A Porsche 911 and a Le Mans winning pacesetter – evo Archive
Four cracking convertibles, two alpine passes and a Le Mans winner in a cardboard crown made this evo test unforgettable for Stephen Dobie
As a first 911 experience, a 997 GTS is a pretty damn good place to start. And if you were choosing where to go for your first proper mountain pass jaunt, then the Stelvio and Flüela are rather good options. As the icing on the cake, who would you want as a pacesetter for the journey out to Italy? A Le Mans winner such as Andy Wallace, perhaps? Well, add all these elements together and you have a week in the life of Stephen Dobie back in the summer of 2011.
‘It was all part of a group test for the “Sound of Speed” issue,’ recalls Sunderland’s finest motoring writer. ‘Mike Duff flew to Germany to pick up the Audi R8, but Andy Wallace, photographer Jamie Lipman and I all drove out from the UK. We made very good time. Or rather Andy made very good time in an Aston Martin Vantage Roadster while we just got towed along in his wake in the Porsche.
‘I remember the whole trip being this almost surreal cliché of everything I’d ever imagined a test in the Alps being. As an example, I was in this gorgeous Alfa 8C – a car I had always been mesmerised by – driving up to the Stelvio and I saw some police up ahead in a village. I was driving slowly, as you should, but as I went past, these Italian coppers were waving their arms and gesturing. Not for me to slow down but for me to exercise the V8 properly. So I obliged.
‘There was also an incredible drive over the beautiful Flüela pass in the 911, chasing Andy in the Aston again. He was really pushing on, but of course I was able to trust every braking point and line through a corner. It’s a drive that I don’t think will ever be beaten.’
And you thanked Andy by making him wear a cardboard Burger King crown and then putting a picture in the mag of him wearing said headgear?
‘I wore one too! And you can’t beat a Whopper. Anyway, on the way home, Andy obviously did the journey back to the UK in one hit, but Jamie and I weren’t quite up to that. I remember we made a bit of a detour to try to find a hotel in a German town with a rude name, but everywhere was full, so we just took a photo of the satnav screen and carried on. Amazingly the picture made it into the magazine, so I’m sure nobody noticed the photo of Wallace in a cheap crown underneath…’ Readers of a sensitive disposition are advised not to revisit page 82 of issue 161.
‘I was so infatuated with that 911 by the end of the week that I bought a lottery ticket for the Saturday night draw,’ continues Dobie, ‘just on the off-chance that I might win and be able to keep the dream alive for evermore. Of course, my numbers didn’t come up, but it wasn’t the last I saw of RJ60 UUF. When I moved to Top Gear magazine and had to commute into London, my regular route took me past a driveway somewhere in the suburbs with a black GTS Cabriolet parked on it. One day I stopped and had a look at the number plate. Sure enough, it was the same car that I’d driven 3000 of the most memorable miles of my life in. Small world.’
This story was first featured in evo issue 301.