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Old 08-14-2006, 01:04 PM   #1
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Driver's Ed in a new car

I've never driven a car on the track. I finished my brake-in period couple of weeks ago and this past weekend I was simply intoxicated by the 4k+ rpm growl and power after the apexes. The track seems to be calling. Is there such a thing as a Porsche that is "too new" for the track?

I'd be curious to hear from other new Boxster/Cayman owners that have contemplated taking their car to the track -- say, a Driver's Ed event. How much thrashing (if any) should I actually expect? I have the clear-bra installed over the whole front (full hood, bumper, and fenders). Would I still need the OEM bra on top of it for extra protection? What type of debris is typically flying out there -- rocks, tire shreds?

Must I have the abilty to maintain the car -- bleed my own brake fluid, change brake-pads, etc? I don't have a garage (I keep the car in storage during the week) so that would be tough for me but I am also reluctant to start fiddling with things on a brand new car by myself. If not, where do you perform the maintenance to keep the car track-ready? (The dealer?) What will this do to the Porsche warranty? How about insurance?

Or shall I just get another older Porsche for the track and not worry too much about beating it?

Any experiences, inputs are welcome.

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Old 08-14-2006, 01:17 PM   #2
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This is a great question! You raise some legitimate concerns. I don't have many answers for you, though. But, I share your concerns. These are some of the reasons I have decided NOT to do any AutoX or DE events with the local Porsche Club.

I have opted instead for the Road Rallye and Concours route. Much safer!

Maybe I'll do some of the more aggressive events in another year or two. My other concern was buying a $400 helmet (and possibly not like doing the DE and AutoX stuff) and not passing the "broomstick" rule. I am 6'2" and don't know if I'd pass inspection.
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Old 08-14-2006, 02:43 PM   #3
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bmussatti,
Glad to hear from someone sharing similar concerns. My main initiating concern started building up over the last few weekends (after the break-in was over), and after I took some friends for a spin on some country roads. How do I know how safe (to myself and especially others) am I when I play with the abilities of such a powerful and exciting car on public roads? The judgement is very subjective and clouded by adrenaline at the moment. What looks safe to me may not look safe to others (passenger, other drivers, etc) and may actually not be safe at all. So pushing the car, or driving it "spiritedly", always comes at a risk on public roads, even at 8am on Sunday morning in the country. That risk is much smaller at the track, and one can explore the car's abilities much, much more freely.

It seems like I'd be more interested in Driver's Ed than AutoX. Even in skiing, I'm much more excited by high speed, smooth, turns (super-G) rather than fast, sharp and jittery action (slalom, moguls). So I feel that driving in 1 and 2 gear all the time (AutoX) may not be my thing.

Your concern that you may not like the track is valid. I did a little bit of karting as a youngster and I also love driving my Boxster "spiritedly" so it's a valid assumption that I will like the track. Perhaps paying for a day at a high-performance driving school (Skip Barber, $1500 to learn driving BMW M3, 330i, 911, and base Boxster on a track) may not be a bad idea as a test for either of us.

As for the "broomstick" test, I think there are $600 snap-on roll bar extensions that are supposedly very safe and accepted at all PCA events. I am 6' so I may pass it without them if I lower the seat all the way down. Looks like there's plenty of room there.
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Old 08-14-2006, 05:30 PM   #4
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I had a track event scheduled (not drivers ed, a track event, 2 days) and didn't have enough miles on my '05 at the time so I had a friend take it with him to Vegas to put the necessary miles on it. Talk about fresh start...
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Old 08-14-2006, 05:53 PM   #5
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We got our 06 in November

and did our first DE @ Mid-Ohio in May where it rained for 2 days. A couple slips an slides but no off track excursions and I did gain a lot of respect for both the PS2's and the 987 suspension. I have to say, both my wife and I couldn't wait to get it on the track.

I tried covering the front in plastic but it came off in the rain,. the car was not any worse for wear. Since then we've done two more DE's and a EVO auto-x School--still trying to get the black marks off from that one.

Mabe it's that this our second Boxster but we got his car to drive, evidence the options on it, so short of bending up a fender or worse I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

. We did auto-x for years and that is a good learning session to get a feel for the car's handling, but the DE is where you really get an appreciation for the car. What I enjoy most about DE's is the amount of seat time you get at speed vs. the auto-X. On a good day at a DE I can get over an hour on the track; at an auto-x it's less than 10 minutes.

Regarding damage to the car, both events will chew up rubber and if you get too close to the guy ahead of you at the DE, you can pick up paint dings from the gravel. I try to cover the headlight and lower trunk lip and tops of fenders. With those precautions, you'll protect the finish pretty well. With my '99', after 6 years of doing 6 auto-x's a year and 1 or 2 DE/year, we had the same brake pads, clutch and had not touched anything on the car save for tires and normal maintenance.

