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Sideways in a Porsche 911

  1. There appears to be some form of growing discord between my vestibular system and my brain’s perceived sense of motion. This dissidence is pressuring my intestinal tract to raise objections over the forces my body is being subjected to. Objections that are literally threatening to form an unpleasant uprising and jar the status quo.

    I feel sick, and it’s the Porsche 911’s fault.

    Words: Vijay Pattni
    Photos: Porsche

  2. I’m here at Silverstone at the Porsche Experience Centre, a multi-million pound complex housing a tight handling circuit, a skid pan, an ice hill and a low friction surface, the latter of which is currently one of the culprits mounting an assault on my guts. The key conspirator? Former British GT driver and full-time PEC trackmeister Ben McLoughlin.

    He is showing me the finer nuances of the bone-dry hairpins and shiny circular bowl by getting a Porsche 911 Carrera 2S (ie, a rear-wheel-drive 911) very sideways and very squeaky. With one hand.

    “Go in to the corner, turn in sharply and then floor the throttle,” he says, quietly and with conviction. And still with one hand. My freshly eaten lunch is becoming troublesome, not least because we’ve also just done a few hot laps of the tight handling circuit and he’s managed to carve three or four graceful drifts on the wet skid pan.

  3. All this wanton hoonery isn’t just tinsel on Porsche’s centre; it’s actually a very useful arena for new Porsche owners to fully exploit the legendary sportscar’s unique handling tendencies. You’ll no doubt have heard the grim tales of 911s taking no prisoners and biting particularly violently whenever you showed it the mere whiff of a tight corner and clumsy throttle control.

    “Nonsense”, retorts Ben, as we slide to a halt. “The 911 actually has loads of grip if you think about its physics. The engine is over the rear axle. And when you accelerate, the force of forward movement pushes a car’s weight backwards, over the rear wheels. Therefore, the 911 has reserves of grip others simply don’t.”

  4. A point he makes by shoving the keys in my hand and letting me loose on the handling circuit. “This car loves trail-braking too”, he says, a technique where you brake while you steer. “It allows a nice transfer of weight, but you have to do it gently otherwise the weight will just shift to the front too quickly and you’ll spin. Drive by the seat of your pants.” By which he means, feel the road.

    It’s a great chance to really throw a 911 around, and you find yourself accelerating faster and faster around the circuit as you begin to appreciate just how much grip the little coupe has to offer. And it’s a great environment to get accustomed to your £60k+ vehicle, the end game of which is you ultimately understanding its road limits. And therefore avoiding a fiery and painful tree-climbing adventure.

  5. “Sure, everytime I get into the passenger seat to teach someone around here, it’s scary”, Ben tells me. “Especially in the wet. People come with different confidence levels, but the most dangerous are the ones who think they are already racing drivers,” he says with some consternation. He tells me it only takes a short driving workout to confirm that in fact, they are not. He smiles.

    “I must admit I have had one or two scary moments on the road with the odd overtaking manoeuvre or lack of common sense,” he says, pointing to the driving centre’s on-road driving tuition; a short real-world drive to iron out any flaws you may have picked out since passing your test. “The track is much safer”, Ben confirms. Tell that to my stomach.

    For more information on the Porsche Experience Centre click here. You can even bring along your own car if you want…

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