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    Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    I recently had the chance to go to the Porsche Sport Driving School or PSDS (formerly Porsche Driving Experience, PDE) with Larry Kangley and J.S. Debuler. I just finished Porsche's 2-day course for advanced performance driving skills at the Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham Alabama. I'd like to share with you my endless accolades about this impressive program. Everything was well executed from the way the instructors laid out the individual exercises to the way the tracking sessions were conducted.

    Larry and me

    Me and J

    But first, let me set the scene. Barber Motorsports Park is a track constructed and laid out in a reclaimed open pit mine. The track itself has smooth asphalt paving, with concrete curbing where appropriate, a wide neatly maintained grass area between the Armco barrier and the track, and graveled run outs where needed. The track features lots of elevation and camber changes, blind corners, and at speed could be easily compared to a roller coaster ride. Interestingly, where rubber tires are used to augment the barriers the tires are new, never been used, rejects, some still with stickers attached. We were told by none other than the Racing Legend himself, (Hurly Haywood, Chief Driving Instructor and winner of countless international racing events, including several of the 24 hours at Le Mans races) that this is considered a very technical course.

    Site of the Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum

    Endless supply of equipment needed for our cars

    We met briefly with Mr. Barber the founder of the track and a motorcycle collector, who told us his goal is to make the Motorsports Park into a facility that will be to auto/motorcycle sports what Augusta National is to golf. And I must say, he is well on his way to achieving that goal. The property consists of about 700 acres of land with about 200 acres devoted to the track. Besides the track there is a large pit garage, with clean restrooms, a large pit area, several paved parking lots, covered stands for corner works complete with traffic warning lights, etc. A TV system monitors the whole track. Everything you could expect and wish for from a first class operation. To top it all off Mr. Barber has seen to it that the property is properly landscaped with many thousands of daffodil and tulip bulbs (and more to come), azaleas and other species of shrubbery. The piece de resistance is more than a hundred metal sculptures placed around the track grounds, including a giant spider and a very large dragon fly.

    The group with Mr. Barber

    Some of the many sculptures seen throughout

    Porsche has constructed a classroom building styled much like their dealership architecture. Here they have a reception area, a large class room, gift shop, and continental breakfast bar. This is where we started our first day with about a 1 hour class room session on fundamentals: driving position, weight transfer, braking, understeer/oversteer, Porsche Stability Management, cornering line and cornering dynamics. Then it was out to the track.


    Our instructors

    We were divided up into 6 run groups of about 4 per group. 3 groups (including mine) were sent to three large parking lots behind the pits. One lot had an oval loop where braking exercises were run, another had a sealed asphalt wet skid pad, and the third lot had an autocross course layout. We were taught the importance of smoothness for throttle, braking, and steering, and how all of these disciplines were interconnected. It's interesting to note that it's absolutely crucial that you balance steering input proportionally to the amount of throttle or braking forces applied. One is done directly proportional to the other. We were told to never apply full braking or full throttle unless the steering wheel is straight. Envision a string tied to your foot down by the brake or gas pedal to the bottom of the steering wheel and you'll get an idea of how one affects the other. You can't turn the wheel without lifting your foot. Each individual exercise, stressed the importance of the particular technique to be applied and how it related to the other techniques. In the first parking lot we drove around a wet skid pad course shaped like a figure "8" in a Carrera 2 with the PSM off and shaved tires. Here it was demonstrated that by applying too much brake or gas one could induce unwanted understeer or oversteer. That was definitely an eye opener for me! Smoothness was the key in insuring proper acceleration and braking all the while maintaining my momentum throughout the course. In the second parking lot we used a Cayman to learn braking techniques, including trail braking, and using the proper line through a corner carrying enough speed to maintain momentum. In the third parking lot on the autocross course using a Boxster we learned the importance of the eyes, looking ahead to where we wanted to go and having the car go where we look. This was to be done without knocking over any of the cones marking the course. Meanwhile the other 3 groups were out driving on the track.

