Le Mans unravelled: PH Liveblog

Having competed at every Le Mans 24-hour since 1951 and won it 18 times in that period, it's fair to say that Porsche has a bit of a thing for Le Mans. Ahead of the 919 Hybrid trying for its third consecutive win at La Sarthe in June some bright spark at Porsche has calculated it'll need to cover over 3,250 miles to do so.

So we're joining a convoy of Porsches covering that distance from the north of Norway to the southern tip of Spain and, in Le Mans fashion, once we start we ain't stopping - sleeping and eating when it comes will be on a tour bus following a convoy that includes a 918 Spyder and various other cars from the current range. Promises to be quite a trip.

Dan will be slinging up thoughts, videos and pics as he goes so stay tuned for the latest updates and follow his progress on social media via @Trent_Dan and @PistonHeads on Twitter under the hashtags #LMU and #Porsche.

Sunday 1530h - Tarifa, Spain
So that's it. 5,406km (or 3,556 miles), 66 hours and 13 minutes of driving and, at least in the Panamera 4 S I did today's final stint in, an average speed of 52mph and an overall mpg of 26.4. Not bad all considered. Credit to the team organising the event too - even with a blowout on one of the two tour buses that rather tested the logistics to the full we arrived in our destination of Tarifa just nine minutes behind schedule!

Like the Le Mans racing we have been attempting to 'unravel', that's a true testament to team work, planning and more than a little bit of good luck. And it's been a hell of a trip too - hard to believe on Thursday I was shivering north of the Arctic Circle and I've finished on a beach in Spain in blazing sunshine and with Africa within sight across the Strait of Gibraltar.

And for that final day the Panamera was a fine companion - thumping stereo, massage seats and space for all the kit. As fabulous as the 918 Spyder was I'm not sure I'd have wanted to do the whole trip in it - credit to Porsche chaperone Rob who spent the whole journey in the passenger seat as a succession of over-excited (and probably pretty knackered) hacks took turns at the wheel. Indeed, my votes for the cars of the trip would be this and the 911 Turbo S. The Panamera if I was being driven, the 911 if I was driving myself.

So there we go. Thanks for reading, thanks to the photo and video team on the event for recording our exploits and here's a final videoblog from the quayside in Tarifa...


Sunday 0900h - Somewhere in Spain
So I've already had a go with the 918 Spyder on this journey. But it was snowing then. And having enviously watched others enjoy racking up some proper speeds on the Autobahn (can't complain, I was https://youtu.be/CLcPGmDjtCE doing the same in the Turbo S ... but still) I put my hand up for another go. Turns out I timed it rather well.

After a frankly pretty tedious cruise across France and through Bordeaux we finally got into Spain and - joy - off the motorway. And straight into a cycle race, which closed the road for a short while. No matter, we were soon back up and running and enjoying corners, hills and all manner of other topographical decadence. A well-timed fuel stop gave me my opportunity and I was in. But not before the roof panels were removed. Well, it was sunny and nobody else had run it in Spyder configuration yet. They are designed to fit in the front luggage compartment but even Porsche tech Richie took a few goes to figure out exactly how they go in. We got there in the end and headed off to make some noise. How did that go? Let me show you...


Saturday 2245h - Motorland Aragon
I'll tell you about my three and a half hours in the 918 Spyder in a bit but first a little videoblog from our handover to the night shift, this being Motorland Aragon in the middle of, well, Spain where Porsche is currently shaking down the 2017 919 Hybrid. The test is officially a 30-hour running, though they'll push through to 36 if possible just to see if anything breaks.

Even seeing the infrastructure supporting a single LMP1 car is incredible. 40 engineers, tyres, bodywork, a full pit crew, four garages of kit (they only get two for two cars at Le Mans) and a car park full of trucks. And the car. Oh my, the car. I must confess I haven't quite got fired up by recent LMP machines but the combination of a morning visit to Le Mans and seeing the thing run at close quarters has properly got me fired up. Some more thoughts below.


Saturday 1030h - South of Le Mans
Not a bad start to the day; straight off the bus, into the 911 Turbo S and onto La Sarthe, heading from Mulsanne to Indianapolis and then to the circuit. A quick videoblog here (apologies for the crackly sound) to get a sense of what we were up to but even a slow-speed trundle round the Bugatti loop was exciting enough, the sinage, Armco and other infrastructure for the pending race all in place and the sense of anticipation building.

