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Porsche Sport Driving School

Thrashing the Cayman S With Porsche Driving Experience

What better way to get a feel for the 981 Cayman S than by thrashing it at Leipzig under the tutelage of a Porsche instructor? Travel and fashion blogger Steve Booker is one fortunate soul who, in attending the Porsche Track Experience, gets to learn the Cayman S with the assistance of a sodden skidpad, some of the world’s best corners, and a talented coach.

Sliding on a skidpad will rapidly sharpen one’s countersteering skills.

It’s not often that novices get to push their cars to the limit on a typical track day, but the Porsche Track Experience is designed to have customers familiar with the complete character of their Porsche; to make them comfortable at the edge of adhesion. As Booker puts it, rather poetically, « By the end of it—it sounds silly—but you’re, like, dancing with it. »

Learning lines, breakaway characteristics, braking distances, and weight transfer are all in a day’s work there. For those considering a performance-oriented Porsche, want to improve their own skills, or are just interested seeing in the potential of one of these cars demonstrated by a trained professional, the Porsche Track Experience is an exhilarating way to spend a weekend.


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Porsche Experience Centre Le Mans

A few years ago, the idea of a new Porsche Experience Centre – like the one built at Silverstone – was floated by Porsche France to those in charge at Zuffenhausen. In principle, the board agreed with the plans. However, there was one sticking point.

Starting in the late summer of 2014, construction would have to be completed in just ten months. “Impossible” was the response from Germany, who had previous experience building such facilities at Silverstone, Leipzig and Atlanta. Why did the work have such a short turnaround?

The plot for the new Porsche Experience Centre was not in just any old location. It was at Le Mans, the setting for the world-famous 24-hour race and Porsche’s spiritual second home. After the 2014 running of the race was done, there would be less than a year until the circuit needed to be prepped for action once again. The race was on.

By last August, the ground had been prepared and, come January, the main structure had been finished. On 12 June this year – the day before the 83rd 24 Hours of Le Mans – the new Experience Centre was officially opened in a star-studded ceremony starring Wolfgang Porsche (who would help cut the ritual red ribbon).

Less than 48 hours later, there would be further celebrations as thousands of Porsche’s guests watched Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Nico Hülkenberg take the chequered flag in the number 19 919 Hybrid, giving Zuffenhausen a historic 17th victory at Le Mans. As opening weekends go, it was pretty much perfect.

More so than anywhere else, Le Mans holds a special place in Porsche’s history. Since its first appearance in 1951, the brand has always been represented in the legendary twice-round-the-clock endurance race, a record for any manufacturer.

Experience Centre Le Mans

That it was able to build a PEC at such an iconic venue speaks volumes for the relationship that Zuffenhausen has built up over the years with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, organisers of the 24 Hours and owners of the land that the centre is built on.

Not only did the ACO loan out land but, led by president Pierre Fillon, they also contributed a significant portion of the €8 million budget required to create the 3,000-square-metre facility, proving that not only is Le Mans a part of Porsche, but Porsche is an intrinsic part of Le Mans.

Built on the site of the old Maison Blanche, the PEC provides an incredible view of the Circuit des 24 Heures. From the roof-top terrace, the cars at this year’s race could be tracked from the exit of the Porsche Curves all the way through the Ford Chicane until they disappeared for the Dunlop Curve. However, as is suggested by the name, the facility does not merely allow Porsche fans to watch from the sidelines.

Like the triumvirate of other completed Experience Centres, Le Mans offers the chance for customers and enthusiasts to get behind the wheel of Zuffenhausen’s latest and greatest. As at Silverstone, the centrepiece is the handling circuit, measuring 2,817 metres.

Unlike any other PEC though, this tarmac track includes a portion of the actual 24 Hours circuit, utilising the chute between Corvette Corner and the Ford Chicane. This is joined by a kick-plate area (used to demonstrate the effectiveness of PSM on icy surfaces), a skidpan and an off-road arena.

