Back in 1995, Porsche sent a video to new 911 owners in which endurance-racing legend, Hurley Haywood confidently states that if you exercise your Porsche on a track it’ll thank you for it. Haywood’s claim bounced around in my head as I drove to the Porsche Experience Center in Los Angeles in a 1995 Porsche 911, the 993 generation.
Open to Porsche drivers interested in one-on-one coaching to improve their skills, the new 90-minute school is held weekly. Porsche does limit the event to models with airbags and anti-lock brakes, which eliminates most models made before 1990. Race cars and heavily modified cars are also verboten. A relatively inexpensive and fun way into Porsche’s sandbox would be a sub-$10,000 Boxster.
To ensure the safety and condition of your car, Porsche sends a checklist for you, your shop, or dealer to complete that consists of everything from ensuring the windshield has no large cracks to inspecting the clarity of the brake fluid to tire condition and age. The Porsche Owner Experience runs $395, plus a $50 for a damage waiver should you go pirouetting into something that doesn’t belong to you. If that seems steep for an hour and a half of play time, Porsche owners are conditioned to opening their wallets. After all, $395 might be more than the going rate for therapy, but it is roughly what an independent shop charges for an oil change on a 993.
What you get for the money is an incredibly entertaining curriculum designed to enhance car-control skills while providing a safe place to explore your Porsche’s capabilities. Open to novices and pros alike, the session begins with an autocross course, which seemed designed to expose the student’s skills and comfort level.
From there we moved to a couple of familiarization laps of the road course with the instructor leading in a new Lava Orange 911 Carrera S. The course is straightforward, but also designed to disrupt the car’s stability with slight elevation changes and off-camber corners. At 1.3 miles, it’s not a long course and short straights mean speeds don’t climb too high, which means the brakes and car are never stressed too hard. It’s a safe environment, but there are plenty of challenges with corners reminiscent of Road Atlanta, Virginia International Raceway (VIR)—there’s even a Karussel like the one the Nürburgring Nordscheife.
To teach drivers how to manage a 911’s rear-weigh bias, there are three low-grip modules run on wet concrete to keep slip angles high and speeds low. An in-car radio offers a steady stream of instruction on how to play with the throttle and steering to balance and contain the rear end as the car goes through a corner. A wet skidpad offers the opportunity to learn how to drift without stressing your car or tires. The third features a hydraulic kick plate that chucks the car sideways to help students learn what’s necessary to sense and counter a spin before it happens.
After completing those lessons it’s back to the road course where the instructor adds a little more speed. How quickly you want to go is entirely up to the driver and the instructor is in constant communication regarding speeds, how hard to brake, and the student’s comfort level. They'll also let you know that you keep turning in too early and that maybe you should stop missing the apex in turn three.
If you’re concerned about how hard the school is on your car, it’s up to the student. It really doesn't have to be much more demanding than a spirited run through the canyons.
Although Porsche invited me to participate for free, the school is so much fun that I’m considering putting the money together to go again. After all, I do my own oil changes, brake work, and I’m familiar with making endless justifications for spending money on car-related things. Plus, it’s hard to put a price on the thank you I heard on the drive home.
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