'GTS means additional performance in a daily package. Given its size and layout, this one’s purpose-driven'
The Media Driving Academy is an exclusive program under Porsche Asia Pacific, aimed to teach and raise the driving skills of journalists and to allow them to experience the performance of Porsche cars through a number of driving exercises, underlining the technology applied from motorsport to its road cars. It is divided into three levels—Individual, Professional, and Elite—with participants continuing to the next level the following year.
This year, the course takes place over two days for participants to complete the Professional and Elite levels.
The lineup includes the 911 GT3, 911 Turbo and Turbo S, 911 Targa 4 GTS, 911 Carrera S Cabriolet, 911 Carrera T, 718 Boxster and Cayman GTS, 718 Boxster S, Panamera Turbo and Turbo S E-Hybrid, Panamera 4S Sport Turismo, and Cayenne S and Turbo—all spec’d out with the best options.
Before we head out to the track, head instructor Matthias Hoffsuemmer gives us a refresher on the tires’ friction circle, keeping in mind the load they’re put through under acceleration, braking, and cornering, and how to handle them simultaneously. It’s a theoretical explanation to grasp the laws of physics when driving hard.
After which, we head out for familiar basic exercises—a slalom course, acceleration/braking, and lane change. The group I belong to begins with the slalom. This isn’t necessarily about speed but throttle-steering coordination, simply feathering the accelerator and being light on the wheel. For this exercise, we have the 718 Boxster GTS. The roadster’s mid-engine layout and short wheelbase give it exceptional agility. We also have the Cayenne S; the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It is the company’s SUV offering, but still feels very much like a sports car and handy around the course, especially with the optional rear-axle steering and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control.
We then move on to acceleration/braking. Just like last year, we have the 911 Turbo S. Flooring the accelerator from a standstill, you can reach a little over 100kph in about 3sec before jabbing the brakes to avoid a cone dead center, then veering to the left or the right before coming to a complete stop. The exercise takes just a few seconds. We have the Panamera 4S Sport Turismo as well for this exercise to sample how different yet similar both models behave. The Turbo S has insane acceleration—a brutal yet controlled forcefulness—while the 4S Sport Turismo is more of a smooth operator—fast in its own right, but still keeping comfort in check for all of its occupants.
Our last exercise for the morning is the lane change aka the moose test. Here, we have the new 911 Carrera T—lightened for that pure, nostalgic drive. I can’t wait to drive this on the track!
Back to the lane change, the key for such a scenario is to look where you want to go. We floor the Carrera T and reach 80kph, then swerve suddenly to the right to avoid an obstacle and back to the left. A sudden change in direction is necessary, but the 911 remains composed. That’s with Porsche Stability Management or PSM on. We do it two more times, with PSM limited (partially off) and PSM off. PSM limited allows you a level of play; the system standing by when it senses the driver is about to lose control. With PSM off, it’s completely down to the driver. While a spin is highly likely, our instructor tells us to quickly step on the brakes and steer the car where you want it to go to avoid it from spinning. This test shows the significance of PSM. Our instructor jokingly tells us it actually stands for “Please Save Me.” We have a crack at the Cayenne Turbo here, but only with PSM on. The sport ute has crazy acceleration, and remains unruffled even with the sudden change in direction.
These exercises may be basic and repetitive, but the familiarity and consistency gained from it makes you more confident with the cars and preps you for your time on the track.
We start the afternoon session by recalling the track by sections—Turns 1 to 5, 6 to 10, and 11 to 15. This is when everything sinks in once again—that this is going to be even more exciting—especially after learning the track last year. My favorite portions of Sepang is exiting Turn 2 toward Turns 3 and 4—a slight right sweeper and straight before braking for Turn 4; Turns 7 and 8—taken as one sweeping right-hander; and exiting Turn 9 toward Turns 10 and 11—a pair of right-handers on the tighter section of the track.
For race car drivers to maintain the highest level of performance possible, fitness and nutrition are very important factors. Analysis, training, and development take a lot of time and are part of their daily routine. So for now, we’re given a crash course on the basic activities they do: neck, shoulder, and arm warm-ups, followed by lunges, core strengthening, coordination, and balance exercises.
This is just an hour-long session; imagine what the drivers go through day in and day out. Respect.
Our trainer/sports science consultant suggests we do the warm-ups each time while waiting for our turn in the car and after to relax the muscles.
After the physical conditioning session, we learn the technical side in order to get the maximum potential and the fastest time around here. Turn 14, which is the last corner before the back straight, has proven to be very tricky. With all the tire marks in the run-off area, that’s clearly the case. Matthias points out the importance of trail braking here, carrying speed from Turns 12 and 13, and braking as you approach Turn 14 and taking it wide so as to carry the momentum for a good exit.
Turn 5 is also quite tricky. Our instructor for this exercise reminds us the importance of throttle steering, lifting slightly to keep the car settled. You sacrifice the first apex to hit the next one for a good entry to Turn 6. Finesse is key for a good lap.
Then it’s the lane-changing exercise once more. With the instructors harping on about its importance, it’s practical knowledge. This could also be life-saving maneuver, just in case.
My experience in the Porsche World Roadshow in 2015 and last year’s MDA gives me confidence. The 911 Turbo/Turbo S and the GT3 are clearly the biggest stars in the fleet. It’s the Carrera T, however, that catches my attention—a heritage model that revives the pure driving feel of the 911T from 1968. The Carrera T is based on the Carrera, delivering 365hp. PASM sport chassis is standard and has been lowered by 20mm.
The T is an example of less is more. Rear and side windows are lightweight glass, and there are fabric loops instead of door handles. Bucket seats are optional while the rear seats have been taken out. The result? 20kg lighter than the Carrera.
The 718 Cayman GTS is playing with my head, too. GTS means additional performance in a daily package. Given its size and layout, this one’s purpose-driven.
A bonus is a 911 GT3 Cup taxi ride with Porsche Carrera Cup Asia driver Will Bamber—the same car from the exclusive GT3 Cup Experience, the highest level of Porsche Experience programs and offered for the first time by Porsche Asia Pacific. It was introduced due to high demand from customers in the region.
While journalists have been given the opportunity to experience the performance of various Porsches through the MDA, the Porsche Experience programs are offered to the public, customers and enthusiasts alike. You can sign up at the Porsche website under 'experienceAPAC.'
This year, there are 39 track days for over 900 participants, 12 days more from last year. “Porsche is heavily investing and expanding its driving experience activities to provide a tangible element to the brand experience,” Porsche Asia Pacific managing director Arthur Willmann shares. “Our driving experience activities in Sepang have been very well received.”
Sepang is home to Porsche Experience Centre. The track’s features—long straights, sweeping bends, and tight corners—let you experience what the Porsche lineup is really all about.