By Hubert King

It is a warm, sunny July morning in the MetLife Stadium parking lot E.  The gigantic lot is covered in orange cones, creating a miniature race course. I am behind the wheel of a silver 2016 Porsche 718S. Next to me is a former race driver, winner of Sebring, who is my Porsche Instructor. He’s giving me instructions on proper hand placement: “Hook your thumbs over the two cross arms of the wheel. Move your seat so that you can place your foot, knee slightly bent, on the floor beneath the brake. Make sure your arms stay close to the body and that elbows are bent.” All this and we haven’t even put the PDK into drive yet! Like the lyrics from that Talking Heads song, “You may be asking yourself, how did I get here?” The real beginning of this story goes back 2 years, when I bought a 911 from Paul Miller Porsche. That connection led to today, because it was an invitation sent by my salesman Troy P. that resulted in me being at MetLife Stadium on July 28, along with 35 other lucky invitees, to drive 5 new Porsches. All sponsored by Paul Miller and provided by Porsche North America. As the promotion literature describes The Porsche Driving Experience, “it’s a chance to drive a Porsche the way it was intended. Test the agility of the new turbocharged 911 Carrera and 718 Boxster on a full fledge autocross.”  This is an arrangement that travels across the country, setting up shop for a morning and afternoon session at each venue, then moving on to the next location. There are many Porsche support staff in attendance: people to ferry the cars, people to arrange logistics of the track, and folks attending to creature comforts for the participants (thank goodness for the tents and ample water supply). Many folks come from the Atlanta center. At the center of the driving experience are the Porsche instructors who will coach us as we each drive. They are veteran racecar drivers, some active,
some retired, and all teach at the Alabama Porsche Driving School. Those of you familiar with sponsorship by Paul Miller Porsche for our club events will not be surprised to hear that they had provided superb accommodations for us. Upon arrival, we were ushered into the empty stadium and up to a concourse-level green room box. There, after a brief check in procedure (invitation list, drivers license, liability waver) we were treated to breakfast in the luxury box, while watching enticing videos of Porsche at the test track, showing on monitors hanging everywhere throughout the room.  Mingling with the other participants, a few things seemed apparent. Many already owned (at least one!) Porsche. Not everyone purchased his or hers at Paul Miller. It was mainly a male crowd, a few women. Average age was probably over forty, but I did spot one guy that looked close to the 21-year-old limit. As the time to drive approached, the event began to appear like one of our DE events.  We were introduced to the instructors, then given the rules of the road: This is not a race! Follow in-car instructions at all times, no second-guessing the instructor. Don’t consistently drive in a manner that knocks over the cones. One last thing, it is not a race and to emphasize that we will not use helmets. With that we split into two groups. My group headed out to course 1, where a Boxster 718S and Boxster 718 were parked.  At course 2, the second group were presented with a 911S, Macan, and Boxster 718. Over the next 3 hours, each of us would have the opportunity to drive the vehicles for two laps around the course. So, that’s how I found myself pulling the PDK into drive and heading off onto course 1.  No need to change gears! No long straights. This was going to be easy! My instructor says “go left, go right, accelerate, brake.“ Things Instructor Kees Nierop, Porsche Sport Driving School, introduces us to the Boxster 718 and prepares us to drive course 1.  Photo courtesy of Wayne Lee are happening fast! I’m trying to find the race line. We get into a rhythm. My instructor says, “keep your eyes up, look ahead where the car is going, turn your head more because glasses interfere with peripheral vision. Don’t move your hands on the wheel and keep it steady; hold your line through the corners.” Had this guy been reading my DE evaluations? Now for the second lap. I’m picking up some confidence and speed. Finding the line. Whoops a little too much speed, braking through corner where I’d like to steer through with throttle.  But, I’m still on course and now the run is over. Back in staging area, I wish my drive had been smoother and faster. Well that was first car of five, I’ll do better next time. I notice a little perspiration. Might be feeling a bit stressed by situation. The remainder of the drives went more or less the same. I did pick up speed. Got in a little over my head with the 911S. Here are my impressions on the cars. As far as equipment, all cars had PDK transmissions. My time in the cars was too brief to determine if each had Sport Chrono and PASM.  The car was set up by the instructor before our entry with only seat and steering wheel adjustments by the drivers. BOXSTER 718S: One of my favorite cars.  Very responsive, no turbo lag that. This car was faster than my ability to drive it on this course. Great looking car. BOXSTER 718: Easy car to drive, but less responsive that S model. Friend said he noticed slight turbo lag. This car was well matched to my driving skill, and I felt I could really fling it around the course. Extremely well balanced.
MACAN: I’m a SUV daily driver, so was very interested to try this.  Two modes used Regular and Sport. In regular, a little acceleration lag and the cornering produced some body roll but I always felt in control. Sport mode turned the experience into more of a thrill. Very sharp acceleration and controlled cornering. It seemed that the body roll was reduced. That mode certainly increased the confidence in driving it fast through the course.  It’s not your father’s SUV. 911S: Saved the best for last. No turbo lag here. It had super sharp acceleration, superb braking and great control through corners.  This is a car that builds confidence, and in my case perhaps a bit too much.  For the first time that day I finally pushed hard enough to get into trouble, ploughing through a few cones as the car understeered when I went into a corner too hot. As my instructor noted: “The stability control in the car is great, but ultimately you still can’t beat the laws of physics.”
We finished our day in the passenger seat with an instructor at the wheel. Course 1 and 2 were combined and each of us were given a hot lap in one of the Boxster 718. To truly show their skill, they seemed to drift the rear around each and every corner. Here is a link to a YouTube video posted by a participant: watch?v=0G6sTLLrG0s.  Paul Miller then hosted a fantastic lunch spread for participants, instructors, Porsche staff, and Paul Miller staff. We compared notes on the cars, shared stories of past driving events and made plans to meet up to drive together again.