Same for the roadtrip too - our next stop is Aragon in Spain to go and watch the LMP team on final shakedown with the 919 Hybrid ahead of the race. That's about 1,000km away. Time to get cracking!


Friday 2230h - Liege
Five countries, four border crossings, a really big bridge, a ferry ... and 175mph in a 911 Turbo S. Today's 750km leg of the Le Mans Unravelled roadtrip may not have been able to match the scenery of yesterday's Scandinavian opener but it made up for it in other ways, not least the ability to rack up some Autobahn miles in the 911 Turbo S. You can see my videoblog here but, suffice to say, both 911 and driver were in a very happy place in the fast lane of a limit-free German motorway!

Eventually co-driver Rowan and I had to accept we were going to have to let someone else have a go and we handed the Turbo S over in exchange for a Cayman S. Very different proposition - much more raw than the 911, a lot noisier and a lot more busy too. But really, really rapid and much more exciting in a way. The 911 is as happy sitting at 150mph as it is half that (read it and weep if you own on back home) but the Cayman makes it into a properly exciting experience. It's a punchy, fighty little car too and lots of fun. More on this in due course I hope.

As I write we're awaiting a delivery of pizza to a lorry park outside Liege and the tour buses to take us to Le Mans. Not, perhaps, glamorous. But this epic trip is starting to show some grit and the sense of shared adventre is starting to really kick in.


Friday 1400h - Hamburg
Is there a better car for the German Autobahn than a Porsche 911 Turbo S? Possibly something big and V8 powered from M, Audi Sport or AMG - the E63 S Matt was trundling around with last week might find space to stretch its legs - but it's safe to say this car is properly in its element on home turf.

You can mooch along at 100mph - enough to get you in serious trouble back home - in total refinement and security, things only getting serious in terms of wind noise and need for a proper grip on the wheel beyond 150mph. In the zone between these two speeds the thing is just mighty; it'll effortlessly pick up the pace from seventh gear or you can drop it a couple of gears and make things go all blurry. And let's just say a Guards Red 911 Turbo S with its wings deployed and Stuttgart plates has a certain ability to clear the outside lane. And it feels like it could do this all day.

Frustratingly we've only had a taste so far though. 175mph is the current - and very easily achieved - PB so far recorded. I reckon we can do better before we reach the Belgian border.

(Nearly) flat out in the 911 Turbo S


Friday 0830h - Denmark
So much for the rock'n'roll lifestyle - for all the leather trimmings and supposed opulence the reality of a tour bus is a confined space with tired folk munching luke-warm burgers followed by a coffin-sized, floor-level bunk pitching this way and that over motorway expansion joints. Compliments to our drivers though - it was a smooth ride and I was able to get off to sleep for a few hours.

And after another early start we're back on the road. Given this promises to be one of the least inspiring sections of the journey in terms of scenery and driving co-pilot Rowan and I put our beachtowel down on the Panamera, which is currently acting as a very comfortable mobile office. Actually, given I'm currently being pummelled by a very pleasurable massage seat I'd argue it might even be better than a real office.

We've now crossed over the Oresund Bridge into Denmark, next stop a ferry crossing into Germany. I think at that point I may be more inclined to return to the 911 Turbo and rack up some Autobahn time...


Friday 0030h - On the tour bus
After hundreds of kilometres of single-carriageway roads it was something of a relief to reach motorways. Motorways my old plane geek knowledge recalled were designed to enable the Swedish airforce to fly their Saab Viggens from if their airbases had been bombed. And - lo and behold - at the last fuel stop there was a Viggen on a plinth. Very cool.

Our car for that stage had been the Macan GTS, which had a nice stereo. The Turbo S we swapped to is, I'd wager, THE car of the convoy. Yes, even against the 918. The Spyder is all very well but the Turbo S is more comfortable, more refined, has space behind the seats for clobber and (entirely unscientifically) doesn't seem to give a whole lot away to the fancy hypercar. At least in this context. Plenty fast enough, put it that way.

I write now from our fancy tour buses, which will be our mobile hotels for the night stint while Porsche drivers shuttle the car to the morning stop. That's only six hours away. Think I'd best go check out my bunk.


Thursday 2030h - Nowhere near Stockholm
Last night I was eating reindeer. Today I'm mainly swerving round them. Still, livens up the long forest roads here in Sweden. Having left the spectacular and snowy landscape further north things are now opening out and the long haul to Stockholm is feeling ... long. Not sure what the Swedish for redneck is but some of the small towns we've passed through have that feel about them, to the point where one even had a rusty old Camaro parked outside a shack.

