Photography by Cristian Brunelli
We make no effort to hide our love of the Porsche brand. For over 70 years the brand has been creating icons of the road and has become a legend of motorsport winning almost every road race on the planet. It’s safe to say, Porsche cars are designed and built to be driven fast, very fast.
What if you live in Australia? The ultimate ‘nanny country’ where there are rules for rules. Nightclubs close at 11pm and driving at 50 km/h has become common practice for us city folk. Thankfully if you’re a driving enthusiast or someone who’s invested their hard earned money in a Porsche, there’s a wonderful solution for you.
It’s called the Porsche Experience.
For a small investment you can do two things: Drive Porsche’s fastest cars or bring your own car and experience it doing what it was designed to do.
Porsche’s driver training facility is located at Mount Cotton in Queensland, however for the purpose of this adventure I was spending three days at the mighty Phillip Island Circuit, a regular fixture on the MotoGP and the V8 Supercars calendars. Ask any V8 Supercar driver and they’ll tell you that Phillip Island is one of Australia’s most iconic and fastest race tracks. Wide, undulating and fast.
For some Porsche Experiences away from Mount Cotton, it’s BYO Porsche. Thankfully Porsche was nice enough to lend me the new 911 Carrera T and a Cayman S. Strangely it’s not just 911s who participate. Over the three days we saw old Boxters (like very old Boxters), Macan S, Caymans GT4s, GT3 RSs, 997s, 996s and even a lone Cayenne with after market GTS stickers. No matter what Porsche you own, you can learn how to drive it at a Porsche Experience.
Porsche employ the services of past and present racing icons. Names such as Luke Youlden, Craig Baird, Dean Canto and Alex Davison are just some of the instructors on hand teaching drivers how to get the most out of their cars and learn how to drive in a range of challenging situations. Braking, skid pan, defensive driving and avoiding danger. Overseeing the driving is the gruff and no bs Thomas Mezera whose dry demeanour will scare some but ensures there’s no funny buggers on track.
So is it just driving fast?
No, it’s a lot more than that. The days are broken up into two parts. The mornings are for learning, the afternoons are open track. Day one we learn about corners, the importance hitting the apex and braking to maximise speed. Then there’s the braking challenge. It’s here we learn just how much space you need to pull up to a complete stop at speed. Expect to be very wrong in your estimations. Lastly we attempt a short Motorkhana course where drivers do their best to complete the course without knocking over the cones. No cones were knocked over in the writing of this article.
With the morning’s education sessions complete, drivers are invited out on the open track. Here we complete a number of laps behind the instructors where they talk us through the corners, ensuring we know where to brake, accelerate and turn. This is commonly known as ducks & drakes, this practice is invaluable for learning the circuit before you’re let loose by yourself.
On track it’s just you and a crash helmet. Three groups of ten and strictly no passengers. The drivers decide how quickly they want to drive because, it’s their car. On the flip side you can take part in the Porsche Experience at Mount Cotton, where you’ll be driving Porsche’s 911s. However the rules still apply, you break it you buy it.
There’s nothing quite like driving a Porsche around Phillip Island. Fast corners, a long straight and a need for constant concentration. You’ll be amazed at how tired you get after three sessions driving at speed on the track. It’s tiring and sweaty work but someone has to do it.
With day one (Precision) complete, we head back to the hotel where I experience the dynamic between the driving instructors at dinner at the iconic Pino’s; an Italian bistro with MotorGP memorabilia on the walls. These guys live and breath racing, they’ve been working with Porsche for decades and many have won championships with the company. Participants are learning from the very best drivers who’ve crashed, survived and they ensure you learn as much as possible. A single lap as passenger with eight-time Porsche GT3 & Carrera Cup champion and bon-vivant Craig Baird should help even the worst driver improve on track.
Day two (Precision Plus) of the Porsche Experience is not to different than the previous day. Skid pan (much harder than you think), defensive braking, avoidance at speed and another Motorkhana, only faster this time. The second half of the day is open track again, driving at speed with your helmet on.
Day three (Performance) is a day of speed. Nothing but open track driving. This is where the big boys toys come out to play. Plenty of GT3s, an angry Cayman GT4 and even a bloke in a convertible Turbo S (which is impossible to catch on the straight). You’re probably thinking ‘are you allowed to race?’. The answer is no. Cars are sent out on the track every 15 seconds in small groups, you can pass only on the main straight and driving up someone’s arse is frowned upon. Drivers choose their time to go slow and the polite slow guys move over on the main straight to let the GT3s pass.
Thankfully Porsche matches everyone in groups based on speed and experience so don’t expect to race a GT2 RS in your 1999 convertible Boxter. You’ll also find many Porsche owners taking part in level three regularly as it’s a great chance to hang out with other owners and get that all important track time.
Once you’ve completed level three the only way is up. Participants are invited to Brisbane Raceway to experience the GT3 RS for level four. Level five is another step up driving Porsche Carrera Cup cars. In 2019 we’ll be experiencing levels four and five, so watch out for that. For drivers who want more we recommend Porsche’s ice driving CAMP4 experiences in the Arctic Circle.
The Porsche Experience is designed for owners and lovers of every level. Women, men, young and old. It’s an inclusive and fun environment where you can experience what Porsche’s cars have to offer.
The following levels and experiences are currently available in Australia:
- Precision – The basics of mastering a vehicle (Level 1)
- Precision Plus – How to handle the vehicle and respond correctly in hazardous situations (Level 2)
- Performance – Advanced tuition on steering and cornering on a challenging racetrack (Level 3)
- Master – High performance 911 GT3 RS driving with satellite data tracking (Level 4)
- GT3 Cup – Driving a genuine, factory-built 911 GT3 Cup Car (Level 5)
If you want to experience driving with Porsche yourself we recommend checking out their calendar. There’s over 50 days a year they operate track experiences.