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Porsche driving experience

Porsche driving experience
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When Porsche calls, you answer.

I was given the opportunity to visit the new Porsche Driving Experience centre at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park earlier this summer for a small sample of what’s on offer. Yes, it’s as good as you already think it would be.

We were given a small taste of a much larger curriculum that offers tailored instruction to drivers of all skill levels. Drivers can start off with no experience (and no Porsche for that matter), and attain race licensing through this school. Given the level of instructors available, this could be a great way to go if your pockets are deep enough. While we weren’t given a full breakdown of all costs for all tiers of instruction, the pricing for the entry level was actually very reasonable given the caliber of service, instruction, and hospitality that guests experience. 

Upon arrival I was greeted by a lineup of fresh-off-the-shelf 911 Carrera S and 718 Cayman S cars parked neatly in front of the new Porsche facility. The building is a typically Porsche facility which is a comfortable place to spend days learning. The course runs on the updated driver development track.

The Exercises

We were given the opportunity to run through a very contracted set of exercises aimed at growing driver confidence and helping drivers of all levels understand the behaviour of cars closer to their limits, and do so in a safe environment. 

After a briefing, the first exercise set for my group involved jumping straight into the new turbocharged 911 Carrera S. We each got into our own car, and went out onto track. We were told to start accelerating as quickly as possible to 80km/h toward a sharp-ish right hand turn (with an intimidating concrete wall behind it) and that we shouldn’t be braking until told by the instructor over a radio in the car. This was a mixed bag as my radio cut out on the second run and I never received the ‘brake’ command. As I didn’t want to be the one person to stuff a brand new 911S into a concrete wall on the first day of the school, I aborted and braked late, only to hear the ‘nope, too late, on my command’ crackle over the radio as mine decided to come back to life at exactly the wrong time.

In-car radios for this kind of exercise may not be as prudent as a well placed instructor using hand signals in the line of sight of the participants.  All the same, it definitely demonstrated how stable the 911 is when making mid-corner braking adjustments in a somewhat panicked state;  it never missed a beat despite my sweaty-palmed and ham-fisted inputs.

After a few more runs at the wall, everyone was confident in the 911, and we were sent to switch with another group driving the new 718 S around a semi-Gymkhana course that involved some slaloming through cones, a large radius left hand turn, a few more sharp course changes, and concluded with having to brake inside a fixed box. Not stopping inside the box resulted in a DQ, which I got on my final run unfortunately by a couple of feet. Despite this, I more than spanked the rest of the group by a few seconds ;) I was impressed by how un-intimidating the 718 S was and how quickly you can jump into the car and start extracting performance without being a hooligan.

The Cars.

Following the introductory exercises we were promptly sent out onto the full track, running it in reverse and following an instructor car as a pack. The instructor would slow at a fixed point on each lap allowing whoever was immediately following him to cycle to the back of the pack. This meant everyone got the opportunity to both see the instructors line first hand, and if they had the confidence push the car as fast as the instructor could. I loved this approach myself. Although it was a bit frustrating getting stuck behind the slower participants, that was more a product I think of the cross-section of people on our particular day being “social media” people, not a pack of enthusiasts.

The new 911S with the somewhat controversial turbo 3.0L was a wonderful car to drive. Without broad experience driving 911’s I can only say that it handled quite neutrally, had gobs of grip — far more than could be exploited on a track as tight as DDT with the group we had. The engine note left something to be desired even with the car flipped into its most aggressive sport settings. An exhaust would be the first thing on my list if I could swing the payments. Steering was quite positive, but coming from the NSX with no power steering my standards for feedback and input are very high. The car has a taught smoothness though that it’s hard to really describe until you’ve driven one in anger around corners repeatedly.

The 718 S, also now turbocharged, felt surprisingly similar to my NSX in certain ways. Obviously far smoother and much more progressive grip levels than the NSX, it also felt faster by seat of the pants (it certainly better) in a straight line, and had far lighter steering (again, it better).  The differences ended fell away though when tossing it around. The way it rotates once stuck into a corner felt very familiar, as did the way it transferred weight around. This I assume falls to the fact that both cars are mid-engined and have similar moments of inertia and contact patches. The 911S is no doubt faster in the hands of a seasoned pro simply by virtue of the horsepower advantage, but dollar for dollar the 718 S felt far more accessible as a car on track. I had zero scary moments when finding some of the cars limits; grip let go progressively in both over and understeer situations. It was easy to catch the car and have fun rather than leave an unfortunate stain on the seats… or a concrete wall. 

Any enthusiast would of course appreciate the opportunity to flog some of Porsche’s newest hardware on a track, but I was especially thankful for the opportunity to poke the brains of some of the most seasoned instructors around for tips on handling the cars, and driving on track in general. I can’t recommend this experience enough if you’re an owner, or even just loyal to the brand. It would make an amazing gift for an enthusiast, and allows you to access the limits of cars I’m not sure I’d have the pockets deep enough to abuse on track, even if I could make the monthly payments!


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