This past weekend I had the pleasure of going to the Porsche Experience down in Carson, CA. My incredible girlfriend got me the Porsche Experience for my birthday present! My birthday was back in January, but due to the weather being fussy and raining every chance I had to go, we had to reschedule to this summer. To put it simply… it was AMAZING! Such good fun.
I was truly unsure what the “experience” would be like; would it be like a rental car on a race track, or a professional driving instructor teaching you techniques that you normally would not be allowed to do in a brand new Porsche, or would it be some fun lap times in a Porsche? I was lucky and extremely happy that it was the instructor teaching me some incredibly fun new techniques.
The Porsche Experience center out in Carson, CA has a wonderful lobby, where there are Porsches from every aspect; from full blown tubular race cars and prototypes to GT cars and fully restored classics. After you check in you walk on over to the waiting area, where you can see into the garage, which immediately attracted me. It was a dream come true to watch the mechanics and engineers working on cars I had only see on TV! After watching for a few minutes, I went to sit down and watch the 24 hours de Lemans which was playing via a projector on a large portion of a wall. After really just taking some time to enjoy the moment and soak up where I was, my girlfriend and I walked over to the cafe and grabbed some espresso and watched the driving instructors pull our rides for the next couple of hours up. While we were waiting we got to watch earlier appointments go through some of the areas they had.
Next, I was up in a beautiful 718 Cayman GTS. As I walk up they driving instructor introduces himself and starts to tell me about the car. I lean in to take a look inside the car and it has beautiful suede and alcantara. It was absolutely stunning and felt just as good once I sat in it. I was surprised to find out it was an automatic, but was reassured it would be incredible and would be surprised by the responsiveness of the ride. Now, I grew up where if you wanted a sports car, it was a manual, plain and simple. I know times are changing and automatics are fast, and better, and Formula 1 cars are paddle shifters so why don’t I get on board. Well, I respect them and am excited to see where the engineers take us next, but I still love to drive my manual. This incredible Porsche, did however, change my mind about automatics. It was flat out one of the most amazing experiences I had on a track and test facility.
We started out by heading over to their Nurburgring inspired straight and 33 degree banked turn. We head out and clock over 105 mph in less than a quarter of a mile and dive into the Nurburgring corner at 60 mph. The Cayman grips and sticks to the pavement and we come rocketing out the corner down the back straight. One of my dreams is to drive the Nurburgring, and to just be able to drive an corner inspired by the Green Hell was extremely fulfilling. Needless to say I was already grinning.
My instructor next directed me over to the skid pad. It is a slick surface with water sprayed on it. It is to help initiate a slide and learn to control a car in a drift. I grew up kart racing and grip racing, and always was interested and inspired by drifting and rally but never did any of it. This really helped me understand the concept, fast hands, and how important it really is. You may feel as if the car is slowly sliding around, but your reactions need to be faster and way ahead of the car. This little skid pad was a great place to test the levels of the traction control, sport, and sport + modes, where you can remove driving aids in steps. It really helps you understand the movements, without having to throw a car into a corner at 40 mpg and rip the e brake, and counter steer. They help you find the balance of the car, the pitch, the yaw and the right steering angle with the right RPM range. It was really enlightening to be frank!
Excited and now grinning even more we headed over to the two ice patch sports which are polished ceramic and concrete to imitate ice. One is to simulate a lane change and a slide, while the other is a corner with black ice and snow. The changing lane simulation felt very much like exiting a corner with a lot of oversteer and you throttle through it. The corner though, that was a different story. This is where I was taught the Scandinavian Flick, which was developed by rally drivers on ice and snow, where you pitch the car one way to set up for the entry where you whip the car in the opposite direction to slide through the corner. It was much harder on an icy surface than a normal track where you use the clutch, e brake and gas to get the wheels to spin, but non the less was inspiring to see done by the instructor and to try out!
Now on to my specialty and favorite, autocross course, then a slick track, followed by a full track time attack. The autocross we got to push the car and man can it rocket off of the line, but stop even better. we pulled .92 Gs off the line, and 1.27 Gs while stopping. The Cayman didn’t stop impressing there, it then did over 1 Gs through the slaloms where the grip was amazing.
Off to the slick mini track. This was insanely fun and felt much more like what I was use to. I started to catch the drivers ahead of me so my instructor decided we would head on over to the time attack on the full track. This is where i really got into a rhythm with the car. We started to put some insanely fast times down, started to catch some of the instructors, which definitely made me feel good. The paddle shifters felt so good and response that I started to crave using them. It was a very different feeling from a traditional stick, but it felt smooth, intentional and yet efficient and effective.
Once before we headed in we go to head out to the skid pad and do it once more, and I was amazed at the progress I had made in the last 90 min. I now was sliding the Cayman GTS around the pad in a drift over and over and continuously! Needless to say my instructor was great, and this Cayman GTS had my heart even as an automatic!
While we were finishing out cool down, my instructor was telling me about some of the other instructors, which include Dai Yoshihara! It was pretty cool to be on the same track as Dai and other pro drivers! All in all I had a blast and could not stop smiling all day. Thank you Porsche for my incredible instructor and thank you to my incredible girlfriend for the best birthday present I have ever gotten!
Check out a few of the photos from the day below. We were not allowed to bring any video cameras in or on the car.