Here I am for the second consecutive year, writing about the Porsche Experience. Last year in March, I attended the Porsche Driving Experience in Leipzig, located in East Germany, where the Panamera and the Cayenne are produced. This year the Experience was in Great Britain on the famous Formula 1 track, Silverstone.
Flashback History of Silverstone
The early years in the 40’s
Silverstone was opened as a World War Two airfield in 1943, near the leafy village of the same name. Once the war had ended in 1945, Britain was left with a number of redundant airfields but without a major race track. Donington Park was still a military vehicle storage depot, Brooklands had been sold off, Crystal Palace was in a state of disrepair and Brands Hatch was still under-developed.
The Royal Automobile Club was interested in Silverstone as a potential site and approached the Air Ministry in 1948 and a lease was arranged. At this time the centre of Silverstone Circuit was a farm producing cereal crops and also a piggery, so the RAC employed farmer James Wilson Brown to create the first Grand Prix circuit at the site and gave him just two months to build it.
The first events at Silverstone
On October 2nd, 1948, amid straw bales and ropes, Silverstone’s first event took place: the RAC Grand Prix. The crowds came in the thousands, thrilled to see the return of Grand Prix racing after so many years of war austerity. The 3.67 mile course sent the 23 competing cars racing round part of the perimeter track, up the two former runways and back to the perimeter. This layout meant cars were racing towards each other head-on until they turned a sharp left and returned to the perimeter. For this reason, canvas screens were erected across the centre of the circuit to stop the drivers from being distracted whilst the spectators were not allowed in the centre of the circuit because of the potential damage to growing crops.
The winner of the inaugural race at the Silverstone circuit was Luigi Villoresi in a Maserati, who recorded an average speed of 72 mph to claim the first prize of £500. A year later, after the hazardous runways were eliminated and a chicane was inserted at the Club on the full perimeter road, Silverstone hosted a second major event in May, 1949 – the Formula One Daily Express International Trophy – virtually a second Grand Prix, won by Alberto Ascari.
Another of Silverstone’s most famous classics also began in August, 1949: the Daily Express International Trophy for Formula One cars, and for this meeting the Club chicane was dispensed and the circuit took up a shape that was to last for a quarter of a century.
The Porsche Driving Experience started in 1974 with the launch of the 930 Turbo and has evolved and developed to provide exciting and informative courses to improve driving enjoyment. Porsche Driving Experience comprises a series of driving programs designed to enable drivers to match their performance to that of the car. The experiences provide the opportunity for all drivers to refine their behind the wheel ability, knowledge and safety.
Opening of the Centre in 2008
The Porsche Driving Experience Centre opened its doors in July, 2008, after six years of development and is situated at Silverstone Circuit, the home of British motorsport, in the heart of England. Located next to Hangar Straight, it is on the site of the WRC Rally of Great Britain special stage used in the late 1990’s.
Porsche vehicle development is relentless. Huge technical and mechanical advances, particularly over the last decade, have produced today’s hugely capable cars. Investing time in understanding these features can unlock even an experienced driver’s potential to enjoy a Porsche to the full.
Over the course of the past 35 years, much has changed – but much has stayed the same, such as the passion with which they work on to improve every aspect of their training program: from driving skills to enjoyment behind the wheel.
The specially designed track incorporates five elements; Handling, Kick Plate, Ice Hill, Low Friction and Off-Road circuits.
With a total length of 3.1km, the track has been designed to enable it to be split into four separate areas that can be used independently of each other or connected together to form a longer handling circuit. This offers a variety of track configurations and surface conditions on which the potential of Porsche cars can be explored and understood. This environment enabled us to be instructed through a variety of different situations in wet and dry conditions. Importantly, the low friction surfaces allow dynamic maneuvers with low wear and tear, meaning that tire wear on the Porsche Track is almost negligible.
The Driving Experience has been designed to focus on a particular type of driving, model of Porsche or driving environment. Whether you are looking to attain new skills, polish up some old ones or just have a great time driving, Porsche Driving Centre can help you find the right course for you. The Driving Experiences are all undertaken in Porsche vehicles prepared to the highest standards.
The aim of the Driving Experience enables us to improve our driving skills on an ongoing basis, enabling us to drive more safely and deal more effectively with hazards on the road. Some of the courses are more focused on motorsport, from the basic fundamentals to professional driving skills. The courses are clearly structured and build on knowledge from the previous level – each level must be completed in turn before graduating to the next.
Handling Circuit: Designed to replicate a challenging country road, with varying cambers and blind corners
Kick Plate: A moveable metal plate set flush with the road surface designed to be triggered remotely as a car travels over it, thereby generating the effect of a loss of rear wheel traction
Ice Hill: Simulating sheet ice with computer controlled water jets; this area allows drivers to explore general car control as well as understand the specific handling characteristics of a car
Low Friction: Specially formulated tarmac creating an ideal environment where over-steer slides can be provoked, corrected and held
Off-Road: This area is designed to show how the technical systems on the Porsche Cayenne work in off-road conditions. With 45% declines and ascents, rough terrain and unfeasible side slopes that challenge even the most focused 4x4s, the Cayenne is more than capable of conquering the toughest obstacles
Porsche Driving Consultants, a professional team of driving experts from advanced road, rally and motorsport backgrounds, personally coach us through each Porsche Driving Experience.
The Porsche Driving Consultants’ aim in passing on their knowledge and driving skills to us was not based on professional reasons alone, but also on a passion – the perfect prerequisite to help us master our vehicle even better and to enjoy it as well. The breadth of experience held by the Porsche Driving Consultants includes a Le Mans winner and a Porsche Carrera Cup Champion.
It’s not only on the circuit that I noticed that I was dealing with experts who have turned their passion into a profession, but also during breaks and having lunch together. Their enthusiasm for Porsche and every technical detail of the vehicles is contagious. During the training course, our driving consultants were entirely devoted to us.
Porsche Human Performance
Porsche Human Performance recognizes that the most important component of any vehicle is the driver. This dedicated facility includes a sports science laboratory, equipped with state-of-the-art technology from Techno Gym and Optical Express. A full range of physiological testing provided us with a greater understanding of our health and driving-specific fitness levels. Advice, exercise and nutritional plans can be prescribed to provide structure and motivation to achieve goals. A heat chamber is available for specialist acclimation training for racing drivers and endurance athletes prior to racing in hot climates.
Services are delivered by experts with a rare combination of academic qualifications in exercise science and coaching, with experience working at the highest level in motorsport and competitive backgrounds as elite athletes.
The Porsche Restaurant
Located on the first floor of the Porsche Experience Centre, the Porsche Restaurant offers first class food, which added another memorable experience to the day.
The classically trained chef regularly updates menus which offer the very best of both traditional and fusion cooking. Standard lunch menus comprise three perfectly sized courses with a choice of three dishes per course. Locally sourced suppliers provide many of the daily food requirements, minimizing delivery miles and of course ensuring the food is as fresh as possible.
It was an unforgettable day at the Porsche Centre in Silverstone. For every single fan and automotive enthusiast, it’s the perfect course to develop and coach your skills the next time you pass by the UK. I personally had a blast!