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Thread: Porsche School

  1. #1
    JST
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    Porsche School

    I just got back from the Porsche Sport Driving School 2 day "Performance" class (which is basically the intro level course), at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL.

    Overall, it was an outstanding experience. The school consists of a (very) short intro/classroom session that just introduces some basic vehicle dynamics concepts, and then the rest of the time is spent outside--either on the track, or on a series of parking lots that they have set up to do skills exercises on.

    The track driving is the centerpiece of the course. Barber is a 2.38 mile course with a fairly large number of elevation changes and blind corners, along with a couple of fairly long straights where you could relax and catch your breath. It was my first time out on a real track, so I can't make any comparisons, but it was a great track to learn on. The facility itself is quite nice, with a giant (and eclectic) motorcycle museum on the premises in addition to the PSDS facilities. Real races and track days are pretty common there, too--I think there is an Indy Car race coming up at that track.

    The course was very much oriented toward the novice, which suited me fine. The instructors led either in 911 Turbos (or in a GT2 RS), with small groups of 3 or 4 trailing behind either in Cayman (987.2) S cars or 911 (997.2) S cars. The Caymans were PDKs, and the 911s were both PDK and manual; you rotated through the cars, so everyone got a chance to drive everything, but I think I spent most of the time in a 997.2 manual. The name of the game was learning the line and hitting marks, and the speed increased progressively as you showed that you could keep to the line. By the end of day one we were hauling some pretty serious *** (our group was overtaking all of the others), though for serious track junkies we were probably still going pretty slow.

    The track driving was mesmerizing, addicting, and exhausting--even at relatively low cornering forces, the concentration required to learn and stay on the line was incredible, and by the end of each day I was seriously drained. I understand why people spend vast sums of money to go back and do this, though--it's un****ingbelievable, and the occasional epiphany that lets you go faster is like mainlining speed. They gave us a fair amount of time on the track, and while I could say that I would have liked more, I'm not really sure I could have handled it without getting tired/frustrated and making mistakes. I think they have the amount of track time down to a pretty good science.

    In between track driving, they took you on the skills courses. In truth, the BMW school (which, when done at Spartanburg, doesn't really have a track component) was better at this kind of stuff, and some of the skills exercises (like an autocross-ish relay competition) were a bit cheesy. Still, it gave you something to do while coming down and taking a break from the track sessions, and some of the stuff was kind of fun (here, do donuts in this 911 on this skidpad).

    Probably the least relevant was the "off road" course in the Cayenne, but this was short and was at least kind of interesting. Mainly it demonstrated for me that off-roading in the Cayenne has to be pretty tame, but at least it can ford a deep puddle.

    Anyhoo. Would buy again. For those who've got track experience, it's probably not the best thing, as it would be pretty basic, but for those (like me) who've always thought about hitting the track but have been scared at the idea of trying to learn behind the wheel of your own German driving machine, it's a GREAT way to get an introduction to the key principles without potentially having an expensive disagreement with your insurance provider.

    They offer a Masters and Masters Plus course which both offer more track driving. I suspect I'll go back at some point for that, though the PITA factor of taking two days off work and getting to Birmingham (plus the cost) are significant disincentives.


  2. #2
    PistolPete's Avatar
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    Re: Porsche School

    Thanks for spending to time to give us a detailed review of the experience!
    Pete
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    oldrolex's Avatar
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    Re: Porsche School

    Thanks for the information. I have to look into doing this as it sounds like a great time.

  4. #4
    JST
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    Re: Porsche School

    Here are some quick thoughts on the cars. By far my favorite was the 997S; it just had such a nice combination of handling and power, and the third and fourth gear punch (from about 50 mph through 100+) coupled with a bellowing wail from the engine was just sublime.

    I don't mean this as a flame or troll in this forum (and I have and drive a Boxster that I love), but the 987S was not as much fun. The power deficit was noticeable, and while the car was smaller and easier to place, it's lack of thrust detracted from the experience. At full song, the 987's smaller engine makes itself heard with a higher-pitched, reedier exhaust note that isn't as pleasant. I suspect that if I had more talent and were pushing the cars harder through the corners, the 987 would start to grow on me, but at the speeds we were going any difference in handling between the two was essentially imperceptible.

