Drive

Gulf Business - - FEATURES - GAU­TAM SHARMA

We check in to the Porsche Liepzig track ex­pe­ri­ence

Porsche owners don’t get to ex­ploit the full ca­pa­bil­i­ties of their car in real-world con­di­tions, un­til they visit a Porsche Track Ex­pe­ri­ence

The Por­shce Leipzig Track Ex­pe­ri­ence that’s open to the pub­lic for a fee al­lows mo­tor­ing en­thu­si­asts to fully ex­plore the po­ten­tial of go­ing foot down in a Boxster/ Cay­man or 911. The ex­pe­ri­ence also in­cludes go­ing be­hind-the-scenes to visit the fac­tory at the end of your track day

PORSCHE OWNERS – we’re re­fer­ring here specif­i­cally to those with a 718 Boxster/ Cay­man or a 911 – are for­tu­nate enough to have in their garages some of the planet’s finest han­dling sportscars. Thing is, they don’t get to ex­ploit the full ca­pa­bil­i­ties of their car in re­al­world con­di­tions. There are speed lim­its, other road users and one’s own safety to con­sider, which means the real dy­namic po­ten­tial of these ve­hi­cles re­mains largely un­tapped.

But all is not lost. The hal­lowed Ger­man sportscar pur­veyor of­fers a range of track ex­pe­ri­ences that not only scratch the need-for-speed itch, they also stand to make you a bet­ter, safer driver – not just on the race­track, but also in ev­ery­day con­di­tions. To find out more, we signed up for the ‘Warm-up Porsche in Leipzig’ Ex­pe­ri­ence to get a first-hand taste of what one stands to gain via these cour­ses. For those who may not know, Leipzig is a city in the east­ern part of Ger­many – not too far from the Pol­ish and Czech bor­ders – and it’s where Porsche has a fac­tory that builds the Ma­can SUV, as well as the

Panam­era sports sa­loon. Right next to this pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity is an FIA-cer­ti­fied test track that’s been de­signed to in­cor­po­rate some of the most fa­mous cor­ners from cir­cuits around the world – in­clud­ing an ex­act replica of the steeply banked Karus­sell from the Nur­bur­gring Nord­schleife and the iconic ‘S’ curve from Suzuka.

To­day we’ll be go­ing through a range of driv­ing ex­er­cises to in­stil a greater sense of car control at the lim­its of ad­he­sion, as well gain an un­der­stand­ing of how the ve­hi­cle’s be­hav­iour changes on a low-grip sur­face (ie a wet skid­pan) and the sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect of the car’s weight shift­ing when you brake or ac­cel­er­ate heav­ily or feed in any sharp steer­ing in­puts.

You may be sur­prised to learn the in­struc­tion com­mences with an in-depth ex­pla­na­tion of the cor­rect seat­ing po­si­tion. Now, you may think sit­ting in a car is a no-brainer, but it’s sur­pris­ing how many mo­torists get this wrong. Ideally, you need to be po­si­tioned close enough to the wheel so your el­bows and knees are both bent, en­abling you to ex­ert enough lever­age even un­der race­track con­di­tions. It also means that im­pact forces won’t be trans­ferred through to your hips and shoul­ders in a crash – as would be the case if your arms and legs are ex­tended straight out to the wheel and ped­als re­spec­tively.

Suit­ably schooled on how to sit, we head out to the track with the in­struc­tors and dis­sect the trick­i­est cor­ners on the cir­cuit to glean the ideal cor­ner­ing line. The key is to ef­fec­tively make each cor­ner as straight as pos­si­ble by us­ing the full width of the track on en­try and exit and hit the ‘apex’ in mid-cor­ner. Later on, we head out for some quick laps be­hind the in­struc­tor, who leads the way in a 911 GT3 pace car, and we at­tempt to copy the ex­act line he’s us­ing. Our mounts for to­day are the 718 Cay­man and Boxster range, as their sub­lime chas­sis bal­ance makes them the ideal ve­hi­cles for hon­ing our ba­sic track skills.

The day also in­cor­po­rates a slalom ex­er­cise around a course marked by witches’ hats – great for cul­ti­vat­ing smooth­ness and fi­nesse be­hind the wheel – and a ses­sion on a soaked skid pan where we try (un­suc­cess­fully) to hold the car in a con­tin­u­ous drift around a cir­cu­lar course. By the end of the lengthy track ses­sion, each par­tic­i­pant leaves with a much greater un­der­stand­ing and feel for how to make a Porsche go around a cir­cuit as quickly and safely as pos­si­ble. To round off the day, we em­bark on a guided tour of the Leipzig pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity that rolls out the Ma­can and Panam­era. If you’ve never been to an au­to­mo­tive plant, it’s a real eye-opener to see hu­mans and high-tech robots work­ing in uni­son, mag­i­cally craft­ing en­tire ve­hi­cles from thou­sands of com­po­nents. It’s a mes­meris­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, all the more so be­cause the Porsche plant is spot­less. You could just about eat off the floor.

Prices for the Porsche Track Ex­pe­ri­ences start at EUR 991 (Dhs4,131) for the type of course we com­pleted, but if you want to take it fur­ther and el­e­vate your skills to a higher level there are plenty of more ad­vanced cour­ses on of­fer. Next up from the ba­sic course we did is the two-day Pre­ci­sion Porsche in Leipzig Ex­pe­ri­ence, which will cost you EUR 1,600 (Dhs6,670) plus an ad­di­tional fee for car rental – start­ing at Dhs5,835 for a model from the 718 Boxster/ Cay­man range, ris­ing to Dhs7,500 for a 911 Car­rera or Dhs15,000 for a 911 GT3. And you don’t nec­es­sar­ily need to go to Ger­many as there are 19 Porsche Track Ex­pe­ri­ence cen­tres around the world.

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