ACA­DEMIC (FAST) PUR­SUIT

This motoring writer didn’t make it to the podium at the Porsche Me­dia Driv­ing Academy be­cause of his sneak­ers (or so he said).

Torque (Singapore) - - PLAY EVENT -

THE Porsche Me­dia Driv­ing Academy was in­tro­duced in 2015. De­signed for jour­nal­ists in the Asia Pa­cific re­gion to im­prove their driv­ing skills and to ex­pe­ri­ence Porsche’s mod­els at their peak per­for­mance on a race­track, Porsche Asia Pa­cific has gone to great lengths to spoil the journos.

It is a three-level course – In­di­vid­ual, Pro­fes­sional and Elite. Hav­ing been “In­di­vid­ual-ised” last year, I was ready to be a Pro.

I looked for­ward to more pi­lot­ing of Porsches at their high­est lev­els on the Sepang track, with­out fear of be­ing charged in court for what would have amounted to dan­ger­ous driv­ing if ex­e­cuted on a pub­lic road. And know­ing that we would be the first jour­nal­ists in the re­gion to drive Porsche’s Panam­era Turbo and 4S on the track made my statin-free heart pal­pi­tate even more. We stayed at the cosy and now fa­mil­iar Sama-Sama Ho­tel for the night. There were many recog­nis­able faces from last year’s event, and like me, some ap­peared de­ter­mined to be the fastest in the slalom.

The com­pli­men­tary red Porsche polo T-shirt adorned with the leg­endary “Porsche Mar­tini Rac­ing” blue and red stripes in the wel­come bag was es­pe­cially pretty and de­sir­able. I wanted to sleep in it, but gave in to my bet­ter judg­ment in or­der not to nau­se­ate my driv­ing buddy the next day with foul smell.

Un­like car re­view jaunts in Europe and Amer­ica, I did not have to suck on a mela­tonin tablet or two to sleep that night since I was in Kuala Lumpur.

I woke up fresh the next morn­ing, and af­ter my shower, I put on my jeans and proudly wore my new Porsche tee. My Puma driv­ing shoes which I wore for the first level have had their last breath, and so I slipped on a pair of sneak­ers. Hope­fully that will not slow me down on the track.

Af­ter some tasty nasi lemak with fried chicken from the ho­tel buf­fet spread, we were fer­ried to the Sepang In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit. A Cay­man GT4 Club­sport in lime and chrome liv­ery, along with var­i­ous Porsches, greeted us upon our ar­rival. The Cay­man is a 385bhp mid-en­gine racer for mo­tor­sport and we would be given a flat-out “taxi” ride in it at the end of the day.

As ex­pected, there was an­other spread of break­fast at the hos­pi­tal­ity suite. I did not con­sume any, un­like last year, so as to keep my­self light and fast.

Af­ter a safety brief­ing by lead Porsche-cer­ti­fied in­struc­tor, Matthias Hoff­suem­mer, we broke into groups of four.

I LOOKED FOR­WARD TO MORE PI­LOT­ING OF PORSCHES AT THEIR HIGH­EST LEV­ELS ON THE SEPANG RACE­TRACK.

My group’s first driv­ing ex­er­cise of the day was the Moose Test – when sud­denly faced with an ob­sta­cle on the road – to demon­strate Porsche Sta­bil­ity Man­age­ment (PSM). With the PSM switched on in the 911 Car­rera S, we did not have to brake when swerv­ing sud­denly to avoid the “moose”, and the 911 re­mained sta­ble and easy to han­dle. With the PSM switched off, we ex­pe­ri­enced a com­plete re­ver­sal in han­dling when the car over­steered (i.e. when the back end starts to spin out). But we were taught how to bring the car back in con­trol, with quick steer­ing in the di­rec­tion of over­steer and brak­ing as hard as we can should the rear end con­tinue to slide even more.

The next sta­tion was Brak­ing, for us to learn han­dling in an emer­gency-brake sit­u­a­tion.

All we had to do was to pro­pel the 911 Turbo S as fast as we dared and then stomp down on the brake pedal at the brak­ing line. Whilst brak­ing, we had to steer the Mi­ami Blue 911 ei­ther to the left or the right cone-lined chan­nel and come to a com­plete stop. Sounded sim­ple enough, but in my group, we all had, at least once, run over a cone or two.

We then broke for lunch and I had one of the best-tast­ing white sauce pasta with mush­rooms, a dish I could not pro­nounce. Again, I watched my calo­rie in­take and did not go for sec­onds.

Then came the Slalom sta­tion af­ter lunch. The weather was hot and my fel­low journos looked sleepy. I felt I had the edge, as I had a diet Pepsi and freshly brewed black cof­fee dur­ing lunch to stay alert and fo­cused for my main event of the day.

The mid-en­gine 718 Boxster S and I were in sync, dur­ing prac­tice.

“I would surely be the fastest,” I thought, con­fi­dently. We were to ex­e­cute two timed runs and the av­er­age will be taken. For the first run that counted, I braked and stopped out­side the “garage” and that re­sulted in a two-sec­ond penalty. But I was fast! I did the sec­ond timed run quick and proper. “Surely I am still in the run­ning!”

The fi­nal sta­tion for the day was Han­dling. This was what rac­ing lines are all about – when to brake, steer, aim for the apex and ac­cel­er­ate out.

My high­light Porsche for this rapid round-the-track drive was the Panam­era Turbo. Such a lithe-han­dling car de­spite its girth, with a huge re­serve of power that I thor­oughly en­joyed on the 5.543km cir­cuit.

When the track ses­sion ended, the prizes for the fastest in Slalom were pre­sented. I did not win – not even third on the podium. I blame my sneak­ers.

But I am sure I will win at the next level, Elite, be­cause Porsche Asia Pa­cific gave me (and each par­tic­i­pant) a pair of very cool OMP Porsche driv­ing shoes. How timely they are to re­place my demised Pu­mas.

This was the most thrilling kind of aca­demic pur­suit for petrol­heads.

Porsche’s Panam­eras proved to be pow­er­ful and en­joy­able.

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