Bmussatti--with the seat in the lowest position you shouldn't have a problem with the broomstick on a 987. The 986 was a different animal with lower hoops. You may have to recline the seat back a bit but not much.BTW, a G-Force helmet runs $149--open face.

Keep one thing in mind with a DE, you can go as fast as you're comfortable and they do keep drivers of similar experience in the same run groups. In other words, if you're running with the novices, you shouldn't have to worry about a Jeff Gordon wannabe on your tail as you go around the track. You may want to go to an event and ride with an instructor to get a feel for what it's like or some clubs will have events just for novices. Either way, I don't think you'll regret the experience.
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Old 08-14-2006, 06:46 PM   #6
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"Either way, I don't think you'll regret the experience"

Thanks MikenOH. A lot of valuable input.
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Old 08-15-2006, 04:47 AM   #7
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Taking your car to DE is an excellent way to learn the car's handling in a controlled environment. Ditto what others have said - plus:

Debris & dings: cover the front with something. I used clear plastic carpet protector from Lowe's. $10 a roll. Slap it on any old way the day before track days, remember to cut out the holes for air ducts , and peal it off gently at the end of the day. Works great, I never had any paint damage from 4 DE's.

Brakes: Just put in a higher temperature brake fluid like ATE Super Blue, which is pretty much the track standard fluid. That's it. The Boxster brakes are wonderful right from the factory. Inspect, or have someone knowledgeable inspect your pads before and after each day. Not hard to do - the track community is very collegial, most other car owners are glad to share their knowledge.

Tires: Tires will get chewed up a little on the edges, and make a little more noise on the interstate. It's a price you have to pay...

Helmet: Mine cost under $200 for a Bell. Not all helmets are equal. Check the rating required for your track. Most tracks require at least SA 2000. Check before you buy. Some are going to the later rating of SA 2005. So first, find out what the track requires, then go to a site like saferacer.com and look for the cheapest name brand helmet (Bell and G-Force are good) that meets your need. Check the closeouts (last year's colors) and you may find a bargain, but be sure the rating is right. They will mix non-rated helmets in the closeout mix. Beware.

Warranty: Hmmmm. Little cloudy here. If there is a good Porsche aftermarket shop, you may want to use them to do your track preps. Course, when you go in for the 15,000 checkup sporting bright blue brake fluid with the fashionably worn edges on the tires, they might put the pieces together. I feel like track days should not affect repairs like the A/C doesn't work, or a window lift motor craps out. But if, say, your clutch goes out and you show signs of tracking, there could be a negotiation that follows...

For me - it was worth every nickel of it. Feeling the car do what it was designed to do, in a controlled environment, was a blast. And if I had broken my clutch I would have paid the aftermarket shop to fix it, and not bothered to go to the dealer.
It's a ton of fun. Hope this helps. BTW, each HPDE day I got 6 x 20 minute outings, 2 hours total track time per day. Can't beat it.
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Old 08-15-2006, 05:10 AM   #8
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I thought I read on here or one of the other boards that Porsche can download info from the computer indicating whether you've abused the car (exceeded rev limit, etc.). I wonder whether DE has any effect on that. Of course, PCNA has to know that we're not buying these cars just to take a ride to the supermarket.
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Old 08-15-2006, 05:38 AM   #9
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I've been to 3 autox's this year, and am fully hooked. Haven't given the DE a shot yet, I've been too busy looking forward to AXs and getting faster each time. Only thing that seems to happen is the tires get a bit gummy.

Regarding someone's point about dealers...I know for a fact my dealer sponsors autocrosses, in addition to driver's ed and driver's events. These cars can handle these sort of sporting events - its what they're engineered for. Bouncing off the rev limiter day and night is NOT cool, but 5-6 AXs a year and a DE event here and there won't hurt a thing, IMO.
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Old 08-15-2006, 05:42 AM   #10
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Lots of good input here. Pls keep it coming.

limoncello, I assume you're doing your track maintenance (incl brake fluid change) at an independent shop. As for the warranty, I was told by the salesman that the clutch was not covered by it anyway. They treat it just like brake pads -- something that wears out more or less depending on abuse. I think all of the Tiptronic system IS covered as there's no clutch for the driver to abuse. The mosr important question is: Isn't the warranty voided by doing maintenance at an independent shop?

longislander1, you are right about the car keeping track of historical operation data onboard. The Porsche service can definitely see if you've touched the rev-limiter. I'm not concerned by that as I don't plan to hit it -- at least not on purpose.
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Old 08-15-2006, 05:55 AM   #11
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dezigns:
I've been too busy looking forward to AXs and getting faster each time.

