A few months ago I had the opportunity to take a first drive in the new 991. This particular car was a Carrera S, equipped with PDK. The venue was not the street, but (as deemed by some), the best track in the world, Watkins Glen International. I would drive several laps to show my student around the track prior to him taking the wheel. Life is sometimes tough – I would drive the car for the sole benefit of my student, but I certainly would not enjoy it.
When the car was first released, my initial impressions were lukewarm – this looks too much like the 997. However, after further review, the subtle changes from previous models bestow a more athletic and modern look, with the steeper rake of the windshield giving it a sleek line. The car rides on 20-inch wheels which are visually proportional to the rest of the car. The interior has been criticized by some as too derivative of the Panamera, but as I have stated before, “get over it”. In my humble opinion, a 911 does not have to have a minimalistic, spartan interior. Porsche is marketing the cars as luxury sports cars. The “luxury” aspect does not take away from the sport car pedigree. One interior feature that I was very grateful for was the air-conditioned ventilated seats. This August day was hot and humid, so we spent the weekend in the luxury of having our backsides cool while we lapped the track. (Life is tough, but sometimes…)
As we pulled out of the paddock, I left the PDK in automatic and switched on Sport mode to stiffen the suspension. Over the years I have driven a number cars equipped with a Tiptronic transmission, and was expecting something of “slush bucket” shifting. However, the transmission shifted crisply and the car never seemed like it was in the wrong gear. Later, when the student drove and changed gears with the thumb buttons on the steering wheel (sadly, this car was not equipped with paddles; a must in my book if you go with the PDK), the shifts were blazingly fast. I am looking into my crystal ball, but I think the days of the conventional manual transmission and clutch are numbered. Steering wheel paddles have been added to the 2012 Porsche 911 GT3R race car, controlling the sequential six-speed dog-type gearbox. The electronics controlling the transmission have an automatic throttle blip control, making it almost impossible to miss a shift and over-rev the engine. As a racer, I think there is something skillful and elegant about executing a perfect heel-and-toe downshift in the heat of battle. It separates the good drivers from the mediocre. For street driving, rowing the gears is fun. All of this will soon be a lost art. But I digress; back to Watkins Glen.
The most impressive aspect of the 991 is the improved chassis dynamics and handling, attributable to the wider front track and longer wheelbase. The first noticeable improvement was how the car turned into a corner – immediately, without hesitation or drama. The car was stable, planted, and predictable. Previous 911’s, particularly those without any track modifications, tend to understeer (“push” for you NASCAR fans) as you aggressively enter a corner. This is most obvious in the turn at the Glen call the “toe of the boot”, which is an almost 180 degrees, uphill right-hander. The traditional entry, particularly for beginner and intermediate drivers, is to enter in the more traditional manner, maximizing the radius by starting the turn near track left and then staying fairly wide until approaching the apex. A tighter (inside) line usually results in the front tires losing grip, causing the driver to lift off of the gas, losing momentum, and the car getting very unsettled. The 991 was able to handle a tighter corner entry without drama, and with the car maintaining stability on entry, I was able to get back on the power sooner and blast up the hill, without any feeling that the back end would come around. The student also had no difficulties with the aggressive entry to this corner, and from what I observed we were the only car in the run group that was able to take this line.
The new electronically assisted steering has been much maligned by primarily the automotive press, but I never gave it much of a thought. Is it a different feel than hydraulic assist? Yes. Did I think that I was missing a significant portion of road feel? No. Overall, I had a blast driving this car for even just a few laps, and based on his perpetual broad smile, so did my student.
Looking around the region, as you read this our season-ending Driver Education event at Virginia International Raceway is in progress. Due to a snafu by the track, we were not able to attend VIR in 2011 for the first time since the track opened. We were a bit concerned with the year off that attendance would suffer in 2012, but we were counting on all the people who sent us hopeful notes about this year would sign up. Fortunately, that turned out to be the case and the event sold out quickly.
For the 40th year, the annual wine tasting will be held on Sunday November 11. This year’s event will be called “95 Reasons to Celebrate” in honor of the “double anniversary” (40 years for the Wine Tasting and 55 years for NNJR). The theme will be German wines. Wunderbar!
November 14 is the date of this month’s regular monthly meeting and will feature Tom Mitchell of Becker AutoSound as the Program Presenter for this month. As an audiophile who is in dire need of updating the sound system in my 993TT, I am looking forward to this meeting.
The November 14 meeting will also serve as our annual Business Meeting. To date, the only point of business will be to approve the appointment of the nominated elected officers for 2013. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Nominating Committee (NC) for their thoughtful deliberations and hard work. The task of selecting officers is not one that can be taken lightly – not only do the right people for the job need to be identified, but ensuring continuity and the long term needs of the club have to be considered as well. Our current Secretary, Marlys Thovson, is now in her fourth decade of dedicated and outstanding service in that role. Over the years, Marlys has taken on more and more duties beyond the pure role of Secretary, and along with her role as Membership Chair (MC), spends countless hours performing these duties. To better serve the Region, in addition to her role as MC, Marlys will be taking on a new position as Administrative Coordinator, and Cindy Cristello will assume the role of Secretary. Cindy will learn the position under the careful tutelage of Marlys, and the Board of Governors and the Region as a whole will continue to benefit from Marly’s continued guidance and many other non-Secretarial contributions. That is a win-win in anybody’s book. On behalf of all the members in the Region: Thank-You Marlys.
Looking forward to December 5 is the date of our annual Charity Auction at The Villa in Mountain Lakes. Plan on coming, and bring some friends – we want to make this year’s auction the best ever and raise money for the Somerset Hills Learning Institute. Also, do not forget to sign up for the Holiday Party on Saturday the 15th. We will have a live band, plenty of great food, and our annual awards will be presented. Hope to see you there. It’s not just the cars, it’s the people.