By Sala Masindane
Having been previously given the opportunity to test the current generation Porsche 718 GTS models on the Kyalami Race Track and the roads of Johannesburg. The dream to test these models in their natural habitat or where they put through to their paces before going out to the world has always existed. When the opportunity arose to travel to Leipzig in Germany presented itself, I took it with both hands and this is what we got up too in the beautiful city.
Well I know some of you would like to know if I was almost late again, sorry to the disappoint you. I checked in at 17:00 which was two hours before boarding and had enough time to grab a meal at the Lufthansa Airline lounge, that would be my ride to Frankfurt Germany. To my surprise and a first for me, I was on the upper deck of business class. The plane itself was an Airbus a380 800 which is one of the largest in the world and can accommodate about 525 passengers across three different classes. So, the 10-hour trip was comfortable and pleasurable. We landed in Frankfurt at 06h30 am local time and had time to spare before the 9h30 am connecting flight to Leipzig. The temperatures were on the wet and cold side, so temptation to explore Frankfurt was quickly cancelled, plus the time was not permitting.
Once we landed in Leipzig Airport two things stood out to me, this of course was the left-hand drive cars and the fact there are more station wagons than other vehicles. We were chauffeured to the Radisson Blu Hotel which is smack in the middle of the hub. I mean, my room was facing the tramp and the beautiful University Church (Paulnerkirche). This was formerly but later turned into a University. That’s not all that is offered by the pictures Leipzig but there’s also a rich history in the buildings and some have been modernized. These buildings the Old Stock Exchange, New Town hall, St. Thomas church (where Martin Luther used to preach) and the full of life Market place. Unfortunately, I could not explore all the landmarks but will return in due time to visit the beautiful city. After the day tour, we all converged for dinner at the Restaurant Weinstock which is a five-minute walk from the hotel. It was duck season in the city and we had for dinner. We retired to our rooms after, as the next would be long.
The big day was upon us and the anxiety was the order of the day for me. The travel bus was on the ground at 8h45 am and we (journalists from across the world) were off to Porsche Experience Centre which is about a 15-minute drive from the hotel. Upon arrival you would not question where you were as the diamond shaped building with the Porsche logo stood out from afar not to mention the 718s,911s, Panameras,Cayennes and Macans were like toys in the playground. The centre comprises of several divisions which is the factory and the tracks (off and on-road. We would take on the latter first. The 3.7km track is FIA approved and modelled from the eleven world-famous bends in the motorsport’s world. These include the “Sunset bend” from the USA, “Victoria Turn” which is a bend in Rio de Renario, “Mobil 1 S” from the Nurburgring and the famous “Bus Stop” from the Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. This was one of the tricky bends, not to say that the other ten were less challenging but this required us to stay perfectly straight when entering it, then turn the car and accelerate out with losing momentum. The 718 Boxster and Cayman S was up for this challenge. First up were the slow laps around the track to familiarise and get comfortable with the cars. The 257kW and 420Nm 718 S is at home on the track whether you were on the PDK or using the pedal shifters to change down the seven-speed automatic. Once everybody was comfortable the pace increased, and we tackled the Karussell. This is another bend from the Nurburgring, perfect speeds, the right entry point and concentration were required here as this 180-degree hairpin and 33-degree gradient. After that pulsating lap we off to the Skid Pad. Generally, it used to train drivers to cope with unstable driving conditions, in our case this was time show our drifting skills. I will be honest, oversteering and understeering is what we all achieved in the slippery wet conditions. By the time this was done and a bit of slalom training, we were back on the track to put all that knowledge to the test. I had personally improved my handling, cornering and braking of the 718 in different conditions.
The day culminated with a factory tour that is also at the centre. The factory is the home of the Panamera and Macan. All the assembling, production and testing is done here. Once the cars are built they are put on the road tests within the centre. There are about 5000 employees at the factory which runs like a well-oiled machine. We then moved to the dinner spot, the Auerbachs Keller before retiring to our rooms.
We are grateful to Porsche South Africa and the Middle East for the opportunity to experience their finest vehicle.
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