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CAR reader car4mh's Frankfurt motor show 2009 blog
CAR reader Mark Hamilton
17 September 2009 10:29
CAR Online reader Car4mh, aka Mark Hamilton, spent the day blogging alongside the CAR team at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show. Here's his account of his road trip to Frankfurt (Mark lives in New Zealand. Talk about commitment!) and his behind-the-scenes view of international press day. Come back this weekend to read the thoughts of another CAR blogger, Richard Webber, who won the trip out to Frankfurt with Vauxhall; sadly, owing to a Vauxhall cock-up, they couldn't get press day tickets and are taking Richard out this weekend instead.
I'm here in Frankfurt after quite a long and entertaining journey. I see that editor Phil McNamara has been suffering for the team at the hands of Bugatti as he makes his way to Frankfurt. What have I been up to? Well, now that you ask...
Departures, arrivals and a car
Departing Auckland last week on one of Air NZ's Boeing 777s, I made a brief stop in Tokyo before consigning myself to one of Lufthansa's austere Airbus A340s - home to the only Recaro seat which has not improved my opinion of the vehicle in which it sits. That list includes the Suzuki Ignis, so you can see that's a major statement.
Anyway, after 12 hours without the convenience of a personal TV screen, I arrived in Munich to pick up my road test vehicle. I had a grand plan of roaming about Europe issuing proclamations via Twitter and offering up poorly-produced mobile phone videos in the name of web2.0 greatness for a suitably-hip car maker in their suitably cool car. Sadly, in spite of Tim Pollard's best efforts to assist, this was not possible, and so I found myself at the rental car counter collecting what I thought would be another Golf TSI manual to run a durability test on ham-fisted shift scenarios for disoriented foreign drivers.
Imagine my surprise when my Golf keys had a Spanish accent, and I was presented with custodianship of a Seat Leon with the same itty-bitty TSI motor and manual gearbox. It was hard walking past the Porsche Carreras and sundry German prestige metal to take my Seat, but as we don't have this branch of the VW Empire sold in NZ it was a novelty nonetheless. Once I found the appropriate point in the black 'n silver plastic interior for my iPod to have an intimate conversation with the hi-fi, affixed Mr TomTom’s navigating device and 'tourist aboard' warning beacon to the screen of the car and had said the required number of 'I sit on the left, I drive on the right' mantra chants, I set off. In fourth gear. With the TomTom in the usual 'leap of faith' mode that comes from retrieving a vehicle from a concrete garage where GPS signals fail to penetrate. A fuller review, perhaps with less self-deprecation about my adapting to shifting right-handed, may follow.
The stuff in-between then and now
There is a whole story about my subsequent adventures at the home of BMW which will hopefully arrive after the IAA coverage is out of the way. I will spare you the weekend in Vienna with friends (as cars were not involved), and bow my head in shame for not attending the Italian GP in Monza on your behalf. But given what Ben Barry's anointed champion Mr. Kubica managed to do to return Mark Webber to the DNF hall of fame on the first lap, I am glad I didn't shell out the funds to watch it live.
A suitably challenging drive
Today's adventures started with a straightforward enough task. Drive from Vienna to Frankfurt. In a Seat. That seems a fairly dull thing to blog about, so to make it interesting, I delved into the frustratingly-complex TomTom interface to stitch together a challenge. Drive to Frankfurt via the headquarters of all the major German car makers.
A quick look at the itinerary suggested that'd take 17 hours... Talk about making things complicated! Alright then, all the major German car makers except Volkswagen, since I'm driving one of their vehicles (and Wolfsburg is a very long way away indeed).
What follows is a chronology of the journey, based on my Twitter recollection of events.
Monday 14 September 2009, 11:53am: 'A motorway rest stop in Austria, the name of which escapes me'
'To Frankfurt via BMW, Audi, MB, Porsche, Opel home towns.' It was either that or 'Austrian motorway rest stop loo looks like prison toilet but impressively clean nonetheless' and I thought this was a bit off-topic, even for me.
3:12pm: 'BMW complete, next up is Audi, weather terrible'
What a unique sensation it is to be barrelling along smooth German autobahns at speeds which would have me banned back home, in heavy rain. Perhaps VW had ordered the weather so I could be surprised if not delighted by the clap-hands Seat wipers leaping from the A-pillars.
Getting a photo at BMW is incredibly tricky - the HQ and BMW Welt complex are on a busy intersection, and the ideal place to park (the customer entrance and parking area) is monitored by a staff member who yells at you when you pilot your non-BMW in there. I waved my cellphone in the international sign for 'I have a call, and my phone excuses all sins' and hurriedly snap pictures from the driver's seat as I put the Leon back into Munich traffic.
4:05pm: 'Audi HQ sorted, off to Stuttgart now for the others. Bye Ingolstadt!'
The drive down to Audi-town is accomplished quickly with a minimum of drama, and the route to the Audi HQ complex is thoughtfully signposted once leaving the autobahn. I manage to grab a car park for the mobility-challenged and hobble convincingly out of the Leon to take photos after nearly six hours behind the wheel.
7:20pm: 'Made it to M-Benz with just 15km left in the tank. Now for Porsche & Frankfurt'
Ingolstadt to Stuttgart is a long drive, and your genius correspondent got a case of 'I'll refuel at the next rest stop.' As it happened the range shown by the trip computer tumbles remarkably rapidly once into double-digits, and thankfully I found a service station in Unterturkheim to feed the Leon and myself. Although the energy drinks and junk food were probably not the best bet for an evening meal, given that my brain is still whirring like the Leon's twin-charged induction system at 3am.
The Mercedes complex is very impressive, and I was able to park quite close to their museum (not open on Mondays, like the others). That the indoor arena down the road (the road being Mercedes-strasse) is prominently sponsored by Porsche must cause no end of laughter up the road at Zuffenhausen.
7:47pm: 'Mission Accomplished at Zuffenhausen! Now let's get to Frankfurt. Big day 2moro'
As with the BMW complex, the Porsche Zentrum and Museum are on a busy intersection, which required a couple of laps to hit a long-enough red light for pictures. There were plenty of factory gates around also which provided an opportunity to stop though. I saw a couple of Panamerarghs which left a queasy sensation but nonetheless I will inspect the new Porsche at the show tomorrow.
8:35pm: (no Tweet)
It was at this time as I was blasting along the autobahn with about an hour to go in the journey that I remembered I had to go to Opel. At this point I was feeling pretty-much over the whole bahnstorming thing so this wasn't welcome.
10:15pm: Arrive at hotel
The tweeting phone has gone into hibernation and I am ready to hurl the TomTom at whatever will cause it the most distress. I have been down dead-end streets, found roads closed for construction, had to 'turn around as soon as possible' and been left waiting at a level crossing in the middle of nowhere - yet could not find Opel. Have their new owners moved the HQ and plant out of town already? Perhaps the Vaux-blogging Astronaut would know. Still, four out of five German manufacturers (not counting far-off Wolfsburg) isn't bad.
>> Click 'Next' to read Mark's press day report from the Frankfurt motor show