To celebrate the holidays we look back at some of the highlights of the past GTspirit Year! In this first part of our Christmas special we tell some untold stories and share what happened behind the scenes of the most memorable events from January til June 2014.
We wish you happy holidays and all the best for the new year! I look forward to welcoming you back to GTspirit.com next year on behalf of the entire GTspirit Team!
We kicked the year off in January with the MBRT14, a road trip from Houston to Detroit with several Mercedes-Benz cars and a special guest – the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class which was celebrating its world premiere at the finish of MBRT14 in Detroit.
The tour lead us through the heart of the United States all the way up from warm and sunny Texas via buzzing Nashville to freezing cold Detroit. We travelled with a group of international journalist, including Markus from Germany, Gianluca from Italy and Gonzague from France. The four of us decided we wanted to visit the famous Fort Knox Bullion Depository. Little did we know that there are no tourist facilities at all, no viewing platform, no gift shop, nothing!
We could see the home of the gold from the side of the road and continued to find the entrance. Suddenly a big gate showed up with tanks on either side. Me and Markus realized this was not the entrance to the Fort Knox museum but Gonzague and Gianluca drove their S-Class right up to the gate and told the soldier they wanted to go in. What followed was total confusion until the soldier convinced the Italian and the French strangers that this was not a tourist attraction but in fact a military base. Minutes later when all the cueing cars behind them made way, we met up again and laughed about this little international incident ever since.
The Detroit Motor Show is the first motor show on our annual motor show calendar and a very pleasant one to cover as media. The show is much smaller than Geneva, Frankfurt or Paris and there are fewer people too.
Days after our return from Detroit McLaren called if we fancied a trip to Bahrain to drive the McLaren P1. You can guess what my answer was! Sadly the trip wasn’t perfect, first my flight got cancelled and I arrived in Bahrain via Doha at 4 in the morning. Missing out on a good part of the morning program, conditions became worse when it started raining and the dry desert roads turned into mud fields. Not ideal for a 900hp+ hypercar but we took it out for a spin anyway and were not unimpressed as you can read in our preview and review.
The next day we went to Bahrain International Circuit to drive the P1 on the circuit with a handful of other journalists. Sadly again luck was not on our side when another journalist slid into a curb and bend the rear suspension. This meant our program was cut short considerably and all we could do the rest of the day was drive the P1 around at 30 km/h for some photography. Nonetheless the McLaren P1 is a spectacular machine and holds one of the top positions on our most desirable cars list.
Every car factory is interesting and different, but visiting the workshop of McLaren Special Operations is something unique. Coming in through a small hallway we were greeted by several models of what could be the most desirable car of the last 30 years; the McLaren F1! Seeing so many of these multi-million supercars up close is definitely one of the highlights of the year.
By far one of the most bizarre creations we have worked with this year is the Mansory Carbonado. Not only the looks but also the sound is hard to forget. Mansory brought the Carbonado to a private airfield in Southern Germany and gave two GTspirit photographers the opportunity to do whatever they liked.
We drove the Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG in Southern Spain. At press introductions of new cars the manufacturer usually has a carefully planned schedule and route set out for journalists to enjoy. This includes coffee, lunch and dinner stops and usually leaves little room for alternative routes. But with the GLA 45 AMG we skipped most of the official program and went up to the Sierra Nevada ski resort with my favorite manufacturer photographer; Dirk Wehyenmeyer. Our timing was perfect and we enjoyed one of the most spectacular sun sets high in the mountains above the clouds.
A brand new Maserati Ghibli S Q4, a private mountain and blue sky? Perfect combination for an incredible day in Seefeld and Kuhtai. On the way down from Kuhtai to the Ötztal the Ghibli showed its greatest strength and weaknesses at the same time. As we followed a local Seat driver down the Ghibli cornered through the various hairpins like no other car in this segment. But at the end of the mountain the other side of the coin showed, the brakes clearly had enough.
The single most important motor show in the world for GTspirit. It is near impossible to find a decent hotel in a 50 kilometer radius around the Palexpo exhibition center so we stayed miles away in France and survive on a few hours of sleep and loads of coffee. It has become a running gag within the GTspirit Team that we only go to Geneva to eat Volkswagen’s curry wurst served every day for lunch at the Volkswagen hospitality.
One of the few times this year that we ‘interacted’ with the police was during the photo shoot of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class in Marseille. I was staring into the distance as I followed the photographer in a Mercedes-Benz ML. Suddenly I see a Peugeot of some sort flying around the corner in the rear view mirror. The car had a blue flashing light on the roof and I pulled over to the right. The car stops right behind me and two policemen storm out to the ML who stopped in front of me. They talked to the ML driver and after a few minutes they let us go with a warning for driving with the trunk of the ML open. I was glad they completely ignored me as I left my drivers license in the hotel.
Driving a Mercedes SLR McLaren is a feat on its own. But things get even more interesting with a tricked out MSO Edition. It is impossible to go anywhere without people looking and pointing at the creation.
The Audi S1 made it into the top 10 cars we have driven this year! Why you may wonder? Well everything about it was just as we wanted it to be. Very direct steering, hard suspension, great manual and a proper sound. We drove it up- and down Swedish mountain passes all day long and wish we could go back for more.
Auto China shocked us. It is the most atypical motor show press day you can imagine. From the painstakingly slow traffic to get to the venue to the military presence at the entrance. Then once you make it inside nothing shows sign that it is actually a press day we are attending. Thousands of families, elderly people and busloads of youngsters stand in your way every where you go. Inside it is hot, sticky and sweaty, outside the smock tries to kill you instantly. And don’t even think about using the restrooms.
After adapting to the unusual circumstances, there are plenty of interesting things to see though. The press conferences of most Chinese manufacturers had great similarities with those of the North Korean government. And we found more than two dozen exact copies of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi cars. Sometimes even built by official importers of exactly those brands that they copied.
That the life of a car photographer is not all fun and joy is illustrated by Philipp’s story from the Porsche event in Morocco. Often GTspirit team members have to share a car with a journalist of photographer from another publication. We rarely have any issues but in this case the journalist driving the Macan in Morocco hit a ditch and flipped the Macan on its side. Luckily both Philipp in the passenger seat as the driver walked away unharmed. The Macan was flipped back on its wheels with the help of some locals but was undrivable after the accident.
Ever dreamed of driving around a theme park in the middle of the night? That is exactly what we did! Sadly the rain made the photographers job a bit harder but it was great fun to roam around a deserted amusement park after dark.
The most incredible car collection we have seen and shot first hand this year. We are still speechless.
Jon Olsson was kind enough to let us shoot the unique Rebellion R2k in Munich. I didn’t tell our photographer Tobias what he was supposed to be shooting that day and he was in shock as the Rebellion R2k drove in front of us on the street all of a sudden. Also the truckers at the railway yard couldn’t believe their eyes.
Our photographer Philipp joined ABT for a road trip from Kempten to Budapest. Crossing one of our favorite mountain passes in the Alps: the Grossglockner and various other true driving roads he still talks about this trip today.
I like to thank the GTspirit Team, our contributors, readers, fans and partners for the remarkable year!
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of our Christmas Special 2014!