Porsche 996 Turbo: Long-term report, June 2015

Porsche 911 Turbo

Track driving and braking concerns in the Turbo this month.

Summer is here, and with it comes trackday season. I’ll admit that I’m a little of a fair weather trackday-goer; I’ve done freezing cold, soaking wet December days at tracks across the country and while it can be fun to exit every corner sideways if that’s your thing, the risk of an inadvertent ‘moment‘ and the resulting trip into the barriers is much higher. Call me a wimp if you will, but I much prefer balmy weather and the promise of a dry track, especially while I’m learning how to get the best out of a car like the Turbo.

With that in mind, I was pleased to see the weather dawn dry and sunny for my first trackday in a while. As I mentioned in my previous report, my Scotland trip last month highlighted some glaring deficiencies in my driving skills, so I arranged for some informal tuition from a skilled friend who has a lot more experience driving on track in powerful cars than I do, as a relaxed introduction to furthering my driving abilities.

My friend Richard demonstrated a number of techniques for getting the car into and out of corners effectively while I sat rigid in the passenger seat, flabbergasted at both his easy confidence in the car and the speeds at which we were travelling. Clearly I’d only been scratching the surface of the grip and capability of the Turbo.

Somewhat chastened, I swapped seats with Richard and drove some initial laps to allow him to evaluate my driving. After a couple of steady laps compared to our previous pace, he then casually said “Give it full throttle out of the hairpin as soon as we’re at the apex.” closely followed by “POWER, NOW! More power, more power, keep your foot down!” as I forced my right foot to ignore all previous experience and instincts to the contrary and flatten the throttle as soon as the corner began to straighten.

The first time you experience the traction and slingshot effect of a fully-lit 911 Turbo in second gear exiting a tight corner, with the car squatted down on its haunches and the front wheels clawing at the tarmac practically dragging the car out of the turn, is something you don’t forget in a hurry. I spent the remainder of the lap and most of my subsequent ones frantically trying to recalibrate my brain to the new levels of grip and speed that were available to me if only I could unlock the correct techniques for accessing them.

I came away from the day buzzing with adrenaline and some satisfaction that with Richard’s help, I’d managed to access the full performance potential of the Turbo, even if only for a moment. The next step will be to practice the skills required to make that a more regular experience on track.

All that performance being used to its fullest comes at the expense of fuel, tyres and brakes. I managed a new record low of 8mpg while on track, with the car devouring an entire tank of Shell’s finest in just two hours of lapping. The Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tyres offer great grip and feel on both road and track, but I suspect their life expectancy will be limited after another couple of sessions on track. There’s plenty of tread across the carcass, but the wear on the outer shoulders betrays the difficulty of keeping 1580kg of ballistic Porsche on the black stuff.

The brakes continue to mystify me, with wooden and unreliable feel at the top of the pedal but perversely plenty of power as you push further down the pedal travel. That power doesn’t seem to fade appreciably with extended use, but after a few laps the brakes were grumbling noisily with every hard stop. I also had a couple of heartstopping moments where the brakes had cooled a little and appeared to offer virtually no stopping power for a few corners until more heat had bled into the system.

Obviously, confidence in the braking system is crucial to fast, safe lapping, so I’m going to drop the car into RPM Technik and ask them to refresh the brake fluid and upgrade the pads to their recommended Performance Friction items in the hope that it improves the feel and consistency of the braking system. I’ll report back on this upgrade next month.

This article was originally published in the July 2015 issue of GT Porsche magazine.