by Greg Wilson
2001 Porsche 911 Turbo at Mission Raceway Park, Mission, BC
2001 Porsche 911 Turbo
Porsche brought its full 2001 lineup to Mission
Race driver Hurley Haywood tells editor Greg Wilson how to keep the Porsche 911 Turbo shiny side up on the track
2001 Porsche 911 Turbo at speed
Emergency paramedics were on hand should any journalist driver crunch a Porsche
Jaws of life: “If necessary we can cut the pillars of a Porsche and take off the roof,” explained emergency medic
While the new Porsche 911 Turbo’s performance statistics are impressive – 0 to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds, 0 to 160 km/h in 9.2 seconds, and a top speed of 305 km/h – these figures are just numbers on a page until you actually experience the performance of this car on a race-track.
I was one of a group of Canadian journalists invited to test-drive the 2001 Porsche lineup, including the Turbo, at Mission Raceway near Vancouver, a dragstrip that was converted to a racing circuit by adding a few curves on the other side of the track.
The new Porsche Turbo, as you may have read, has a new 415 horsepower twin-turbocharged 3.6 litre horizontally opposed six cylinder water-cooled engine which is based on the engine used in the 1998 Le-Mans winning GT-1 car. Turbos also include standard all-wheel-drive, and PSM (Porsche Stability Management) an anti-skid system which helps prevent oversteer and understeer by automatically braking individual wheels to bring the car back into line.
The Turbo is offered with a standard six-speed manual transmission, and for the first time, a 5-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission with manual shifting buttons on the steering wheel spokes. The Tiptronic S in the Turbo is the most advanced Tiptronic transmission yet developed. While the previous version had 10 mapping programs, this version has 150 mapping programs – in other words, it’s designed to adapt to whatever conditions the vehicle is being driven in, and to the driver’s driving style.
On the Track
To assist journalists with their driving technique and to prevent any expensive bodywork damage, Porsche provided professional racing drivers to accompany journalists on their drives around the track. My assigned professional driver was Hurley Haywood, a long-time Porsche team driver and winner of both LeMans and Daytona. I wouldn’t say I felt intimidated, but I resolved from the very beginning not to hit any of the many concrete barriers surrounding the track.
The circuit at Mission consists of a long 1/5 mile straight, a sharp 180 degree hairpin, a short straight, a shallow left hand turn leading into a sweeping right hander, another short straight, a sharp left turn, and a 180 degree carousel-type turn leading back onto the main straight.
Exiting the pits and onto the main straight, the car leaped ahead with noticeable nose lift, and accelerated relentlessly through the gears with that characteristic boxer-engine roar coming from behind the passenger cabin.
With 415 horsepower at 6000 rpm, 413 ft-lb. of torque at 2700 rpm, and very little turbo lag, throttle response is almost instantaneous.
By the time I reached 4th gear, I was doing 200 km/h and approaching the hairpin. This is where things get scary – brake too early, and somebody will pass you into the hairpin – brake too late, and you’ll overshoot the hairpin, or worse, fail to make the turn and hit the immovable concrete barrier.
Not to worry. The exceptional braking power of the Turbo was in my favour, even though the track was damp. As I squeezed the brakes with increasing intensity, the surrounding scenery, which moments ago had been a blur, suddenly came back into focus. With perhaps the most powerful brakes available in a production car, and a decidedly rear weight distribution, the Turbo hauled down from 200 km/h to 50 km/h in scant seconds with none of the dive and lurching common to front-engined cars. Best of all, the Turbo will keep doing this lap after lap with no brake fade.
After negotiating the tight 180 degree hairpin without hitting the inner tire wall or the outer concrete barrier, I accelerated towards a tight left hander, geared down to third, then second taking the sweeping right hander back onto a short straight. Then it was a quick left and gear down for the final banked carousel which lead back onto the straightaway.
On this short track, I never got past fourth gear, but can imagine how easy it would be to hit top speed in sixth gear with a longer stretch of road in front of me.
The manual gear shifter was easy to shift but felt a bit floppy. Double-clutching or heel-and-toeing are not needed to shift down into a lower gear – “double-clutching is for truck drivers” said Hurley – the six-speed’s syncromesh operation is smooth enough to handle quick shifts and sudden engine loads.
After driving the Turbo with a manual transmission, I stepped into the Turbo with the Tiptronic. Personally, I prefer a traditional manual transmission in a car like this, but the new Tiptronic S in the Turbo has made believers out of many who have driven it, including Hurley Haywood who said he preferred the Tiptronic to the manual transmission.
The new Tiptronic S can be shifted manually by pressing on the up/down buttons on the steering wheel spokes, but Hurley advised me not to use them – just let the transmission do the shifting. In many ways, the Tiptronic imitates how a driver would shift with a manual transmission. When accelerating hard, the Tiptronic waits until the engine reaches redline before shifting, and won’t automatically shift up if you coast for a few moments. As you brake, the transmission shifts down one gear at a time, anticipating the need for more engine revs as you exit the next corner.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the Tiptronic is that it allows the driver to keep both hands on the wheel which allows him/her to drive more smoothly and more safely. The driver can focus on steering and braking – in racing this can reduce lap times, and on the road, it increases safety by reducing the number of tasks the driver has to concentrate on.
Porsche’s own track tests at Mission indicated that the Tiptronic-equipped Turbo will post faster lap times than the manual-equipped Turbo.
Still, if I had $162,516, I would buy the Turbo with the six-speed manual for the extra control and fun-to-drive characteristics that a traditional manual transmission offers.
Or maybe I’d buy a Boxster S, and put the rest into mutual funds – I don’t know..