The braking remains most clear in memory.
That sensation of the nose of the car angling down, right on the cusp of engaging the ABS, before coming back on the power and aiming toward the corner’s apex, leaving a soaring exhaust note and the smell of hot brakes in my wake.
The car in question was a Porsche 911 Carrera S and the course was the twisty Driver Development Track at Canadian Tire Mosport Park.
It’s a testament to Porsche that the showroom-fresh Carrera I was driving performed like this, lap after lap, corner after corner, while the air conditioning was wafting cool air over me.
And all this was part of my first time on a track, period, let alone driving a 420-horsepower, $120,000 sports car.
The German marque invited media to sample a Porsche Experience for a day, which included introductory lessons in performance driving, then time on the track with instructors mixed in with slalom, motocross and skid-pan exercises.
All cars, from the Carrera to some Boxters and Caymans, were provided for attendees.
Porsche Experience packages start at $495 for a half day, up to $4,995 for the two-day Master Training program.
It’s a smart move by Porsche to plug into the “lifestyle” that the brand evokes. And if blasting around a track isn’t your idea of fun, there are experiences that lean toward the touring and tourism side of driving instead.
Porsche is not alone in offering these kinds of experiences to owners or enthusiasts. The likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Audi and BMW offer different scales of driver training in North America or Europe. Some even say they’ll make you race-ready in your choice of performance car.
All the cars provided for the day at Mosport had the PDK (Porsche-speak for dual-clutch) transmission. With my unskilled hands on the wheel, the PDK felt like it was my patient co-driver, patting me on the head and saying, “Leave the hard work to me, you just worry about the go and stop pedals.”
The PDK is a perfect interface between the Carrera’s twin-turbo boxer six, the driver and the road. It seemed to be ready with the right gear at the right time, keeping the engine burbling along ready to spool up on the short straights.
As inspiring at the track driving was, the skid-pan exercise was one of humility. The Carrera T provided had special low-traction plastic coatings over the regular tires. Think of it as like a layer of PVC pipe between you and the road. It completely crippled grip and we were under- and oversteering all over the place. This served to illustrate the rapid reactions a driver needs in race conditions to catch and correct the car when it starts to lose traction.
The entire day was a huge confidence-booster. Regular city driving has been kicked up a notch as a result. I feel like I’m reading the traffic and road further ahead than before, and appreciating the mild weight transfer taking place at normal speeds, even in my aging Mazda 3.
But where did my taste of track driving ultimately leave me? Browsing online ads for an old MX-5 Miata that could be shaped into a weekend warrior.