    This was my first exposure to PDK, and I'm not a fan. It's nice when you are first starting out, because having the car take care of downshifts is useful (and, I'm sure, faster), but it's just not as much fun. And while trying to practice heel and toeing while also learning the racing line (and doing things like remembering to brake enough) was difficult, ultimately it was much more rewarding when you got it right.

    I didn't get to drive either the Spyder or the Cayenne Turbo on the track, but we did push them through the autocross course. The Spyder is superb in this environment, a noticeable step up in sharpness over the Cayman S. Stepping into the Cayman S right after the Spyder, you could feel that the Cayman was a bit softer and less focused, with more roll and less telepathic pointability. It is a testament to just how good the Spyder is that it makes the normally deft handling of the Cayman seem a half-step too slow.

    The Cayenne Turbo is...not fun, exactly, but impressive, like watching an aircraft carrier heel over at flank speed. Torque vectoring in that vehicle is pretty nuts, allowing you to take corners a lot faster than you'd think you could just by mashing on the gas. In fact, coming OFF the power can result in massive push, since the torque vectoring only works when you're on the gas, which is an odd sensation.

    We also didn't get a chance to drive the Panamera or 911 Turbos, but at the end of the course we got to ride along on some hot laps in them. The Panamera Turbo's launch control is like getting hit from behind by a truck. That car is so hellishly fast it's deranged, even with four people on board. It's also capable of braking so hard that it knocks your breath out on your seatbelts--and (with the ceramic brakes anyway) doing it over and over again at maximum attack for 15 or 20 laps with no perceptible loss in performance. I'm not sure I want one, exactly, but at least now I understand them.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Porsche School-gt2rs.jpg   Porsche School-skidpad.jpg   Porsche School-cayman.jpg  

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    Re: Porsche School

    Yes, thanks more details!

    What was the GT2-RS doing there? Was it a customer delivery car? I understand that each of those cars comes with a Porsche School track event thrown in.
    Pete
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    Re: Porsche School

    Oldrolex,
    Great write up and enjoyed your impressions of the various models.

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    JST
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    Re: Porsche School

    Quote Originally Posted by PistolPete View Post
    Yes, thanks more details!

    What was the GT2-RS doing there? Was it a customer delivery car? I understand that each of those cars comes with a Porsche School track event thrown in.
    No, it was an instructor car; they were using it to lead groups around the track. I spoke with one of the instructors who had done the track event for the first set of deliveries of the customer-ordered GT2 RS cars--they did them as a group all at once in Florida (at Homestead, I think he said). Something like 37 of them all in one place.

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    FormulaOne's Avatar
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    Re: Porsche School

    Thanks for taking the time to give us a report. That trip needs to be on my to do list!

  9. #9
    Croctor's Avatar
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    Re: Porsche School

    Nice write up!
    PSDS definitely A worthwhile trip
    Croctor

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    Tanajib's Avatar
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    Re: Porsche School

    Quote Originally Posted by JST View Post
    I just got back from the Porsche Sport Driving School 2 day "Performance" class (which is basically the intro level course), at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL.
    Great write up. I'm signed up for the 2-day PSDS April 14-15. I am also a track novice and from your description, it will be a perfect intro. I'm planning to track my Cayman S at local PCA DE events this season so wanted a good foundation before my first event.
    Opportunity to drive and compare different Porsche cars; both manual and PDK is a bonus.

  11. #11
    P-car Fan's Avatar
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    Re: Porsche School

    great write up!
    I'm in the boat you explained where I want to get out on a track, but am a little nervous to take my new CS my first time out. So, this sounds like a good option.
    What does this program run cost wise?

    2013 Porsche 911 turbo--Platinum Silver Metallic/Black Leather, PDK, Sport Chrono, Bi-Xenon, Paddle-Shift Wheel, PCM, Ventilated/Heated Seats
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    Re: Porsche School


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    Re: Porsche School

    Quote Originally Posted by P-car Fan View Post
    great write up!
    I'm in the boat you explained where I want to get out on a track, but am a little nervous to take my new CS my first time out. So, this sounds like a good option.
    What does this program run cost wise?
    You are lucky because you are quite close to Birmingham. The school is pricey but everything is first class. I really enjoyed the instructors and playing with all the fine cars. I got really attached to the Carrrera S with PDK and paddles.
    Croctor

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    TuefelSchnauzer is offline Porsche Person
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    Re: Porsche School

    Excellent write-up - thanks! From your description, it sounds right in line with what I am looking for.


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