Day 19 – 11/02/2011

Guangzhou – Hong Kong

The last stage, the grand finale – after 16 days on the road, after more than 5,700 kilometers and after a vast range of sights and sounds for every participant, the Audi Q3 Trans China Tour 2011 arrives today at its final destination. The gleaming white finish ramp in Shenzhen is the endpoint of a great journey through a land that is wonderful for many and fascinating for all. The 20 Samoa orange Audi Q3s remain here – and, thanks to their compelling qualities, have earned a place in the heart of every participant. The drivers are allowed to travel on to Hong Kong, for one last highlight in an amazing global city.

Pictures day 19

Admittedly, this final stage does not present any great driving challenge – with a schedule consisting of highway and major city. The region around Shenzhen is one of the world’s factories, one of the centers of global electronics production. Endless rows of factory halls to the left and right of the highway bear testament to its enormous productivity. At the heart of it all is the absolutely unbelievable city of Shenzhen. In the space of the last two decades, it has developed from village to one of the world’s mega-cities with a population of at least ten million. Every building seems brand new, every one of them huge – nothing here is done by half.

Each Audi Q3 made its own way along the 16 stages – free and independent of the other vehicles, directed only by its MMI navigation system and the respective waypoints. Naturally, the drivers tended to gather together in little groups along the way, but every driver has their own speed, not to mention their own ideas for little detours and stopovers – perhaps a village market or a rice paddy, or maybe even a big city shopping mall.

But now, shortly before the final destination, a neat convoy is the order of the day – 20 new Audi Q3s painted in Samoa orange, which is a highly unusual color on Chinese roads, and decorated with the Tour logos. They make for an impressive image rolling toward the city center. The finish line is at the Shenzhen Concert Hall, a modern temple of music built by Arata Isozaki and fitted with 1,700 seats. Water cascades down the exterior façade and, in front of it, stands the finish ramp like a gleaming white sculpture. Starting number by starting number, the cars are waved through – a great journey comes to an end.

It is a journey that none of the participants will forget. It presented the huge country of China from many of its different perspectives. The super-modernity of the big cities, as well as the tradition of the farming villages. In many places, the Tour showed the dynamism of the development ongoing in this country, especially the enormous investment in the transport infrastructure. In other places, however, it was also clear just how much work is needed to put the entire country on this path to the future.

Video day 19

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After the start in Beijing, the route took the first group of participants through the rapidly developing major cities of the East like Jinan and Quingdao to the mega-metropolis of Shanghai with its spectacular skyline and its extreme traffic. With its compact dimensions, excellent dynamics and optimum visibility, the Audi Q3 proved ideal for the chaos on the streets of major Chinese cities.

Right on the banks of Shanghai’s Bund, the second group took possession of the vehicles and continued the Tour toward the South. On largely new and very well-built highways, the Audi Q3 demonstrated its excellent long-distance comfort. The route headed along China’s east coast, through a region with an enormous degree of economic dynamism and rapidly growing wealth – which also drew attention to the enormous potential for the development of the premium vehicle segment in this land. Shenzhen was the staging post. In less than two decades, it has developed into a metropolis of 14 million inhabitants.

The third and the fourth group were also able to experience the robust potential of the new SUV with quattro permanent all-wheel drive in an off-road environment. From the expansive industrial region around Shenzhen, the route led primarily along small roads and tracks in the incredibly scenic region around Guilin with its stunning karst hills and miles of rice paddies. Despite the foreign surroundings, there were no real orientation problems to speak of. The MMI navigation system in the Audi Q3 knows around three million kilometers of road in China; even small off-road tracks are digitized.

The official route amounted to around 5,700 kilometers. However, each one of the Q3s drove somewhat more than that, some up to 6,000 kilometers. All too often, temptation called for little detours left and right of the route. One of the real surprises of the drive was surely the absence of any major damage or accidents. A couple of scratches, two flat tires – otherwise, no faults or breakdowns. That may well be expected of Audi quality – but the drivers from the West, too, obviously adapted very well to the idiosyncratic rules of the road here.

And now, the final destination is the global metropolis of Hong Kong. The cars have to stay in Shenzhen as they are not registered for the former British colony and present-day Chinese “special administrative zone”. Apart from that, traffic there still drives on the left. For the participants, however, the Hong Kong skyline offers the best possible finale to the tour.

Zhóng guó Zaì Jiàn – Goodbye, China.

Day 19

Day 1