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Porsche of Tucson Track Day Leaves Drivers With a Taste of the Fast Lane

Porsche Track Day

The aggressive purr of 400 horsepower held in check rumbles the pavement as the drivers move into position. Impatient to move onto the track, the purr turns to a snarl when one of the drivers revs their Porsche 911 Carrera to nearly 7400 rpm, the car straining to stay motionless as 325 lb.-ft of torque surges through the chassis. It is Porsche of Tucson Track Day at Inde Motorsports Ranch in Willcox and everyone is eager to take their tach to the redline.

This day, a small group of Porsche owners are experiencing what it’s like to take their high-performance vehicle out on a track, courtesy of Porsche of Tucson. The Track Day is an added bonus for customers of the Arizona Porsche dealer. It’s held quarterly on the 2.75-mile track at Inde Motorsports Ranch and led by instructors who have serious racing experience (think more than 30 years) like Jim Malone, Doug Nelson, Rick Robinson, Greg Robertson and Doug Kyer. It offers an intimate, ultimate driving experience, where drivers get to know exactly what their new Porsche can achieve. From the blindingly-fast 2,200-ft straightaway to the 21 turns, participants of Track Day will feel connected to their car in ways many owners will never experience, explains Jim Malone, founding member at Inde and one of the course instructors.

“You will leave today with an appreciation of what your car can do,” Malone tells the students, seated eagerly in the classroom. Panoramic windows at one end of the building give everyone a view of the track and surrounding high desert, littered with creosote and sagebrush gently waving in a late-fall breeze. Tapping on a map of the track, Malone outlines the course and the objectives to be met. “Today, we are going to make you a safer and better driver by the time you leave here,” Malone says. “These cars are capable of doing a lot more than just driving down the street. They are designed and inherently suitable for high performance driving, like we will be doing today.”

The small-sampling of Porsche vehicles includes Boxsters, Cayman’s and 911’s – all street-legal daily drivers. Newly-minted Porsche owner Marty McBride of Green Valley drove his Boxster and happily admits going on a track with it is a “bucket list” item. Today, he is scratching that item off the list and experiencing the thrill of running his vehicle from 0-60mph in less than 5.5 seconds.

“This has always been a dream of mine, to run a car out on the track and today I get to do that,” McBride says enthusiastically. “I can hardly wait to get out there.”

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The first thing Malone points out to the students is “Turn. Center. Turn.” He explains this allows the suspension to settle when entering and exiting a corner, providing a smooth transition from one challenge to the next. “Smooth is fast. Today, the premium is on being smooth,” Malone says. Checking tire pressure is another item on the to-do list. Instructor Doug Nelson explains they dynamics of tire pressure and how tires interact with the track surface. “Regular street tires tend to lose traction after two or three laps,” he says. “Whereas racing tires are just getting warmed up and sticky, so they can adhere to the track. You’ll need to check your pressures today after a couple of laps.”

Instructor Rick Robinson, who brought his sapphire-blue metallic 911 Carrera out to the track, explains how driving a Porsche should feel. “You should feel where the car is going and what it is doing in your back and butt,” he says. “By learning how it feels when the car shifts, brakes, and corners, you’ll learn how to drive more smoothly. The point of today is to have fun and get to know your vehicle.”

After explaining the morning on the track will consist of lead and follow, then on-your-own driving, everyone bolts to their car, excited to begin. The small number of participants is a bonus today: The student-to-instructor ratio is nearly 1:1, so everyone will have the opportunity to have an instructor ride with them in their own vehicle, giving pointers while on the track. It is this intimate opportunity for personal instruction that sets the Porsche of Tucson Track Day event apart from other vehicle dealer incentives.

“This event certainly sets Chapman apart from other dealerships,” says Malone, who is watching his students try out their new skills on the track. “The opportunity to learn here on a professional track, from professionals, is phenomenal. I don’t know of any other dealership that does this, even on a national level.”

After lunch, the students head back to the classroom for one more discussion about their driving skills and to talk about the rest of the course. During the morning session, only the southern 1.5-miles of the track was used for instruction. During the afternoon session, the entire track will be opened up for the students, providing elevation and speed changes, and all 21 turns. Doug Kyer, an instructor who drives his Porsche 944 in Sports Car Club of America-sanctioned races, told students to pay attention to the body movements of the instructor. “Watch their hands. They make an adjustment and then don’t move. There’s no gripping the wheel in a death grip or jerking it from side to side. Remember, easy, smooth motions.”

Malone echoes Kyer’s words of advice. “Watch our feet. You’ll notice we don’t slam on the brakes going into a corner. If you do your turns well, you’ll kind of float from corner to corner,” he explains. “You want your movements smooth and to just float along like a butterfly would. You’ve got to slow down your motions. Slow is the key to going fast.”

Before cutting the students loose on the track on their own, the instructors pile everyone into crew-cab trucks to drive the new course configuration. Once back, everyone dons a helmet and climbs into their car, this time with an instructor at the wheel. Adrenaline and excitement are palpable as the students go around the track one last time before taking the driver’s seat.

And then, in a cacophony of revving engines, they are off. The ebb and flow of sound from the cars is punctuated by wind gusts and conversation among the instructors. Delaney Sturgeon, Jim Malone’s wife, joined the group at lunch. Sturgeon also races and instructs at Inde: She is a favorite among female students who may feel intimidated with a male instructor. As the conversation turns to family and the recent Thanksgiving holiday, her husband rolls up in a white Porsche WC-GT2 and climbs out, offering to take me on a “hot” lap of the course. I jam my helmet on my head, jump in, and wait as Rick Robinson helps me get the 5-point harness on. The inside of this vehicle is immaculate in its simplicity: A roll cage surrounds you in a cocoon of safety, the bucket seats are stock racing and conform to the body, and the only nod to convenience is a state-of-the-art radio with CD player. This car is built for one thing, and one thing only: Going. Fast. Now. As we head out on the track and down the straight-away, I marvel as Malone smoothly transitions into the first curve – going about 80mph – and I’m grateful for the 5-point harness. The rest of the ride is pure adrenaline enjoyment as we drift around one curve to the next. The smoothness he spoke of earlier is there, to be sure; but so is the heart-pounding, hit-you-in-the-gut G-force that driving 100mph+ brings. As we pull up into the pit area, I’m certain the Cheshire-cat grin on my face will be permanent for the next few hours.

As the sun casts late-day shadows across the pit area, the drivers pull in from their final laps. Still happy, their earlier exuberance is tempered by, of all things, fatigue. Malone had warned of exhaustion during the morning session, but none of the students really believed they would feel tired. Six hours later, they have a true understanding of the words “driver’s fatigue.” Despite feeling tired, Marty McBride was still enthusiastic about his experience.

“Today was nothing like I thought it would be,” McBride says. “It went above and beyond what I expected. I thought today we would follow a pace car out on the track for some low-speed passes or something. When I found out we got to go out and really drive our cars, I was like, “Whoa! We get to do what?’ This was such an awesome experience, I can’t really describe how incredible it was. I would certainly do it again.”

For more information and to view new Porsche inventory, visit Porsche of Tucson. For information on the Inde Motorsports Ranch, visit www.indemotorsports.com.

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