I’ve always been more of a photographer than a driver, and 200 mph seemed pretty fast to me. Sure, the 917 had punched out some 240 mph at Le Mans many years before on that supremely long and then un-chicaned back straight, but numbers above 200 were well beyond my experience or expectation, even with someone else doing the driving. Still, that was one of the plans for that day at the huge old abandoned Russian airbase just outside of Berlin.
The occasion was the press launch of the Carrera GT in late 2003, and the unlikely site, with its decaying barracks for now-departed military staff and camouflaged bunkers for MIG fighters standing alert, still offered high grade concrete, and a lot of it. This was a good thing; our ability to drive the cars on the highway had been limited by a previous press group (I’m not sure, but I think they were from a country to the south that strongly favors red cars). These unbridled enthusiasts had already trashed two Carrera GTs before we arrived. Rumor was that one had been wound up way too tight, and the other had met an immovable object. So—for us, less unmonitored street time and more time on the runway with the remaining cars.
I was quietly relieved that I wouldn’t be expected to go out and push the GT to its limits—it would have surely found mine first. Porsche’s driver and instructor for the day was ex-European Rally champ Walter Röhrl, always one of our favorite people on these trips, and with thousands of development miles under his belt. Completely unflappable to the point of appearing to believe that nothing could possibly go wrong, he was nevertheless completely focused in the car. Look at those eyes and his demeanor in the image. This man is not daydreaming.
We started our run well down the runway, the building visible at the end far away and tiny. It was a little bit like falling out of a tree and watching the ground come up to meet you; I don’t remember ever seeing a small building become so big (and solid!) in so short a time. Just after the GPS speedometer between my feet touched 335 kph, some 208 mph, Röhrl summoned the ceramic brakes with nose-bleed effect to avoid a home invasion, circled around and did it back the other way. And he and the Carrera GT did it over and over and over. Impressive.