Nine teams from eight eastern European countries take part in a succession of driving tests, on and off road – and track – along a 1,000 mile route through Moldova, Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia. It was rather more than just a jolly for well-heeled owners.
The route: Chisinau-Bukovel-Katowice-Bratislava. 9-14 June 2013.
The rules: Competitors are timed between checkpoints. The penalties for being early are double those for being late. The lowest fuel consumption is the benchmark; cars above this are awarded penalty points.
Day One, Chisinau, Moldova. Competitors are met directly off the plane, naturally, by a fleet of Porsche Cayenne Diesel S.
Moldova. Hilly and landlocked but close to the Black Sea. Sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania (and the Prut and Dniester rivers, mostly). Very fashionable with travel bloggers, but Moldova is the poorest country in Europe (though, clearly, it’s not all bad). Language: Romanian.
First stop, Cricova Winery – ‘Wine City’ 15km north of Chisinau with 120km of underground roadways. Famous for sparking red. Hosted Vladimir Putin’s 50th birthday. Wine is one of Moldova’s most important industries, they’ve been making it for 1,500 years. A drive through the cellars is followed by a roof top reception overlooking the city.
Day Two. Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, in the centre of the country, home to 670,000 people, on the banks of River Bic, a tributary of the Dniester. Cars assemble on the city’s main square – Piata Marii Adunari Nationale – though the official timing starts at the Official Porsche Centre Moldova on the north west edge of Chisinau.
The first leg is 300km to the Ukraine border with three hours allocated.
The Ukraine border. After lunch it’s another 200km to the day’s rest stop, Bukovel. The 3h45m allowance sounds very generous.
But there are rural Ukraine roads to contend with…
…and busy towns and villages. This is all set to change from next year of course as Ukraine embarks on a massive roads renovation programme.
Bukovel – a ski and spa resort in west Ukraine (the largest country in Europe) at a height of 3,000ft. Ambitious to host the Winter Olympics. Not surprisingly, Team Ukraine win this stage, followed by Hungary and Moldova.
Day Three. Off-roading…
…and descending. The Cayenne might be the archetypal luxury SUV but it’s clearly not daunted by the rough stuff.
The Carpathians. A 900 mile arc of mountains, the second longest in Europe, through seven countries, and the south western corner of Ukraine.
Day Four. A 675km road trip from Bukovel to Katowice, Poland.
There’s no motorway until the Polish border.
Katowice. The largest city in southern Poland, Silesia, between the Carpathian and Sudeten mountains. A mix of traditional, Art Nouveau, Modernist and Communist architecture with an economy built on coal and steel. On arrival another test awaits: changing the off-road tyres. The winning Polish team manages the job in 7m39 though the Hungarians are now in the overall lead.
Day Five. The 383km from Katowice to Bratislava is a gentle hop through rolling, green countryside. Or it would be.
Bratislava. The capital of Slovakia, on the banks of the Danube and left bank of the Morava, 50 miles from Vienna, overlooked by the huge, square, white Bratislava Castle and the UFO revolving restaurant high on the Novy most bridge. Fantastic. Before the competitors can relax and take in all in however…
…it’s off to the Slovakia Ring for some hot laps in the passenger seat of brand new 991 GT3 Cup cars.
Day Six. First thing the next morning it’s back to the Slovakia Ring for some driver training.
Slovakia Ring. One of the longest race tracks in Europe at 3.6 miles. Opened in 2009, with fourteen turns and a 900m main straight. 40km east of Bratislava. Hosted a round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship in April 2013.
It has a range of other facilities too.
Then it’s time for the results. In first place the Hungarians, followed by the Moldovans with the Ukranians in third. Still, it looks like they all had a great time. The end.
Where next? Last year’s Porsche Performance Drive was from Istanbul to Budapest, including the unsurpassable Transfagarasan in Romania (above). As for next year we’ve no idea. There are no clues on the website, www.performance-drive.porsche.com. We dread to think how much it must cost. Best try your luck at your local Porsche dealer.