Porsche 911 GT3
Porsche 911 GT3. Click image to enlarge

Article and photos by Laurance Yap

Photo Gallery: Porsche Track Day

Mosport International Raceway, Ontario – Given how much emphasis Porsche puts on its racing activities in its marketing and advertising, it’s more than a little surprising that racetracks have never been a formal part of the selling process for the cars – at least in Canada. The cars are, of course, pretty fabulous to drive on the road, but my personal experience has proven that it’s only when you take a Porsche out onto a track that you really discover how capable the car really is.

On the road, almost any car with decent power and a good set of tires can make you feel like a hero going down a winding set of curves. Racetracks, however, can quickly expose a car’s shortcomings: brakes that fade after a couple of hard laps; steering racks and suspension set-ups which start to go all wobbly when you’re squealing around bends; seats that don’t hold you in place during fast driving. Conversely, the track is a place where Porsches – cars which can look expensive and underpowered relative to their competitors on the road – really show their stuff.

Apparently, someone at Pfaff Porsche in Woodbridge, Ontario was thinking along the same lines. With a Porsche-themed track day put on by Apex Driver Training running at Mosport International Raceway last month, it piggy-backed its own event on the schedule. Lined up outside a luxury motorhome were a handful of Caymans, a couple of Cayman Ss and a Boxster and a 911 Carrera. Lined up to drive them were 30 prospective Porsche customers culled from the dealership’s contact list – prospects as well as owners of previous-generation Boxsters and even Cayennes – who were ripe for an upgrade, or at least an introduction to the next rung in the brand’s sports car line-up.

Porsche Cayman
Porsche Cayman. Click image to enlarge

Terry – you quickly discover that at the track, everyone’s on a first-name basis – used to have a Boxster, but moved from it into a Subaru STi and then a BMW M5. Stepping out of the base Cayman after being driven by an instructor, then driving some laps behind the wheel, he says the car “brought back good memories of my Boxster. I used to run on the track with the optional hardtop and the Cayman has a very similar feel to it – stiff, responsive, but quite a bit faster.” He hangs around pit lane waiting for another ride.

His friend Alex is another BMW owner and is also a track enthusiast, currently driving a 330i. “Going through corner three, my BMW is squealing like crazy. I was going a heck of a lot faster in the Cayman and it sailed through, no problem.”

People wander over from the lapping day to the tent to check the cars out and to take them for a spin when they’re free. Brad, who currently drives a new Carrera 4S, steps out of the 245-hp base Cayman impressed. “It’s not much to look at in white,” he says, “but for less than $70,000, this is great value for money if you’re going to spend a lot of time at the track. If Porsche put enough power in it, it’d make a better track car than my 911.”

Bill Adam, a longtime endurance racer and one of the instructors spending the day sitting in the passenger seat, agrees. “I used to drive a Carrera as a company car and when they sent this [Cayman S] over to replace it, I was initially disappointed. But it drives better. I find there’s less steering kickback than in any other Porsche model. This is a great car to learn in on the track.”

The cars
The cars. Click image to enlarge

For many of the people Pfaff has invited up, this is their first racetrack experience as well as their first Porsche experience. George drives an Acura Integra (“with Ferrari stickers,” he notes) and returns from his first laps in the Cayman less blown away by the car’s abilities than what the instructor was making the car do. “The first thing I’m going to do,” he says, “is take a track driving school. It was a good thing there were cones out there or I would never have been able to find my way around.”

Solomon has never been on a racetrack before and spends most of the morning jumping in and out of cars waving and making goofy faces. He leaps at cars as soon as they’re free and is always asking the instructors for another set of laps. “The road really doesn’t do this car justice,” the Toronto police officer says. “The mid-engined sound behind your ears is addictive and I like the looks better than the 911.” Coming out of an Infiniti QX4 and a Subaru Impreza, he’s impressed by the rear-wheel-drive car’s handling and the huge amounts of grip it generates on the track.

Porsche 911 GT3
Porsche 911 GT3. Click image to enlarge

It’s not all about the performance, though. Michael admits that his driving activities mostly amount to “puttering around town. I’m a big guy and don’t fit into the earlier Boxsters; what I want is a 2005, which has a bit more room. Because of my budget, right now I’m driving a BMW Z4; in a couple of years, when the prices of the 987s drop a bit, I’ll get one. The Z4 is a really nice car, but I consider it more of a sports/touring car. The Boxster is more of a pure sports car; it’s phenomenal out here on the track.”

Two years? That’s a payoff that’s a long way away for Pfaff, who hope to score a sale or two from this driving event. Then again, it’s hard to put a price on the kind of connection customers make with the brand the first time they have a Porsche out on the track. Whether they’re track novices or old hands, to a one the customers seem to think days like this are a great way to reinforce the sales pitch. “After driving the car out there, I know this is my first Porsche,” Solomon says. “I’m also pretty sure it won’t be my last.”

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