Porsche Camp4 Experience
Porsche Camp4 Experience
Porsche Camp4 Experience
Porsche Camp4 Experience. Click image to enlarge

Article by Lesley Wimbush, photos by Lesley Wimbush and courtesy of Porsche Canada

Estérel, Quebec – By the time I’d hit my thirties, I’d come to the unwelcome realization that being an adult is mostly a colossal drag.

Having spent much of my childhood and tween years at camp, I think back on those halcyon summers and it doesn’t seem fair that there’s no equivalent getaway for grownups.

All-inclusive resorts? Puh-leeze, they’re about as attractive – and tasteless – as a barrelful of Kardashians.

And just thinking about cruise ships gives me a full-on body shiver – all those corpulent bodies lying on their deck chairs like a scene from “Wall-E”.

But a recent invitation to attend Porsche’s Camp4 got my attention. Say what?

A Camp… with Porsches? Well strip my gears and call me shiftless – that’s more like it.

Camp4, Porsche’s premiere winter driving event began in Finland in 1996 and they’ve since established similar programs in Italy, Switzerland, China and now here in Canada.

And just like those of my treasured memories, this camp is tucked away in the piney, northern woods by a pristine lake.

For the fourth consecutive year, Camp4 Canada takes place at Mecaglisse, a motorsport complex not far from Mont Tremblant.

Nestled in the foothills of the Laurentian mountains, Mecaglisse is 700 heavily wooded acres featuring more than 15 kilometres of looping track with a variety of elevations, and slick skid pads.

The Camp4 fleet consists of three of Porsche’s current sports cars: the rear-wheel drive Cayman and 911 Carerra S, and all-wheel-drive 911 Carrera 4S – all of which are shod in studded Nokian Hakkapelittas – the tire equivalent of mountaineer’s hiking boots.

If the idea of flogging outrageously expensive sports cars in the snow and ice sounds ludicrous to you, you’re not alone.

When I was just a fledgling auto reviewer, I was shocked to discover that Porsches weren’t pulled off the press fleet at the first snowfall. Everyone knows that exotic sports cars are like hot house flowers – venturing out only under temperate conditions lest they wilt and perish. Um, right?

Little did I know that the spirit of Ferdinand Porsche has endowed all his motorized progeny with the sure-footedness of Nepalese Sherpas. It wasn’t long before I realized that the Porsche reputation for excellent handling extends to all road conditions – they’re simply fantastic in winter. I’m often approached, in parking lots and gas stations, by folks who can’t believe I’m driving such a car in this weather, and are quite curious about its behaviour on treacherous roads.

Porsche Camp4 ExperiencePorsche Camp4 Experience
Porsche Camp4 Experience. Click image to enlarge

They’re surprised to hear that Porsches top the list of cars I feel safest in when the weather goes sideways because of the confidence-building feedback and communication between the car and driver. A Porsche will tell you right away if it’s losing grip, so you can correct it before it becomes a big problem, unlike many vehicles which tend to isolate you from what’s happening until it’s too late.

Instead of rustic log bunkies, participants stay in a luxurious resort on the lakeshore and dine on multi-course, gourmet meals. No weenies-on-sticks for this crowd.

Porsche Camp4 Experience
Pierre Des Marais. Click image to enlarge

Divided into groups, instead of long-suffering counsellors, we’re assigned to equally patient instructors. This esteemed group of drivers include Porsche Factory Works driver and veteran of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Romain Dumas, 12 Hours of Sebring winner Kees Nierop – and our own instructor, Rothman’s Porsche series veteran Pierre Des Marais.

Pairing up, we head out to the first exercise – a gigantic skidpad – in rear wheel drive Carreras. The object, as Pierre communicates to us through the two-way radio, is to travel the circle fast enough that we eventually induce oversteer – inviting the rear end to slide out. Or, in the words of the late, great Dale Earnhardt “Understeer is when you drive into the wall – oversteer is when your ass hits it”.

The automatic reaction for most people is slamming on the brakes or lifting off the throttle which lightens up the rear end, making the situation worse. Counter-steering gently into the direction of the skid helps the wheels regain traction while the car continues in the direction you want to go. Done properly, the car performs a beautiful sweeping arabesque – the rear wheels dancing a circle outside the fronts.

Connect with Autos.ca