Porsche Driving Experience
6.15am. That’s close enough. My alarm is due to go off at 6.30, but its near as damn-it. Certainly better than my last 2 attempts, waking up at 1.30am, and 4.17am. Like a child on Christmas day, I can wait no longer and I’m up and ready. Time for breakfast? Of course there is. But I’m not having any, too excited.
My appointment is at 10am at the Porsche Driving Experience Centre at Silverstone. The journey is around 2 and a half hours. With 1 hour contingency.
So, off I go in the Cayman, picking my Dad up on the way – he’s coming along as my non-driving guest and is really looking forward to it. The relaxing journey down consists mainly of conversation around cars, driving, and bad habits of passing motorists. We pick up a fair amount of traffic on the M1 as we pass the 12 mile contra flow. A broken down lorry in lane one ensures that traffic is pretty solid as we chug past the road works.
After a stop at a services, we arrive at Silverstone at 9.50am (good job we added the extra time allowance). Driving up to the barrier, the security guard pops his head out. “Porsche Experience please” says I. “Turn right here, a mile down that road”, comes the reply. Great stuff. Almost there! Driving down the road, parallel to the Silverstone race track is cool. There is just us on the road. And its a nice new road. Weather is looking good. Very good.
A few minutes later, we arrive at the Centre. It looks like a typical showroom affair. Very nice. We pull up in the car park, next to a sea of Caymans. Lots of red ones, including mine..
The entrance looks even more dramatic with the eye-candy on offer…
As we enter the building we are met by an immaculately presented receptionist. After announcing our names, she gives us our day passes and
explains how the event works. The passes have our name on them, along with the Porsche logo and a picture of a Cayman. My Dad hasn’t been to anything like this before and is absolutely made up with having his own Porsche name-badge. “I’m keeping this as a memento!” he says proudly, smile beaming from ear to ear as it puts it around his neck. He decides that he’ll keep his Ford hat on though, as he feels more comfortable in it…!!
We pass through the showroom, which dons a few racing cars, a 911, Cayman and Boxster. All looking very nice indeed…
My slot is a 10.40am. Time for some breakfast now. We get a Window seat looking over the Centre handling circuit and grab some coffee and bacon sarnies. The Caymans are all lined up outside in every colour imaginable. It looks great.
To the right of the cars there is a wash bay, where the cars keep being sent for a good clean. I was wondering how I could sneak mine in there to save me a job at the weekend. Upstairs in the restaurant there is a big Scalextric track which provides some good entertainment, and a selection of car magazines to read next to the comfy-seats. To the left of the restaurant is the Options board, which shows you many of the different customization options you can have for the interior and wheels when specc’ing a new car.
Whilst having breakfast, the centre manager from Porsche Newcastle comes over to say hello, mistakenly assuming my Dad was the one who bought the Cayman. The cheek! Dad sheepishly removes his Ford cap.
10:40 arrives and we are greeted and taken for an overview of the building and the cars which are in the showroom, including a £70,000 Cayman with all the trimmings. Looks fantastic…
Then its my turn out on the track. Hurrah!!!! First up, the skiddy stuff. I am reminded on the way to the skidpan that we aren’t actually supposed to be going full-tilt on the track as yet. You get to test the power of the brakes first by accelerating down a hill and then stopping really close to the end. I was amazed just how quickly these cars can actually stop. Then we head down a section of tarmac which is covered in water, mimicking a road of ice. A sheet of water sprouts up randomly from the floor and you have to try to avoid it. Having the car swirl all over the shop is a good reminder as to how dangerous the roads are in bad weather if you have to suddenly change course.
Then we head onto the twisty section which is half the slipperiness of the ice section, and is like a polished marble effect on the floor. This allows you to get the back end out and do some great slides out of the corners. I absolutely loved this bit, getting the rear out and then doing that thing where you let go of the steering wheel and letting it shoot round to correct the lock was awesome!!
Next up track stuff. My instructor was great, helping me to get the most out of my car and telling me when to brake, lines to use etc. This was good as I’ve never done anything like this before. It felt really quick into the corners but my Dad said it looked slow from the viewing platform. haha!! I think the latter was probably true, but it felt quick at the time!! Here I am…
So… Cayman S. Very nice – very quick!! Love the engine note, and the effortlessness of the acceleration. this was a manual car. I then had a go in the new non-S model. It had PDK. Personally, I couldn’t tell the difference really in speed from my current 2.7 and I struggled with PDK. I couldn’t get the hang of pushing the thing forwards to change up a gear. My driver had to keep pointing the direction which I needed to move the paddle or stick, engine merrily revving its heart out whilst I worked it out.
After a good few laps in each car we headed over to the final skid section, which had a kick-plate as you drove onto the water drenched area. The plate knocked your back wheels randomly left or right, causing you to go into a skid. This was good, but I managed to catch all of the skids and keep the car level (driving around 22mph), as did most in our group. One notable exception was a lady who was pirouetting every time, looked very funny. Then my instructor turned off PSM to demonstrate just how much the computer assists you without always realising it. I put my foot down and turned the car in to cause a skid. The loss of control was immense, with the car like a spinning top. With PSM on, it was much, much harder to force the car to skid. PSM – the button of doom. I’ll leave mine on I think!
A couple more laps, and then it was game over. I met up with my Dad and we went for another brew, followed by a presentation on the Cayman. This was delivered expertly by one of the Porsche staff at the centre and was about the history of Porsche and the development of the Cayman. On the questions section I asked about the double-clutch system, and how it knows whether to change up or down. The answer, by the way, is that the second clutch is continually monitoring what your doing with the accelerator and will keep changing the pre-selected gear (up or down) depending on which one your going to require.
Our final ride of the day was in the Cayenne, where we were treated to some off-road demonstrations of what the 4×4 can do. I love these cars!
This finished with a fast-lap in the new Cayenne Diesel to show off its capabilities as both a driver car as well as an off-roader/mummy-machine.
A lovely Turbo was also in the showroom…
We finished the day with another look around the showroom and then headed off back up the M1 to home. The distinct lack of any salesmen meant that we could indulge in each car for as long as we liked without any hint of sell or attention. Brilliant! The interior in the Cayenne (an orangey colour) and the 911 (red) really looked good!
The Porsche Driving Experience Day. Absolutely brilliant, unforgettable day out for me and the ol’ man. Sometimes the best things in life are free – you just have to have paid a small fortune beforehand in order to get them.