The Porsche File Porsche-o-phile

Bad luck continues...

I took the GT3 to Sandown raceway on Thursday December 18 to have a run in The Formula Company's track day. Always a great event, well run with professional drivers and instructors on hand. At the most basic level, I also wanted to just have lots of laps to get myself back into some sort of driving rhythm, sharpness and fitness.

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In pit lane at Sandown Raceway waiting for kick-off - 2014

On arrival I was delighted to see Peter Fitzgerald, mechanic Clem and some of his customers there so a 'team' environment would make the day even more enjoyable. With a sunny day in prospect and unlimited access to an espresso machine what could be better!

After a solid first session of 10 laps or so the car gelt really good. I came in, adjusted tyre pressures and was really looking forward to getting out again and bringing my times down slowly but surely. Two laps into Session 2, I was already down to my best time of the day. Then a missed downshift coming into the Dandenong Road corner 'buzzed' the engine and a fairly nasty vibration from the engine / drivetrain somewhere forced me back into the pits.

Expert opinion at the time was a pressure plate and / or clutch failure resulting from the over-rev. Bugger!

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A 996 GT3 Pressure Plate

Now there are some logistical challenges to get the car to Fitzgerald Racing Services for repair as I didn't have my tow car and trailer on hand as I drove to the track. Robin saved the day again! The next issue was FRS were closing the following for the holiday break and were not re-opening until January 12 which meant that I would miss another planned track day at Phillip Island on January 9. But great work by the FRS crew replaced the pressure plate and turned the car around in under 24 hours. It is now back home ready for it's next outing.


Fingers crossed 2015 brings me some better luck!

The #48 Kyron Audio Porsche GT3

My good friends at Kyron Audio were looking at ways to promote their brand and we decided that running some signage on the GT3 at Porsche Club days might help their visibility. So the GT3 is now back from 'WrapMyRide' with the new Kyron Audio livery applied. And looks pretty special too!

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More pictures at my Flickr gallery here.

Maserati & Presidents Day Update

I have now been on track in the new beast! That is the good news. The bad news is that I seem to have forgotten how to drive…

It was my first track day with the Maserati Club and I must say it was pretty well run. Passenger laps in the morning and timed laps (via Dorian) in the afternoon. In summary, I started slowly, then tailed off! The car was fine, but my lines were rubbish and I was still feeling my way with the gearbox and new ratios. There was a lot of traffic on the circuit and I couldn't get enough free track to find some rhythm and pace so I retired gracefully early in the afternoon ready to fight another day.

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Where did I go wrong? - Photo by Robin Humphries 2014

That day was 48 hours later when I fronted up for the annual PCV Presidents Day. I had a couple of passengers lined up and was looking forward to some fun. Some early rain made conditions somewhat treacherous so as usual I showed extreme courage and stayed in the garage until the track dried out. Leon was my first brave passenger and I fumbled around for a couple of laps then thought I would have a bit of a 'go'. Well, coming into the tight Dandenong Road left hander, one of my better corners I must say, something strange happened. Braking hard, the car seemed to stop braking and gently go straight ahead almost in slow motion towards the 'kitty litter'. And, for safety reasons, an off-track excursion on Presidents Day gets you automatically sent home… Somehow I just got the car turning left before all four wheels left the circuit…. Leon bravely took this incident very well indeed!

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Probably should have let Leon's kids drive, they may have been quicker than me - 2014

By the end of the day I was driving much better but the car seemed a little down on power. I had been having intermittent battery / electrical issues since the rebuild as well. All this combined with a small oil leak meant that I took the car back to Fitzgerald Racing Services the following week and they ascertained that the failing electrics were forcing the ECU in the engine to cut power resulting in my lack of performance. Another dyno test showed the car was producing all that it should.

GT3 Dyno Pic

Roll on my next outing. I am feeling confident. Again!

I'm back!

I am back! My Porsche GT3 engine and gearbox rebuild has now been completed by Fitzgerald Racing Services. I need to get ready for the Maserati Club Day at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on Friday and the PCV Presidents' Day on Sunday. Wow, I better get on it!

GT3 w:SuperTraps

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Love those Supertrapps! - 2014

GT3 visitation rights at FRS

I visited the GT3 at Fitzgerald Racing Services today to get a first hand update of the progress (and issues) associated with the engine and gearbox rebuild of 'Nemo'.

