Making of a speed demon

Drive the 911 GT3, Porsche's street-legal racing machine, at Australia's Porsche Sport Driving School.
Drive the 911 GT3, Porsche's street-legal racing machine, at Australia's Porsche Sport Driving School.PHOTO: PORSCHE

Porsche's driving school offers plenty of thrills

After three days of intensive driving in various Porsches, I had three certificates to my name, one for each level I completed at Australia's Porsche Sport Driving School (PSDS) - Precision, Precision Plus and Performance.

The experience was easier than my A levels, but harder than my Class 3 driving test in 1993. Much harder and much faster, too.

There were fast cars aplenty at the school, every one a terrific teaching tool for the students. In fact, the entire Porsche range was represented and ready to play - the newly launched 718 Boxster and Boxster S, the previous Cayman and Cayman S, a fantastic variety of 911s, the Macan and Cayenne sport utility vehicles, plus the Panamera.

The instructors were as fast as the cars. They included active racing drivers in Australia's V8 Supercars championship and Porsche Cup pilot Craig Baird, who has more than 100 race wins in 911s.

I have never even won a slot car race, so I felt like a slow student during the theory and practice sessions. But I managed to get up to speed behind the wheel as I progressed through the three training levels together with the other Singaporeans in my group of seven.

One of them was bank executive Daniel Lim, 39, who drives a Boxster S roadster in Singapore. The first-timer at the school signed up for four levels at one go, with the fourth being the PSDS Master course in motor racing, using hardcore 911 GT3s at Queensland Raceway.

"I wanted to learn more about the proper driving techniques," he quipped, as he looked at the others practising their oversteer recovery on the skidpan.

Another first-timer at the school was businessman Eng Aik Meng, 46, who owns a Cayman coupe and has a Macan S SUV on order.

"I joined Stuttgart Auto on one of its driveaways to Malaysia last year and began to appreciate my car more - what it could do, what it's capable of. To understand my vehicle better and to improve my skills, I decided to join the Porsche Sport Driving School," he said.

Despite all the German accelerative power available on location, the first exercise for me was about stopping power, with the help of ABS (anti-lock brakes).

Then the driving activities increased in velocity and difficulty, with a gymkhana on wet tarmac and the so-called Roadtour.

The Roadtour was a high-speed blast for enthusiasts in the Cayman S, 718 Boxster S, 911 Carrera S and 4S on the two-lane internal roads of Mount Cotton Training Centre.

There were cones to mark the braking points, "gates" before sharp bends and apexes to aim for. But there were also many trees right beside the asphalt, just a few crash barriers and the occasional kangaroo.

Mr Tomas Mezera, the school's chief instructor, advised: "Remember, tension is your biggest enemy on that road track. And we tense up when we're outside our comfort zone. Sweaty palms, holding onto the steering, white knuckles coming out.

"You need to realise then, 'Hang on a minute, I'm a little uncomfortable, I need to slow down'. Because if you're spearing backwards, it's too late to realise you're going above your comfort zone."

The second day's driving exercises were similar to the first day's, but trickier.

One new exercise was to provoke the stability control system into action and let it stabilise the skidding Porsche - which it did, no problem. Another new exercise was the Roadtour, but in the opposite direction and with an additional Porsche model, the 911 Turbo Cabriolet.

The powerful 540bhp machine was quite a handful for this underpowered driver, but I remembered Mr Mezera's words of wisdom and did not go above my comfort zone. As a result, I experienced far more speed and grip than sweaty palms and white knuckles.

The third day's level 3 training was conducted at Queensland Raceway, about a 45-minute drive from Mount Cotton. We drove in a convoy to the motor racing circuit, where participants and cars alike were put through their paces - rapidly.

Engines were worked hard and disc brakes were hammered. Slaloms were negotiated and cornering lines were corrected. Fullblown track sessions followed.

The highlight of the day was driving the 911 GT3, Porsche's street-legal racing machine. The yellow car bellowed with mechanical rage and handled the track with absolute aplomb.

I had never felt more confident in a German sports car.

•The writer is the editor of Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

•Stuttgart Auto organises a trip to Mount Cotton Porsche Sport Driving School every year. The next one is tentatively scheduled for the middle of next year. You do not need to be a Porsche owner to sign up. Levels 1 and 2 cost about $1,500 each (excluding accommodation and airfare) and level 3 costs about $1,800.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'Making of a speed demon'. Print Edition | Subscribe