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Birthplace Of A Motoring Icon, The Green Hell, Tremendous Memories, and New Friends Made.

The PCI hits Stuttgart!

By Hugh Maguire.

Ok, so your sitting back reading the Sunday newspapers, quietly satisfied that despite the turmoil of the world’s economies your investments have proved to be fruitful. You are at that stage in life when you realise that maybe its time to indulge a little once again. After all the sacrifices you and your wife have made to raise the kids and pay the mortgage are long behind you. So now all you have to decide is how to satisfy this craving for something a bit daring. That’s it, how about a sports car, a real sports car, one with a pedigree, class and of course it must be quick. Now a Ferrari would be lovely, but you know you won’t be able to convince her to let you have one of those, anyway lets face it its not really practical or reliable enough for everyday use. How about a Porsche then. Yes that’s it a Porsche!

Maybe that’s how the love affair with Porsche began for many of us, maybe not. But for me there is something very very special about a Porsche. So naturally then when the opportunity came to visit the birthplace of this motoring icon I seized the opportunity.

Sitting at the departure gate in Dublin airport I like others searched the crowd trying to identify a PCI member. Is he one? What does a Porsche driver look like anyway? We need not have worried as along came Neil with a box full of “Grand Slam” luminous green rugby jerseys emblazoned with “Porsche Club Ireland Factory Tour”. Identity crisis resolved. Those brave enough, naturally led by Dave donned theirs immediately, others chose to wait until Stuttgart.

Arriving at the factory I think some of the Porsche staff thought it was the Irish rugby team visiting rather than a busload of wide eyed Porsche fanatics who with every turn sought a glimpse of some prototype model, or even a Panamera!

The factory tour highlighted to all, no matter how long or involved their association with the marque that a Porsche is still very much a hand-built car.

Seeing 911’s and Boxsters move slowly along the production line with skilled operatives fitting many parts from dashboards to engines by manpower rather than robots had us doubling our respect for the brand by the minute. It is also immediately obvious that though Porsche has grown for the most part these cars are really not mass produced, with completely different trim levels, colours and engines being fitted on the one line. On average it takes two days to build a car, very slow by today’s standards and some ten hours from a painted shell to a finished car. Quality and attention to detail is the watchword here.

The factory visit is truly amazing, very informative, even awe inspiring and to those that have never been, well put it on your list……..now!

With the factory tour over in an all too quick it seemed few hours the new Porsche museum was next, but that would have to wait until tomorrow.

 

Porsche hosted a memorable night out in that night, where fine food, good wine and great company made for a superb evening. At the end of the day most headed back to bed with a few die-hards choosing to hit the town. No names here but I seem to recall us watching the sunrise as we headed to the hotel for a bit of rest and some breki!

The next day we all gathered for a quick bite in the Porsche museum café selecting things like a “Boxster burger” anticipation grew as with our appetites whetted from the factory tour we could not wait to see the museum. Apart from being an architectural masterpiece, it’s contents, some 80 perfectly turned out cars are just astounding. With some 400 cars at their disposal, all of which are in full working order, the museum is always changing, a great reason to re-visit.

As the green army of the PCI were expertly guided through the museum I could not help but think what a great subliminal marketing exercise this also was. How right I was as I will reveal all later!!

Across the road from the museum was the largest Porsche dealership most of us had ever seen. With the superb museum tour over we descended on the dealership like a plague of locusts, like kids in a sweet shop each and everyone darted around gazing in admiration at the huge stock of shiny new Porsche’s with a huge variety of models there really was “one for everybody in the audience”. Sadly for the dealership though the only purchase I witnessed was a lovely model of a 911 bought by a certain young man from Galway!

A lovely lunch hosted in the Porsche restaurant had us fuelled and ready to visit the Mercedes museum across town.

Though great in itself the Mercedes museum seemed somewhat austere after the excitement of the Porsche museum.

 

Saturday dawned with a mix of sunshine and showers. Leaving Stuttgart far behind us we headed for the Nordschleife, to visit and drive the infamous “Ring”, the “Green Hell” as Jackie Stewart called it. No other circuit in the world conjures up the imagery as that of the Nurburgring.

Staying at the AM Tiergarten hotel run beautifully by the Schmitt family whose famous daughter races and instructs at the “Ring” we were immersed in the wonder and history of the place.

A late evening walk of parts of the track guided by Ron Simons of RSR Racing had us all considering our mortality as we walked around the famous twists turns dips and climbs including the Lauda Kinks where Niki Lauda had his fiery near death experience.

That night over a fine meal and a few beers talk centered on what we would drive the next day. Some were opting for the Clio Cup cars others for a ride in the 911 GT 2. The anticipation was palpable as we all headed off to the scratcher for a nights sleep before we attacked the famous Nurburgring the next day..

A wet Nurburgring greeted us on Sunday morning. Nevertheless the PCI team were undaunted. I choose to do two laps driving myself in the Clio Cup car followed by a flat- out lap in one of RSR’s race preparedAlfa 75’s driven by the Ringmaster himself Ron Simons.

I really enjoyed my laps in the Clio but, you will never learn the Ring in two laps so the drive with Ron was a good choice as I really got to experience the Ring driven flat-out!

As the 911 came in and out one after another stepped out with a grin that looked like it would never fade.

That indeed is how we all departed Germany that evening, with tremendous memories, new friends made and an almost religious belief in Porsche as a supreme maker of sports cars.

Great credit must go to all those whose time and effort made this trip such a success particularly Neil, Dave and Margaret. Thank you so much because without your efforts the rest of us would never have had such a fantastic experience.

To view a full lap in a 996 GT around a wet 'ring, please click here

To see a full lap with Sabine in the M5 click here


26/03/2009

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