Day 9 – 10/23/2011

Xiamen – Shenzhen

A great distance has to be covered today, too – destination Shenzhen at the gates of Hong Kong. The eighth stage leads along the coast toward the south, through beautiful landscape and into one of China’s most important centers of commerce. For the drivers of the second group, however, this is the end of the road. They hand over the baton to the next wave of participants.

Pictures Day 9

A marathon is run over a distance of just under 42.2 kilometers and demands a considerable degree of physical fitness. Our marathon route is significantly longer. However, we have at our disposal a comfortable and fast car in the shape of the Audi Q3. Hugging the coastline, the 608-kilometer route takes us from Xiamen to Shenzhen in Guangdong Province, and right to the gates of Hong Kong. There are no exciting off-road stretches planned for today, with the preferred type of carriageway being multi-lane highway.

The crossover from Fujian into Guangdong Province takes place around three hours into the drive. From a historical perspective, the coastal region of Guangdong has long been a center of trade and communication with the outside world. The ancient Romans found their way here as far back as the 2nd century, while Arab merchants established the first commercial relationships around the time of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 B.C.). The first European merchant ships reached Guangdong in the middle of the 16th century.

With more than 105 inhabitants, the province is now the most populous in China and also one of the wealthiest. As part of a new economic policy, 1978 saw the cities of Shantou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai designated as special economic zones – as a kind of test model. At the same time, the economic system in the entire province was extensively liberalized. The two former colonies and present-day special administrative zones of Hong Kong and Macao border directly with Guangdong.

Shenzhen has a population of around 14 million (perhaps even more, but nobody knows for sure), making it larger than the provincial capital of Guangzhou around 100 kilometers away. Even by Chinese standards this counts as a “real” major city. Right next door to Hong Kong, Shenzhen has developed over the last thirty years to become the city with the highest per-capita income in all of China.

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Even more surprising is that the participants of the Audi Q3 Trans China Tour notice very little of this. The highway snakes its way elegantly into the city. To the left, glittering glimpses of the sea and to the right, rolling hills and higher mountains. The newly constructed residential blocks here are offered as second homes for the well-to-do. But where are the factories that supply our western world with all those electronics, cell phones and computers, with vacuum cleaners and washing machines and with so much more? They are behind the mountains, some distance further inland.

As previously mentioned, Shenzhen is a wealthy city. It can afford a striking concert hall, built by Aarata Isozaki and fitted with 1,700 seats. And with water pouring down its façade. On this spot stands the Audi Tour Terminal, already familiar from Beijing and Shanghai and here no less suitably incorporated into its surroundings. The afternoon sun lies low in the sky when the participants arrive. They are greeted by Andre Lotterer, a real-life Le Mans winner, who waves the checkered flag.

The second wave of the Audi Q3 Trans China Tour is at an end; half of the stages have now been completed. But exciting days still lie ahead of the team – on Tuesday, the third group will start their leg of the tour. But before that there is still time to get to know the fascinating metropolis of Hong Kong.

As a side bar, it should be noted that the 20 Audi Q3s have been running smoothly and without problem. It was not until today that two of the vehicles required a wheel change. Both of them ran over lost cargo on the carriageway…

Day 9

Day 1