Wednesday, 10 June 2009


A couple of weeks ago I ended took up an invitation to try out a Gen2 Cayman at Porsche's new driving centre in SIlverstone. It meant an early start but I was well past the Chi jams by 8, and after stopping for a Little Chef heart-attack on a plate I was at Silverstone before 11. It’s a good long run from SS7 Towers, getting on for 140 miles each way.

The Porsche driving centre is very similar to Merc World. Its on a smaller scale but still impressive, and judging from the reaction of punters there I spoke to looks to be a be a very effective way of spending Wiedeking's marketing budget.

The track includes a number of different driving environments: two wet areas, a very tight ‘slippery’ circuit, and a slightly less tight ‘B’ road circuit. After a bit of a briefing we were ushered out to the cars. I’d heard that Richard Attwood was on the driving staff that day but alas he wasn’t with my group. The track stuff was the usual high thrill, low risk stuff for the moderately skilled. We started on the kickplates, which you’ve probably heard of. The plate is a computer controlled device that moves laterally as the car's rear wheels pass over it, putting it into "involuntary oversteer". The surface as as slippery as ice, so if you drop the catch you’ll still spin like a top; ESC or no! A heady 28mph sounds slow, but its still challenging on ice -as I discovered spinning at my second run over the traps.

Then it was onto the braking area, a similar slippery surface but on an incline, and the instructor altered the ESC modes after each run through from Sport to Sport+ to Off to show the effects on the car. Actually the surface was slippery enough to just mess around on!

At this point I changed cars from the 2.9 to a PDK ‘S’. It was difficult to form firm impressions without more road miles, but the regular car drove almost identically to my first generation car, although the extra torque was noticeable.

The ‘S’ I used on the ‘B’ road was a hoot; serving up some serious performance. The PDK+ active suspension + sport Chrono systems also made it a tight little racer. I was very impressed at how well the S on 19" wheels resisted understeer, and at the levels of traction, but the 'track' was tight and twisty so little chance to really let it rip through the bigger gears, although there was the space to give the thing 95% full berries in 2nd and 3rd! Additionally the surface was very smooth so there was no no real indication of how the big wheels would affect ride on a sh*te British 'B' road.

PDK was technically impressive; the range of settings might be useful and it let me focus on steering and braking (driving with two feet like a kart), but I kept getting involuntary up changes when I hit the buttons with the heel of my hand when putting some lock on. I know internet jockey's have already given Porsche grief over the wheel mounted buttons, but they really are nuts. .

I was in the cars for nearly an hour, and then enjoyed a very nice lunch and a chat with a couple of Lancashire lads (one of whom I’d beasted in the ‘S’ - but I kept schtum ). I did get the opportunity to introduce myself to Richard Attwood. He seems like a nice bloke, and clearly enjoys his ‘job’. We talked about his Goodwood Revival plans; he’s not sure as his BRM single seater is broke! I wonder how many of his pupils realise the nice old boy encouraging them from the passenger seat won Porsche’s first Le Mans in 1970 in a 245mph 917?

I know it’s a bit crass, but Attwood is one of my heros, so I decided to try and get an autograph – when I actually spoke to him I didn’t have a nything to write with, so once I’d found a pen I set off, unsuccessfully, to track him down. As I left, I spoke to one of the organisers on the off chance that she might be able to do something.

The following Saturday I had to sign for a parcel from Porsche in Reading. In it was a bundle of bits of branded merchandise, including a Porsche Driving Experience brochure, enscribed with the words "Shoestring7, Looking forward to meeting you again at Goodwood, Richard Attwood”.

How cool is that? Almost worth buying a 911 for...


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