Even as a dyed-in-the-wool 911 fan, the latter was surprisingly impressive, especially when balancing a two-ton Cayenne at around 40 degrees (all while driving around in a circle).

Porsche Sport Driving School Le Mans

However, the pièce de résistance is the Porsche Sport Driving School, the French arm of which was based at the Circuit de Magny- Cours (ex-home of the French Grand Prix) until moving to Le Mans in 2011.

With various courses for different experience levels, the PSDS at PEC Le Mans has access to the Circuit Bugatti, a 4.3-kilometre permanent track that includes the run through the iconic startline and Dunlop Chicane, as used every year by the 24 Hour racers.

As a taster of what’s on offer, we were able to jump behind the wheel of the new 911 GT3 RS for a few laps, instructed by Dmitri (one of PSDS Le Mans’ expert team of ten instructors). Getting to push any 911 to the limit is a fantastic experience in itself – one that makes the PEC concept nearly invaluable.

However, to do it at one of the most evocative locations in motorsport is mind-blowing. It is one of the reasons why since opening to the public on 1 July, PEC Le Mans had nearly 4,000 visitors through its doors in just a few months.

Another reason for this is Porsche France is projected to sell 5,000 new cars in 2015 and, like at Silverstone, every new Porsche customer gets a free half-day session at PEC Le Mans, valid for up to two years after purchase.

This includes time on the handling circuit, as well as a road test around the full 24 Hour track and a lunch at the new ‘Maison Blanche’ restaurant, housed inside the centre and manned by Michelin-starred chef, Olivier Boussard.

Porsche 962 Dauer

Yet, while Le Mans is a fitting location for exploring the dynamic limits of Porsche’s creations, the Experience Centre is not just about getting behind the wheel. Inside the cavernous facility, the ground floor features a display of the latest models alongside a concession for the Porsche Drivers’ Selection.

One story up, half of the first floor is dedicated to a Porsche Exclusive Lounge, where customers can personalise their dream car, all while getting in touch with Zuffenhausen’s history via a display of classic cars (rotated with the Museum’s stock every six months).

Here, the idea is not necessarily to sell; it is to build. ‘Social acceptance’ is the buzzword that is being thrown around, with the PEC concept designed so that anyone can visit and get in touch with the values that Porsche embodies.

On a day-to-day basis, the Experience Centre will also play a more utilitarian role. With the nearest Porsche Centre around 100 kilometres away in Tours, a workshop has been constructed into the building so that local customers have somewhere to get their cars serviced.

Le Mans will also be used as a training centre for all Porsche technicians in France, ensuring that all mechanics throughout the country are always up to date with the ever-improving technology on offer in Zuffenhausen’s offerings.

Many of the services at PEC Le Mans are, if you have read issue 128, not unique. However, thanks to its incredible location – a “legendary place for a legendary brand,” as Director General of Porsche France, Marc Ouayoun, put it – the centre is one of a kind.

For the French division, the building is a landmark undertaking that underlines its relationship with the ACO. Yet, for Porsche at large, the Experience Centre has a much bigger resonance. It is a symbol for all of the company’s best traits. For that reason, it should be firmly on any 911 fan’s places of pilgrimage.

Le Mans Ford Chicane


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Getting Schooled: We Drive Porsches with Five-Time Daytona 24 Hour Champion Hurley Haywood—And You Can, Too


Hurley Haywood makes it look easy. He’s roaring around Barber Motorsports Park in a Porsche Panamera Turbo, left elbow resting on the door panel and left hand gently jostling the steering wheel, while he uses his other hand to point out to us various nuances of the undulating 2.38-mile racetrack near Birmingham, Alabama. Haywood, the endurance-racing legend is the chief driving instructor at the Porsche Sport Driving School (PSDS), which operates about 150 program days a year at Barber. In addition to his five 24 Hours of Daytona triumphs, he’s also won Le Mans three times and twice stood atop the podium after the 12 Hours of Sebring. Every one of those victories came from behind the wheel of a Porsche, so the Chicago native is pretty much an honorary member of the Porsche family.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that Haywood hopped into a 911 Turbo S and thoroughly evaluated our driving from half a dozen car lengths ahead, all while keeping the perfect line and casually holding a walkie-talkie in one hand. He wasn’t puttering around the world-class track, either. Well, he probably thought he was, but we were flogging a stick-shift 911 Carrera S as quickly as we were comfortable on a track we’d never seen before.

