In pursuit of history
When you head off on the Porsche Travel Experience Southern France, you are visiting a part of the world where driving thrills are ingrained – from the Monte Carlo Rally to the Monaco Grand Prix. After a relaxing stay at the Château Saint-Martin & Spa in medieval Vence, with its intoxicating view across the Côte d’Azur, the Porsche enthusiasts have a thrilling agenda ahead. It begins with a rollercoaster ride to the summit of the Col de Turini – an undisputed highlight of a driving experience that mixes the magic of modern sports cars with the racing history of this special corner of the world.
With its narrow roads, tight bends and spectacular landscape, the drive on the Col de Turini mountain pass is an experience that you will deposit in your memory bank and revisit over and over again. As we turn off the D70 from Sospel to La Bollène-Vésubie, it soon becomes clear that we are on a true racing road, one that was a big feature of Monte Carlo Rallies in the past. There are over 34 tricky, intoxicating hairpins to negotiate, topping out at 2,000 metres above sea level.
For even the most experienced drivers, full concentration is needed – we tackle these tight bends at a smidgeon under 20mph (30km/h). Here, it’s best not to think about the ever-looming proximity of the rock face. During the Porsche Travel Experience Southern France, we tend to take things a little slower. Not least because it gives you plenty of headspace to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime drive.
Travel Experience Southern France on the Monte Carlo Rally stage
After its founding in 1911 by Prince Albert I, the Monte Carlo Rally developed into one of the most famous events in the sport, one that world make the front pages of newspapers worldwide in its heyday, from the 1950s to 1970s. Only the best triumph here. Porsche managed it for the first time in 1968 and again in 1969 and 1970. Without doubt, it is the most famous race in all of rally sport. We negotiate the Col de Turini in perfect summertime weather, but in winter, weather conditions are extreme and the 15 mile-stretch (25km) up it is a challenge for even the most proficient of drivers.
It’s difficult to imagine – on this warm, sunlit Porsche Travel Experience Southern France day – the travails that face competitors on the Rally’s legendary night stage. Also known as the ‘Night of the Long Knives’, it’s often the deciding moment for victors or the vanquished. These roads, covered in snow in January, have signalled an end to many drivers’ dreams of victory. You have to work hard for your status as a racing legend up here. People like two-time former World Rally champion and Porsche legend Walter Röhrl – one of the most successful drivers of all time on the Monte Carlo Rally.
A pit stop that’s more than just desserts
Today, ours is a more relaxed journey, one that will help you fall in love with the picturesque landscape of the Alpes-Maritimes. After the challenge of the climb up to the pass, it’s the perfect moment for a well-earned break. We’re in good motorsport company in the traditional Les Trois Vallées restaurant, with its collection of memorabilia from the famous rally. It’s also home to a blueberry tart that is another reason why you will want to return here again one day. Recharged, we follow the last few miles of the Route des Grandes Alpes, heading for Menton. At this point, some extend their journey with a visit to the great Fragonard perfumery in nearby Grasse. Or just head back onto these fine roads, experiencing a sensory overload of a very different kind.
This story is part of the 25 Years of Porsche Travel Experience anniversary series. We take you on a virtual world tour around the globe – with a new, fascinating episode each week. Click here to read all stories.