Having enjoyed the 918 the 718 Boxster was a slight reality check but driving with the roof down was refreshing and having dropped back to rig the cameras for another blog update it was rather nice to make a little more progress than the convoy pace we've been observing thus far.

Now in a Macan co-driver Rowan and cameraman Nick and I have been pondering the all-important music choices. Somewhat rashly I've been given DJ detail and browsing my phone I've spotted a few albums that look appealing but, I feel, may be best saved for when fatigue is kicking in and we need to make proper progress. Put it this way, I don't think the company is quite ready for Queens Of The Stone Age yet. But I have no doubt that moment will come at some point.


Thursday 1400h - Sorsele, Sweden
Let's just say the schedule looks ambitious. Ambitious enough that we have a team medic. As I write we've completed the first morning of driving and nearly 250 miles of driving. Or about a third of what we need to do by 9:30pm where we are due to rendezvous with the tour buses that will become our rolling hotel while the cars are taken over by some hired hands. I quite fancy some through the night stuff to get the full Le Mans experience, but we'll have to see about that.

Well if you have a lot of distance to cover...
Well if you have a lot of distance to cover...
My day started in the back seat of the Panamera 4 S, and from that experience I reckon it might become the most in-demand car for the trip. A 918 Spyder is all very well, but three days in I reckon massage seats may become of more value than a screaming V8 and an electrically assisted 900hp.

The run out of Norway was taken at a sedate pace, the scenery as severe as the penalties for exceeding the 90km/h speed limit. So, again, no great sacrifice being in a wafty Panamera rather than one of the sportier cars.

Saying that when I was offered a go with the 918 as we paused at the Swedish border I wasn't about to say no! A little vid to follow but it's quite a machine and, for all the tech, a properly involving machine. It needs driving, that's for sure. And switch between spaceship-sounding electric mode and howling hypercar is properly dramatic. As I write from the passenger seat of a 718 Boxster (roof down, obviously) we're now south of Arjeplog (home of the manufacturers' winter testing grounds) and mainly dodging reindeer.

Looking at the schedule we could probably do with making some time up though...



Wednesday 1830h - Bodo, Norway
Here, in one little luggage tag, the enormity of what's facing me is finally laid out. This is going to be quite a serious undertaking. As the welcome letter says, "we will be driving the length of Europe ... we'll visit eight countries in seven cars, covering over 5,000km in one go" before going on to explain there's a staff of 46 supporting the caper. The logistics are boggling but I'll leave that to them and try and enjoy the drive.

Through the day and night... across Europe!
Through the day and night... across Europe!
And what are we doing it in? Well, the 918 Spyder rather leaps off the page and I'll be making sure I get a good go in that, having never had the pleasure before. There's a 911 Turbo S too, linking in quite nicely with my recent awakening to what that car is capable of. Might have to make sure I'm in that one for the German leg of the journey if the 918 isn't already spoken for... We also have a couple of 718s, a Macan GTS, a Panamera 4 S (I know these are rather good long-distance companions after driving one from Dover to Leipzig and the new massage seats are AMAZING) and ... a Cayenne Diesel. Might save that for the Belgian leg - a bit of metal around me may prove welcome to fend off the locals.

It's an interesting set-up too. Reading up on the way here I discovered the winning 917 of Gjis van Lennep and Helmut Marko covered a comparable distance back in 1971, racking up 5,335.313km at an average of 222.304km/h. That record stood until 2009 apparently. Lots to take in. And lots of distance to cover. Think I'm going to need an early night tonight.











Comments (6) Join the discussion on the forum

  • ecs0set 12 May 2017

    I got to the end of this before realising that it makes a lot more sense backwards, i.e. in chronological order. Doh.

  • urquattroGus 13 May 2017

    One big shiny Porsche advert editorial.

  • runnerbean 14 13 May 2017

    Enjoying the articles and associated videoblog but I do have a question/comment: why so keen on sticking to the outside lane, when others are empty? Nothing wrong with moving in to the middle, even at those speeds. Who knows, someone behind might want to go past and it looks a shade arrogant just to assume that they don't.

  • Defconluke 15 May 2017

    The fact that Porsche didn't bring along a Panamera Hybrid to show off its efficiency benefits over a regular Panamera speaks volumes about their confidence in how much more efficient it could have been whistle

  • cmoose 16 May 2017

    Well done for getting through it. Have to say crawling across Europe at (by the sounds of it) mostly legal speeds on main roads in convoy for literally days on end sounds like a nightmare trip!

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