some sections are extremely slippery, and you have to drive different lines as well as different speeds in order to avoid finding yourself in the armco.

Still, I was actually not too unhappy about this, as I've always wanted to learn how to drive the Nordschleife properly in the wet - and what better way to learn it than with professional instructors? Although you have to be extremely concentrated while driving, I enjoyed it quite a lot, and during the afternoon of the first day the track got dry and we could actually do a few very fast laps.

The first day was mostly dedicated to guided driving in these groups, with usually 2 consecutive laps and then a debriefing and short break to recover, and a bigger lunch break. Because believe it or not it IS quite exhausting! In the afternoon we had 2 hours of free driving, so everyone could drive as he wished. I think I did about 20 laps during this first day - so more than 400 kilometers!

The second day started with two hours of guided driving and then free driving until about 5 p.m. - again it was quite wet but the track started to dry out. This is actually an even more dangerous situation because in some sections you'll be driving with "dry speeds", whereas in others you need to adapt yourself to the wet tarmac and slow down considerably.

This actually led to a few accidents, me fortunately not being among the crashed. Truth be told, I'm always rather careful as I don't dispose of 3-4 other cars (like the majority of the people attending this event) and always stay well below my own personal limits. However, in the afternoon I did get into two hairy situations within about 15 minutes of each other: First there was an older Porsche Carrera that didn't want to let me past although I was going faster, and promptly spun out after the Bergwerk bend…rear wheel drive plus wet conditions plus no DSC equals loss of control. I was driving with my driving instructor right behind me, and fortunately managed to brake in time so I didn't drive straight into the guy. Some 10 minutes later, a similar thing happened - a Corvette with a very bad driver (bad lines, braking at the wrong points…) didn't let me overtake him , and while driving at around 150 km/h in the Kesselchen section had the stupid idea to go WOT in the last left bend. This resulted in his rear end coming around and his car playing pool billard between the right and left armco . Three impacts later he came to a stop (unhurt), and I was really lucky to have kept my safety distance and thus being able to brake in time. Well, some people's learning curve isn't really exponential…

Last words - and then photos!

These were two fabulous days, in spite of the mediocre weather we had. I saw loads of fantastic supercars, learned loads of things about the circuit, my car and myself, and also enjoyed the perfect organisation of the whole event. But well, we Germans are known for that sort of thing!

Here are some photos of the track, my training group and some other cars that were driving around - so that you can get an idea of what it was like to be there.

I hope you enjoyed the read - and congratulations for holding out until the last paragraph!

1. The track and my training group

The Nürburg fortress that gives the Nürburgring its name:


Döttinger Höhe - red flag due to oil on the track:


Döttinger Höhe - leaving the track


Instructor car - black E90 M3


Training group (1): E36 M3 with roll cage and coilover


Training group (2): E34 M5 with roll cage, coilover, race clutch


Training group (3): 1M in white, remapped to 400hp (crank)


Training group (4): Opel Corsa OPC with roll cage


Training group (5): Renault Mégane RS


Training group (6): Me!


2. On the track - action shots

Action shots (1): The famous Caracciola-Karussell


Action shots (2): 1M in the Karussell


Action shots (3): 335i in the Karussell


Action shots (4): 335i manoeuvering the bends


Action shots (5): 335i going into another corner


Action shots (6): 1M shooting through the curves


Action shots (7): 1M again


Action shots (8): Instructor car E90 M3 leading the way through Pflanzgarten


Action shots (9): Me being chased by a race prepped Porsche 996 GT3 RS, Ferrari 458 and Porsche 997 GT3 RS


3. Other amazing cars on the track

Normal cars (1): E92 M3 - instructor car


Normal cars (2): Porsche 997 Turbo


Normal cars (3): Corvette


Normal cars (4): Porsche Cayman R - instructor car


Normal cars (5): Nissan GT-R


Normal cars (6): BMW E46 M3


Normal cars (7): Loads of Porsches


Supercars (1): SLS AMG


Supercars (2): Porsche 997 GT2 RS


Supercars (3): Audi R8 V10


Supercars (4): Porsche 997 GT3 RS


Supercars (5): Mercedes AMG CLK Black Series


Supercars (6): Ferrari 458


Supercars (7): Ferrari 458 (2)


