Porsche Driving School

Paul Morrone |

I thought when I married Jill that she would give up on trying to surprise me as I proved to her it was an impossible task. My keen eye for changes in routine, spending, planning and subtle changes in how she is acting gives me the edge in figuring out what is going on before it happens, or so I thought. Maybe somewhere along the way I started to let my guard down, maybe I was too busy with other things, but recently she pulled out all the stops and dropped a bombshell on me that I did not see coming. Everything seemed normal on Sunday when we turned in for the night, and I suspected nothing as I set my alarm for the morning and thought about what was waiting for me on my desk at work the next day. Jill woke me up before my alarm event went off on Monday morning and gave me a black box with my name on it. Inside it was all the completed paperwork and confirmation to attend the Porsche Sport Driving School in Alabama – the date of the class was for Tuesday.

Still thinking I was dreaming, she said, “Get dressed we have a plane to catch. I already packed your suitcase.”  I’m a big fan of being spontaneous and couldn’t have been more excited, but for some reason all I could think about was what my calendar at work looked like and how I was going to cancel all of my commitments last minute. I was impressed when Jill had told me she colluded with Barb and my parents to watch my calendar, and had already taken care of my appointments and even informed my partners in my golf league that I would be unavailable. Good going, Jill! No stone was left unturned and we headed off to Birmingham, Alabama about an hour later.

By now I’ve made it clear that I have a passion for cars and driving, and this whole thing blew away any expectations I could have possibly had. In classic German fashion, every detail was taken care of, from transportation to the airport, meals and a jam packed schedule for 10 hours on Tuesday, the guys at Porsche clearly know what they are doing, and they do it well.  Our class was 15 people, with 5 instructors, led by Hurley Haywood, who is arguably the most decorated American endurance race car driver ever, in other words, a living legend. The class started right away and included time in the classroom, auto cross, skid pad and on the track.

We had access to nearly the entirely Porsche lineup, from the entry-level Boxster to the range topping 911 Turbo S (MSRP $190k+), and got to test the limits of each in a variety of situations. I guess what impressed me most was the amount of drive time that each person had, with the majority of the day spent behind the wheel as opposed to watching or sitting around. We did a host of exercises in car control, track driving, braking, and so on that would appear somewhat boring to those who don’t like to get into the weeds of driving dynamics, however, there was one exercise we did that day that just about anyone can relate to.

The instructor started the lesson by saying “We are going to tell you to do exactly the opposite of what you have been told to do your whole life. You’re going to get in the car, buckle up, firmly press the brake with your left foot, then floor the gas with your right.” He’s describing the process to activate launch control on the 911 Turbo S. “Once you hear the engine rev limiter kick in, let go of the brake, keep it floored and hold on for dear life.”  Launch control is exactly what it sounds like, think liftoff in a rocket ship, and we had the privilege of doing it in arguably the quickest accelerating production car ever made. The computer manages all the traction, transmission, and throttle functions as your head is snapped back into the headrest as if you got rear ended by a semi-truck. Two-point-eight seconds later you’re at 60 miles per hour and the sky is the limit from there. To put it into perspective, the average family sedan takes about 7 seconds to get to 60 mph, and even the fastest sports cars (think Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc.) can’t break the sub 3 second mark. 

Overall, I really can’t say the day was anything less than stellar, due largely in part to the instructors who made the whole experience truly unforgettable.  It also helped that I got to drive some of the world’s best performance cars at speeds that would have me locked up for decades on public roads. Watching my peers throughout the day, there was one constant among everyone in the group: the ear to ear smile everyone had on their face. Who would have thought it could be so easy to reduce 15 grown men to a group of giggling school girls?!