Porsche Sport Driving School

Haywood wanted to make sure we were okay to be on the the track with the rest of the students attending the G-Force: One-Day Advanced Car Control Clinic and Lapping Day—particularly since we hadn’t completed the multiday Barber-based prerequisites that normally qualify someone to take part in the $3000 G-Force course. Indeed, many of the other 17 participants who were there with us had just finished a three-day Masters Plus session the day before. In total, PSDS offers five different courses, all at Barber’s country-club-like setting, ranging from one to three days and $1800 to $6000. Haywood, who lives in Florida, typically attends all advanced sessions—Masters, Masters Plus, and G-Force—so he’s there roughly 40 days each year. (The waitstaff at the swanky nearby resort hotel that hosts most guests has a glass of his favorite chardonnay poured before he sits down for dinner. He’ll recommend the flatbread.) His team of instructors are friendly, funny, and knowledgeable. The cars, most of which are replaced every year with new models, are fully stock, aside from graphics, radios, and in-car cameras.

G-Force is largely a day of open hot laps, with about 10 instructors observing from stations around the track instead of from inside the cars. And oh, those cars. The 911 Carrera S is easily the mildest Porsche we drove on the big track. After about a dozen laps in the Carrera, we  switched to the new Cayman GT4, still trailing Haywood but now better aware of the racing line and able to enjoy this spectacular track car. Tailing Haywood in this situation is like having LeBron James set you up for picture-perfect alley-oops on an eight-foot hoop.

Porsche Sport Driving School

After an excellent (included) lunch in the pit-lane tower, we jumped into a PDK-equipped Boxster GTS to imbibe in the G-Force part of the course, practicing our “victory donuts” on a damp skidpad and then exploring the dynamics of quickly releasing the brake pedal to induce vehicle rotation in corners. Earlier, in the first session of the morning, our half of the class had enjoyed sliding the hell out of a Carrera S while doing figure-eights on a wet skidpad, as well as drifting practice in a Boxster GTS on a different, dampened skidpad. (Michelin and Pirelli are critical PSDS sponsors, for obvious reasons.) These disparate activities not only reduce traffic on the primary track, but also allow students to concentrate on honing special skills that can help them become better drivers on-track and off.

But clearly the highlight of the day is the hot laps, and for our second run on the big track, we were let loose in two of the hottest 911s extant: the Turbo S and the GT3. In both of these rear-engine brawlers we cracked 120 mph twice per lap before braking heavily and guiding the car toward the next curve. The Turbo S accelerates incredibly quickly and its ventilated seats are a fantastic feature on a hot Alabama afternoon, but it’s relatively heavy and lacks the sporting spirit of the GT3, which revs to 9000 rpm and made us feel almost as euphoric as did the mid-engine Cayman GT4. Whichever your preference, steering either of those GT cars at speed around Barber is a memorable experience.

After the final checkered flag waves, students are encouraged to take advantage of complimentary admission to the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Motorcycle Museum.” It’s enormous and will appeal to anyone who likes bikes even a little, with 600-plus on display from around the world, covering more than a century of motorcycling history. Many of them are presented in a quartet of four-story-high motorcycle pillars surrounding the open elevator shaft at the center of the building. A spate of Lotus cars fill out the collection, a small portion of which can be seen in our photo gallery.

