In my June Blog, I recounted my love of speed, my loathing of slow drivers and the consequences that come with impatience. Believe me, I learned my lesson after having an accident the month prior. I’ve become more cautious in sluggish conditions, willing to slow my mind and vehicle down when necessary. My new-found patience has paid dividends and I have discovered that arriving at my destination 30 seconds later than anticipated is completely acceptable.
Still, what would my life be without a little excitement now and again? Something to feed my need for speed without having to worry about other, unpredictable drivers. Well, ask and I shall receive. Or, better yet, win a contest a work and be treated to an afternoon on the track at the Porsche Experience Center in Carson, California.
Talk about satiating my needs, the “experience” went beyond my imagination. I was able to fully explore what the “world’s most thrilling sports cars” had to offer. With a 53-acre “playground” and eight uniquely engineered driving modules, I could test the power, responsiveness and safety at the core of Porsche engineering, according to the booklet I received. Modules included a “Handling Circuit” as well as an “Ice Hill” and a “Low-Friction Circle.” With my instructor, Erica sitting shotgun, I handily piloted my 443-horsepowered 911 Carrera 4S like a woman on a mission.
I let Erica know I had a couple of driving courses under my belt—open wheel at Skip Barber Racing School at Sears Point in Sonoma and drag racing at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School in Gainesville, Florida—but those had been completed years ago when I was a lot younger. Still, my fond memories of G-forces crushing my body remain vivid. As such, my favorite track was the “Acceleration Straight,” which ironically abuts and runs parallel to the southbound 405 Freeway in Carson, just south of Los Angeles. It’s where the “Launch Control” exercise is performed. Launch being the operative word. Think slingshot! Changing the driving mode to “Sport Plus” for firmer shifts, I depressed the brake all the way to the floor with my left foot while holding down the accelerator at full throttle. OMG. Really??? I’m in love!
When I took my foot off the brake while keeping the gas pedal fully depressed, the Carrera launched at maximum acceleration down the near mile-long straightaway. Erica told me I reached a top speed of 112 mph. Exhilarating and scary at the same time until I braked and slowed to about 46 mph to enter the “carousel,” a curved, 33-percent striped embankment. I cherished the high-speed sound of the quick-shifting, 8-speed automatic transmission as much as I relished the roar of the deceleration, which sounded exactly like I was downshifting a manual transmission.
As my heart raced and adrenaline coursed through my body, I couldn’t help but appreciate the incongruity of accomplishing this next to one of the most congested freeways in the country. As it was late afternoon, the freeway was in gridlock mode, and I can only imagine those unlucky drivers staring enviously at me and the other drivers as we raced down the straightaway. Perhaps the track designers intentionally built it there precisely for marketing purposes.
And then it hit me. Right after my third launch. Another absurdity. Imagine doing this—no matter how fast—in a silent electric vehicle. Uh, no way and no thank you. Cars are meant to be felt and heard. And the main purpose of the Porsche Experience is in hearing and feeling the power of a highly engineered, internal combustion engine. A muscle car to the max. My dream machine!
In my humble opinion, the internal combustion engine is not going away any time soon, if I and millions of other speed aficionados have any say about it. Let those who want EVs buy them, but EVs will never fully replace the combustion engine. Not in my lifetime, anyway. First, there are too many professional and amateur auto racing circuits that have no intention of switching to electric power. Period. Second, it’s expected and only natural to want to hear the distinctive whine of open-wheel race cars wending their way through tricky courses. Or the roar of NASCARs circling an oval.
I hope to return to the Porsche center soon and participate in other events. It’s that addictive. Maybe try an even more powerful car. In the meantime, my slogan here on out will be, “Long love the internal combustion engine!”