The car is now in one 'piece', and is pulling excellent numbers on the dyno, but it managed to 'lunch' the old exhaust system, so much so that it burnt, well severely singed and deformed the rear bumper... Plenty of options exist to resolve this issue of course, and unsurprisingly none of them are cheap!

I have an old Starr Performance exhaust system here, which is fabulous, but loud, and we have decided to instal that on the GT3, and to fabricate a pair of external silencers for 75db track days or to be ultra noise sensitive for the road.

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'Nemo' exposed... - 2014

The advantages of this approach will be that it is a 'throughput' benefit allowing the engine to breathe / exhale better than the standard system and that it is reasonably cost effective using existing parts and simple add-on components.

In addition to the 'core' repairs / upgrades, I will be adding a new Schroth 4-point drivers harness, additional roll cage protective foam, re-fitting of the standard GT3 steering wheel (while the MOMO Porsche Cup wheel gets 're-skinned)' and instal an upgrade to my VBOX Race Logic data capture and analysis in-car software.

We are now just a week or so away from the car being back in my hands. I have entered for a track day at the Philip Island Grand Prix circuit with the Maserati Club on Friday, October 31.

Happy days ahead!

GT3 Cup Challenge - Queensland Raceway

We had our annual holiday to Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast again this year. As luck would have it, the GT3 Cup Challenge had a round of their series at Queensland Raceway while we were up there and my GT3 Porsche specialist Peter Fitzgerald was competing. So we decided to drive the two hours each way to support Peter and watch the other events at this Shannons Nationals event.

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Prepare to race - 2014

We watched a few practice and qualifying sessions of various classes while waiting for the GT3 twilight endurance ever to begin. The Shannons V8s were exciting, the Formula 3s were very fast, the Formula Fords ferociously competitive for first place and for last (literally) and the Sports Cars with the outrageous Alfa GTV were a visual and sonic delight.

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Robin giving Peter some support or making him very, very nervous... - 2014

Peter qualified P2, only a poof-teenth away from pole. The start dropped him back to third and after 20 or so laps was still in the top 4, but a spin and some other 'operator errors' dropped him a little further down the charts by race end. The winner, John McCorkindale, a youngster from New South Wales, drove a stunning wire-to-wire victory.

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Peter F @ speed - 2014

We really enjoyed the day. A sparse crowd was to be expected but you could mingle amongst the cars, chat to drivers, take pictures and generally have fun.

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Twilight + Porsches = Awesome spectacle - 2014

GT3 Engine Rebuild

Following on from the previous post, I am saddened to report that the engine damage could hardly be a greater disaster. In the words of 'Bob, the engine builder at FRS', it is the worst engine damage he has seen in a 996 GT3. At least I am at the top of the table of something...

After much consideration I decided not to top myself but to rebuild the GT3 engine and give the work to the guys at Fitzgerald Racing Services. A few key reasons. I believe they do very good work, the new engine will be an absolute cracker and deliver me significantly improved performance and the 'investment' will ensure premium support from the FRS team at future PCV track days.

So as of now, poor 'Nemo' is in bits (ruins?) in an industrial alley in Box Hill for a couple of months. Be brave my friend. All will be better soon!

GT3 @ Fitzys

The planned rebuild is for a slight capacity increase to deliver improved power and torque. The 'base' rebuild costs silly money, and to deliver tangible improvements over and above 'almost' seems reasonable...

I am please to report that Robin has been a key part of this decision-making process. Perhaps as one who has a passion for 'expensive' hobbies she was sympathetic to the issue, recognised my performance improvements this year and we both recognise that I have, say a five year improvement horizon in the 'sport' and I can't afford (performance-wise) to wait too long. The window shall not be missed!

I am feeling really bullish about the future!

Update: I have 'taken the opportunity' to have the gearbox rebuilt and refreshed in addition to lowering the ratios of the 3rd / 4the / 5th / 6th gears to ensure the car is more often in the peak power / torque curve. After all, it is only money...

A most unfortunate PCV Sprint event at Sandown

With the new tow car, I was very excited and looking forward to a competitive outing at Sandown Raceway. The weather was poor for the week leading up to race day, but the Saturday dawned cool and overcast but dry fortunately.

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Awaiting the off - 2014

I was seeded in Group 1 and planned to sit back in the pack and hopefully watch and learn a few tips and lines from the quick guys (and gal). Almost turned out to be true.

