Driving And Learning With Stuttgart’s Finest


Driving And Learning With Stuttgart’s Finest

Almost anyone who tracks often should be familiar with the ‘slow in, fast out’ phrase, but the ‘fast in, tow truck out’ phrase stuck with me as being one of the most memorable, not because it’s funny, but because it’s true.

I recently attended the 2018 Porsche Media Driving Academy, completing both the Professional and Elite level courses over the span of two days, giving me the rare opportunity to sample most of Porsche’s excellent lineup while being able to further enhance my driving skills.

The Porsche Media Driving Academy is carefully designed to help improve a driver’s driving skills with the help of professional driving instructors in controlled environments. All of these are done in various Porsche models, including the 718 family, 911 family, and Cayenne.

Typical of any driving courses, getting the basics right was crucial. In this case, the correct seating position is very important, as the wrong seating position could be detrimental to the driver, as wrist or head injury could occur in the event of a crash. After a quick demonstration by the driving instructor, I started the day with the ABS Braking exercise.

For the uninitiated, ABS stands for Anti-lock Braking System, designed to prevent the car’s wheels from locking up when the brakes are applied hard. This allows the driver to steer the vehicle out of danger. Contrary to popular belief, ABS does not reduce a car’s stopping distance.

The ABS Braking course required us to accelerate a Porsche 911 Turbo S from a dead stop into a pair of cones, where I had to apply the brakes as hard as I could, activating the ABS while steering the car away from any cones. This sounds easy on paper, but with 580 hp on tap, coupled with a wet circuit courtesy of an early morning rain, it soon became apparent that handling a 580 hp beast isn’t an easy task, but the 911 Turbo S’ AWD system ensured that traction was never an issue to begin with.

Thanks to the massive Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brakes (PCCB) system and massive 245/35 ZR20 and 305/30 ZR20 rubbers all round, stopping the 911 Turbo S within the designated spot was completed with relative ease.

The group then proceeded to the next exercise, which Porsche calls the Moose Test. For this exercise, I had to accelerate a Porsche 911 Carrera T and a Cayenne Turbo from a dead stop to roughly 80 km/h, pass a pair cones where I had to ease off the throttle, make an emergency maneuver to the right and left without spinning out and bring the Porsche to a stop.

As modern Porsche models are fitted with Porsche Stability Management (PSM) as standard, under emergency maneuvers the car won't spin out and the driver won’t be experiencing a panoramic view of the road. PSM Sport was also tested, meaning that the stability control will monitor the car’s slip angle and intervene when it detects too much slip angle.

Here, with PSM on, both cars were easy to manage as the system kicked in the moment it sensed the sudden steering input, stabilizing the vehicle as I brought it to a stop. With PSM Sport activated, I noticed that the 911 Carrera T had a tendency to oversteer, though the oversteering comes very naturally and it was rather easy to catch the slide and bring the car to a complete stop.

As for the larger Cayenne Turbo, maneuvering the SUV around the cones was easier than expected, thanks to the new platform and Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PSCB), a new tungsten-coated brake system that debuted on the third-generation Cayenne.

The last exercise before lunch was served was the slalom challenge, where the group had to set individual quickest lap times in a Porsche 718 Boxster GTS. Malaysian race driver Alif Hamdan gave us a quick demonstration run around the cones and it was our turn to set a quick lap time. As this was not my first time in a slalom test, I knew that consistency was the crucial factor to achieve a quick lap time.

After a quick lunch, the group headed back to the track for some guided driving, the last agenda for the day. Here, the instructors was driving ahead of us, while monitoring our driving lines around the Sepang Circuit, aided with cones placed strategically at braking points, corner entry points, corner apexes, and corner exit points. The idea was to chain the cones together for a perfect lap around Sepang.

The guided driving part was an excellent refresher on how to tackle the circuit, plus a great opportunity to sample some of Stuttgart’s finest on track. My personal pick of the bunch has to be the Cayman GTS, for the perfect balance between power, handling, and engagement.

Day two was where things got more exciting as I progressed into the Elite class. I started day two with throttle steering, where cones were set up strategically on Turn 5, indicating where the group had to ease off the throttle, turn in, accelerate, corner apex, and exit points.

Here, I was supposed to accelerate as hard as I could, ease off the throttle at the first set of cones as I enter Turn 5, modulate the throttle and aim for the apex.

