The Porsche File Porsche-o-phile

GT3 at Sandown Raceway

I took the time to take a mid week track day opportunity at Sandown Raceway, in suburban Melbourne in mid August. Managed by Events O'Neill (hi Luke!) it was very well organised event with an open pit and four qualified instructors on hand for in car / pit lane advice. And a pit lane expresso machine at 8am. That's damn fine organisation!! And as a special attraction, Australia's only Pagani Zonda Roadster was on hand for ogling and a couple of passenger hot laps at lunchtime were on offer to lucky guests. But not me. Aarrggh....

Through the day, I probably had 30 - 35 laps and really felt more confident as the day went on. It is promoted as a driver training day with no timing devices allowed. So feel, judgement and lines are the order of the day.

A professional photographer was on hand for the day and took some outstanding shots of my car. See this gallery but be careful as it is 64 photos and may take some time to load on dial up.

With some 40 drivers and cars on track for the day, there were minimal incidents. Unfortunately a guy in a Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale did come unstuck on the back straight and did some serious damage to a superb machine. The driver was fine and will live to write the cheque........

This track day was in preparation for the Porsche Club of Victoria event some week or so later. It took me a couple of four lap sessions to get my eye back in, but the final two four lap timed sessions of the day I was 'flying' by my modest standards and in the last session went quicker and quicker every lap and was geared for another flyer when the chequered flag came out. Poop! I got down to a best of 1.28.7, about 4 seconds away from where my fellow competitors were.

It showed that there is no substitute for practice, and professional training and instruction. A quick sanity check says that I am still a couple of percent off where I need to be but I am improving and feeling more comfortable with every outing.

PCV Winter Run - 'Sault' @ Daylesford

Last Sunday, Robin and I polished up the 911 C4S and attended the PCV Winter Run to 'Sault' restaurant just out of Daylesford.

The day dawned overcast and damp but quickly improved. The group met at Bacchus Marsh Railway Station at 10.30 for driving instructions which initially took us via Trentham and the B318 to Kyneton Secondary College for a tasty morning tea prepared by the college's hospitality students. Suitably refreshed, we then set off for a forty minute drive to Daylesford. The earlier drive was a bit slow due to the damp conditions (or the speed limits) while this pre-lunch dash via more open and flowing roads was a bit more enthusiastic and almost legal, if a loose interpretation of speed limits is applied.

'Sault' is a new building on an established lavender farm. A most attractive property I must say. A serious gaggle of 110+ PCV members and guests overpowered the acoustics of the dining room however and discussions further away than the person beside you were extremely difficult. The food was modern and well received (a bit too much 'Bambi' for my liking however) and the wine list was excellent and contained many local offerings.

Whilst sunny all day, it was only 7.5 degrees when we left at about 4pm for the drive back home. Another well organised PCV event enjoyed by all.

Track Day Updates

Well, I have now done three track days in the GT3 and I am delighted to report that both car & driver are still in one piece!

The first Porsche Club of Victoria event at Winton over the June long weekend was very 'interesting'. My first outing in the GT3, first time on club or 'R spec' tyres, first time driving in a race suit and harness, and first look at Winton Raceway. Plus I was in Group 2, with a number of 'hot shoes' who all seemed to be regularly up my tail pipes! But I had a great day, felt more comfortable in the car as the day went on. I was of course, ridiculously slow, primariy due my inability to get the car around the slower section of the course effectively.

Next was a private track day at Phillip Island on Saturday in early July. More first time experiences as I had never been around 'The Island' before and believe it or not, it rained all day. A fast track, wet day and slick-ish tyres. Ouch! One benefit of the day was that there were instructors on hand to assist. I had a few slow (and graceful!) spins in the morning before getting the confidence to ask for an instructor. Peter Hackett was the lucky guy, who courageously offered to be a passenger and not even drive me to show me the way around. His guidance was invaluable. Showed me the correct lines, when to brake, turn and accelerate etc. Yes, we had another spin which he took in his stride. What a guy, thanks Peter! The rest of the day was trying to follow Peter's instructions and I felt my driving improved throughout the day.

The following day was the PCV club sprint. I am pleased to say the day was much finer after an early shower. While my pace picked up the outright speed of the track was somewhat intimidating and there were three 'fast' corners where I was lifting or still trying to find a comfortable line in the dry. Not helped by a guy I got friendly with on Saturday sticking his lovely 996 track weapon nose first into the tyre wall at Lukey Heights before I went out! But again, I had a great time.

I could get used to this sort of fun!

Driving Nemo

A new four wheeled pet arrived at the Humphries lean-to this week. An Arctic Silver 1999 Porsche 911 GT3 Clubsport. As everything that moves around here gets a name, let me welcome 'Nemo'. Something to do with the tail (or spoiler) I think....... For the full photo gallery, please click here.

With only 150 kms under my Oakley driving shoes so far, let me share some first impressions.

As for acceleration, let me say 'sh*t it's quick!'. It feels like the fastest accelerating car I have ever driven. Having previously tested a 996 Turbo Tip, 'Nemo' almost feels faster. It could be just possible with the engine / exhaust tweaks and lower weight of my car compared to the 'heavy' auto TT. My MY03 911 Carrera 4S now feels a little whimpy.............

The ride is surprisingly compliant. Firm to be sure, but not harsh or crashy. I haven't had to dive for the brakes yet, but what I have tried has filled me with plenty of confidence for future use. A firm pedal, and straight stop with not much 'dive' with the track pads squealing just a little when cold. Livability is a hair questionable with the 'Starr' exhaust. An outrageous note, variable pressure with a special 'pop' under deceleration / change down but does not promote deep and whispered sweet-nothings in the cabin.

The only downside so far is the steering on bumpy back-roads. The front-end seems to have a mind of it's own and wanders around at will. When you just about get it back on the straight and narrow you hit another bump and start all over again. And all this at or about the legal limit! It may be the track-oriented Michelin tyres or it is possible that the suspension is not that well suited to Peninsula back-roads. Sad if true! Of course, it may well be my driving skill...........

Fortunately, 'Nemo' has a strong WAF and a nice blast, sorry, leisurely drive, to the Flinders Hotel for dinner tonight was well received with a couple of slowpokes in the outside lane getting the verbal treatment from my copilot. Excellent!

For such a hard-core device, I am getting more comfortable in daily driving. The standard cloth covered Porsche Recaros are comfortable and (obviously) position you very securely to 'drive' the car. With a smooth but slightly mechanical gear change and a firm but not overly heavy clutch it is not too difficult to drive in traffic as long as you give it some revs to get it off the line.

The next challenge will be the upcoming Porsche Club of Victoria track day at Winton. I am sure that most of my outings for the rest of this year (at least) will be spent slowly finding my limits which I know are far lower than that of this magnificent machine.