Racing Porsches at Sonoma Raceway

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Today was a day of many firsts for me as I attended Porsche Destination Drives. The highlights are: that I got to drive a Porsche, I drove a series of autocross events, and I played follow the leader with an expert driver in a few cars each worth over $100,000 on a serious raceway. Actually I got to drive almost all of Porsche’s latest cars at least once during the day’s various automotive events. All courtesy of Porsche (thank you!).

Living in Marin I see almost as many German automobiles as I do economical hybrid vehicles designed by Toyota. There is a certain allure to the rounded edges of a BMW or Audi that seem to project a quiet sense of wealth and social status that only a vehicle hailing from a European lineage can provide. Personally I’m not enamored with European cars the way that many in Marin and San Francisco are. I did daily drive a 2011 BMW 328i for a couple of years and it was pleasant enough, if a little common around Mill Valley. During what Porsche calls the ‘lifestyle drive’ portion of the day’s events I had the opportunity to test drive the 2016 Macan GTS through a selection of Sonoma’s scenic streets. Granted like most trips to Sonoma there was ample traffic to sit in, which I think is an accurate simulation of what a daily drive in any car around Marin is like. That being said, the Macan‘s leather stitched interior combined with its adjustable air suspension make it a comfortable SUV for navigating even the slowest and most bumpy of streets. The autocross event I drove it in showcased that it had a sporty side as well with pleasing handling characteristics for the size of the vehicle.

GT3RS

The Porsche GT3RS (picture in white above) screams ‘luxurious street legal race car’ as it sits there on its ultra wide tires holding up that massive spoiler.

When I was younger I used to get car sick riding in the backseat of my parent’s cars when we took trips to visit Stinson Beach. As they carved the winding mountain roads between our house and the beautiful California coast it felt like my stomach did its best to free itself from my body through my mouth. Stepping out of the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S after driving a few laps on Sonoma Raceway really put the friendly cliff-side roads to Stinson Beach in perspective. This car would be great for nauseating your passenger with hard cornering during a spirited drive through the canyons. Porsche is clearly aware of this notion as they included complimentary barf bags in the back and side pockets of many of the cars. A few of the people in our group dropped out of the event after taking a lap around the raceway in the 911s, visibly nauseated by the forces of rapid acceleration and deceleration produced by the cars. Personally I was feeling pretty good during the whole thing. I found the car’s incredible performance during the driving events quite thrilling.

It’s worth mentioning about the cars high performance, based on what I experienced today, that the speeds required to break traction in a 2016 Porsche 911 Carrera are well above all reasonable limits on public roads. There’s not really a way to drive the car at its limit anywhere other than on a racetrack. The twin turbo 6 cylinder engine screams behind the drivers head to push the car from 0 to 60MPH in a velocious 4 seconds. The drama of its exhaust note popping and crackling during rapid downshifts reminds me of why I love cars, and especially sports cars. It also has seemingly herculean levels of grip around corners. All of that performance plus it’s easy to drive; even at the limit it felt very composed. If you ever get the opportunity to go racing (in any type of car) at Sonoma Raceway, I definitely recommend it. They have a great track with large elevation changes and some fairly high-speed areas. I had a good time and Porsche’s cars are starting to grow on me.


As a side note: If Porsche or any other car company wants to let me drive their cars, I would be more than happy to check them out! And share the experience.

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