AROUND THEWORLD IN A PORSCHE 928
Words: Robb Pritchard Photography: Philippe Delaporte You may recognise this 928 from a previous endurance adventure. Now the father and son team are back for a round the world trip starting in Paris and finishing in America. Here’s part one of the epic t
Well, if you’re going to do it, do it in style. Part one and our intrepid pilot’s drive from Paris to Tokyo
Five years ago Frenchman Philippe Delaporte made himself part of the Porsche legend, by driving to Iran, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in his (as outrageous as it sounds) expeditionprepared 1989 928 S4 with Baudouin, one of his sons. A few years later he was sitting with his other son Thibault looking at maps to see where the longest and most interesting Tarmac road from Paris led. The recently fully asphalted Trans-siberian highway from Moscow through the world's largest country now makes it possible to reach Vladivostok in the far east in a 'normal' car. But just a ferry ride further was Japan… Well, why not? Paris to Tokyo by Porsche had a nice ring to it.
But Baudouin, who'd accompanied his father on the previous big trip in the car to Iran, joined the conversation and suggested that instead of shipping it back from the land of the rising sun why not go on to the west coast of America so that he could join his father and drive across the States. Around the world by Porsche had an even better ring, don't you think?
Despite having such an extraordinary idea Philippe has a pretty normal job so the main issue for the project was budget and to keep it to a minimum he needed to make plans. Lots of plans. Also, a firm believer in pre-emptive maintenance, he sent the car to a friend's garage to have a major refurbishment, as it already had well over 100,000km on the clock. From the previous
Around the world by Porsche had an even better ring
trip the car was already fitted with a Koni lift spring and shock set-up, under body bash plates, protected lights and all the GPS systems and charging sockets they needed. But with so many kilometres of driving to come in what is basically a classic Porsche a lot of parts were changed. the whole steering system was renewed, as well as all the ball joints, engine peripherals, driveshafts and bearings. It was very important to have a reliable car as they were going to attempt the whole global circumnavigation without any support at all!
At the advice of a friend with lots of experience in rally-raids, who didn't like the spare wheel mounted on the roof, they had a roll hoop fitted behind the seats to protect them in the advent of a rollover. A fresh set of Pirelli M/SS were fitted, the front spare mounted in the back and the bigger rear one on the roof, and in May they were ready for the big send off at the Place de Concorde in the centre of Paris. Well, almost. The day before the oil pressure light came on as a result of the oil-cooler in the radiator failing. The only new replacement they could find at such short notice set them back 1200 euros before they'd even got to the start.
“The first few days on a big trip are always nervous,” Philippe explains. “There is no test drive you can do for a round-the-world trip and the broken
There’s no test drive you can do for a round the world trip
and their days were dictated by the distance between the cities they could stay in rather than how long they wanted to drive. Trying to cover 900km a day they flew though such foreign sounding places as Nizny Novgorod, Kazan, Ufa and though the low hills of the Urals into Siberia. Then to Omsk, Novosibirsk and Irkutsk and a detour to Lake Baikal which, as the largest body of fresh water, is a natural wonder of the world and couldn't be missed. But nearby disaster struck when they hit a huge unmarked speed-bump at full tilt. It was such a hard hit that the car went airborne and died after the very heavy landing. Through a process of trial and error with their mechanic on the phone they managed to trace the problem back to the fuel pump again, which apparently doesn't like hard knocks. Fortunately, they'd since wired the original pump up backwards to blow out the Polish mess, so swapped it on the roadside and a couple of hours later were able to carry on.
Because they were so close to Mongolia they decided to visit this special country and got the requisite visas in Ulan-ude, a city which holds the accolade of having the world's largest horse statue. Staying in a yurt and looking up at the stars out on the Mongol steppe was a highlight of the whole trip, but trying to get back into Russia again was a definite low point. Apparently they'd bought a transit visa so the border guard refused to let them back out over the same crossing they'd entered through. It seemed a trivial paperwork problem but the guards were adamant that Philippe needed to go all the way back to Ulanbaatar and work something out with the immigration office there. Not keen on an extra 400km round trip on an extremely bad road Philippe
of near constant repair. Temperatures in the winter regularly get down to -50C which is low enough to crack the bitumen, so many parts are in really bad condition and in many places there are long stretches of rough gravel where it's being reconstructed, so in this section it was pretty slow going. “Nothing that the Porsche couldn't handle, though. The drunk truck drivers were more of a concern and needed close attention while overtaking.
And finally they made it to Vladivostok where they were shown around by a friendly local and had the car thoroughly disinfected for its trip over to Japan. A couple of days relaxing in the cabin out at sea with the coast of North Korea on the horizon was a nice change of scenery and, once through customs in Sakaiminato, where a frighteningly meticulous customs officer took seven hours to check every letter on dozens of previously translated documents, they drove straight on to Hiroshima. Here they were greeted as celebrities by the amazed staff in the Porsche dealership. “They asked us if there was anything they could do for us and probably would have done absolutely anything, but all we asked was for them to put the car on the lift for us so we could change the oil. That day was also Thibault's 30th birthday, which was a nice experience.”
A few days exploring the foothills of Mount Fuji, a visit to the neon lit metropolis of Tokyo, which was a stark and striking contrast to the wilderness of Russia, and back to the port in Nagoya. After 50 days, 16,350km and 2125-litres of fuel it was the end of the first part of the trip. “It was amazing to drive the car in Japan. We knew it was the end of the first part of the trip so we could completely relax and reflect on just what we've seen and how much the view through the windscreen had changed while we were sitting in the same seats. And what an incredible father-son experience it was!”
After weeks of driving unaided through Russia the trip through America should have been the easy part, but it turned out to be far from it. And they were almost about to lose the Porsche. You can read all about that next month... PW
They were greeted as celebs by the amazed staff in the dealership