2012 Porsche Performance Drive – 1,500 pleasure-km

If there are words such as ‘horsepower’, ‘acceleration’ or ‘km/h’, why wouldn’t we also have ‘pleasure-km’ to measure that particular distance covered with a huge smile up to your ears, enjoying every second of a thrilling driving experience? Because Porsche Performance Drive 2012 was exactly about that!

The invitation I’ve received from Porsche Inter Auto Romania for the first ever edition of Porsche Performance Drive was one of the shortest seen so far: ’10 teams of Porsche fans from 8 countries, a 5-day adventure across Central and Eastern Europe, 4 countries, a journey which recreates the old route of the luxurious Orient Express’. Besides that, I found out I would be taking off to Istanbul together with several other automotive journalists and Porsche’s Country Manager. Once arrived in Turkey we were about to discover several cool surprises from the organizers, as well as numerous Porsche models. For every car lover, test-driving a Porsche – regardless of the model in the range – is an event in itself. However, when you find yourself face to face with more than one “ground-to-ground” missile produced by the iconic German sports car manufacturer and a drive across Europe to remember, this sounds more like Christmas in the middle of the summer…

Porsche Performance Drive 2012 was a first for Central and Eastern Europe. No such big even has been organized before in this part of the world. We’re talking about 10 teams of Porsche fans from 8 countries (Romania, Turkey, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Switzerland), 1,500 km driven between Istanbul and Budapest and 4 countries visited: Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. A road-trip which recreated the old route of the famous Orient Express, with pit-stops in Varna (Bulgaria), Bucharest (Romania), Curtea de Arges, Sibiu and Oradea (also in Romania). Turkey and Romania had two teams each enlisted in the event, with each of the other countries on-board a Panamera Diesel. I drove in the no. 5 Panamera – Romania 2 team, alongside two other journalists and Porsche Romania’s Country Manager. All in all, four cool guys and a stock black Panamera Diesel.

The first day of Porsche Performance Drive 2012 started on Istanbul Park racetrack, host of a Formula 1 Grand Prix back in 2011. The sunny morning turned out to be even cooler upon seeing all the 911s, Boxsters and Panamera precisely lined up on the pit lane, ready to take-off and fill the racetrack with their unforgettable exhaust notes. Not just the cars were ready, but also the drivers, who were about to go round the circuit several times in three distinct groups lead by experienced Porsche instructors: Jan Kalmar, one of the brains behind Performance Drive 2012, Stefan van Campenhoudt – race car driver and Thor Qualmann, also a pilot.

With every lap finished and another one about to start, your driving technique becomes even more refined, more precise, something you notice especially when you’re right behind a Porsche instructor and you try keeping up with him around the corners. Your senses become sharper, your heartbeat goes up and so does the pleasure of driving a 911 and Boxster around this fast race track as you listen to the advice given through walkie-talkie by Porsche’s instructors. Lap after lap, the 911 Carrera S, the Boxster S and Panamera Diesel have shown us their sharp weapons which earned them respect in their market segments – despite some fierce rivals, thus winning the hearts of Porsche fans from all over the world.

Besides Istanbul Park, the 911s and Boxsters shined brightly (literally), once again, on the world’s most spectacular driving road (Jeremy Clarkson said it), appreciated wholeheartedly by every person taking part in Porsche Performance Drive 2012: the Transfagarasan mountain pass, Romania. Between Curtea de Arges and Sibiu, on a sunny day with no wind and clear blue skies, we’ve left behind the Panamera’s comfortable drive to kick up the adrenaline level by driving – up and down the mountain – 911s and Boxsters at the red line, without looking at consumption figures. The pure driving pleasure was all that mattered, the perfect bond between car and driver, the goosebumps and tingles felt on the back of your spine while hearing Porsche’s sport cars revved up in the tunnel at the top of the mountain. What a day it’s been… Priceless!

Coming back to the idea behind PPD 2012, the real fight against the stopwatch and consumption started right after we’ve left Istanbul Park and were treated to a short briefing. Teams would have to set off every 2 minutes and had to finish the day’s special stage precisely when the time allocated to that section was up. For every minute you’ve arrived earlier there was a two-minute penalty, while every minute arrived later past that time equaled a one-minute penalty. Every Panamera Diesel taking part in the ‘race’ had its fuel-cap sealed with a Porsche sticker and the refueling to the brim, after each special stage, was done by the organizers. The team with the lowest fuel consumption over a stage received no penalty points (just minutes penalty if they arrived earlier/later). The other teams were judged according to the car’s fuel consumption on that particular stage, each l/100 km over the value recorded by winner of the special stage meaning 5 penalty points.

Because of the 18 minutes recived as penalty at the border between Turkey and Bulgaria (where we’ve arrived way earlier than we were supposed to), our team Romania 2 lost its chances to be on the podium and finished Porsche Performance Drive 2012 on 5th place out of 10. We’ve learned that it’s not always better to arrive earlier and sometimes you should be a bit late. After the convoy arrived at Porsche’s showroom in Budapest, the final calculations were made. Ukraine took 1st place, followed by Hungary and Poland.

Besides the race against the stopwatch and the best strategies to achieve the optimum fuel consumption, Porsche Performance Drive 2012 has shown us that even the German engineering – considered by many precise and reliable, but cold – can thrill just as much as the Italian or British cars are able to. Feelings and emotions that are even more intense and hard to forget when there’s the iconic Porsche emblem on the hood.