In 2017, a 718 Boxster first ignited Brian Robertson’s passion for Porsche. Having loved performance cars from an early age, it was only a matter of time before he found his way behind the wheel of one. But, after having his 718 in his life for four years, he felt it was time for something new and exchanged his Boxster for something a bit more modern - a brand new 4-litre 718 GTS. Ordering the car in 2021, Brian – like many others – fell victim to countless COVID-19 delays and he is still waiting for it today.
While temporarily Porsche-less, he heard news of a highly anticipated trip being in the works. Although this too was delayed by COVID-19, it was a European tour organised by Brian’s friend Shami Kalra and his watch company Omologato.
The tour would take 20 supercar fans around Europe, stopping off to witness some impressive sights including Monaco and Imola’s F1 circuit. Brian was desperate to go, but there was just one problem; he didn’t have a car to take. He began a last-minute search.
He explains: “I’ve always wanted to go back in time and get one of the early Boxsters, so I went to a local dealer called Maundrell in Oxfordshire. They had the Porsche Boxster S 550 Spyder 50th Anniversary edition and it was amazing. They made 1,953 of those cars and only brought about 150 into the UK.
“The car was fantastic and I bought it immediately. It was in mint condition! I got it in April and thought to myself: ‘Right, that’s me set for the summer. I can look forward to getting my GTS next year’.
“It just so happened that the car I ended up buying was last owned by a member of Porsche Club GB. What a strange coincidence!”
With a Porsche in place, Brian and the rest of the supercar convoy were ready to hit the road. They set off from Folkestone, heading towards Calais. According to Brian, there were some 14 cars in total, with Porsche well represented by a 911 GT3, a 987 Boxster, a 993 4S, a 992 Cabriolet and a 996 Turbo.
The group’s first stop was the site of the abandoned Reims-Gueux GP circuit, where Omologato donate funds from the sales of their Reims watch to support the ongoing restoration of the pits and grandstands. The group were treated to a wonderful lunch and an incredible tour of the site by the Reims staff.
It was quite an emotional experience for Brian. “It’s lovely to know that, in buying my watch, I helped to support the upkeep of that incredible racetrack,” he says. “The day was unlike anything I had ever experienced and I will always remember seeing the smile on Shami’s face while he stood on the podium.”
From Reims, the group had, in Brian’s words, “a fairly boring run” down to Dijon for an overnight stay before the real trip kicked in. From Dijon, they then headed towards Grenoble and the Route Napoléon for a great day of driving over hills, around canyons and through small villages. This day also included Brian and two other members of the group getting lost and then finding a spectacular road passing some of France’s mountains and lakes before re-joining the main group back on the Route Napoléon.
After enjoying the dramatic views, the group soon made their way down to Nice for an overnight stay and then headed on to Monaco for a drive around the famous F1 circuit. However, this didn’t go quite as planned. As Brian explains: “The weather in Monaco was absolutely terrible and the entire course was extremely waterlogged! We couldn’t do very much, so some members of our group who were looking forward to walking around and doing the circuit were really disappointed.”
However, after this slight dampener, Brian pressed onwards and followed the coast road to Pisa for a visit to its tower and to enjoy some delicious pasta for lunch. From there, he ventured up toward Bologna to rejoin the group at the Ferrari-themed Hotel Maranello Village.
After this came the day they had all been waiting for ‒ the tour of Imola. Brian explains: “When we arrived, we were taken on a tour of the director’s box, the F1 race control area and the podium. A bus tour then took us around the track, providing a fascinating insight into its history. We even stopped off at the Tamburello Corner and visited the Ayrton Senna Memorial.
“After this, it was time we got in our own cars and had a go ourselves. I managed to be in P1 for a long time, which was absolutely thrilling. We did a first lap at a slow pace behind a Lamborghini safety car, which allowed us to get used to the track and keep us all safe. During the second lap, we opened the taps more and reached speeds of around 60mph. On the next lap, we stopped at the Acque Minerali – one of racing’s most difficult corners – and lined the cars up for a group photo. Once we were back in our cars, we enjoyed three more laps with ever-increasing speed as we took in every aspect of this special track.
“The feeling was incredible. It really was a ‘pinch yourself’ moment, frankly. I loved being able to hear all the other guys just shouting “Woooo!” like we were all kids again. It was exhilarating. It was such a privilege.”
After this, Brian decided it was time to go his own way at a slower pace and enjoy more stops. He took himself to Lake Como and enjoyed a visit to the five-star Villa d’Este who graciously let him and the 986 onto their grounds. After this, it was onto Geneva, where he noticed one of his headlight bulbs was broken.
He explains: “I didn’t fancy changing it myself (986s are famously fiddly), so I called in at Porsche Geneva and they were more than happy to help. I was treated to a coffee and a wander around their amazing showroom and, 45 minutes later, it all was fixed. It was a wonderful experience that truly reminded me that Porsche is a family, no matter where you are in the world.”
After his pit stop in Geneva, Brian decided to take the scenic route back to France and enjoyed incredibly quiet roads, picturesque Swiss villages and roof-down weather. Reaching the old border crossing point between France and Switzerland, he stopped and took a picture of the Porsche at the Hotel Arbez which lies on the border between the two nations.
With the twisty roads behind him, it was time to head back on the butter-smooth French autoroutes to Calais and then back home to Oxfordshire.
According to Brian, the trip was a roaring success and the tour’s WhatsApp group is still active with members sharing happy memories. With a tour in the works for next year, we look forward to hearing more about Brian’s adventures – this time hopefully in his GTS!