Learning car control in a 911 GT3 at the Porsche Experience Centre - Learning car control in a Porsche 911 GT3 - page 2
evo spends a day at the Porsche Experience Centre at Silverstone
It’s a different story in a GT3 wearing cold, damp Michelin Pilot Cup 2 tyres. The nose washes heart-stoppingly wide almost immediately, only to be followed by the engine-laden rear axle. I manage to get enough lock on but it isn’t pretty, and by the point the admittedly unobtrusive stability software has woken up and taken control of the situation, I’m looking sheepishly at poor old Col in the passenger seat.
It’s not the most auspicious beginning, and the GT3’s startling lack of grip has actually put the wind up me. We drive a few more laps of the circuit, gently upping the pace along with the temperature of the tyres, until Colin decides it’s time to try the apparatus everyone talks about most.
Barring Silverstone circuit proper, the kick plate is easily the most spectacular aspect of the Experience Centre. The plate itself is actually due a resurface, so it’s not ‘kicking’ as enthusiastically as it might, but it will still sling cars that pass over it at between 15 and 30mph left or right and onto a low-friction surface with real violence.
From the driver’s seat you’ve no idea to which side you’ll have to apply corrective lock, but either way there’s only one sure-fire method of catching the car: keep the throttle dead steady and be quick with your hands. It’s fun, but more importantly as a way of imbuing people with the intuitive reactions required to counteract unexpected oversteer it’s a superb tool. Most evo readers, however, would probably master it at the first attempt.
Less straightforward is the skidpan, or rather the tributaries that flow into it. Also short on grip, it’s on these narrow tracks that Colin expects me not only to excite the GT3’s rear axle and sustain the ensuing slide, but also to eventually string together three or four direction changes without ever allowing the fat 305-section rear tyres to gain purchase. It’s the most technically demanding but rewarding thing we’ll do all day.
Of course, we’re also now well beyond the realms of casual owners offered a morning’s complementary teaching with the purchase of their new Panamera, and indeed this is where it gets interesting from an evo perspective.
‘If you listen to rally cars as they’re going through corners, they’re constantly blipping the throttle,’ says Colin, surreptitiously prodding the GT3’s Sport button to sharpen the corresponding software map. ‘Once the grip’s gone you’ve got to keep breaking traction to maintain the slide. Then it’s just a balancing act.’ Roger that.
It’s takes a couple of attempts to find the sweet spot between breaking traction only to get it back again with interest and over-egging the technique entirely – and so spinning – to get the desired result. It’s all about mediating between power, grip and steering with quick, deft inputs, but once you’re leading the conversation it’s one of the sweetest sensations known to man.
And while the GT3 isn’t really relevant to today (we could have been in anything from the current Porsche line-up), in terms of feel and balance it really is as exquisite as I imagined it would be. The driving position is also such that when it comes to the important matter of sustaining significant forward motion while transitioning from one slippery bend to another, it’s as though the 3.8-litre flat-six is strapped directly to the small of your back. It’s a magnificent sensation.
Having embarrassed myself by the amateurish exuberance with which I tackled that right-hander on the handling circuit earlier, it’s something of a relief when Colin has a few kind words to say about my car control. Just a few, but I’ll take it, and with that we head in for lunchtime debrief.