Formula 1 Correspondent
4:30 PM 6th December 2019
The Porsche Experience Centre, Silverstone
Just days after the conclusion of this year’s Formula 1 season in Abu Dhabi I had the opportunity to visit the Porsche Experience Centre at the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire, the home of British motorsport, and what an experience it truly was.
The impressive main building guarded by two fine racing Porsches
The impressive facility took six years to build and opened in July 2008, being the first of its kind outside Germany. It is still one of only six such Porsche sites around the world, including two in the USA and one in China, although a further one is currently being constructed near Milan in Italy.
The purpose of the centres, including the one at Silverstone which is located alongside the famous Hangar Straight at this iconic racing venue, is to showcase the amazing engineering integrity and capabilities of Porsche’s products in highly differing but demanding driving environments and to provide top quality tuition re car control and race driving techniques via its highly trained instructors.
Yours truly with my excellent instructor, Ben Marlog, ready to head on track in a 296bhp 170mph 718 Cayman
The stylish main three storey building features an atrium showcasing current, historic and racing Porsches, a first floor restaurant with views of the tracks and a large upper level viewing area. There are also meeting and conference facilities as well as a state-of-the-art Human Performance Centre where the physical and mental condition of racing drivers can be measured and enhanced. Various F1 and other racing drivers have been assessed and tutored here in the past, including Mark Webber. On site there is also a fleet of over 100 carefully prepared cars, covering every type and permutation of vehicle sold by the German company.
High speed action from a Cayman S one of the two handling circuits
The facility has a couple of superb handling tracks, where after getting comfortable with their layouts the instructors are keen to tutor you about racing lines, weight transfer, braking and turn-in points, clipping corner apexes and power on points. They are not trying to make you the next Lewis Hamilton or Charles Leclerc, but to help you fully explore what your chosen car can comfortably achieve whilst really developing your own driving skills in a safe environment.
A 718 Boxster amidst a mass of slippery water
In addition to this, there are two straight test tracks where it is possible to experience extreme acceleration and braking. Simply amazing. Porsche has long had a golden rule that however quickly its cars can accelerate they must be able to decelerate just as swiftly.
A pristine racing Cayman on display in the atrium
The centre isn’t just about high speed acceleration, cornering and heavy braking though as there is a very wet 7 degree slope, known as the Ice Hill, where it is possible to experience slow speed handling and limited grip levels in extremely slippery conditions, showing just how effective Porsche’s traction control systems can be. There’s also an area featuring low friction polished limestone surfaces where it’s perfect for experiencing oversteer and techniques needed to control and correct it.
Another of Porsche’s iconic racing cars caught my eye too
There’s also a brilliant facility known as the Kick Plate where a computer controlled hydraulic plate flush with the road surface is activated to send the car into a rear wheel slide or spin and you are taught how to ‘catch’ and control it, even if one or two fully 360 degree rotations might happen too along the way!
As if this all wasn’t enough, there’s also an off-road course for those who prefer something a little different and where Porsche Cayenne models show how they can cope with uphill and downhill sections of up to a mighty 45 degrees, rough terrain and side slopes where your brain is convinced the car is about to roll.
In conclusion, the centre is a highly impressive and professionally run facility, but where the staff are also very welcoming as well as being extremely proficient. After over two hours behind the wheel of a 296bhp 170mph Porsche 718 Cayman it was simply impossible to remove the smile from my face!
Full details of what is available can be found on the www.porsche.com
website. Perhaps a perfect special Christmas or birthday present for someone.