The session commenced (after one false start) and I was behind a tricked-up 996 Turbo. Pushing on the out-lap I was keeping somewhat in touch when I felt some strangeness in the clutch / drivetrain which forced me to drop off the back of him. Another half a lap of trying, the clutch felt very weird and then went completely to the floor and stayed there. I managed to coast back to the garage where the Fitzgerald's mechanic manually pumped the pedal by hand and at least got the pressure and the pedal back to 'normal' height. I was ready for the next session.

As I started the car to head out into pit lane, the car developed a longer start-up 'rattle' than is normal. It disappeared when I pressed the clutch in but returned with the clutch out. I felt uncomfortable. It had already been a slow day with a couple of incidents requiring fence repairs and recovery vehicles and I didn't want to have a failure or incident on track and delay the event further so I parked the car for the day, pending future repairs.

Luckily we had the car on the trailer and were able to deposit the GT3 at Fitzgerald's workshop on Saturday night after the event for inspection and repairs

I received the dreaded phone call on Tuesday. The good news was the clutch is fine, but the bad news was the engine is damaged. Flywheel / crankshaft issues necessitating a tear down and rebuild, the size and scale of which is still TBD. What I do know is that it won't be cheap and the car will be out of action for a couple of months.

Watch this space for more details as they come to hand.

The tow rig is go!

After some good advice from Jocaro Motors and a great auto electrician in Mentone, the car and trailer are now talking to each other and the rig had it's first outing to Sandown last Sunday.

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'Czar' with 'Nemo' in tow - 2014

The Cayenne is a very comfortable tow vehicle, the steering brakes and overall mass controlling the weight at the rear very capably. And in all modesty, the combination looked very nice in the paddock area. They blended in superbly...

Although I need more practice to hone my tow car driving skills, it is an excellent partnership so far!

PCV Turbo / GT3 Register Run to Drouin

On Sunday morning, some 15 optimistic souls met at McDonalds in Mulgrave to prepare for our advertised early morning 'experience' to Drouin for morning refreshments. With the race tyres and wheels still on the GT3, I had to apologise to my GT3 Register members and drive my 993 Turbo on the day. It didn't feel too much of a hardship en route however...

As a responsible car club, it is important that our members obey all road regulations at all times. So with that we sent one of the Register Co-Captains off to lead the group to our destination. What a monumental mistake! There is slow and then there is REALLY slow! It would not be appropriate to mention names but his initials are... Rowan Burnett... He will never be allowed to lead again, or else members have the right to run him off the road!

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That aside, the route was delightful out through the outer eastern suburbs ending with a great run on the Nayook to Noojee Road across to Drouin. Recent rain made the surrounds green and a visual treat. The bakery in Drouin provided great service and good food to the hungry (if frustrated) drivers!

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Thanks to Julie Mason for the photos, and to David Mallinson for organising the day and for ensuring Rowan got out alive!

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The Master and yes, well, er Rowan...

2009 Porsche Cayenne Diesel - Welcome Czar!

With my renewed focus on motor sport for at least this year and next, combined with Robin's recent successes and enthusiasm for more equestrian competitions, I am now without a tow car and driver. Tragedy...

So I started looking around for something that can tow 3500 KG, that I can afford and would like to drive.... After some searching, I ruled out the X5, various Audis, an ML, the Jeep range and then started to worry. Of course I would like a Porsche, but they are a bit pricey and I wasn't sure that even if I could afford a diesel I wasn't sure that I would like to own it / drive it. And the sharp-ish looking current body shape was well out of my price range (sorry to continually sound cheap) which left with a superseded looking model. And a diesel. A re-think perhaps...

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Fortune favours the fortunate... Calvin, the former owner / principal of the Porsche service specialist that looks after the Boxster, Bruiser and 4S (and the former 'keeper' of my GT3) was selling his 2009 Cayenne Diesel and wondered if we would be interested. What can I say to be polite.... Robin likes Calvin and the great work he has done looking after our cars over the years, and STRONGLY suggested that we should have a test drive. Totally unprepared for the event I agreed.

For such a Porsche fan as myself, I am surprised that I should have been shocked at how well the vehicle drove. Nearly five years old and 145,000 kms there was not a rattle, the interior and exterior were in fantastic condition for age / usage, the standard / optional kit seemed extensive and the performance was most impressive. A second drive a few days later clinched the deal and on March 27 we were the proud owners.