Please tell more about the AutoX experience. Is it true that you almost never change above 2nd gear? How long is a typical course (length, time, etc)? Does hitting the cones leave marks, dings on the paint, body?

Everyone, how about insurance (no one mentioned it). I read somewhere that some people buy separate track insurance for their cars, as the normal one doesn't seem to cover track usage.
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Old 08-15-2006, 06:14 AM   #12
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The warranty issue is cloudy as noted, and a most peculiar cloud too. The facts as we know them:

a. The cars are high performance cars. Surely Porsche does not build and sell these cars to demure great grandmothers. They market performance, they must suspect that we (the buyers) will drive them.

b. HPDE's are growing in popularity. Lots & lots of Porsches (all kinds) attend these events. Probably as much or more than any other marque.

c. The most popular days (in our area) are sponsored by PCNA. Well run events, heavily attended, great reputation for strong safety emphasis. Porsche owners from 3 states driving their cars, talking, recreating in the evenings. Good fun, good sport.

Back to warranty: I suspect if one were to ask the dealer point blank, the answer might be "no", since that's the answer he/she has to give. Corporate line. But, say you're a good customer, the damage isn't too great, they know from the events that you drive well (not a car destroyer) - maybe they fix it anyway to keep your business. Also, some dealers are inherently evil, and don't like to fix anything, even legit repairs, while others are more user friendly. Dealers vary. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it really is a squishy area - there may not be clear black and white answers. My approach was to drive my car like I had to fix it. This takes a little off your lap time, but the brakes and clutch last a lot longer. Also, I use no trailer - my car has to take me home at the end of the day.

Brucelee or others, feel free to jump in on the dealer/warranty thing. My views are as a consumer only.

Rev limiter - nice thought that one will not hit it. My first day I did indeed hit it several times out of naivete and blind exitement. It's gonna happen, just like the occassional spin is gonna happen. The more I drove, the more experienced I got, the less I hit it. Your max torque is around 6-6500 I think, so there's really not a lot of need to hit it, but I did somehow. All part of the experience.
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Old 08-15-2006, 01:59 PM   #13
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these cars are MADE for the track!! i couldn't imagine NOT participating in AutoX or DE while owning one. i can understand warranty concerns, etc. i'm an immediate gratification kind of guy, though, so those thoughts exit my mind the instant i pull out of the pit.

bmussatti - if you're concerned with the broomstick rule, there is a kit you can buy that lowers your seat by about 2" while still allowing it to slide properly back and forth. i think brey-krause makes it.

alternatively, you can go for GT3 seats or a brey-krause roll bar extension (or you can just scoot the seat forward, lean the seat back, and scrunch down for tech inspection )
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Old 08-15-2006, 02:42 PM   #14
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What about track insurance? There's quite a discussion underway on Rennlist about it. Does anyone here who's tracking their cars use any track insurance, and if yes, from where?
Thx.
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Old 08-15-2006, 05:17 PM   #15
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Of the 20 or 30 fellow club members

that participate in either club sponsored DE's or auto-x, none buy any special insurance. That question came up recently at an event and a raise of hands showed that none of the participants carried any special insurance. Not all had new cars but a number of people had cars that were only a year or two old. As one of instructors comented," we can put you in contact with insurance people that will take your money if you feel it is important".

I know that there is a vendor in PCA that does advertise providing insurance for DE's; for the life of me, I can't imagine getting it for auto-X.
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Old 08-16-2006, 07:40 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by z12358
Please tell more about the AutoX experience. Is it true that you almost never change above 2nd gear? How long is a typical course (length, time, etc)? Does hitting the cones leave marks, dings on the paint, body?
I've never gotten to 3rd gear, only upshifted to 1st on one or two occasions...really tight chicane / box turns. Wear on the clutch, for me, is nonexistent as I 90% of the time take off in 1st, get into 2nd, and keep it there.

I imagine a cone could leave a slight plastic-y mar on a body panel if you hit it fast enough - but nothing that couldn't be buffed out with a proper polish. Personally, I don't know, as I've never hit one

For me, the AX experience justifies my Porsche purchase - I drive my Box every day to / from work, which consists of driving up and down I95 everyday. Not very exciting, nor optimum utilization of the car's performance aspects. AutoX for me is truly enjoying the car, and learning better driving control and habits. Why buy $150 Air Jordans if you dont play basketball? Yes, the car has a lifestyle cache to it, but I didnt buy it to look cool - I bought it to enjoy its characteristics and performance.

I highly recommend it to any owner. It's a competitive, adrenalin fueled experience, and like someone else said, you can really enjoy the social aspect of it once you get to know the PCA regulars in your area.

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