Time flies when you're having fun. More than ever I've realized this after taking part in the first ever Porsche Performance Drive, covering 1500 km through spectacular European scenery with 911, Panamera and Boxster models. What a blast!
Porsche Performance Drive was a first for Central and Eastern Europe. That meant 10 teams of automotive journalists, some of them real Porsche fans, from 8 countries - Romania, Turkey, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Switzerland - 1500 km to cover from Istanbul to Budapest crossing four countries and spectacular landscapes: Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. An epic journey that followed the old route of the famous Orient-Express, a drive with pit-stops in Varna, Bucharest, Sibiu and Budapest. Romania and Turkey each had two teams enlisted in the event, while the other countries had one. We were part of Romania 2 team, driving a Porsche Panamera Diesel (number 5).
The first day of Porsche Performance Drive started on Istanbul Park race track, which hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix in 2011.
A calm and sunny Monday morning seemed even more appealing when I spotted the 911s, Boxsters and Panameras lined up beautifully outside the track's pit stop area. All filled up to the brim and ready to take-off engulfing Istanbul Park with thunderous addictive exhaust notes and tyre-screeching sounds. For the whole day instructors from Porsche showed us how to tackle corners at high speeds - we're talking 215 km/h in some wide bends! - how to gain precious seconds against the clock and how to have fun sliding the rear of the cars when the electronic stability systems were switched off.
The true rivalry between the teams and the fight against the clock - and consumption - started the next day. A short briefing held by Porsche's instructors at the renowned Ciragan Palace Kempinsky luxury hotel - our home for two nights - brought us the rules of the game. The teams were to set off at 2-minute intervals and had to arrive at the end of the day's leg precisely after the expiry of the time set for that particular leg. Not a minute earlier, not a minute later. For each minute arrived earlier that team "won" a penalty of two minutes, each minute arrived later meaning a one minute penalty. All the Diesel Panameras - the sporty limos we covered those 1500 km in - had their fuel filler caps sealed so no team fiddles with the car's consumption.
Leaving aside the fight against the seconds and consumption, Porsche Performance Drive showed us that even the German automotive technology - precise, reliable but "cold" for many - can stir passions, smiles and unforgettable memories. Especially if you're driving a Porsche.
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