The Racing Line Through the Alps
How does it feel to navigate Europe’s most extreme mountain passes in the slipstream of a dozen cup pilots? The mountain scenery is breathtaking during the first Passion Drive, a new Porsche event format. The three-day tour is all about community among race car drivers who are otherwise rivals.
We wait with bated breath on Stelvio Pass, the highest of all the paved mountain passes in Italy. At an elevation of just over 3,000 meters, the air is thin and the mounting clouds make the scenery all the more mystical. The camera is angled downward at the road we just ascended in our Cayenne GTS Coupé – Passo dello Stelvio, as it’s called in Italian. And then we hear the sound in the valley we’ve eagerly awaited – hot boxer engines – followed by a welcome sight: a colorful Porsche procession climbing the slope with its 48 hairpin curves. And just at that moment, the golden light of the sun shines through. Light-yellow, python-green, and signal-red sports cars dot the mountain panorama like little splashes of color. The Porsche Passion Drive is in full swing.
At exactly 8:15 p.m. the day before, Hurui Issak, project leader for Porsche Carrera Cup Germany, speaks on the roof terrace of the Schwan Locke hotel in Munich. It’s prime time and temperatures continue to hover around 25 degrees Celsius. “We know each other from the racecourse,” says Issak, beaming with delight at the audience. “But there, our interaction is often hectic and dominated by fast lap times. Now it’s time to spend a few unforgettable days together. This time the drive is the goal.” The participants of the first Passion Drive are standing around, all of them familiar faces from the Porsche Sports Cup Germany and Carrera Cup Germany who have found their way here for a drive through the Alps. They and their companions have driven up in their private Porsche, including a G series (built in 1980), a Boxster (type 986, built in 2003), and a modern 911 Turbo S Cabriolet (type 992). The destination is the next Porsche Carrera Cup Germany racing weekend in Imola, Italy. A total of 1,387 kilometers, eight mountain passes, countless chicanes, and unforgettable moments await them.
Stage 1: Munich to Rabland
Twelve hours later, the first sports cars emerge from the hotel’s underground parking garage and head for Fernpass, the Austrian mountain pass in the Tyrol Alps. The first destination of the journey is the city of Glurns – or Glorenza, as the town in the Venosta valley is already located in Italy. By the end of the day, we’ll have spent time in four different countries, having passed through the border between Germany and Austria and driven up mountain passes in Italy and down them again in Switzerland.
Our path is lined with historical walls, as we pass through the gates of Glurns, the smallest city in South Tyrol. The former trading hub is now one of the region’s gems, due in large part to its medieval flair. We stop at another gem, the Flurin restaurant, which was recently named “Discovery of the year” by Gault Millau and is located in a building that’s more than 500 years old. Bastian Schramm, Head of Marketing at Porsche Germany, joins us in order to greet the guests personally. “One of my favorite highlights awaits you,” he announces. “It’s almost time to ascend Stelvio Pass.” There’s a round of applause, the participants faces beaming with delight. Asparagus is then served with organic poached eggs, Maltaise sauce, and croutons, followed by beef short rib on spring potatoes, Swiss chard, and chimichurri, as well as a dessert of apple tart, rhubarb, rose water, and thyme. A tailored start to the culinary part of the journey, which is also an Alpine adventure in its own right.
A short time later, we’re standing on Stelvio Pass. Ahmad Alshehab has just reached the peak. The 38-year-old traveled all the way from Kuwait just to enjoy the spectacle with his motorsport colleagues.
“We don’t have any mountains at home, no mountain passes,” he says, taking in the view of the valley. “For me, this is something extraordinary. This is my first time in Switzerland, my first time in Italy, and my first time in the Alps.”
Alshehab has been a race car driver in the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany for two years and appears to be an established member of the new community. With a cheerful smile, the Kuwaiti climbs into his black 911 Turbo S Cabriolet (type 992) – ready for the next slope, which winds its way back down the pass on the other side.
In the early evening, the participants reach the parking lot of Hanswirt hotel in Rabland, several kilometers from the city of Meran. The time-honored building will serve as the paddock for the next two days. Red and white shutters and historical architecture are a testament to the special character of the building, which was first documented in 1357. The hotel is located on the former Via Claudia Augusta, which was once one of the most important roads in the Roman Empire, as it connected northern Italy with southern Germany and thus enabled Alp crossings in ancient times. Matthias Laimer, whose family has been operating the Hanswirt hotel since the 16th century, welcomes the Passion Drive participants. A typical Italian aperitivo at the pool is followed by a six-course meal on the terrace – the perfect end to a day full of winding roads.
