Driving over an Alpine pass in a Porsche is the dream of a lifetime for many people. But who would even dare to envision sitting behind the wheel of the mythical Porsche 918 Spyder, accompanied by 18 more of its kind, to cover the most famous Alpine passes in just five days?
Supercars used to be built for roads that were as straight and as dry as possible – just to keep them on the road with your foot floored down was hard enough. At the wheel of a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Bizzarrini, you could easily live without the irritations caused by urban planning and the weather. It was not until the arrival of the all-wheel drive Porsche 959, which was developed in the mid-80s as a result of the homologation regulations for the Paris-Dakar Rally, that it also became possible to go on a skiing holiday with the world’s fastest production sports car. What initially sounded like very hypothetical idea conjured up by the marketing boys, turned out in practice to be an excellent solution – Herbert von Karajan, for example, used to like driving his Porsche 959 over the Julier and Flüela passes to is Alpine home in St. Moritz. Three decades later, Porsche once again had a supercar on the road fitted with all-wheel drive that didn‘t need to shrink back from either the Nürburgring or winding, snow-covered roads in the Alps – the fabulous Porsche 918 Spyder.
Only 918 examples of this stunning, mid-engined, hybrid supercar were produced between 2013 and 2015 – this means that the Spyder is about as rare as a white wolf in the wild. And yet, a respectable pack of 19 of these rare creatures, complete with owners, had decided to get together on this chilly autumn morning in Engadin to spend a few days chasing up and down the Alpine peaks. We will end our journey in Monaco and Nice on the French Riviera – but between us, there are still two dozen of the most famous and most demanding passes and mountain roads to be found anywhere in Europe waiting for us. At the beginning of the tour, there are classic hairpin routes on maintain passes to be traversed in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, such as the Flüela, Albula and Maloja passes, before the journey takes us over the Splügen, San Bernardino, Lukmanier and Oberalp passes on our way to Andermatt. The second day also begins with some healthy early-morning exercise: the Susten Pass, Furka Pass, Grimsel Pass, St. Gotthard Pass, Nufenen Pass – after this workout, not only are the eight-cylinder powerhouses warmed up but, thanks to the car’s recuperation mode, the lithium-ion batteries of the electric motors are also fully charged again and ready to deliver the power boost that will take the pack at lightning speed into Chamonix at the foot of Mont Blanc in the French Alps. Day three gives us a slightly more intensive workout than the warm-up programme in Switzerland and has some tough classics from the Tour de France for the Spyder to master. Countless litres of sweat have been left behind on the Col de L’Iseran and the Col du Galibier in the past –but the Porsches whir their way through the tight bends as nimble and as quiet as you like and with no visible effort, so much so that you almost end up with a bad conscience, and promise one day to repeat the tour on a racing bike. Which of the 918 drivers was finally awarded the yellow jersey must remain a secret however – the Gendarmerie is probably reading this article.
On the fourth day of our out-of-the-ordinary tour of the passes, we follow the tyre marks of the legendary Monte Carlo Rally over Col de Turini on our way to the Mediterranean – it’s hard to imagine what hardships rally drivers like Vic Elford and Björn Waldegård had to put up with in their spartan racing 911s! But without the achievements of the daring drivers of Porsche‘s racing history, neither a 959, nor a 918 would ultimately have been possible. Slipping by Monaco, Nice and Cannes, the stage ends in Tourrettes, where the next day’s programme includes the awards and to round it all off an excursion on the curves and bends around the Grand Canyon du Verdon. At the end of this Alpine tour, we stand even more in awe of the Porsche 918 Spyder than we had been anyway when we climbed in on the first day. It’s quite amazing really that the North Loop record-breaker at the Nürburgring at a speed of no less than 345 km/h can handle a journey of over 2,000 kilometres, crossing mountains and valleys, and negotiating countless curves and climatic zones, if need be, with absolutely no problems whatsoever – and that, after five days behind the wheel, we didn’t have to be taken by the mountain rescue to the sanatorium in Davos for physiological conditioning. This Porsche can do it all – even the High Alps!