As the Importer for Bahrain, Bob and I received invitations to meet up with our fellow colleagues from other markets. Porsche had divided their world market into several regions; Germany, USA, Great Britain, Europe and the Rest of the World. We fell into the Rest of the World and we soon became known as the Middle and Far East Importer group.
The first meeting was scheduled to be in Ludwigsburg and Porsche duly sent out invitations to us all. The event was to be spread over three days and we were housed in a hotel miles from anywhere. I remember asking privately why this and he said they did not want certain people going off chasing the nightlife in Stuttgart. We had a demanding programme ahead of us, and the Porsche management wanted everyone to participate. Later that day, Philip Kaes told me that Ali Bebehani from Kuwait, had a habit of attending these meetings and then going off to night clubs chasing women or go off to his flat in Geneva after the first day.
The first morning, we were picked up in a large bus and taken to Porsche Ludwigsburg. We had a meeting room where everyone had to introduce him or herself and say what their respective role was in their own organisation. Porsche staff then did the same. People had come from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Bob and I from Bahrain. I was most impressed and it was good to network with different people talking about their respective markets and challenges.
Porsche had arranged for a number of so called competitor cars from other manufacturers to be made available to us to drive. These included a Mercedes 500SL, BMW635CSI, Datsun 280Z and a Mazda RX7. The idea was to compare these with all the current Porsche models, which we also had waiting for us downstairs in the parking area. Everyone was put into pairs and given a car and a map. We were all to drive about 30kms by a combination of regular roads and Autobahn and to meet up for coffee at a particular restaurant.
It was winter in Germany and Porsche had arranged for us all to get a cream coloured rally jacket each upon arrival and we all had our individual names embroidered on the front, which was a nice touch. Unfortunately there was a mix up with sizes and mine was too small for me. However they gave me a larger one to wear from the stock and I kept the smaller one in my hotel room.
Herbert Layda and I were paired up together and the first car we got was a Porsche 930 turbo on snow tyres. We could only drive a maximum of 130kms per hour so we had to take it very easy. After coffee we all swapped cars and we got landed with a Datsun 280Z which was a complete let down after the 930 turbo. We then met back at Ludwigsburg for lunch in the works canteen. We were out again in the afternoon and we all drove another two cars each. After tea in the countryside we all set off together and drove back to Ludwigsburg.
Shortly everyone was in the meeting room except the two guys from Hong Kong. As time went on, Porsche management were getting very uneasy and concerned, but shortly after the two men appeared to a round of hand clapping from the rest of us. However all was not right, as they looked quite shaken up. It turned out they had been in an accident and turned the wrong way out of a junction and hit another car. As they were from Hong Kong, they were used to driving on the left side of the road and had no experience of driving on the right side as in Germany. They were both unharmed and were more concerned about getting money to pay for the taxi downstairs. Porsche took over and got it sorted out and we continued our meeting.
The following day I drove the Mazda RX7 followed by a Porsche 924 which were meant to be comparable and then a Porsche 911 and the BMW Coupe. It was all good experience and we all met up again in Ludwigsburg at the end of the afternoon. Everyone was back in our meeting room safely but yet again the two guys from Hong Kong were missing. It was nearly an hour before one of them finally came asking if he could have money to pay the taxi downstairs. Everyone froze and the Porsche staff member saying, “Oh no, not again!” However, it was fine as they had got lost and had hired a taxi to follow back to Porsche Ludwigsburg to the relief of everyone.