Fast and Furious – Porsche Academy at Porsche Experience Center LA (2)
Fast and Furious – Porsche Academy at Porsche Experience Center LA (1)
Session 4 – 911 GT3 RS
If GT3 is a track weapon, then GT3RS is the ultimate weapon. With lighter weight, bigger spoiler, and more horsepower, GT3RS is the car that will do whatever you want it to do. And it’s dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Fortunately, after 3 sessions of training, I was very excited for the last session, where I’d racing on the track, or practicing on the dynamic pad for 4 hours, almost non stop. What’s more exciting is that Nikita would record my data on the track, of each lap, and then we’d analyze the data in the meeting room on the big screen.
After a short briefing and taking a pill of Dramamine, we headed out to get into the car. Similar to GT3, GT3RS wasn’t very easy and friendly to get into due to the race seats. The seats wrap around my body tightly to make sure it will not move around in the high speed racing. Right after I started the engine, I could hear the voice from the back end, and it was beautiful. Naturally aspirated 4.0L engine produces 520HP and 346 lb-ft torque. It can reach 60mph in 2.9 sec! And it’s very very loud.
We drove on the track for a few laps, nice and chill, just to warm up the tires. And then we moved to the dynamic pad to keep practicing “trail braking“. Similar to what I’ve been doing last time, I did apparently better than last time without any motion sickness. Then Nikita asked me: Do you want to try launch control in this car? I was like: hell yeah. With full throttle the noise from the engine was so loud that I couldn’t hear Nikita from the radio. But the acceleration was so powerful and once again I felt the adrenaline rushing to my head.
First sub session on the track
Then we headed to the track, and started recording data. The data collection was really cool. An iPhone was mounted on the dash in my car, connected to the car via Bluetooth. It can capture data on braking, throttle, and how much steering wheel is turned – all in a single app – Porsche Track Precision. While it only works with Porsche, it’s free. We did 9 laps, and I was very frustrated because I couldn’t keep up with Nikita at two carousels. I was very comfortable with going full throttle on straight line, and I was OK on most turns. But at the two carousels I’d lag behind Nikita more and more. He had to slow down a bit to wait for me to catch up. Besides that, there were three turns I made mistakes:
- At the Kink. It was right after a long straight line, and I tended to brake a little to get ready for Bushwood. However, the car was carrying too much speed, and braking just a little would push the weight to the front end, causing the rear tires to lose friction – Oversteer happened here.
- At Esses. It was uphill and then downhill. Right after top of the hill, I felt the car was flying above the ground because I didn’t feel as much friction. Nikita told me the car didn’t fly, but there was less pressure on the tires, so if my steering wheel wasn’t straight, the tires couldn’t provide much friction.
- At Turns-4&5. I went understeer. I almost went out of the track, but I was able to correct it quickly and got back. It showed how important the training in 3 sessions before was. I didn’t know what happened at the scene. But when we returned to the meeting room and analyzed the data, I finally knew what happened. I was pushing too much throttle at the turn, so the front tires didn’t provide enough friction. But why did I do that? Because of my bad braking at the end of the “Bottom Straight”. It was a really long straight line, and anyone would go full throttle. I released the brake too early -> the car was carrying too much speed entering the turn -> I braked again -> the car was too slow exiting the turn -> I pushed the throttle too early when steering wheel wasn’t straight. I wouldn’t know it if we didn’t analyze the data.
What Nikita said was very true. I never had those problems with 718 Cayman, 911 and GT3. But when I made a mistake, GT3RS would amplify it and show me how bad it is.
Getting back to the dynamic pad
We identified the problem – I needed to practice trail braking more. After doing figure 8 for half an hour, with constant feedback and instructions from Nikita, I was feeling more confident.
Second sub session on the track
We did about 10 more laps on the track, with sun going down. I was exhausted, and tired. But I was still able to focus 100% on driving. I could feel obviously that I could keep up with Nikita all the time, even at the two carousels. He praised me too, saying he was surprise how fast I learnt and progressed after a little more practice. Unfortunately the phone stopped working after lap 3, so we didn’t capture the data of my best laps. But I felt very satisfied and proud of myself.
Complete the Porsche Academy Program
I met with Michelle again and she introduced me to their Chief, who designed this program from scratch. She also brought me the certificate and a little gift – a GT3 paperweight.
I looked it up on eBay and it seems to be very expensive – at least $200.
I finally finished the whole program. It was very exciting, and a whole new experience for me. I learnt a lot of new knowledge and it’d benefit me as a car enthusiast for a long time. Nikita gave me his card and said he also provides personal coaching if I’d like to improve more. In all the 4 sessions, he was able to identify my problems and the reasons for my mistakes very quickly and precisely. And he knows how to fix them.
Porsche services are definitely first class experience. Michelle was very professional and thoughtful. She’d remind me of the start time of each session, the weather and conditions on the track etc. The only disappointment was the closure of Restaurant 917. Maybe I’ll go there next time I visit LA.