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issue 129

N59, County Galway, Ireland

We’ve previously looked at the Wild Atlantic Way, offering 2,500 kilometres of stunning blacktop traversing the entire west coast of the Emerald Isle. However, you and your Porsche need to get there first, and opting for the equally scenic N59 means the driving merriment can start early.

Set a little further inland than the fervently twisting and slower-paced Wild Atlantic Way, the N59 is no acolyte to its better-known neighbour.

Beginning in Galway as an unassuming dual carriageway, the road quickly leans northwest and reduces to one lane each way, while the urban mise-en-scéne is replaced by countryside.

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The N59 is a wonderfully flowing road with fast sections that continually coax you to keep a good pace. You’ve no need to break speeding laws to have fun either, as the limits are generously apportioned throughout.

Safely keep up to the set maximum pace and we guarantee your drive will be thrilling at the wheel, a feat almost unheard of for public roads in entertaining modern sports cars.

Take your eyes off the recurrently swivelling asphalt and you’ll be greeted by idyllic topography, with numerous lochs (there are at least 20 on the stretch from Galway to Clifden alone) sitting level with the road and quickly giving way to striking mountains reaching high into the clouds above.

You’re likely to want to stop and take in some of the scenery and there’s plenty of places for you to stop and do so.

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Back on the road, the route is very well sighted and there are little obstacles in the way of traffic – we came across only a handful of cyclists and bikers – though the surface itself can become heinously undulating at times (modern cars may choose to switch PASM off here).

On reaching Clifden, the road heads north and offers another 130 miles of spirited driving euphoria all the way up to Ballysadare, just outside the town of Sligo.

We said the Wild Atlantic Way is a hidden gem, and the N59 is purely an added treasure to the haul – the hardest decision we now face is choosing which car to unleash on the route next time…

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Porsche Experience Centre Silverstone

It’s one thing having a shiny Porsche 911 on your drive for the neighbours to idolise, but it’s another proposition entirely to be able to use that 911 according to the very remit that Butzi himself created the car for – and that’s spirited street and track use.

Thankfully, Porsche is still very much aware of this dictum today, and fully recognises the importance of a driver being suitably cultivated as to the abilities and performance characteristics of the sportscar they’ve purchased.

As such, the acquisition of a new Porsche model now secures UK owners a half-day driving course at the Porsche Experience Centre, Silverstone (customers in North America now have the new Experience Centre at Porsche’s new headquarters at Atlanta, Georgia).

The Centre provides focused driver training to help improve your driving credentials across a variety of situations and scenarios in your Porsche.

One of five such Centres in the world (and a first when it opened in 2008 after some six years of development), the superb facilities at Porsche Cars GB’s Experience Centre – appropriately situated alongside the Hangar Straight at the home of British motorsport – include a handling circuit, ice hill, kick plate, low-friction zone, and even a sophisticated human performance laboratory.

Better still, the Experience Centre underwent a hefty expansion programme in 2014 that doubled the size of its on-site facilities. This included construction of a second handling course around an all-new launch-control and brake-testing straight, as well as an enlarged cafeteria and conference room with all-new driving simulators inside the Centre.

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The result of all this is quite something: never before has a new 911 owner been lavished with such a platform on which to hone his skill behind the wheel and, ultimately, get the most out of that Porsche 911.

It’s a two-way thing, of course, because by the time you’ve reached even the elegantly presented atrium inside the Centre, you can’t help but feel inspired by the Porsche brand.

Two modern-day motoring greats will likely have commanded your eyesight on the way in (in my case it was the exquisite 997 Rennsport pairing of an RS 4.0 and GT2 RS), while the Atrium itself spoils the enthusiast with any number of evocative racers of years gone by.

Today, I’m greeted by the short-wheelbase 911 raced at the recent Goodwood Members’ Meeting by Porsche’s first Le Mans winner, the legendary Richard Attwood, though a 2008 RS Spyder is known to grace the floor space too.

Although the atmosphere around the Atrium is relaxed and serene, there is much going on at the PEC. As well as privately booked conferences and business lunches inside, the asphalt outside is a constant hive of activity, with an array of 911s, Boxsters, Caymans, Cayennes, Macans and Panameras taking to the six various circuits and test beds across the site.

Meanwhile, those sitting by the restaurant’s bay windows are afforded a panoramic view of a utopian Porsche motoring mini-world.

