The Porsche Experience - without the Porsche

Jay Nagley

One of the perks of buying a car like a Porsche is the access it provides to the manufacturer's "Experience Days" – driving the car on the track while getting some instruction from professional racing drivers. Now Porsche has democratized the process – you can bring any car and Porsche's team will teach you to drive it better. Being Porsche, it is not any any old track, but one the company has built specially to simulate a tight A road. As well as the track, the Porsche Experience Centre includes a small lecture theatre where the theory of driving is discussed and a gym where racing drivers can test their fitness. Lest you think the gym is a bit of a token effort, it is regularly used by F1 ace Mark Webber and features equipment you are never going to see down your local Virgin Active. One of the most remarkable items is a wall of flashing lights with buttons underneath each light. The lights come on at random and you have to hit the appropriate button, at which point the next light comes on. Most people score about 60 hits in a minute, but F1 drivers get 120. That is the difference in reaction time from average to world-class.

On our visit, Vicky Butler-Henderson of Fifth Gear fame was giving part of the talk about driving technique (not a regular speaker, I regret to say). One of the most memorable things she said was that, in ten years of giving racetrack instruction, she had never met a pupil who was as good as they thought they were. With that warning ringing in my ears, we went to the track. The instructor gave clear, straightforward advice – my main area for improvement was to look further ahead so my cornering could become smoother. Interestingly, the mildly squealing tyres I thought were a good sign on one corner were nothing of the sort. They meant I was staying too long with the steering lock on and I was overheating one of the tyres.