Porsche Driving Experience Driver’s Tune-up
by Jim Kerr

Spring is here and tune-up specials are being promoted by dealerships and service shops across the country. While most drivers get their vehicles prepared for a summer of driving, very few get themselves ready. Getting yourself “tuned up” may be the best investment you could make. Not only is it a lot of fun, but the skills you learn could save your life! So where should one go to improve driving skills? You could find a deserted piece of property – hard to find and possibly illegal. Join a sports car club and try some “club” events – good for socialising but it takes a while to learn any driving skills. Take driving lessons – great, but not one that spends a lot of time teaching parallel parking. There are several driving schools across North America that teach far more. To learn the most, go to the best.

One of the better driving schools in North America is located at Road Atlanta race track in Georgia. It is called the Porsche Driving Experience. The Porsche Driving Experience isn’t a racing school. It’s far more useful: a high performance driver education program, designed to enhance the driving skills of automotive enthusiasts by focusing on control, safety, situational awareness, and smoothness.

Porsche Driving Experience The program uses road-going Porsche 911 Carrera coupes rather than racing cars, and teaches skills that have broad application in everyday driving. Open to drivers of any make of automobile, the only requirements are the ability to drive a standard transmission, be at least 18 years old, and have one year of driving experience. With its combination of initial classroom time and exercises, followed by instructor-proctored track laps, the Porsche Driving Experience progressively elevates driving skills and confidence. One-day classes focus on progressive skill-building exercises. Two-day classes add longer periods of road-course laps.

The instructors are championship drivers who have campaigned Porsche cars in the past, including such legends as endurance-greats Hurley Haywood, Pierre Savoy, and Jack Baldwin, noted sports car racers Doc Bundy, Dave Murray and Jeff Purner, plus periodic guest drivers such as Bill Adam and Johnny Unser. I recently had the opportunity to refresh my driving skills for a couple hours under the guidance of Doc Bundy, Hurley Haywood, and Dave Murray. Here are some tips I learned from them.

The first lesson was in setting the driving position. The seat should be adjusted so the driver’s knees are slightly bent with the clutch and brake pedal pressed down completely. To ensure you can push all the way down, put your feet on the floor beneath the pedals and move the seat until your legs are no longer straight. Then adjust the seat back so your wrist will rest on the top of the steering wheel when your arm is extended. This will ensure that your elbows will be slightly bent when driving the car with your hands in the normal 2 o’clock and 10 o’clock positions.

From there, it is a combination of classroom education and driving practise. I didn’t have the opportunity to go through all the driving exercises, such as skid pad control or the lane change exercise. Much of my time was spent on the track practising proper steering wheel hand position, balanced pedal application, and overall smoothness of control inputs. Smooth driving is the safe and quick way around the track and it requires lots of practise!

sche Driving Experience One of the troubles I had was keeping the car smooth while downshifting around a corner. The car would either surge ahead or slip off the line as I tried to keep everything smooth. A quick lesson from Doc Bundy, called the Heel-Toe Exercise, enabled me to brake the car and simultaneously apply the throttle so engine speed matched the wheel speed when exiting a corner. While many drivers actually use the heel of their foot to step on the gas while stepping on the brake with their toes, “Doc” showed me how to simply slide my knee sideways with my foot on the brake and let the side of my foot touch the gas pedal. I have a long way to go to master this, but a noticeable improvement was immediate!

Another exercise we attempted was precise application of the brakes for maximum stopping. It also provides familiarity with the ABS functions of the car. Porsche brakes are amazingly powerful, so stopping was quick. By practising maximum braking, the new skills may prevent a fender bender or worse!

At a full one day course, I would have had the chance to learn the finer points of threshold and ABS Braking, mastering the Autocross in the wet and dry, and the Skid and Slalom courses and of course. Its all wrapped up with the handling dynamics of driving the challenging Road Course.

Learning from the masters isn’t cheap, but then its not your car, fuel, or tires, and the skills learned could take decades if ever to learn by yourself. Besides, its more fun than a barrel of monkeys! A one-day performance handling class is $1595.00 U.S. A two day class is $2195.00 U.S. For more information, call the Porsche Driving Experience at 1-888-204-7474.

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