I had to give this throttle steering a few tries before getting the hang of easing the throttle smoothly whilst pushing the 911 Cabriolet S into the apex. Once I mastered the skill, it was satisfying to get the front end of the 911 to hit the apex and exit the corner with far more momentum than I would if I entered the corner without this valuable skill.

After I completed the throttle steering exercise, the group proceeded to the trailbraking exercise, set up on Turn 13 to Turn 14, one of Sepang’s trickiest corners.

The trailbraking exercise required me to enter the corner as quick as I could, easing off the brakes as I enter the corner while adding more steering as I tried our best to hit the Turn 14 apex.

I had the chance to utilize the gorgeous 911 Carrera T to practice my trailbraking skills. The PCCB system fitted on the 911 Carrera T meant that late braking and easing off the throttle as I hit the Turn 14 apex was done in relative ease, though the next car I tried, which was the 718 Boxster GTS, was a tad bit harder.

My mistake with the 718 Boxster GTS was that I did not apply enough brake pressure and entered Turn 14 too quickly, resulting in massive understeer. To counter that, I had to ease off the throttle and steering, but I had missed the crucial Turn 14 apex.

Had I not corrected my massive understeer, I would have ended up in the sandpit, waiting for a tow truck to rescue me. Fast in, tow truck out has never been more true, especially in tricky turns like Turn 14, where aiming for the apex was easier on paper than it was behind the wheel. Lesson learned, then.

Moving onto the third exercise of the day was the Moose Test, but with a twist. During our earlier stint with the Moose Test a day earlier, the instructor mentioned that the group was not allowed the turn the PSM off, leaving it either on or on Sport mode. But for those in the Elite level, the group finally got the chance to turn PSM completely off.

Two cars were made available to us, a GT Silver Porsche 911 Turbo and a Carmine Red 718 Cayman GTS, differentiating between a rear-engine model and a mid-engine model.

Just like the day before, I had to accelerate the car as hard as I could, ease off the throttle at the designated cones, steer as abruptly as possible towards the right and then to the left before bringing the car to a complete stop.

I started off in the Porsche 911 Turbo, with PSM left on. My first stint didn’t go as well, as my instructor Davide Rizzo mentioned that my steering input was not abrupt enough and my brake pressure was lacking. Well, time to fix that, I reckon.

For the second round, I steered the 911 Turbo as abruptly as I could, trying to upset the car’s balance. This did upset the car’s balance a bit, though PSM in Sport mode, allowed for a little slip angle before I brought the car to a complete stop.

The exciting part was the third round where the PSM was turned off completely. Thanks to the experience I gained from earlier driving courses, I was able to feel the 911 Turbo’s rear end gradually sliding out, counter-steered as necessary and jammed the brakes as hard as I could, all while avoiding cones on my left and right. They say that third time’s the charm and I couldn’t agree more.

I then hopped into the 718 Cayman GTS with Alif Hamdan on board. I repeated the same performance as I did earlier, though I enjoyed the Cayman’s mid-engine configuration more, as handling it was more challenging. The rear end of the Cayman would slide out more abruptly than the 911, and quicker counter-steering was required to keep the Cayman in check, allowing for a more exciting experience.

We continued with more track exercises, where I had the chance to experience even more Porsche models before being strapped into Will Bamber’s 911 GT3 cup car for a hot lap around the circuit.

After the two days of driving some of Porsche’s finest, our time was regrettably at an end.

The Porsche Media Driving Academy gave me an opportunity of a lifetime to properly assess my driving capabilities and further improve on it in a controlled environment, a definite plus for a keen driver like myself. Coupled with the superb selection of vehicles and well-trained instructors, this driving course is perhaps one of the best out there.

While I already had the basics mostly covered, it was refreshing to learn new skills such as trailbraking and throttle steering, both of which can help with shaving precious milli-seconds off a track time.

Track driving aside, the Porsche Media Driving Academy also prepped me well to respond correctly in the event of an emergency, as showcased in the Moose Test and ABS Braking Test. Regardless of either test, braking hard is critical, as many drivers make the mistake of braking too gently and thus unable to bring the vehicle to a stop in time.

As a whole, I went home with even more experience than ever before, with the satisfaction and confidence knowing that these skills are useful the moment I am behind the wheel. 

For those not working as a journalist, Porsche also offers Porsche Experience, which is essentially the same as the Media Driving Academy, allowing for the general public to experience various Porsche models and further improve their driving skills at the Sepang Circuit. So anyone can sign up, learn the basics of driving dynamics and how to respond correctly in emergency situations.

Gallery: Driving And Learning With Stuttgart’s Finest

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