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

If you lack the time, money, and/or talent to tackle one of the courses at Barber, Porsche has a smaller-scale automotive playground at the Porsche Experience Center at its new Atlanta headquarters. There, folks can sample the full range of Zuffenhausen’s products on a tight handling track, a low-friction handling track (for tail-out fun), a skid pad, a kick plate (for practicing countersteering and managing skids), a straightaway (for launch-control starts and heavy braking), and even an off-road area for Cayennes. A fancy restaurant overlooks the whole thing, and vintage-car fanatics can check out the cars on loan from the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, and also get their old Porsche serviced. Prices range from $300 to $750 for a dozen different 90-minute experiences. We did the $600 Master the Manual course, which is fabulous if only because you’re driving various stick-shift Caymans—including the GT4—on a closed course. Some customers use this as an opportunity to test-drive a vehicle in extremis prior to purchase—or to decide between, say, a $152,000 911 Turbo and a $131,000 911 GT3. The PEC also offers driving simulators and a personal-training center that focuses on prepping humans for racetrack duty. A similar facility will open near Los Angeles in autumn 2016.

Porsche Experience Center Atlanta

Porsche isn’t new to the driving-school game, by the way: Haywood says the company has offered driving schools ever since the diabolical 911 Turbo debuted in the mid-1970s. (Speaking of evil turbocharged 1970s Porsches, Haywood also recalls that racer Mark Donohue told him how to handle the wicked 917/30. Haywood told our readers some tricks about driving that old 911 Turbo: “Anticipate the lag and manage the on-off power delivery so that it’s delivered in the right place.”)

Even after a couple of wonderful, productive days, we’re still quite sure that Haywood could annihilate our GT3 lap times at Barber while behind the wheel of a base Boxster. But hey, Hurley: Next year you should bring your personal 918 Spyder to VIR for Lightning Lap and see if you can beat our LL record time in a 918. You have to hold a walkie-talkie at all times, though.



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40 years of improving your Porsche 911 driving

We’ve been blessed with anniversaries this year, from the 25th birthday of four-wheel drive 911s, to the four-decade anniversary of the iconic 911 Turbo, via a 30-year celebration of the 3.2 Carrera.

While it’s easy to purely celebrate the legendary cars that rolled off of the Zuffenhausen production line though, 40 years ago, an important Porsche institution roared into life.

It’s August 1974 and, prompted by the release of the potent new 911 Turbo at the Paris Motor Show, the air around the Hockenheimring circuit is filled with the sound of flat sixes and tyre squeal.


This is the first meeting of the newly formed Porsche Sport Driving School where Porsche owners take to the track not to improve their lap times but to improve their skill and control behind the wheel.

Fast-forward to the present day and the Porsche Sport Driving School has gone from strength to strength, with approximately 100 instructors running courses in 15 countries around the world.

“We want to instil an instinctive feel for driving and with it the art of reading and understanding the car better,” explains instructor, Carsten Dreses. “When drivers sense the harmony in their cars, they’re automatically more secure- and also faster as a result.”


From sitting the right way, to perfect steering and braking application, the Porsche Sport Driving School was always designed with non-racing drivers in mind, with Zuffenhausen aware that it has a responsibility to teach people in the ways of the 911, especially as the Turbo was garnering a fearsome reputation from the outset.

Over the years, the Porsche Sport Driving School courses have become more clearly structured, with courses running from one to three days. The emphasis is clearly on driving pleasure though the participants now show a greater level of interest in the technical elements.

“The customers come with an ever greater degree of interest and ambition,” observes Dreses. “They don’t just want to drive better and more safely, they also want to understand when and how the cars do what they do.”


As Porsche creates ever-faster iterations of the 911, the value of the Porsche Sport Driving School continues to increase. While the courses are designed to improve the owners’ speed, the focus on safety is naturally paramount.

“Their driving automatically becomes more commanding when they’re calm and composed,” Kreses explains. By feeling in control, the Porsche Sport Driving School allows owners to enjoy their driving more. You can’t put a price on that.

Have you done a Porsche Sport Driving School course? How did it help your driving? Share your experiences in the comments below, or head to our Facebook and Twitter pages now.



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