Stage 2: Breathtaking South Tyrol
The next morning, a mountain pass in the Dolomites provides an unobstructed view of the Langkofel, Sella, and Ciampinoi mountains. We park our Cayenne behind a curve and wait eagerly for the Passion Drive, which will soon cause another sensation here. My finger is on the shutter release of my camera, as this is the moment that brought us here. And then we’re treated to an extraordinary sight: a varied panorama of colorful sports cars and lush fields, the mountain chain in the background. The procession accelerates out of one curve no sooner than it disappears again behind another, the moment living on for an instant as the sound of the engines subsides. During the next pit stop, we enjoy an espresso with Carlos Rivas, the driver of the Black Falcon team, and Jan-Erik Slooten of the IronForce Racing by Phoenix team. “Carlos is my strongest competitor on the racecourse,” explains the 37-year-old Slooten, who has just climbed out of his yellow 911 Carrera GTS (type 992). “But here we’re friends, on vacation together.” That’s what sets the Passion Drive apart. Rivas, the 45-year-old Luxembourger, agrees, laughing. He’s driving a 911 Cabriolet (G series), which was provided to him by the Luxembourg Porsche center. In his personal life, modern technology is more his thing. “Driving a classic car for a longer period of time is something new for me,” he explains. “But also a welcome experience.” The next weekend, Rivas will be back in the cockpit of a race car and celebrate a victory in the ProAm class in Imola – just the same as Slooten.
With the Gardena, Falzarego, and Pordoi mountain passes ahead of us today, the roads are occasionally so empty that you almost get the feeling you’re actually on a racecourse. Every curve is followed by another – each providing a new spectacular view. We delve deeper and deeper into the Dolomites – as the culinary journey continues. For lunch we all gather at SanBrite in Cortina d’Ampezzo. The MICHELIN restaurant has its own dairy farm and vegetable garden, which provides all of the ingredients for today’s meal. A culinary highlight, followed by some more mountain passes that take us back to the Hanswirt hotel.
Stage 3: Past Lake Garda to Bologna
With the Alps now behind us and the sun high above Lake Garda, we’re stopped on the mountain slope with the father and son team Frank and Fabian Heydgen from Munich, who are the perfect example of how passion for Porsche motorsport is passed down from one generation to the next – and how it can take many different forms.
While 55-year-old Frank Heydgen does have a racing license and graduated from the Porsche motorsport school under Walter Röhrl in the late 1990s, he has never made his passion his main career. “Still, I’ve driven most of the courses in the Gentleman Drivers Cup with my 911,” explains the real estate project developer. He drove his 911 Carrera 4 (type 992) to the Passion Drive, having passed the 911 SC 3.0 (built in 1980) – along with his no. 1 passion – on to his son.
Unlike his father, Fabian Heydgen has turned this passion into a career. The absolute desire to work on the racecourse has led the 21-year-old to the CarTech Motorsport by Nigrin team. He’s in his final year of training in automotive mechatronics and has been working as team manager since this season. For him, the Passion Drive also represents the end of his training and the start of his career. “It was my first time driving winding roads like these,” says the youngest participant with delight. “And driving alongside such experienced drivers makes it all the more fun, of course.”
Rather than trophies, participants collect memories.
The final stage is all that’s left. The Alpine panorama gives way to Italy’s Mediterranean flair, with curves as plentiful as fishing boats on Lake Garda. Four hours later, we’re seated at Piazza Minghetti in Bologna as the final evening comes to a close. If we were on a racecourse, we’d see the black and white checkered flag waving in the distance. Hurui Issak looks back on the first Passion Drive: “What brought us together at the beginning was our passion for motorsport,” he says, his gaze exploring the piazza. “But at the end, it’s all about community. We share moments, stories, and adventures that we’ve only experienced together.”
These words echo in my mind as we drive the Cayenne into the warm night. For us, the journey ends here. The drivers will continue on to Imola tomorrow for the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany. While none of them will win, the past few days have shown us that it’s about more than just the next spot on the winners’ podium. It’s about the people, the community – and the passion.
The weather in Germany takes another turn for the worse just before we cross the border into Austria, with one downpour after the other.
Discovery: The Flurin restaurant in Glurns surprises us with an exquisite creation of culinary finesse.
Pit lane: Parking in front of the Hanswirt hotel. 911 Carrera GTS: Fuel consumption* combined (WLTP) 11.4 – 10.4 l/100 km, CO₂ emissions* combined (WLTP) 258 – 236 g/km
The film crew interviews Ahmad Alshehab.
A group photo with a spectacular backdrop is a must, of course. 911 GT3 with Touring Package: Fuel consumption* combined (WLTP) 12.9 l/100 km, CO₂ emissions* combined (WLTP) 293 – 292 g/km
21-year-old Fabian Heydgen in the 911 SC, built in 1980.
We set off in pursuit of the Cup drivers in the Cayenne GTS Coupé – and were able to keep up without any problems. Cayenne GTS Coupé: Fuel consumption* combined (WLTP) 14.0 – 13.3 l/100 km, CO₂ emissions* combined (WLTP) 318 – 302 g/km
Impressions like these can be found on just about every street corner in South Tyrol.
Route to follow in the Roads app
Cayenne GTS Coupé
14.0 – 13.3 l/100 km
318 – 302 g/km
911 Carrera 4
10.9 – 10.3 l/100 km
247 – 234 g/km
11.1 – 10.7 l/100 km
251 – 242 g/km
911 Carrera GTS
11.4 – 10.4 l/100 km
258 – 236 g/km
10.8 – 10.3 l/100 km
245 – 233 g/km
911 Turbo S Cabriolet
12.5 – 12.1 l/100 km
284 – 275 g/km
11.7 – 11.3 l/100 km
265 – 255 g/km
911 GT3 with Touring Package
12.9 l/100 km
293 – 292 g/km