So what is it? It is a 2009 Porsche Cayenne, with a 3.0 Turbo diesel engine, six speed Tiptronic transmission. Sand white exterior over black interior with aluminium highlights. Included features to name a few: Porsche Communications Management (PCM) with bluetooth phone, satellite navigation, CD/DVD-A stacker, iPod and auxiliary inputs, heated / folding side mirrors, roof rails, aluminium look roof rails, front & rear parking sensors, Porsche carpet mats (plus additional rubber mats) and moulded cargo area insert, rear cargo blind, cruise control, dual zone climate control, colour-coded front and rear valances and headlight surrounds, tinted glass, rain-sensing wipers, factory-fitted Porsche tow bar and integrated electric brake controller and more I am sure! The only component that may be deemed 'low rent' are the standard 18" wheels which Calvin assures me are a much more practical options than the 20" inch-ers that he tried.The included Pirelli rubber is near new.

What is most surprising is the way it drives. Compared to Robin's wonderful 200-series Toyota LandCruiser Sahara diesel, the Cayenne steers and stops like a sports sedan, albeit weighing 2,300 KG. The Bruiser, a twin turbo diesel V8 certainly has the Cayenne for outright torque but drivability easily goes to the Porsche. After just a few days I am not missing the smoothness and luxury of the Lexus (as sweet as it is) as the Cayenne isn't tangibly behind in driver comfort or overall performance. It is not going to win any 'traffic light Grand Prix' but at 80-90km/h the overtaking torque is powerfully reassuring.

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OK, all good so far, but is there anything not to like? The most obvious weakness is the low-speed speed ride. Most reviewers have commented on this aspect of the car's performance and the description is 'jiggly'. Mostly suspension related plus a little drivetrain 'roughness' on very light throttle opening. From a personal point of view, I have to get used to the size of this beast, especially without the benefit of a reversing camera (a la Lexus). At least the parking sensors are very loud!

The rest of my 'complaints' are about the vintage of the vehicle versus newer models. It could be more fuel efficient, newer models are more attractive (both inside and out) and are packaged more efficiently. Just pay twice the price!

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While I am sure that 'Czar' will be a keeper, one can only dream about how special the current model Cayenne Turbo must be...

The next step is to check the mechanical and electrical coupling with our Featherlite car trailer. Fingers crossed! More pictures and ownership comments as they come to hand. Colour me happy so far!

PCV Club Sprint - Sandown

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My Porsche GT3 in February sunshine - Photo by Ron Widdison 2014

More to come, but here is a summary of events from a stressful day:
- I was over second slower than my new personal best from yesterday's Open Practice. I was hoping to actually go quicker...;
- After lunch my 'Check Engine' warning light came on. Usually not a good sign;
- Grasping for switches in the cockpit at speed, I disturbed a tray holding two small remote controls and now appear to have 'lost' one of them somewhere inside the car...;
- While waiting for the 'Check Engine' warning diagnostics, the driver's side rear tyre was observed to be pretty flat and after removing it we found the tread was lifting off the sidewall. Again. Thanks to my Porsche Club buddy Chris, we were able to drive back home to pick up one of my old spare race wheels and return to the track and get the GT3 mobile again;
- The engine lid / cover refuses to lock shut. Again. It has been repaired at least four times to MY knowledge;
- Somehow at lunchtime I lost my prescription glasses;

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The 'Flying 48' getting some diagnostic 'love' from Harris of FRS - 2014

After all that, believe it or not, I had a good day. Although my times were off, I learned a bit about the car, myself and some techniques required to get some speed and half decent lap times even when I don't have my A-game.

PCV Open Practice - Sandown

A key component of my 2014 motor sport plans is to have more seat time combined with driver training to improve my skills, consistency and ultimately, speed.

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The mighty '48' - 2014

The plan started off well at the first event at Phillip Island a couple of weeks ago and I was looking forward to keeping the momentum going at Sandown.

The outing started slowly with early drizzle and after a couple of sessions I wasn't improving on my previous best. Close, but not close enough. After a couple of tyre pressure adjustments and with the fuel load coming down i managed to pull out a 1.22.1, besting my previous PB by nearly 1.5 seconds. And of course I thought I could go quicker.

