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    "Carrera GT Experience" - Barber Motorsports Park

    Hi all,

    I have just returned from Birmingham, Alabama, having been invited by PCNA to participate in a CGT get together that they called the "Carrera GT Experience". It was a one-day affair held at the Barber Motorsports Park, which is the current USA venue for the Porsche Driving Experience (click me).

    I was flattered to be invited since there were only about a dozen participants in this first-of-its-kind outing for Carrera GT customers and "qualified" guests (CGT prospects). Porsche picked up the tab for first class round-trip airfare, lodging at a great hotel, airport-to-hotel transportation, an evening meet-and-greet dinner, and of course, a day at the Barber track featuring a drive in a Carrera GT.

    We were treated like A-list journalists coming to a press introduction for a new car model. When I walked into my hotel room following the limo ride from the airport, there was a keep sake goody collection in a custom made aluminum "Carrera GT" presentation box waiting for me. It included a pair of Porsche logo driving gloves and a small scale model of the 5.7 liter V-10. Displayed next to the box on the table was a bottle of Stag's Leap Merlot and some designer sunscreen in a party-favor-like wrap, both peeking out of a souvenir Porsche back pack from the Cayenne collection. I was impressed.

    The "meet and greet" dinner that evening was held at Shula's Steak House , conveniently located off the lobby of the hotel. I and a Cincinnati acquaintance, Larry Schumacher, sat between Doc Bundy and Cass Whitehead who were to be among the instructors for the track event the following day. I had a fabulous time reminiscing with Doc about old racing days gone by. The dinner was lavish and almost nobody could finish everything that was served. We went off to bed a little bit early since breakfast was scheduled for 06:30 the following morning.

    Our troop of instructors, driving fleet of Cayennes, whisked us away from the hotel at 07:15 to go over to the Barber track. For anyone who has not been there, one must see it to believe it. When he was planning the facility, Mr. Barber told all that would listen that we wanted to build the "Augusta of race tracks". He's done that and more. Just the landscaping was a monumental undertaking. Then, of course, there's his Motorcycle and Auto museum on the grounds, in which are housed 550 bikes of various historical significance as well as the world's largest collection of Lotus Formula 1 cars.

    The track day was said to be very similar to the goings on at the Porsche Driving Experience with the exception that two Carrera GTs were added to the mix. At the beginning of the classroom orientation, all the participants were asked to relate their track driving history so that the instructors could form groups of roughly similar experience and thereby tailor their efforts to our advantage. I was somehow put in same group as Larry Schumacher, who is a professional racer and, over the years, had teamed with about half of our instructors.

    Part 2 to follow later.

    P.S. - This pic is Doc (standing) talking to Hurley

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Barber Motorsports Park

    Very cool, Mike

    Can't wait for part 2

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Barber Motorsports Park

    Grant said:
    Very cool, Mike

    Can't wait for part 2

    hey mike. yep, they are now doing what they do in leipzig (i attended early last year) over here as well. they are offering to reimburse up to $3k in airfare for the leipzig deal while covering all they cover in bama. the first class ticket to bama is likely the same deal as up to $3k for the leipzig gig. i'd love to go to the next one (6/3) but just found out about it this week and have a conflicting schedule for the 6/2 "travel" day. hopefully they will have another shortly after which i do plan to attend. CGT prospects are all over the place (i've sent 4 already - 1 delivered, 1 to be delivered next week, and the other two will by early summer). all it takes is one ride in mine and those with the means get out their checkbooks

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Barber Motorsports Park

    Thanks for sharing, I also cant wait for pt 2!!!

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Barber Motorsports Park

    mmmm pampered treatment. Makes me want to rob a bank of approx. 700,000 dollars (I mean, cuz when you launder the money, they take a cut, right? )

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 2

    One of the first things that happened after arriving at the track was a show and tell about the Carrera GT for those who had not yet seen one close up.

    Here, Cass Whitehead is going over some of the aerodynamic details of the front bodywork. Porsche took careful measures to insure that exhaust air from the central radiator did not contribute to lift at the front end.

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 2.1

    Here's a beauty shot of the CGT on display in front of the orientation classroom and café/gift-shop building:

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 2.2

    A continental breakfast is part of the Porsche Driving Experience. Here's Doc Bundy grazing the selection:

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 2.3

    A part of the Cayenne "taxi" fleet outside the classroom building:

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 2.4

    Porsche has a truly huge fleet of cars stationed at Barber Motorsports Park to use in their PDE school.

    I think they said there were 46 911s of either Carrera or Carrera S configurations as well as 20 Cayennes.

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 3

    After the orientation classroom session (about an hour) that talked about Carrera GT technical highlights and then basic track driving fundamentals, we were sent off into our small groups. Larry Schumacher, I, and another participant were ushered into Doc Bundy's Cayenne for a demonstration ride around the track to learn the line and the preferred gear selections for our upcoming 997 Carrera lead-and-follow track familiarization session.

    I really liked the way Porsche Driving Experience (and, by extension, the Carrera GT Experience) is conducted.