Supercars (8): McLaren MP4-12C


Supercars (9): Mc Laren MP4-12C


Alpina_B3_Lux
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      10-23-2011, 01:17 PM   #2
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      10-23-2011, 01:23 PM   #3
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awesome mate!!!. ..thanks for posting!
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      10-23-2011, 01:52 PM   #4
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very hot cars there!
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      10-23-2011, 01:54 PM   #5
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didnt read anything, but the pics are awesome...thanks
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      10-23-2011, 02:00 PM   #6
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      10-23-2011, 02:14 PM   #7
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Thanks for sharing!! Now I know more about the famous Ring! I only get to drive on this track on Gran Turismo 5 which is still very difficult, hopefully one day European Delivery + Nurburgring would be awesome!!!
Thanks again for sharing some fantastic shots and detailed info about the "Green Hell."
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      10-23-2011, 03:02 PM   #8
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Looks like fun, someone is fully enjoying his car. Awesome...
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      10-23-2011, 03:30 PM   #9
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Send a message via AIM to Boltzz
I am so jelly.
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      10-23-2011, 05:11 PM   #10
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Great pictures, thanks for sharing!
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TOOK DELIVERY 24 OCT 2011 [FIRST PICS] [INTERIOR PICS]
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      10-23-2011, 06:30 PM   #11
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WOW! this's an epic read!! enjoy'd every last detail.
u truly r fortunate 2 hav such a diabolical n exhilarat'n track 2 "play" on.
plus, i'm envious that u hav ~150 laps of experience under ur belt.

thx 4 tak'n ur time n shar'n w/ all of us.
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      10-23-2011, 07:48 PM   #12
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BADASS.
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      10-23-2011, 07:58 PM   #13
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Thanks once again for your excellent contribution to the forum. I really enjoyed reading your account of the training session and seeing the fantastic pictures.
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      10-23-2011, 08:52 PM   #14
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Thanks for sharing
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      10-23-2011, 09:32 PM   #15
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Nice pics. Do you have a side view of your car? I want to check out those wheels
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      10-23-2011, 10:55 PM   #16
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Love the Alpina lip on the e90
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      10-23-2011, 11:35 PM   #17
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ahh love the mclaren
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      10-24-2011, 02:56 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NiVeDh View Post
Amazing!
Thanks!
Quote:
Originally Posted by zltm089 View Post
awesome mate!!!. ..thanks for posting!
You're quite welcome!
Quote:
Originally Posted by catch View Post
very hot cars there!
Indeed - it was really amazing how many fabulous sportscars were driving there. And the sound of the GT2 RS thundering down the long straight at 250+ km/h...
Quote:
Originally Posted by ska325xi View Post
didnt read anything, but the pics are awesome...thanks
You can always come back and read later...

Quote:
Originally Posted by gary88 View Post
Very neat
Thanks!
Quote:
Originally Posted by creaminz View Post


Thanks for sharing!! Now I know more about the famous Ring! I only get to drive on this track on Gran Turismo 5 which is still very difficult, hopefully one day European Delivery + Nurburgring would be awesome!!!
Thanks again for sharing some fantastic shots and detailed info about the "Green Hell."
You're welcome! If you're ever near the 'Ring, let me know and we'll do a few laps - I regularly see some US guys there with their ED cars.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete84 View Post
Looks like fun, someone is fully enjoying his car. Awesome...
Exactly! What good is a fast and powerful car if you don't drive it like it should be driven?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boltzz View Post
I am so jelly.
Don't be - come over here and do a few laps!

Quote:
Originally Posted by N54CoupeHP View Post
Great pictures, thanks for sharing!
You're welcome!
Quote:
Originally Posted by the infamous... View Post
WOW! this's an epic read!! enjoy'd every last detail.
u truly r fortunate 2 hav such a diabolical n exhilarat'n track 2 "play" on.
plus, i'm envious that u hav ~150 laps of experience under ur belt.

thx 4 tak'n ur time n shar'n w/ all of us.
Glad you enjoyed it, thanks for letting me know - it's always nice to see that the work I put into writing up all this is appreciated.
Quote:
Originally Posted by edirtaynine View Post
BADASS.

Quote:
Originally Posted by C.D.335xi View Post
Thanks once again for your excellent contribution to the forum. I really enjoyed reading your account of the training session and seeing the fantastic pictures.
Thank you, very much appreciated!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JDMHolic View Post
Thanks for sharing
You're welcome!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mpower77i View Post
Nice pics. Do you have a side view of your car? I want to check out those wheels
Click here! PHOTOSHOOT new ALPINA wheels and Nürburgring track day July 2011

Quote:
Originally Posted by OwnAge View Post
Love the Alpina lip on the e90
Yeah - not only does it look great, it also provides additional downforce in the front, proven in the windtunnel. Good thing to have when you drive at more than 250 km/h on German Autobahn...
Quote:
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ahh love the mclaren
It's a fantastic car. It was there because sport auto was doing the "supertest" on it, and they just published that it did a time of 7.28 minutes around the Nordschleife, the second fastest time they ever measured (only the Gumpert Apollo was 4 seconds faster). I'd get it in another colour though...
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      10-24-2011, 05:20 AM   #19
ibeclueless
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great pics, thanks for sharing
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      10-24-2011, 10:07 AM   #20
Baby Dave
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Wow
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      10-24-2011, 12:20 PM   #21
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great pics, thanks for sharing
You're welcome!
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Wow
It IS fun.

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      10-24-2011, 01:51 PM   #22
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Great article.

Could you just share with me where can you apply for this and the cost. Maybe i have missed it.

Thanks
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