    Later we made the switch to the track. We drove Carrera 2's equipped with 320 hp, standard steel brakes and not much else. The instructors first took each run group in a VW van around the track to familiarize the students with each of the track's 16 turns. Then it was into the cars. Each student had his own car equipped with a one way radio for the instructor to talk us through the various parts of the course. In my case I also had an instructor ride with me to augment the radio, because of my deafness. The group instructor then led us around the track at a relatively slow pace in fourth gear, pointing out over the radio where the brake points, turn ins, apexes and track outs were for each corner. Speed was increased on each lap up to the group's "comfort level". By the end of the first day we were all motoring at respectable speeds. The track is an absolute delight with super smooth asphalt surfaces and as mentioned before with plenty of curves, elevation changes, on and off camber turns.

    The first evening we had dinner with the instructors back at the beautiful 5-star Ross Bridge Hotel situated on an equally sublime golf course about 40 minutes away. I was exhausted by the end of the first day and slept through the night only to wake up eagerly anticipating the next day's events.

    Ross Bridge Resort

    Me and Hurley Haywood

    J and Jeff Purner

    The second day was even more exhilarating than the first. We started with a brief classroom review. We were further coached on the concepts of trail braking, heel-toe techniques and finding the right line through the different types of turns. Then we returned to the parking lot exercise areas where we participated in a "competition" on the autocross course against the other run groups. The contest was a relay where one student would drive around a modified "figure-8" course for 3 laps with penalties imposed for knocking over individual cones, stopping outside the "stop box" and for running to tag our relay teammate. We could walk/shuffle quickly in/out of the Boxster S (Tiptronic), but we could not run. While our team didn't win, we did well enough on the course, and I ended up with the 2nd fastest time overall for the day with my 2nd lap timed at 30:55 seconds. The fastest time was 29:69 seconds by a fellow on one of the other teams who'd been to the school several times before. Not bad for a newbie! My reward was a free t-shirt. Afterwards we did a few timed runs on the skid pad first with the PSM off then on. My time improved by about 8 seconds between the two. That I think was my worst excercise. Next, we learned how to heel-toe around an oval course. I didn't do very well because I wasn't braking hard enough which in turn didn't allow me to "blip" the throttle enough to execute the perfect downshift before the curve. I was a bit heartbroken by that, but that would soon be forgotten once I tried heel-toeing on the race track.

    We were told that "little" mistakes would be magnified as our speeds went up. They weren't kidding about that! I learned that it's absolutely crucial that you place your complete focus on smooth transitions. Remaining calm and composed and breathing properly was equally important. Larry was quick to discover that white knuckles usually means that the steering wheel was being held on too tightly and that anxiety levels were too high. I was surprised how calm and composed I was the faster I went. But that pales in comparison to some of the instructors while they drove me around the course, either during demonstration laps or even the "hot lap" sessions. They were calm, composed even to the point where they could sometimes let one hand go while explaining what to do around a corner or in the straightaways. Definitely in stark contrast to me testing my "pucker factor" during some of the more hairy moments.

    After further honing our skills on the skid pad, autocross course, and the braking course we returned to the track, where I learned about maximizing speeds throughout the course using the action points clearly marked by orange cones all around the track (30) in all. I learned where and how to apply braking forces (utilizing the trail braking technique taught in the parking lot), heel-toe technique while downshifting (we started using third gear to better accelerate out of some of the corners), rolling on the throttle while coming out of a curve and straightening out the wheel proportionally. I believe, because of the excellent instruction I received, I can now say I feel very comfortable driving the 2+ mile long course at speed.

    This is my first time on a track and I am officially bitten by the "track bug" for which I'm told there is no cure. An occasional track session or two might help alleviate its symptoms, but not for long. I've gotta get my "fix" soon.

    At the end of the second days tracking sessions everyone had a chance to experience the full capability of the Carrera riding with an instructor behind the wheel driving full tilt. I came away from this surreal experience grinning from ear to ear as did everyone else! We were going faster, braking harder than I thought possible and almost defying the laws of physics coming around those tight corners! I was definitely impressed. Before heading back to the classroom groups of 3 were also given a hot lap ride in the Cayenne Turbo S with 520 hp on tap. The engineers at Porsche have managed to make me a believer. We were barreling around those curves at speeds that a high centered SUV should not be capable of doing. At one point a Carrera 2S passed us on a straightway and we managed to stay relatively close behind throughout the rest of the course. We also all had an opportunity to sample a Carrera S model with 355 hp and top tier PCCB (Ceramic) brakes. Afterwards, I found myself preferring the basic Carrera 2

    One of the instructors having a little fun

    Cayenne Turbo S

    "Come on aboard!"