    First, the Barber track is a great track to learn car control. It doesn't have any macho-length straights that inevitably turn into late braking (WOW - I saw 146 before the braking point!) contests for the insecure. Almost every corner is blind (over a crest or around an obstructing terrain feature) until the last moment. This discourages full-tilt cornering speeds until a memory of the track is established in the mind of the student. The visual intimidation is a safety brake in the beginning, but gives an immense sense of satisfaction after one conquers the feeling.

    Second, the program is oriented in such a way that it's really hard to get into trouble, even for a track-driving neophyte. The instructors took great pains to inform everyone that we had to crawl before we could walk before we could run. That's exactly how it turned out.

    After the Cayenne taxi tour with Doc, my group was first up for the behind-the-wheel 997 Carrera track tour. This was set up with our group's assigned instructor (Doc) driving the lead car and the rest of us in tow. It was just like a mama duck with 3 or 4 ducklings following at close range around the track. The cars were equipped with radios in the passenger foot well so that the instructor could tell us things as we went around the track. Doc would call off braking points, gear change points, and aiming cues through every turn on the track. I think he was driving with one hand and remaining in 4th gear most of the time. Nevertheless, Doc with one hand was capable of things most of us were not. It didn't slow us down any.

    The radio commands were very clear and easy to hear, even through the helmets we were all wearing. One reason for the audio being so readable was that the cars were run with the windows up and the air conditioning turned on. The interior was pretty quiet, except for the purr of the motor. The temperature was set to 70 F because the PDE instructors had determined what setting was optimum for clear thinking. Please to keep one's fingers off the temp control!

    The lead/follow arrangement was pretty efficient for learning the line and getting familiar with which way the track went from turn to turn. Every other lap, we would shift positions so that everyone had a chance to follow right behind the instructor. This was very nice since it's not the best thing to follow someone who doesn't know where to go all of the time. By the time the last duckling in a row comes to a corner, it can fall victim to an ever accumulating series of mistakes by all the previous drivers that came before them in line. The PDE guys know how to run a school.

    Here's Hurley Haywood, Cass Whitehead, and Doc Bundy from our crew of instructors:

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 3.1

    Once our group had been shown the correct line at speed, and judged to be worthy of the next step, we were the first to be put in the Carrera GT for a taxi ride to explain what would be the differences in approach to the track in this mid-engined car. My CGT track guide was Hurley Haywood. It was the first time I had been in the passenger seat of a CGT.

    Since I had already driven my own CGT around on the street for a while, and I had just spent a dozen laps behind the wheel of a 997 going around the track, I was not very surprised by what happened. But, I was impressed by Hurley's ability to drive and simultaneously explain what he was doing, and why, while we were orbiting the course at slightly sub-mach speeds. Damn, the CGT has Brakes!

    After the Taxi rides, we spent some time circulating in a different 997 Carrera S fleet. The first thing immediately apparent was the better control over undulations and the much better feel of the PCCB, compared to the non-S cars in which we had started out.

    Also, the 997 in general, and the 997 Carrera S in particular, tolerate trail-braking in an amazingly positive way. The Barber track rewards braking pretty deep through quite a few corners and the Old-911 driver in me was spooked by the thought initially. As I experimented at the behest of the instructors, trail-braking became my well trusted friend in the 997.

    After becoming seasoned in the S variants, we broke for lunch. Here's the lunch room on the ground floor of the Barber museum building:

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 3.2

    After lunch, while our food settled, we took a short (30 min.) tour of the Barber motorcycle and auto museum. It's amazing:

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 3.3

    Another museum pic:

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 4

    When we got down to business after lunch, our group was qualified and primed to go do the big deal: DRIVE THE CGT ON THE TRACK!

    This, of course, was what we all came to Birmingham to do. I had no apprehension about getting going, having already mastered that task on the street. Others were advised to completely forget everything that they may have heard about "the clutch" in the press, because "the clutch" was just as smooth as that in any street car. It's just that the engine has no flywheel (for real! - I hadn't inspected the exploded drawings well enough to see). Don't worry about it and it won't give any trouble.

    Sure enough, I was able to start up and motor out of the pits with Cass Whitehead in the passenger seat. The mama-duck lead/follow arrangement was still in effect (Duh!). With Doc Bundy in the lead in a Carrera S, I and the other novice CGT driver fell in behind for some warm-up laps driving the Carrera GTs. After we went around once or twice, Doc picked up the pace so we could see just how cool the CGT handled, accelerated, and braked.


    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 4

    Terrific report Mike. One question? Why wasn't I invited?

    They really are doing a hard sell on the CGT. What a shame.

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 4.1

    The Carrera GT is an amazing car with which to tool around on the street. It is simply beyond my recollection when driven on the track. The brakes are from another world at track speeds, no matter what one thinks about its ability to stop on the street. Doc opined that the CGT was a "little under-tired" for the chassis' native capabilities. He thought more tire would put it up another whole notch above where it is now. I'm not sure any performance increase would be meaningful to me, at my experience level. I think there's a whole life-time of attempting to master the current car lying in wait for me!

