Porsche AG had arranged to have several introduction meetings in Estoril, Portugal to launch the new 944 turbo. The Middle and Far East importers were the last group to be hosted and a number of familiar faces arrived for this event on 24 March 1985.
Upon arrival at our hotel we met up for the usual drinks and dinner and were given the agenda for the next few days.
Porsche had bought six new 944 Turbo’s to Portugal along with a supply of unleaded fuel from Germany, which was not available in Portugal at that time. They hired the Estoril racing circuit for a couple of weeks as they had other Importers from Europe for their respective 944 Turbo launches before us.
After breakfast the next day, the bus took us all to Estoril racetrack for the first day. The programme was to each of us to drive a 944 turbo around the circuit to test performance and compare the feel and overall lap times. Porsche were claiming that there was no perceivable difference with a catalytic convertor fitted and we all drove the cars not knowing which was which. We took it in turns due to the limited number of cars and also to reduce numbers on the track at any one time. I must say I could not tell of any difference when my turn came around.
However, I nearly had a big accident on my second lap as after hurtling down the main straight flat out, I braked rather late for the first right hand corner and nearly went off into the barriers! I got a grip of myself and slowed things down a bit but I soon had a similar problem on another corner and then another one? I did another complete lap and this time I was prepared for the first corner after the main straight, which I got round successfully, but I knew something was not quite right with my cars brakes, so I decided I would pit as soon as possible. When one of the engineers from Porsche asked me what was wrong I said the brakes felt all wrong. He did not seem surprised and told me to take another car out and use that.
I spoke with Herbert later and he said that all the 944 turbo’s had taken a hammering from all the different drivers over the past weeks and the brake disks were needing replacing after so much intensive track use.
The following day, we all set off in pairs to follow a pre-determined course that had been mapped out for us. It was a kind of treasure hunt and we had to navigate and drive around country roads and check in at different places. The idea was to see the 944 turbo handle around demanding roads and it was great fun. I was teamed up with one of Fred Schulz’s ladies from Ludwigsburg, called Renate and she wanted me to drive whilst she navigated. We were on the road for a couple of hours and all met up at a restaurant for lunch. Fortunately everyone arrived within 30 minutes of each other and no accidents.
That evening we were given a lovely dinner in Lisbon and our place settings at the dinner table were identified by a piece of unique pottery with our “family name on one side and 944 TURBO” on the other, which I thought was a very nice touch indeed.
The following morning, I was feeling pretty sick with the flu, so I had a quiet day in my hotel before flying on to England.
The Porsche 944 turbo was going to be a good seller and it reminded me of when the 911 2.7 Carrera was introduced in 1973. The 944 turbo felt just right and it was a delightful combination of power and handling coupled with Porsche engineering. Whilst it would never be a 911 to purists, it was an equal in its own way in the new generation of water-cooled models.
Subsequent to this Porsche went on to produce a limited number of special Porsche 944 Carrera GT cars a few years later and raced the car extensively. We decided not to import any of the Carrera GT models as we were worried about the excessive temperatures in our territory, plus supporting a special edition car was not economical for us in our market.