PORSCHE

Learn­ing to mas­ter turns and slides on roads of ice and snow at speed is ideal train­ing for per­ilous real-world driving con­di­tions. Dan Avila gets be­hind the wheel of the Posche 911 Car­rera in Canada to do just that.

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A Canadian so­journ with 911 Car­reras of­fers the most fun you can have on ice

It is mi­nus-25 de­grees Cel­sius a few hours’ drive north of Mon­treal in Que­bec, Canada, and I am sit­ting in a brand-new Porsche 911 Car­rera 4S on a track of pure ice. A voice crack­les over the ra­dio: “OK Dan, I want you to drive through the slalom course, mak­ing the car slide side­ways through each turn, got it?”

Not want­ing to abuse the priv­i­lege, I re­spond, “So, shall I give it a bit of a boot?”

“Yeah, you’re good to go. Drive it like you stole it.”

Not just fun and games

That was the start of my most ex­cit­ing driving ex­pe­ri­ence at Mécaglisse in north­ern Que­bec, the Camp4 driving fa­cil­ity that brings to­gether Porsche driving en­thu­si­asts from around the world for a mas­ter­class in han­dling the iconic 911 Car­rera on ice.

There is a se­ri­ous side to the ex­pe­ri­ence, too, that the in­struc­tors demon­strate by al­low­ing driv­ers to make er­rors and get them­selves into a slide sit­u­a­tion. Han­dling an icy road or re­cov­er­ing from a loss of con­trol on the ice is not nec­es­sar­ily

an in­tu­itive thing. It is a learned skill set that, once mas­tered, can be­come mus­cle mem­ory al­low­ing for in­stan­ta­neous re­sponses and recovery in a real-world loss-of-trac­tion sit­u­a­tion.

This is also an op­por­tu­nity to drive as fast as you dare, Tokyo Drift-style, around race cir­cuits, ap­ply­ing ad­vanced rally-driving tech­niques that make you feel ready (although you won’t be) to sign up to the elite Porsche pro-driv­ers team.

The Porsche driving school was first in­tro­duced in 1996 and ini­tially held in Ro­vaniemi, Fin­land. Since then, Camp4 has grown into Porsche’s pre­mier win­ter driving pro­gram held by ded­i­cated Porsche event teams in Fin­land, Switzer­land, Italy, China and Canada. Porsche has de­vel­oped four pro­gres­sive train­ing pro­grams with driv­ers need­ing to grad­u­ate from one pro­gram to ad­vance to the next. Start­ing with Camp4 – Pre­ci­sion, driv­ers can then move on to Cam­p4S – Per­for­mance, ICE-FORCE – Masters and the ul­ti­mate ICE-FORCE+ – Masters.

The Canadian Camp4 ex­pe­ri­ence was launched in 2011 and is open to par­tic­i­pants from around the world. Ar­riv­ing from Aus­tralia, which is a lit­tle like an in­ter­ga­lac­tic trip at close to 45 hours, we left a warm Aus­tralian sum­mer and ar­rived to a world of ice and snow. Porsche was kind enough to assist in the ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion process with day one on fast-mov­ing snow­mo­biles. This adren­a­line aper­i­tif set the scene for the fol­low­ing day on the ice.

The Camp4 ex­pe­ri­ence is run like a well-oiled Ger­man ma­chine. Ac­cept­ing the of­fer to ar­rive a cou­ple of hours ahead of the pack, I left the pic­tureper­fect town of Estérel with two of the Porsche race driv­ers in the team’s Porsche Cayenne Turbo 4WD sup­port ve­hi­cle, ar­riv­ing (very quickly) at the Mécaglisse cir­cuit in the predawn dark­ness.

The event man­age­ment team opened a shed the size of an air­line hangar with the flu­o­res­cent lights flick­er­ing on to re­veal a sea of brand-spank­ing-new 911s in all colours and con­fig­u­ra­tions like a bil­lion­aire’s packet of Skit­tles.

After grab­bing some pho­tos on the ice, the par­tic­i­pants were bud­died up in pairs and put into teams. The ori­en­ta­tion be­fore the driving pro­gram starts is quick yet de­tailed.

The ve­hi­cles are slightly mod­i­fied to suit the con­di­tions. The orig­i­nal front mesh grills are re­placed with open grills so snow can eas­ily be re­moved if a driver buries the nose of the car in a snow bank. (I only did this once.) The tyres are metal-stud­ded ice edi­tions that en­sure some, but not too much, trac­tion.

The 911 Car­rera S and 4S

The mod­ern 911 Car­rera S (rear-wheel drive) and 4S (all-wheel drive) are ma­chines of pre­ci­sion and beauty. The 911 Car­rera is true to its her­itage with rear­mounted six-cylin­der en­gines, but gone are the days of sac­ri­fic­ing com­fort for per­for­mance. In some rac­eready mar­ques, a day on the cir­cuit re­quires a pos­trace mas­sage; not so in the 911. Sim­ply re-en­gage trac­tion con­trol, de­s­e­lect sports mode and drive off to make the shop­ping run.

At the end of a day of train­ing, drift­ing, fish-tail­ing and slid­ing on ice and snow, driv­ers can be for­given for think­ing that per­haps a ca­reer with Porsche racing is on the cards. My delu­sions of grandeur were rapidly dashed with a fi­nal hot lap of the en­tire cir­cuit – this time as a pas­sen­ger with one of the Porsche race driving team at the wheel. I left con­vinced that I clearly need to join the rest of the ad­vanced pro­gram be­fore my tri­umphant as­cen­dance to Porsche racing great­ness. Per­haps Fin­land next time?

“At the end of a day of train­ing, drift­ing, fish-tail­ing and slid­ing on ice and snow, driv­ers can be for­given for think­ing that per­haps a ca­reer with Porsche racing is on the cards.”

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