    The motor is just insane at track speeds. Just when you think it can't go any faster, it kicks into a higher plane. Keeping one's foot down through any kind of twisty bit is something I didn't see any of the instructors even attempt, even on "hot lap" demo rides at the end of the day. Hurley was braking pretty hard for corners in the CGT that the Carrera S could take flat, or with a slight "breathe" of the throttle.

    The CGT trail-brakes just like a real race car. The 997 Carrera S is really quite inviting when combining braking and cornering, but the CGT is on a much higher level. It is so sweet to finesse through the corners, right on the edge of the friction circle, that I can't wait to find another track event. It's chassis capabilities/characteristics are far superior to any car I've driven on a track -- ever. (I didn't get to drive the 962 hard enough to make a comparison.)

    Hurley made a point of repeating, every time I went out with him, that the CGT has very sensitive steering and cautioned me more than once to be VERY steady with my steering inputs at speed. He said the car turns in more accurately and more directly than any 911/935/etc. One needs to be respectful of the car's capability.

    Just to drive that point home, one time when I was the trailing CGT with Cass as my instructor, Hurley's student ahead applied a little too much throttle on the up-hill off-camber exit of the "Museum Corner", followed by a big lift off, and started to spin the other CGT right in front of me. The sudden throttle lift deceleration of just the rear axle overloaded the rear traction capacity and increased the rear slip angle more than a little. He managed to come to a complete stop in the middle of the track after rotating the car only about 100 degrees clockwise (with some cool tire smoke while it was in progress), and we all had a safe, inexpensive outcome. I'm sure the student was embarrassed into next week, and I sure am glad he did it instead of me

    Here's another shot of the lead/follow Carrera GT students. I think that's Hurley gritting his teeth in the passenger seat of the black one:

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 4.2

    When the day was done, I was almost giddy with enjoyment. I have to take my hat off to Porsche for putting on a fine event and, somehow, inviting me to it.

    I got to meet (and quiz) about every big shot from Porsche Cars North America. There is a recently hired COO, Michael Bartch, who is an Australian transplant. I asked him point-blank about Porsche's policy for track work. He told me that for "events like this, ... there is no policy. For racing, there is no warranty, same as every other manufacturer." He then went on to talk about warranty claims for frozen synchronizer rings, welded together by abusive operator technique, and the like, and said their position could be no other way. I told him that I certainly agreed about customers not deserving warranty coverage for items caused by operator abuse.

    Apart from any communication about track "warranties", I suspect he's the guy responsible for the flavor and extent of these Carrera GT Experience events. Of everyone I heard speak to us as a group, he seemed the most connected with the "why" of the event.

    I also got to talk at some length with Peter Schwartzenbauer, PCNA's CEO. He's a very polite, intelligent guy and we had a long discussion about how the Internet has made comparing notes in different markets nearly instantaneous and the difficulties that brings to organizational communications.

    He said, with some pride, that all of Porsche's out-bound print/TV/web/etc. communications to customers (he called it the "official" communications) were harmonized between every market. He said the next major hurdle was to harmonize the "un-official" communications, especially with Porsche's best customers. He said the organization is still learning with a priority on getting it right.

    As a side note, Mr. Schwartzenbauer's Carrera GT (the black one) was pressed into service as a track car after the yellow one developed an electrical glitch that made it hard to start. He had driven the black one from Atlanta in the morning and was going to drive it back. That's exactly how I want to use mine!

    Here's a close-up:

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - The End

    One last shot of all three CGTs that saw track time with "students" at the wheel in the 1st-ever Carrera GT Experience:

    P.S. The series numbers on these three cars were (IIRC) 0015, 0016, and 0017.

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - The End

    I wonder, in the future, if they would offer this to non-CGT customers. For a price, of course.

    Great write-up!

    Thanks Mike for sharing! Awesome report and pix!! Another thing to look forward to when we take delivery of our CGT. Can't wait.


    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 4

    nberry said:
    Terrific report Mike. One question? Why wasn't I invited?

    They really are doing a hard sell on the CGT. What a shame.

    Nick, I would have thought that you would be congratulating Porsche for putting on this event. Instead you turned negative. What's up with that?

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 4

    Ferrari Nick is always negative on Porsche, what did you expect? Nothing new. We're used to it already. Getting real old.


    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 4

    nberry said:
    Why wasn't I invited?

    I guess because you need to know how to drive a manual before hand.

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 4

    Mike, what an awesome experience that must have been.
    Many thanks for sharing it with us.

    BTW: What is "tail-braking" (my English is just too limited)?

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 4

    Thank you Mike for sharing this awesome experience.

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 4

    Yeah Mike, thanks for the great report. I'm anxious to sign up for the PDE.

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 4

    Thanks for sharing the awesome pics and info!

    Did the either the Carrera models used have PASM, Sport Chrono? and did any of them have the European optional only sport suspension with LSD?

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 4

    Thanks again for sharing, that just sounds like so much fun + you probably got to learn alot about your new car....greaT!

    Re: "Carrera GT Experience" - Part 4.1

    W8MM said:Doc opined that the CGT was a "little under-tired" for the chassis' native capabilities. He thought more tire would put it up another whole notch above where it is now.

    i came to the same conclusion early on. did you happen to notice either the cold or hot pressures?



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