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The most popular course available is the Porsche Driving Experience. These 90-minute sessions offer a focused introduction to the driving dynamics of each particular Porsche model via use of the handling circuits, low-friction zone, kick plate and ice hill.

The standout course is ‘Evolution RS’, where you’ll pilot a scintillating selection of 997 Rennsports, encompassing both iterations of GT3 RS (including the one we drove here) plus the halo RS 4.0.

We recommend ‘Evolution 911’ though, which offers up a driving experience through 30 years of Porsche’s fabled 911 via drives in G-series, 993 and 991-generation Carreras.

Away from these gift-orientated experiences, the Porsche Sport Driving School is for those who require a more rigorous exploration of the performance and handling dynamics of their 911.

This is split into four programmes: Warmup, Precision, Performance, and Master, and use of your own 911 will be required for each. The Warm-up training is a half-day course among the driving facilities at the PEC, and it’s this course that you’ll receive as a complimentary gift from Porsche GB upon purchase of a new 911.

From there, you can accomplish one and two-course days with the Precision and Performance programmes respectively, before graduating to the Master course, devoted to motorsport-orientated aspects of performance driving on the full Silverstone Grand Prix circuit next door to the Centre.

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It all sounds like the perfect proving ground for you as a driver, but how do the facilities stack up in the real world? Well, to start with, the handling courses sprawled around the grounds of the PEC mimic more of a fast B-road than a bona fide race track (there’s little run-off and barriers sit just metres back from the black top), but there’s no denying that the new circuit offers another dimension to the Centre.

While the old circuit is without doubt the faster of the two, the twists, drops and cambers of the new track require more of a technical approach from the driver.

Both beautifully smooth under your N-rated tyres, it’s possible to start linking several corners together and progressively build up a racing line – a style you simply can’t execute on a public road.

Each time you climb behind the wheel of a Porsche at the PEC, an experienced Porsche Driving Consultant, who will provide personal coaching to hone your driving, will join you in the passenger seat.

Headed up by Gordy Robertson (he of the famous Porsche GB PR videos onYouTube), the PDC team at Silverstone boasts an enviable résumé of talent and experience – including former Carrera Cup champion Barry Horne and, if you’re lucky, Le Mans hero Richard Attwood himself – to pass on their unrivalled technical knowledge of how to get the best from a Porsche sports car.

There’s no question you’ll be learning from the best, in the best environment: there’s simply no better place for you to garner an intricate understanding of your own capabilities behind the wheel of a Porsche 911.

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Sales debate: How will Porsche’s decision to go turbocharged affect 991 prices?

We Porsche 911 fans are notoriously set in our ways. The gradual pervasion of the PDK gearbox through the upper echelons of the current 911 range brought many cries of derision (and a hefty price hike on earlier generations of GT3), while some enthusiasts still haven’t come to terms with the switch to water-cooling.

So, how will the almost certain move towards turbocharging on the 991.2 affect prices of the first generation cars in the short term?

“As yet it’s not having an effect,” explains Porsche Bournemouth sales executive Karl Meyer. “I’d say less than 15 per cent of our customers have even asked about it [the new car].”

Meyer points out that, historically, Porsche has always been a master at controlling residual values when a facelift model is released. However, given the huge step-change expected, he wouldn’t be surprised if 991 Gen1 depreciation slowed down a little: “A 991 GTS or 991 C2S could be seen as the last of the naturally aspirated cars,” he points out.

Greig Daly, Sales Director at independent specialist RPM Technik, agrees: “In the short term, it will probably shore up prices of the 991s. I don’t think they will go up in value though as there’s just way too many of them.”

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Volume is also a key factor in Meyer’s argument, pointing out that, unlike GT3 values, “the [Carrera] market behaves a bit differently.”

“The nearest you can compare it to is the 996. That was the biggest change for the company ever yet 993s continued to fall at the normal rate. People talked but prices didn’t follow,” explains Meyer.

The Porsche Bournemouth expert feels it will take “10, 15, 20 years” until 991 Carreras start appreciating because of the turbocharged effect. “That’s when collectors get their teeth into it,” he points out.

Again, Daly concurs, explaining that, in the short-term, the 991 will continue to depreciate, especially once the first facelifted models begin to trickle onto the second-hand market. RPM Technik’s Sales Director does feel that “Gen1 991s may not depreciate at the savage rates they have been doing” in recent times, though.

In this respect, the next few years may well be a good time to think about getting yourself into a nearly new 911.

