June 4, Day 4: It’s mid-morning and time for Porsche Track Experience Part 2: The Big Track. After practicing fundamentals early in the morning, I am ready to barrel down straights, squeal through corners, and fly over hills lapping the Barber track.
Well, at least I think I am…
My fellow drivers in Group 6 take the wheel of our cars lined up behind our instructor, Andrew. We adjust seats, belts, and steering. These cars are all “stock” Porsches you could buy off the showroom floor, fitted with summer tires. Thank goodness, as that means they have air conditioning. Our helmets are hot and heavy, this being Alabama in June.
“Stock” belittles the capability of these cars. A Camry or Malibu goes 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds. The mid-engine Porsche Cayman GTS, the most modest of the cars I drove, spins 394hp and is sprints from 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds. The 911 Turbo S gets there in 2.6 seconds with 640 ponies. While the cars wear through tires and brakes quickly on the track, the instructor says these cars track-dedicated cars get 100,000 miles on the transmission. That is some fine engineering; color me impressed.
The Taycan Turbo S is Porsche’s all-electric answer to Tesla. With 750 horsepower, accelerating feels like being whipped out of a slingshot… 0-60 mph in 2.4 seconds! It’s a beautiful car too. Watch out Tesla!
My favorite car to drive was the 911 Carrera S, naturally aspirated with 443 hp. In Sport+ driving mode, it howls around the track. I love my 2015 Boxster, but maybe there is something to the 911 (don’t tell Jean)!
On the Track
And we are off. Our little red Porsches follow like ducklings behind Andrew, our mother duck. “Ok, we are going to start slow and boring,” Andrew cackles over the radio. “You will wonder why we are wearing helmets. Just stay with me, keep it tight”.
The instructors have conveniently staged the track for teaching: orange cones indicate the racing line, large yellow “BRAKE” signs preceding each corner, and green cones at each apex. “Brake means BRAKE HARD, at the sign, and not before,” Andrew reminds us. At 20-30 mph, we dip and wind through the carousel, the corkscrew, the hairpin, and the esses. Lazy and fun. What braking?
Andrew picks up the pace with each lap. “Stay with me,” he chides. Then 40, then 50, then 70, then 90 mph. “Brake hard, cut now,” “accelerate out of the curve,” “you can’t see the track ahead, but you know it’s there, so go faster!”, and finally, “KEEP UP FOLKS, KEEP IT TIGHT!” Tires squeal as we learn to take the curves at higher speeds, and engines wail as we reach 120 mph in the short straights before squealing the tires again as we brake for the next bend. Only once does a classmate miss the corkscrew and skid across the grass. No one notices but me (I was right behind her). She corrected and was on her way. Excellent recovery, Denise, well done.
The Hot Lap
We lap our last time at about 4:15. I am feeling a bit cocky. I’ve got this. Grand Prix, here I come. Now for our final activity, a “hot lap” with an instructor. I am ready, and first in line to ride.
We hit 60 mph before we exit the pit. The rear wheels dance around the first two corners as Rich, my driver, taps the inside apex rumble strip. Accelerate, accelerate up and over the crest of the hill, and my stomach leaps along with the car. Then BAM! Violent braking before screeching through the hairpin and accelerating back to 120 mph as we approach the corkscrew. In the passenger seat, I am whipping about like a weed in a windstorm. As we round the last corner and coast off the track, Rich says, “Well, that was my one minute of fun for the day.”
I compare the video and stats from the hot lap to my own. The cars will only accelerate so fast on the straights, regardless of who’s foot is pegged to the floor. The difference is that Rich drives “at the edge” when cornering, tires shrieking at the edge of traction. Look at the G-forces in the photo’s below. I maxed at 1.01G on Turn 2; Rich hit 1.71 Gs in the corkscrew. Late, hard braking, and speed through the curves.
As we chat after the hot lap, I hear that a Blue Angel took the class, and got motion sickness on the hot lap So there’s that…
Maybe I’m not quite ready for the Grand Prix. But I am thinking about the 911, and about the 2-day Porsche Masters course…