968uk Stuttgart Run 2012.
Featuring Tom Bradley, Woodsie, Rob, Dunc and plenty.
It started with a casual post on the 968uk forum, suggesting a trip to
Stuttgart to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the launch of the 968.
Within a few hours, several people had expressed interest.
Time passed, a few more people came in, others dropped out, the date
was set, and we ended up with four cars confirmed.
Plenty came up with a route, Rob sorted out a guided tour of the museum
and special parking arrangements, Tom became cameraman-in-chief and Woodsie's
boot full of spare parts and tools offered peace of mind.
Wednesday 4th April.
After much anticipation and several excited email exchanges, the big day
rolled around. The plan was to get into Antwerp on Wednesday night and
meet first thing Thursday. For a small contingent there was considerable
geographical diversity, with three different countries' licence
plates on display although just two colours: Speed Yellow and Iris Blue.
In whichever order the convoy found itself, it was impossible to achieve
a bad colour combination.
Thursday 5th April, Antwerp to Zuffenhausen
It hadn't been the greatest of starts on Wednesday afternoon, when
Tom and Woodsie arrived in Antwerp to find their hotel surrounded by roadworks
and access to the hotel car park completely blocked. Still, upper-lips
don't come stiffer than those of Englishmen abroad, and the episode
was quickly forgotten as Thursday morning greeted with a cloudy but dry
With eagerness the convoy was up and on the road. A short stint on Belgium's
pockmarked motorways thankfully didn't last too long, as we turned
off near Liege for our first taste of the rural lanes. A scenic tour through
some picturesque Ardennes villages, and then the cars were in their stride,
making good progress at a swift but relaxed gait across the well-sighted
roads. At the Belgium-Luxembourg border a superb lunch was had, and the
cars were treated to a tankful of Europe's cheapest fuel.
highlight of this day was the gorgeous N10 to Trier that closely follows
Luxembourg's border with Germany. Offering up mile after mile of
sublimely twisty, lightly-trafficked and smooth tarmac up hills, along
valleys and through forests, this was a road to savour.
Into Germany, and before long the unrestricted autobahn.
The drivers naturally decided to explore the cars' straight-line
capabilities, and western Germany was treated to the rare sight of four
968s moving in close formation and full cry. Finally, our cars had returned
to the country of their birth, almost 20 years after they had first left,
and more than held their own against the best the autobahn had to offer.
As afternoon turned to evening, and following a random encounter with
a local Porsche showroom where shiny new metal was duly ogled, we were
within striking distance of Stuttgart. As the city limits loomed, the
Fatherland responded with huge traffic queues and the onset of sustained,
heavy rain. We were glad to have the 968's four wiper-speeds and
Light was receding rapidly and it felt like a very long day when we arrived
in Zuffenhausen. Any hint of grumpiness was however swiftly pre-empted
by the welcome sight of a covered hotel car park, a hearty Swabian dinner
accompanied by free-flowing beverages and conversation, and the afterglow
of just having driven more than 350 miles through three countries to end
up in Stuttgart.
Friday 6th April (Good Friday), Zuffenhausen to Mulhouse
Day 2 and the German skies were cloudy but dry. It was the big morning
when we were to park in front of the Porsche Museum, and we were keen
for their cars to look their best.
being Germany, a self-service jet wash had been rapidly located and after
a bit of an initial hiccup in getting it operating on Good Friday, a rather
jolly hour passed by as the five of us happily cleaned our cars side by
side. Not something one sees every day (1).
the half-mile drive to Porscheplatz. Two helpful staff members were quick
to appear and to guide the cars to park in formation, on the concourse
right in front of the Porsche Museum's main entrance. We'd
expected to get a few shots and then have to move the cars into the underground
car park. To our delight, the museum staff suggested we could leave them
parked there as long as we liked.
Four pristine 968s parked right on top of the sweeping,
immaculate glass-and-tile entrance in front of the Porsche Museum: not
something one sees every day (2).
The pilgrims had arrived.