    On another note we also took on an off road excursion in the Cayenne during the second afternoon. With 3 students and an instructor in a Cayenne S or Cayenne Turbo S we were taken out to an off road course laid out inside the Motorsports Park. Very impressive how well these vehicles did in some of the more extreme terrain situations! My favorite was the steep deeply rutted downhill run. Some wheels lifted several feet in the air! It was here that I again learned the importance of smoothness as I applied/released the brake pedal coming down the hill.

    At the end of the day, techniques were reviewed, awards were given, certificates were handed out (nicely framed too), we said our goodbyes and headed off to the Barber Motorspots Museum for an all to brief tour of one of the worlds largest motorcycle collections (something like 1100 bikes beautifully displayed) as well as having one of the larger collection of Lotus cars anywhere, surely to be loved by motorheads everywhere. The museum is in a beautiful four story building about the size of a small department store. One of my favorite bikes (among others) was a beautiful silver Italian cycle powered by an 1100 cc V8. The chrome headers and aluminum castings were to drool over.

    V8 powered liquid cooled beast

    The PSDS is an incredible program! It's easily one of the best driving courses I've ever participated in, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone. I look forward to taking the PSDS "Masters" course sometime in the near future.

    "I am a believer!"

    I encourage anyone interested in learning how to improve their driving techniques and wanting to experience tracking for the first time to go to the Porsche Sport Driving Experience!

    More pictures here: (

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    Great report and very nice photos!

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    very nice as usual, jason....thanks for the comprehensive report..they should put you on the marketing payroll, not that they need much.... quality of the support facilities and track is indeed impresive....not being a golfer i find it all lightyears better than augusta....

    now just work on how to have this setup as a backyard...ive just started saving for a trip here...thanks, again

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    Very well done! I took this course last year, and you described it with specificity and enthusiasm. I came away with a great respect for the car, the instructors and Porsche. My only complaint--I wanted one more day at least!

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    thanks for sharing , looks you had a great time !

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    Thanks for the great report, very motivatinal!

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    Thanks very much for the report and photos!

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    Great report and wonderful pics - thanks a lot for sharing
    Makes me looking forward even more to my own PDE course at the end of April

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    Thanks Atomic, that was great, when I find hte time I would love to go!!!

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    Thank you very much, atomic! This is the best PDE/PSDS report I have read.

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    Very nice and detailed report, good pictures, good everything. Can't wait to try PDE/PSDS out too!

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    Super job on course. You make it look worth the $2-3K (can't remember the cost). Question: you say you "prefer" the carrera 2 with 320 HP and steel brakes over the "S" with 355HP and ceramics. Are you saying the braking power of either brake system seemed the same???? or was the steel "preferred" in-course driving??

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    No, the ceramics had far superior braking but because I spent a majority of my time in the Carrera, I'd gotten accustomized to that particular car. If I had spent a little more time in the C2S then I'd have ended up preferring that car.

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    Great report with great pics. Thanks!

    For the down-under / Asia people the Porsche'School' (PDE) at Mount Cotton (near Brisbane) is also a must. Not quite as scenic, but superbly run and a great experience. It's worth every cent. (albeit a few cents).

    You can book it via Porsche Melbourne Click here for that web page

    Just avoid summer - it's too hot then!

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    Guess what folks, yep. You got it..I've signed up for the PSDS Masters course on April 26-27 so I'll be going yet again!

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    Thanks for the report, that seems like the most amazing time..something I would love to 'invest' in! Wow..i bet you really appreciate the capability of even the lowliest boxster a hell of a lot more now!

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    Thanks for sharing Jason, seems you have had a blast.

    You convinced me, I'm going to sign-up for one.

    Re: Porsche Sport Driving School (formerly PDE)

    atomic80 said:
    Guess what folks, yep. You got it..I've signed up for the PSDS Masters course on April 26-27 so I'll be going yet again!

    This kid is the Devil incarnate! He's spending my Social Security checks faster than they're coming in. I signed up too.



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