“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien


"Everybody dies. Not everybody really lives."



The saddest sound in the world is a man saying, "I wish I'd have done that."



Monday, August 25, 2014

Ultimate Porsche Driving Experience

A fast, fun day driving the world's premier performance cars at one of America's premier road courses.  The Ultimate Porsche Driving Experience, a one day, high speed driving exercise in the seats of Porsche's newest models, takes place at various race courses around the country.  I drove at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, in my opinion the best and most attractive road course in the United States.



First up for the day were the new Cayenne and Macan Turbo SUVs through the off road outback of the Barber property. Fun, but not what I came for.  I was ready for speed.





I soon got my wish.  We climbed into a bright yellow Cayman S for triple-digit-speed laps around Barber's 2.38 mile road course.  A sweet little 325 horsepower, mid-engine sports car that will amaze you with its cornering and balance.  You can lap Barber as fast as your ability will allow--and in a Cayman that is FAST.  After the Cayman S I stepped up to the 911 Carrera S, a 380 horsepower rear-engined beast.  Definitely a superior level in terms of raw speed and acceleration but in my mind not as balanced or easy to drive.

Next up; the Panamera, a 4-door sports car that is nice but sedate after the Cayman and 911--not my cup of tea.  I then strapped in for a ride-along with a professional race driver.  I thought I had put down some hot lap times but two turns into the ride-along lap and I knew this lap was going to be a lot faster than I had driven.  I was whipped through corners at speed at least 30 MPH faster than I had accomplished and I quickly realized that I would need LOTS more seat time to be competitive with a pro.
Multiple laps got the adrenaline going and we moved to a paved lot for the lane change drill, a (relatively) low speed exercise between lines of traffic cones to test suspension transition abilities. Fun, but a letdown after the race course hot laps.

video
Next up:  the wet skid pad, a parking-lot-sized plat of tarmac wetted down by sprinklers where we practice driving in wet conditions and recovering from spins. Where else can you deliberately spin $90,000 worth of German metal?  WooHoo!

Finally, the autocross course.  A traffic-coned, twisty layout that provides short straights interlaced with snaking curves and 90-degree turns, the autocross is more fun than I expect, mainly because I am driving a $98,000 Cayman S with carbon ceramic brakes that drag the car down with incomprehensible quickness.  If I weren't securely held in by a shoulder harness I would plant my skull in the windshield every time I hit the brake pedal.   There's only one way to put it--the Cayman S is FAST.






$844,000 Porsche 918 Spyder.  No, I didn't get to drive it.


$83,000 paint job.



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