For market advice on any generation or style of Porsche 911, check out our full selection of sales debates, where we ask the 911 experts the pertinent market questions so you don’t have to.

Used Porsche 991 Carrera

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Better than stock? Modified Porsche 996 GT3s do battle

As much as any other model, the 996 GT3 epitomises Porsche’s design and manufacturing philosophy. A perfect blend of road-going sportscar with track-orientated elaborations, it’s a direct manifestation of the philosophy that goes back way beyond the much vaunted ’73 2.7 RS to evolutions of the 356, such as the 356 Carrera of 1955.

The company has always sought to implant lessons learned on track in its road-going models, so it was only a matter of time after the firm made the quantum leap from air-cooled 911s to liquid-cooled engines in 1998 before a new standard bearer was launched.

Come the Geneva Auto Salon in April 1999, the 996 GT3 was announced. It unites a higher performance normally-aspirated engine with a track-tuned chassis and augments the lineage of Porsche thoroughbreds in the RS idiom.

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It certainly looks the part with its deep front spoiler and airdam, aerodynamically configured sills and fixed double-decker ‘swan neck’ wing on the engine lid (in Gen1 guise) instead of the previous retractable wing of the standard 996.

With a nod to the FIA’s GT3 endurance racing class, it was immediately seized on as the vehicle of choice for the Carrera Cup and Porsche Supercup series and, from 2000, the N-GT class of the FIA GT Championship, as well as international races like the Nürburgring 24 Hours.

It was an immediate sensation. Manthey Racing’s GT3 won the GT class at the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours with drivers Uwe Alzen/Patrick Huisman/Luca Riccitelli at the wheel. Shortly afterwards, Porsche’s test driver Walter Röhrl took a GT3 around the 14-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7 minutes 56 seconds – the first ever time under 8 minutes for a production car – much to the glee of the Porsche motorsport PR department.

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The 996 GT3 is the hallowed offspring of Andreas Preuninger, head of Porsche’s GT series production department and manager of Porsche High Performance Cars.

A renowned purist, he designed a specification that would encourage maximum driver involvement and for that reason Tiptronic and PDK transmissions were off the menu. The 996 GT3 uses the then-new Carrera 4’s narrow (as opposed to wider C4S) bodyshell, adapted to house the GT3’s dry-sump oil tank, different engine mounts and larger fuel tank.

To read our modified 996 GT3 head-to-head in full, pick up Total 911 issue 129 in store now. Alternatively, order your copy online for home delivery, or download it straight to your digital device.

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Porsche Speedsters: 356 to 997 driven

Speedster: undoubtedly the nine coolest letters in the Porsche lexicon. One mention of this legendary Zuffenhausen moniker brings to mind images of the glamour of the Hollywood scene in the Fifties.

First appearing in pre-A 356 form in 1954, the Speedster became intrinsically linked with American car culture and Porsche’s formative years. However, the iconic status garnered by the original car meant that the Porsche Speedster sub-brand soon transcended its early US-based roots.

Over three decades after the last production 356A Speedster shell rolled out of Stuttgart’s Karosseriewerk Reutter, the alternative open-top Porsche was reborn on the 911 Carrera 3.2 platform.

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Zuffenhausen’s board had recognised that the company’s heritage needed to be celebrated and ever since, the Speedster has become a limited edition addition to the 911 range.

While it may have been intended for the American market, the decision to reimagine the Speedster aesthetic on certain generations of 911 has seen Stuttgart create some of the most sought after cars in the company’s history.

Now, for the first time, we’ve gathered all four generations back together to chart the Speedster’s storied history and get behind the wheel of the coolest quartet of Porsches ever created.

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We start in 1950 when Porsche’s sole US importer, Max Hoffmann, requested a special model of the 356 to appeal to the burgeoning postwar US market. A year later, Porsche presented the aluminium-bodied Type 540 to Hoffmann.

Known as the America Roadster, the car was a commercial failure with only 17 sold when it was released in 1952. It’s $4,600 list price was simply too high to compete with the influx of British and American sports cars that were flooding the market.

With America still accounting for 33 per cent of all 356 sales, though, Hoffmann persisted. The result was the pre-A 356 Speedster, a cut-price, low spec sports car designed with sporting pretensions.

To read our full history and test drive of every production Porsche Speedster, pick up Total 911 issue 129 in store. Alternatively, order your copy online for home delivery, or download it straight to your digital device now.

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