This petrolhead has graduated from the final, Elite stage of Porsche Media Driving Academy at Sepang.
THIS event was the third instalment of Porsche Media Driving Academy (PMDA).
I started the journey back in 2016 when I was introduced to the first level of defensive driving called “Individual”. Last year, I became a “Professional” after I successfully completed the second tier.
This year, I was to become an “Elite” driver. Having not finished in the top three positions for the past two attempts, I was third time lucky. Yes, I finally did it and was first! In a way…
I had prepped myself for the 2018 event. Last year, I was again slow in the slalom because I was wearing sneakers in lieu of my trusty Puma driving shoes, which had to be consigned to the karang guni man. The reward for becoming a PMDA Professional in 2017 was a timely pair of OMP Porsche driving shoes to take home. I donned them for the very first time that Tuesday afternoon two months ago when I left for the airport to Kuala Lumpur. I was smart enough to know the footwear needed breaking-in before the next day’s main event. I was running out of excuses if I did not win anything again. We stayed at Sama-Sama Hotel for the third year in a row and I felt at home. So, I did not feel compelled to customarily look for dead bodies under my bed (it happened in the 1990s in a Bangkok hotel to a friend of a friend of my sister, and since then, I always look under my bed in every hotel room I stayed). That evening, we were whisked to Sepang – not for any night racing, but for dinner in the Porsche suite.
The highlight of the sumptuous occasion was the unveiling of the $1.2 million Porsche 911 GT2 RS.
I kindly offered to sell my kidney for the same amount, but no one there needed one.
I dined on some of the juiciest barbecued beef until my teeth ached. I could not remember if I should carbo-load for the next day, so I erred on the side of caution – I only had one small serving of mash, plus a few beers for their cooling properties.
After dinner, we returned to Sama-Sama Hotel and arrived at around 10pm. It was 40 minutes later than the other van of journos.
Our driver had missed a turn, and in Malaysia, that means travelling about 20 kilometres on the highway to the next exit for a U-turn. Everyone on board blamed me
HAVING NOT FINISHED ON THE PMDA PODIUM FOR MY PAST TWO ATTEMPTS, I FINALLY DID IT AND WAS FIRST THIS YEAR – I WAS THE FIRST TO BE PHOTOGRAPHED WHEN WE ARRIVED AT SEPANG.
for distracting the driver because I struck up a conversation with him. Now I know he lives outside Kuala Lumpur, has a girlfriend and hopes to have two kids (he did not say if it was after marriage).
As I luxuriated on the elegant white-sheet bed in my room, I contemplated if I should watch England play Columbia in the World Cup quarter-finals at two in the morning on the telly.
I then heard noises from under my bed! Thank god I was mistaken – they were only groans echoing in my stomach, I was hungry. So I rushed down to the convenience store before it closed. I grabbed a cup of tom yam instant noodles, two bottles of orange juice and a Magnum ice cream.
I almost had a myocardial infarction when the cashier said “27 ringgit”.
I survived the would-be heart attack when I converted it to Sing dollars. I should have added one more cup noodles and another Magnum!
I witnessed England beat Columbia in the penalty shootout. It was 5am. I went to bed for two hours, but never felt fresher when I woke up. Euphoria should be a banned substance. On our way to Sepang International Circuit later that morning, I refused to speak to our van driver.
At the racetrack, I thought I tackled all the exercises in various Porsches with aplomb.
“Throttle Steering” at the sweeping Turn 5 was a piece of cake. I was screeching the tyres of a Targa 4 GTS in “Trail Braking” at Turns 12 to 14 like a drift pro (but I later found out it was not a drifting exercise). My instructor commended me for my calmness in the dramatic, gravitational swinging, left-and-right swerve Moose Test in a Cayman GTS and then in a 911 Turbo.
He said that I was a very good driver!
After my customary light lunch, I raced towards my chosen weapon, a Miami Blue Porsche 911 GT3, for some track driving. I was behind the lead instructor, which meant I could only be as fast as him.
What a precision driving machine the GT3 is!
The steering is scalpel-sharp, the power delivery is sublime, and the chassis communicates with you, unlike a wife.
It makes for the perfect track car, which is also at home in a Friday evening traffic jam in the CBD.
Later that afternoon, Porsche Carrera Cup Asia driver Will Bamber asked me if he could give me a ride in his GT3 Cup car. I obliged.
I talked through him my racing lines as we went around the circuit, but on the straights, he was faster by about 25km/h than I was in the GT3 – thanks only to his Cup racecar, of course.
I then thought I should inform Marc Beil, Porsche Asia Pacific’s event marketing manager, that I was available for hire as a Porsche driving instructor. I await his call.
Certificates were handed out to each graduand at the end of the event day by my now-friend and lead instructor, Matthias Hoffsuemmer. He whispered in my ear that I did very well. Aha! I was going home with a trophy!
Three names were called out to the podium for Most Consistent Driver, Most Improved Driver and Best Driver. I stood there watching them with their winners’ wreaths and champagne bottles.
I did not lie that I was first – I was the first to be photographed when we arrived at Sepang that morning.
SARJEET’S RACING GEAR IS NOW COMPLETE WITH GLOVES, DRIVING SHOES AND HELMET, BUT HE’LL ONLY GET HIS RACING SUIT IF HE EVER BECOMES A PORSCHE DRIVING INSTRUCTOR.
It was a good day at school for this “Elite” student, who hopes to become an instructor next – if he ever gets the call from Porsche Asia Pacific.