I tell customers all sorts of things….and mostly I believe them myself. One customer who must have believed enough of what I tell him about Porsche, enough that he has bought a few, asked if we could arrange a little track action for him. He had never driven on a track before. We organised a visit to Oulton Park and used the opportunity to let a few other clients try their hand in a 911.
I took my business partner Richard along, also Julian our mechanic and 3 ‘guests’.
I have since the dawn of time been promoting the idea that a Porsche is built to use. That you can take them to a track, drive them and expect to come home in the same car. I dont like fragile cars.
So I arranged things on this basis. Reasurring all concerned that we could drive two Porsche from Cornwall to Oulton Park some 275 miles away on the friday night, then use them on track on the Saturday and all being well drive home on the saturday night.
What car would be capable of this abuse?
What would you have taken?
Something new?……on a trailer….with a mechanic……well we didn’t. We took this.
It’s a 1976 Porsche 911 S. We bought it from a Japanese owner who had a little incident with it some 11 years ago and had never arranged to repair. It eventually turned up here and with just a few little checks we connected a battery and she fired up. It sounded sweet as a nut. However it would need a bit of serious work in the body shop as there was a rather obvious mark where our hero had run out of talent. It probabley corresponded with an equally big dent in the Japanese owners confidence and pride hence the car hadn’t moved since 2001!
Cutting a long story short we have just completed the rebuild and although we have a customer interested, I decided this little beauty needed a thorough testing.
On a very wet friday afternoon we set off through the rain and darkness, up the M5, the M6 and on towards Oulton Park. Not the nicest journey at all but even in this 36 year old Porscche it was actually pretty comfortable. We hopped out late at night feeling reasonably fresh. The first part of our challenge complete.
Saturday the weather was still less than kind, and this meant a wet track andDruids, which is a fast right hander was particularly treacherous. The plan was to let all six drivers have a go in the 911.
How sensible is that?
What about all those stories of 911 going through hedges backwards?
4 of the drivers had no track experience at all, my business partner Richard has had a little experience, but none at Oulton or in these conditions, I have a fair bit of experience although from around the bronze age. How will we and it fair?
First off, a 911 2.7 S from 1976 isn’t on paper the fastest weapon, with a guestimated 160-170 hp we dont have loads of power to spare. However we do have a lightweight car, plenty of torque and this 911 is probably only about 1000kg. What we do have on our side is a small, light and responsive car, it’s quick witted, willing and most of all, communicates with the driver. Therefore you do get a clear message about what is going on under the four wheels – assuming they are on the ground.
It’s important to remember is that we were here for fun, and this 911 proved an absolute blast for all of us. The most novice driver found it polite and friendly, we were able to push it as hard as anyone wanted and keep learning all the time. Even though we were all at different skill levels we all enjoyed it.
All day she zoomed around, passing some rather more exotic, modern and powerful vehicles. Over 100 laps, and never, not once did we need to touch it. We didnt need to open the engine bay other than to prove to other drivers on the day that there was nothing special going on. BRILLIANT.
So back to Druids. You approach it up Clay Hill , over a blind crest aiming for the top of the oak tree, then gently follow the outside of the rack on the right, curving as you do to the left of the track to take a line into the right of Druids, this gives you time to settle the car in a straight line for a little brake and tun in to the first part of Druids. as you turn it is mighty greasy…and fast. You miss the kerbs on the first apex by a cars width or so, getting it settled on a little power. By now she is in a four wheel drift. Head for the second part of Druids, still very slippery and keeping the same arc, letting the right side brush close to the painted kerb, then drifting out, aiming for the ‘Palmer’ logo on the bridge as the exit kerb isnt yet visible, straighten it up and by now you are hard on it heading for Lodge corner.
Bare in mind the driving experience (or lack off) within our ‘team’ and the fact that conditions were poor. Yet no one of the less experienced drivers had a spin or an off. Why is that? These are tricky cars right? Wrong. These are highly communicative cars, and driven with reasonable intelligence are superb. They tell you whats happening and give you confidence. The only person to have a moment on the grass…..me….when I really was making an effort to see just how far I could hang it all out. At which point I deserved what I got…..and continued on once pointing in the right direction.
At the end of the day we had passed many of the more specialised metal, we gained an even greater respect for these amazing cars with the engine in the wrong end and our 36 year old 911 showed very well indeed.
Not only that, but as the day ended, I hopped in behind the wheel and was still keen to drive her home. There are many cars that I would have been keen for someone else to drive back, but not this. Nearly 300 miles, we never stopped, the pace crept up and up so we were cruising at a good 69.5 mph! and we got back in record time. I could have carried on. That is quality.
So as I have told many people, the philosophy behind a 911 was that it could be driven all day flat out and would thank you for it…..drive to a race track and expect it to take you home…….munch the miles with little effort but lots of engagement. A car to enjoy at any time of the year, for any purpose ….and still look cool outside a cafe.
Here is to a fantastic piece of engineering. We salute you Herr Porsche.
Specification Porsche 911 2.7 S 1976. Approx 165hp, magnesium engine cases, 5 speed 915 gearbox, standard brakes with new fluid, Bilstien shocks, lowered with a more aggresive wheel geometry, lightweight seats, lightweight door cards (RS style), lightweight carpets, delete rear seats….none of the following… sunroof, seat electrics, air con, elec mirrors, rear wiper.