Bespoke Porsche Track Day At Silverstone For New Owners
Our aim was to test the eagerly anticipated new Porsche 911 whilst enjoying the top-class hospitality and service that Porsche offer to customers and the motoring press.
Arriving at 9:00am, we quaffed down a posh cooked breakfast and coffee with our personal instructor for the day, Chaz, a freelance test driver for many top manufacturers. With panoramic views of the complex and the Silverstone circuit behind us, we naturally couldn’t wait to get out onto the Tarmac but not before having a look around the Porsche Centre which houses a handful of gleaming showroom models past and present as well as branded merchandise.
The basic idea of this experience day is similar to if you buy a new top-spec computer but only use a handful of its features – it teaches you how to extract the full performance of your Porsche and explore what it’s capable of.
Our car for the day was the new 400bhp 911 Carrera S equipped to the hilt with some major (by major, I mean pricey) optional extras from Porsche’s technological arsenal such as carbon ceramic brakes (£5,787), active sports exhaust system (£1,733), PDK 7-speed transmission (£2,388) and Dynamic Chassis Control which includes active engine mounts (£2,186).
After a one-on-one talk about the variety of surfaces and scenarios we would face, we headed out to the cunningly designed handling circuit which replicates a typical English ‘B road’ with short undulating straights and negative camber corners. A couple of brisk laps provided us with a feel for the track which is designed as a challenging country road following the contours of the land, and not as a top speed race track.
Our instructor Chas quietly observed for a few laps then gave some very effective tips on how to push the car further then explored the different characteristics of the several driving modes of the car.
Next we headed to the Kick Plate – a computer controlled super-grippy hydraulic plate which kicks the rear wheels to the side when you drive over it onto a low-grip surface soaked by sprinklers which forces the car to slide and teaches how to correctly ‘catch’ the slide or spin and control the car in a safe environment. The answer is to not brake but (rather counter-intuitively) to keep the throttle steady which straightens the car again.
A few more hot laps of the handling circuit dried the car and tyres off for the Ice Hill. Steering an ‘S’ through artificial walls of water and spinning out in the process, this 7% inclined diamond-polished surface was harder to master but the skills learned could potentially save you and your car in winter if you hit ice. As with the Kick Plate, steady throttle and looking ahead is the trick here.
Back to the handling circuit and this time more advanced tuition including the principals of trail braking (carrying speed into a corner while still braking) are explained and implemented, as well as where and when to brake, looking ahead ‘through’ the bend rather than just in front of the bonnet, and the correct use of the all the stability programmes of the 911.
Finally we moved on to the tight low-friction mini circuit contained within the main outer circuit. It’s a mix of Tarmac and limestone on which you can oversteer easily at slow speeds, as little as 20mph-30mph. Each short lap led through a large bowl perfect for some drifting Top Gear style and putting the full power down through the fat rear tyres without fear of wrapping the car around the nearest telegraph pole.
Finally we had a tour of the ‘Human Performance suite’ which is frequented by many top racing drivers (all of which have autographed the walls which was a nice touch). It’s packed full of state of the art fitness and testing equipment and a heat acclimation chamber to assess one’s ability in the sort of temperatures drivers encounter in the cockpit while racing for hours non-stop. Nutritional advice and full training programmes are also offered from experts in-house.
Finished off with a 3-course lunch, this day is perfect for any petrolhead or Porsche lover. You could learn more in a couple of hours here than you could in years of experience on public roads and for that reason, it’s probably the best £550 you could spend.