Day 8 – 10/22/2011

Fuzhou – Xiamen

The Audi Q3 Trans China Tour has arrived in the tropics. Skeptics are quickly convinced – with an off-road route leading through banana groves, rows of cacti and forests of bamboo. Even Le Mans champion André Lotterer is impressed, “This tour is a real experience for me. And the Audi Q3 is so much fun to drive, especially on narrow, winding roads and through the mountains.”

Pictures day 8

André Lotterer is a fast man. This year saw him take the crown of endurance racing – he won Le Mans with the Audi R18 TDI after one of the toughest races in the history of this legendary motorsport classic. Today, his “mission” is far more relaxed. As a guest on the Trans China Tour, he is also obliged to stick to the laws of the road and the speed limits, just like every other participant. Nevertheless, his experience in the battle for first place helps him even in the classic Chinese traffic jam. It is a matter of principle here not to be thwarted.

Lotterer lives in the Japanese capital of Tokyo. But, while Japan may not be that far away from China on the globe, the style of behavior on the roads is worlds away. “Tokyo is like Europe,” says André, “Everything is very civilized and disciplined. China is a completely different world. I first had to get used to this freestyle struggle with everybody else on the road.” But the Le Mans champion finds it quite to his liking, “After all, I’m a bit of a freestyle driver myself.”

The lighter the car, the more dynamic its character, the racing driver is well aware of this. And it is for this reason that he is extremely satisfied with Audi’s compact SUV. “You notice in every corner that lightweight design features heavily in the Q3. For an SUV, the Q3 is amazingly agile,” says a satisfied Lotterer. And today offers plenty of corners.

Video day 8

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The highway from Fuzhou along the China Sea is basically just the prelude to a little trip into real greenery. The stunning off-road course leads through idyllic, densely forested mountain scenery and offers impressive panoramas from the very center of Fujian’s unspoilt countryside. By now, it is clearly evident why the province is described as being “eight parts mountain, one part water and one part farmland”. We have most definitely arrived in the tropics – bananas are the crop of choice and the roads are flanked by huge cactus plants.

Today, the Audi Q3 is permitted to show its more robust side – the road surface changes constantly, aged asphalt with pot holes and bumps, old-fashioned cobblestones, dusty sand and gravel tracks. A few villages look like it has been a very long time indeed since a vehicle passed through – fruit, building materials, children and chickens are frequent features of this route, and call for extreme vigilance. A lake appears, swollen by a dam and complete with a power station. The project is currently being expanded and a large proportion of the valley we are driving through is set to be submerged in the next few years. And, in a surprising side note, we find that even this tiny road through the middle of nowhere is clearly shown in the MMI navigation system of the Audi Q3. This demonstrates just how well this country has been digitized. The system recognizes a total of three million kilometers of road.

The Audi Q3 Trans China Tour heads back to the asphalt and this afternoon passes the Xiamen city boundary. Xiamen is located on an island connected to the mainland by a five-kilometer dam and several bridges. The old town, famous for its colonial architecture, is situated close to the ferry terminal at the southwest of the island. Somewhat outside of the city, close to Xiamen University, the Buddhist Nanputo Temple looks back on more than one thousand years of history and is still in use to this day.

As a side note – one of the drivers that yesterday had to undergo an extremely detailed police checkpoint is controlled this morning once more in Fuzhou. But this time, the check is considerably more pleasant. Although the officer is initially distrusting of the “lao wai” (foreigner), the correct vehicle documents calm the mood considerably, he is simply bowled over by the wonderful little plastic drivers’ license. A shake of the hand and even a slap on the shoulder indicate the friendly understanding, with a group photo thrown in for good measure. The fact of the matter is, that regardless of language and cultural differences, a smile is understood the world over.

Day 8

Day 1