And of course, I didn't. Tried too hard (or not hard enough) and couldn't get back down to the 22s for the rest of the day. But I went home happy and looking forward to the official club competition on Sunday.

PCV Club Sprint - Phillip Island

The first competition event of the year was at the magnificent Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on, strangely enough, Phillip Island, some 100 minutes south-east of Melbourne. The weather forecast was for hot and dry conditions, no surprise as the Island can be very hot or very cold. Looks like it might be a tough day for drivers and cars...

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Exiting Siberia - Photo by Steve Duggan 2014

I was delighted with the car preparation by Fitzgerald Racing Services. The GT3 felt 'tight and right' driving home after the service and setup work and I knew it should be good and safe for the day, particularly with fresh Yokohama R-spec rubber on. I was less confident in my own readiness. I hadn't driven on track since October and this was my first outing after the November surgery. And I was carrying a few extra kilos...

The first session saw me caught up in a gaggle of energetic early 911s and I didn't seem to have the power down the straight and confidence into Turn 1 to overtake them. So I paddled around for a lap or two and saw a 1min 55 sec lap time come up on the dash. Mmmm. That is only 1.5 seconds outside my PB and I felt that I was being held up literally everywhere.

Back in the pits, a quick check of the hot tyre pressures saw them 2 - 3 psi too high, so I dropped those in readiness for the next session. Also some discussion in the garage led to a new braking point and approach into Turn 1 and with some confidence I ventured out for Session 2. I queued a little more forward this time and even on the warm up lap I managed to 'monster' a couple of cars that kindly waved me by and I was able to get on it reasonably quickly. While the car felt 'nice' at modest pace in Session 1, as I stepped it up it just felt even better. The more I pushed, it just pointed, stayed flat, gripped up and kept going forward at a nice pace. I have to say the car felt way better than I have ever driven it. It could not have been me as I was almost a spectator in the driver seat.

So I pressed on and with my predictive lap timer working well, I came around the last turn and saw -1 sec on the display. One second under my personal best! I was delighted. This was way more than my expectation for the day. But even in the heat, I felt OK in the car and kept going. With little or no traffic in front I tried to stay smooth, brake late, keep the car straight and accelerate as early as I dared. I cursed under my breath a couple of times as the car just pointed so quickly a couple of times I needed to release the steering and turn again to get around but the car was at least still flowing. I tried to concentrate hard into Turn 12 (the last turn before the main straight) and gassed it up under the bridge and glanced at the lap timer which said -2 sec!!! In real terms that was -2 under my last lap meaning -3 seconds under my previous event best lap. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I crossed the line but I felt that was enough, breathed out and came in. By my humble standards, that was a real thrill!


Video of the 1:50.62 lap, a personal best. - 2014

It wasn't all plain sailing however. After a break, some lunch and another tyre pressure adjustment I went out again in the heat of the afternoon looking for more speed. After a couple of laps I was a second or so adrift and pressed on. Then a bad vibration started in the rear of the car. I wasn't sure if it was marble pickup after going offline to pass another car or something worse. The vibration was getting more severe and I came in to the garage only to find that I had badly blistered and distorted the driver's side rear tyre (the 'working' side at Phillip Island) and my day was over.

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That 'lump' on the top left is non-standard.... - 2014

Although I was disappointed with the tyre failure, given the heat on the day. I was probably going to park it early afternoon anyway. So with a great time (for me) in the bank I was happy just to pack up and smile!

Phillip Island 1.50.6 PB

The tyre will be replaced so roll on Sandown Raceway in late February. I am keen!

Change of Porsche Service Specialist - FRS

When considering my competition plans for 2014, I came to the conclusion that I had I had to do something different to either me, the car or both in order to achieve better results. One way to achieve both aims was to move the preparation of the GT3 to a service organisation that not only provides track side car support but assisted in driver training and physical & mental preparation as well.

One such organisation in Melbourne is Fitzgerald Racing Services in suburban Box Hill. The founder & principal, Peter Fitzgerald is a former professional Porsche sports car champion and current PCV member.

He supports a 'stable' of 12 or 15 drivers regularly competing at club events who all seem to be improving and enjoying their club-level motor sport. Why not try my luck with 'Club Fitzy'.

So today my GT3 goes in for an annual service, safety check, a Phillip Island suspension setup and new Yokohama 'R' spec tyres. I am looking forward to my first event a Phillip Island in early February!

I will keep you informed of my progress.