The Porsche Museum, as one would expect, is beautifully presented, crammed
full of absorbing installations and astonishing cars, and thoroughly efficient
in its execution. We enjoyed a guided tour from a dapper young fellow
with very precise English and an impressive knowledge of Porsche's
When we had parked at the start of the morning, Porscheplatz had been
all but deserted. We came back down the end of the visit to discover that
the four 968s lined up outside the museum were attracting a great deal
of attention; the museum's exterior exhibit, even. On the 20th anniversary,
it just felt correct. We got into our cars under the gaze of the crowd
and their cameras, and drove off into the late-afternoon light.
An unrestricted blast out of Stuttgart and further moments of full-bore
running. (Note to ourselves: never underestimate Tiptronic.) The autobahn
soon gave way to the Black Forest, the scene of some of the best driving
of the trip: high-speed, sweeping bends; tighter and technical turns;
long climbs going up to surprisingly-high elevations with snow still on
the ground and stunning visibility; picture-perfect German villages.
The 968s were in their element, showing off their fluent, confidence-inspiring
handling, outstanding balance and intimate responses.
The French industrial city of Mulhouse was our stop for the night - in
a charming old hotel which just happened to be located near a lively Alsatian
pub serving a more than acceptable array of solid and liquid refreshments.
Saturday 7th April, Mulhouse to Nancy
For the third day in a row we awoke in a different country from the day
before. Mulhouse may not be the most attractive town in France, but it
does benefit from being within easy reach of the Vosges, and is the site
of Cité de l'Automobile, also known as the Schlumpf Collection.
Home of the largest single collection of Bugattis in the world (they
were built 100 kilometres away in Molsheim), the Schlumpf Collection contains
perhaps the world's finest assortment of classic vehicles including
many legendary Grand Prix and rally winners. The story behind the museum
and its eccentric, secretive founder is almost as compelling as its exhibits.
After another slap-up lunch, we were ready to take on the Vosges.
A promising start gave way to disappointment when the famous Route des
Crêtes was found to be closed just outside of Cernay. There was
no obvious reason: it was reported open on the website, and the weather
was dry with some snow on the verges but the road surface itself clear.
There was no choice but to detour and take a considerably less interesting
option to our final destination of Nancy. This hadn't been a vintage
day behind the wheel, but the evening was to offer up something rather
wonderful and spontaneous.
Saturday night in Nancy during the Easter holiday, and the town radiated
a convivial, good-natured buzz as we mixed with local merrymakers enjoying
the pleasant evening air. We treated ourselves to an al fresco meal followed
by a wide-eyed glimpse of Place Stanislas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Amidst a leisurely stroll going nowhere in particular, we turned a corner
to be suddenly dazzled by the pulsating neon lights of a massive, vibrant
funfair in the middle of the city. This was a fair of a scale rarely seen
nowadays, with a full-size rollercoaster, log flume, and stalls stretching
as far as the eye could see, offering all manner of entertainments for
the eager crowd. We partook fully.
8th April (Easter Sunday) Nancy to Reims, and beyond
The final day of the trip began with a spirited run through the Lorraine
Natural Park to the World War One battlefields around Verdun. The Verdun
memorial, located at the epicentre of the old war zone, contains a detailed
exhibit on trench warfare and the western front. Deeply sobering, a visit
here isn't soon forgotten.
We galloped westward across the rolling fields of north-eastern
France to the Roman town of Reims, where our final lunch together was
followed by an opportunistic photo in the beautiful old town square.
Of course, we hadn't come to Reims for the architecture or the
food, as pleasing as these were. We were here for the restored spectator
stands at the old Reims Grand Prix track.
either side of the long straight road from Reims to Gueux, the grandstand
buildings drip with atmosphere. Standing next to the main straight of
the old track, it wasn't hard to imagine what it would have been
like in its heyday, highly-strung engines screaming at full chat, although
a highly visible police presence prevented any temptation to re-enact
those scenes in the here and now.
was time for the Channel-bound contingent to wave goodbye to Tom, who
headed off to his adopted homeland with the honour of Tiptronic fully
intact. A blast north on boring-but-effective French autoroutes brought
the remaining cars to the Calais Eurotunnel, and final farewells before
It had been almost exactly 1,000 miles of convoy driving, and for Woodsie
the remarkable feat of traversing eight countries in a week. The cars
had been faultless. The Stuttgart Run had served up fine roads, locations
rich with history, good food and drinks, and many not-to-be-forgotten
moments both planned and unplanned.