Racer for a day: Porsche Driving Experience

Posted by Shane Kalicharan about 4 years ago

Photos courtesy of Bonar Bulger, Steak + Sizzle

What did you want to be when you grew up? Ask anyone with even a minimal interest in cars and driving, and chances are, you’ll find more than a few people who wanted to be a race car driver. Among various factors, the financial barrier that blocks many from entering motorsport means the majority of us will never achieve that dream. But that doesn’t mean we have to give up on it entirely. There are still ways to experience that dream – and walk away a better driver for it. Enter the Porsche Driving Experience.


Taking place just outside of Toronto, Porsche’s program at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (formerly Mosport) features a cast of wickedly talented drivers and a cast of capable vehicles ready to take on the track. But perhaps most importantly, you’ll also be privy to exercises and lessons that will make you a much better driver on the road in the end. Through repetition and continuous practice, Porsche’s drivers will (very respectfully) drill lessons into your head that not only give you more confidence behind the wheel, but make you safer too.


When you get in your car, chances are you’ve set up the steering and seat to be comfortable for you. Maybe you like to be high up, or perhaps more leaned back and almost lounging. But ideally, you want your seat and steering set up so you can touch the top of the wheel with your wrist, and you can fully apply your foot to the brake with a gentle bend in your knee. Not only is this safer, it’s also less strenuous. If you ever thought driving around a track wasn’t much different than daily driving, this program will open your eyes and give you a small fraction of the physicality involved.


First on the agenda – the slalom course. A series of pylons set up in a formation including some tight corners, a wide turn and a nice straight designed to give you a sense of what the car is capable of. It’ll also serve as practice for emergency lane changes in real life on the road. To conquer this, we were handed the keys to a nearly factory fresh Porsche 718 Cayman. Every car in the Porsche experience is completely street legal with no track modifications.


With the help and guidance of Porsche’s instructors, and to the credit of their engineers, navigating the course isn’t difficult at all. In fact, as you do it more, you will almost certainly improve your time with each run. But no matter how good you are, unless you grew up as a racer, it’s difficult to overcome that mental barrier we have that stops us from pushing a car beyond our fear. And unless you race for a living, it’s probably best to keep it that way. Especially when you’re in a high performance mid-engine sports car that does not belong to you. But what can you take away from an exercise like this? The ability to properly brake and steer at high speed. Master how you and the car respond to such inputs and you’ll be a more effective and prepared driver on the roads.


After the slalom, it was time to hit CTMP’s Driver Development Track in Porsche 911’s of three flavours: a RWD 911, AWD 911 and the more stripped out lightweight 911 T. There are so many different variations of the 911 that chances are, there’s a 911 that’s perfect for anyone. Assuming you can afford it, that is. And with a standard 911 starting with 500 horsepower, there’s no shortage of power on tap. Porsche’s driving instructors will guide you and a few colleagues around the course in a lead/follow pattern, and the more in tune your group gets, the harder the instructor will push both the cars and the drivers to keep up. But they’ll never make you feel uncomfortable or pressure you to exceed your own driving limitations.


The best lesson drivers will take away from the track is the importance of looking where you want to go, and looking as far ahead as you can. This applies to more than driving too. Our bodies have a subconscious tendency to fixate on targets. If you’ve ever rubbernecked a day in your life, you might have caught yourself pulling the steering slightly towards the subject of your visual interest. So take advantage of that tendency and keep your eyes on your targets. The Driving Experience helps you out with some strategically placed cones along the course at the apex of each corner, giving you a visual target to aim for. Master this, and you’ll be closer to mastering precise cornering on the track.


Tasting the track in each trim of the 911 gives you an appreciation for the differences in handling characteristics from each car and the way they feel. But one thing every 911 has – and much to Porsche’s credit – is how confident they make you feel behind the wheel. Each of these 911s were exactly as they were when they left the factory. There was nothing extra done to get them ready for the track. Yet even though they are ‘standard’ street cars, they felt right at home on the track. Even more so when the driving instructors took participants around for a hot lap. As much as we felt we were pushing the cars, Porsche’s driving instructors took things to an entirely new level, and still, the cars handled it without issue.


Lucky owners of Porsche’s most iconic vehicles have a lot of car on their hands. During everyday driving, it’s hard to fully appreciate the engineering that lies beneath. For owners and drivers, Porsche’s Driving Experience will help you understand and appreciate what a 911 – and you as a driver – can accomplish. Not only will you walk away with a smile on your face, but you’ll also gain valuable knowledge that you can apply behind the wheel in your everyday life. Plus – if you make a mistake, you won’t be out a couple thousand dollars in bodywork. 

More Information: Porsche Experience Canada

Tags:
Porsche, Porsche 911, Mosport, CTMP, Canadian Tire Motosports Park, Bowmanville, 911 Carrera, Porsche Cayman, Cayman, 718 Cayman 

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