Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Porsche Sport Drive at Gateway

this is the only photographic evidence that i was there....

my friend greg invited me to gateway international raceway today for a fun day of driving cars that i can never afford. who was i to complain??

i haven't been to gateway in a LOOOONNNG time. we used to go every tuesday night for the tuesday night worlds. yes, dear friends, our beloved weekly training race was temporarily relocated to illinois. i think it was there for 3 or 4 years, up until 2002 i believe.

there were people from all over, probably 30-40 of us. matt, a top dog at plaza motor company, was our host and he made sure that greg, dave, and i had a great time. it wasn't a hard task. there were cayennes, caymans, boxters, and of course, the venerable 911. and we got to drive 'em all.

yep. no fees. no long, drawn out driving school (even though we probably desperately needed it!) just a little introduction and into the cars we went.

first the cayenne. an suv about the size of a jeep grand cherokee with 400+ horsepower and brake rotors the size of trash can lids. we inspected them before we got in and noticed big chunks of rubber flaked off. that's a sure sign of the fun we were gonna have! at full throttle, these things sounded like a mustang v8 with long tube headers and open pipes....almost. a little more mellow, perhaps. so we were able to do our own turns at the wheel and jam around the infield course a couple of times. that's one nice suv. then, the professional drivers that were among us took us out on a HOT LAP. when i say hot lap, i mean hot. it was a brutal experience. he took this 4500 pound beast and flung it around that course at speeds and lean angles that had us crying like babies. wanna know why race car drivers get paid so much? take a ride with one, partner. it was an experience that i will never forget.

next up were boxters and caymans. the cayman is a little small for my taste but very agile and quite fast. 320 hp will turn you on, for sure. i was surprised when i drove the boxster. it was an S model, and it was actually much more buttoned down than the cayman. it was like a go cart and it stuck like glue. the 911 carrera s is another world altogether. roomy, quiet, and with 385 horses, blistering fast. wow. but our drive was nothing compared to the pro's doing it for us. greg and i both mentioned that we were a bit concerned (scared) about going around the course in the 911's, seeing how scary it was in the suv. but, it had to be done. i climbed aboard and the driver demonstrated the launch control. launch control is simple: push button. put foot on brake. put other foot on accelerator and put it to the floor. engine climbs to 6000rpm. let go of brake. there is a shudder and then a violent bash in the back that nearly made me vomit. the acceleration was nauseating. and the driver attacked the track like pat collier on crack. again, it was an incredible experience that i suggest you try if you get a chance. to watch the guy work the controls so smoothly while the car bellows down the straights and eats the corners is unreal. other than the rocket ship acceleration phase of the drive, the rest of the hot lap was much more enjoyable in the 911 than in the cayenne. something about an suv at speed just isn't right.

lastly, we did some autocrossing. they had a nice little course set up so we could drive both the boxster s and the cayman s. i was first and it was FUN! the new pdk(?) 7 speed automated manual transmission thinks waaay faster than i could and was ALWAYS in the right gear. (i think back to the '80's when i did some autocrossing with my nissan 200sx and somehow it just doesn't measure up.) for some reason, during the autocross, the cayman was much better for me and i had two really fun laps in it, and the boxster was a bit choppier. could have been my awesome driving skills were more compatible with the cayman....who can say....ahem....

i was left with the notion that porsche not only builds some desirable cars, but incredibly durable as well. the amateur drivers among us were hard on the cars, but the pro's drove those things like they stole 'em! they did scores of launches with the launch control engaged and that can't be easy on the car. over and over, the cars were tortured. and after we left, there was another group scheduled to do it over again! the cars only needed gas (a lot) and tires (a lot).

i can't thank greg enough, nor can i thank the people at plaza motors enough for giving us the chance to have fun at their expense. a day to remember!

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