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Old 03-26-2017, 02:51 PM   #1
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PASM, PSM, ABS, ASR, ABD, EDTC, etc...

While racing at Buttonwillow Raceway two weeks ago, I also instructed a student in a Cayman GT-4 and wanted to share some thoughts about the GT-4 on the track.

After recently driving a GT-4 on the street (GT-4 Test Drive), it was fun to get a chance to be out on the track in the GT-4 (even as a right seat instructor). My student was relatively new to track driving with only one day of previous experience.

Ill start by saying that the GT-4 is incredible. It has a wonderfully solid feel and everything about the car inspires huge confidence in the driver.

To cut to the chase, in the hands of a track newbie, the GT-4 laps times would have placed it solidly in the Spec Boxster field (albeit, somewhat towards the rear of the field). Sure, the GT-4s 385hp evened out the playing field against the 201 hp 986, but the real equalizer was the electronic drivers aids they were absolutely incredible (and possibly depressing at the same time, depending on your point of view).

During the first session, the student was gaining confidence and picking up the pace as he learned the line. Then he approached a turn way too fast and turned in way too early. I was thinking that this was probably going to result in the driver slamming on the brakes at turn entry and probably provoking the rear end to come around and wed do a big slide or even spin. Instead, the car cleanly adjusted the line, bringing the rear end back expertly around, and the driver accelerated out of the turn successfully. I was a little bit in awe.

In the subsequent sessions, I learned that the electronic aids (enhanced PSM with ABS, ASR, ABD, EDTC, pre-filling of brake system, and brake assist) do an amazing job of making a new performance driver look like a much more experienced driver - repeatedly the car successfully managed the dynamics when wed have been in the dirt in a 986.

As an instructor, I found this to be a double-edged sword: on one hand, the student was able to drive safer and go faster with the drivers aids and in doing so, he had a n incredibly great time and learned what his car could do on a track.

On the other hand, he might not have learned as much as he could have because of repeatedly relying on the car for assistance. In other words, his driving was a bit sloppy and the car made up for it - but was he the better for it?

This brings to mind the question of what comprises a great high performance driving experience? Is it learning to heal and toe? Is it learning corner entry and exit technique? Is it learning threshold braking?

Or is it just about having a great time driving your car in a way that challenges your skills and provides a huge level of thrill and entertainment?

Or somewhere in the middle?

I can see both (all?) sides of this discussion, so the best answer that I will venture is that each of us has to answer that question for ourselves.
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Old 03-26-2017, 03:53 PM   #2
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First off - let me say I want a GT4 SO badly.

Ultimately it depends on what you want to get out of going to track days. If you want to go a couple times a year and have fun doing it - well the fact you can buy a car that allows you to do that with little experience can be a good thing.

However - if you want to use HPDE's to become a better driver and move into more advanced groups, well they are going to be a hinderance in the long run.

I started doing track days with the Audi Club 10 years ago. All beginners have to go through class instruction as well as doing in car exercises. At that time I was instructed to turn off ESP in my pretty highly modified TT. When doing the slalom, I had forgot to turn off ESP for the first two or so runs and had picked up speed pretty well. Then I turned off ESP and went out and proceeded to fish tail through the entire course. Sure taught me about electronic intervention. I did all my track sessions with ESP OFF. We don't allow beginners to turn them off on track now. We allow them to do it in the exercises. However - intermediate or advanced drivers can turn them off but only after discussing it with their instructor. Now we have to contend with the auto-braking features and other electronic sensors which take over driving the car for you. They pose an even greater probem on track.

Personally - I think it's important as an instructor to discuss stuff like this with your student so they can get an understanding of what they are doing and what the car is doing as well as what their long term goals are on track.

Oh and did I mention how badly I want a GT4?
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Old 03-26-2017, 04:13 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by rastta View Post
Personally - I think it's important as an instructor to discuss stuff like this with your student so they can get an understanding of what they are doing and what the car is doing as well as what their long term goals are on track.
We had this discussion about mid-day as I was becoming concerned that he didn't realize that the car doing a lot of the work. He understood and worked on improving himself in the later sessions.
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Old 03-26-2017, 05:43 PM   #4
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Good evening Tom,
I had the exact same experience with my GT4 driver. I had a couple of moments when I thought the car rear would come around, but was saved by the electronics. My seat is used to what a spec boxster would do.
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Old 03-27-2017, 04:41 AM   #5
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Just makes me feel a lil bit better about myself when I pass a gt4 in a 2.5L boxster, The small things in life
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Old 03-27-2017, 05:23 AM   #6
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Very interesting discussion, and I can relate from the standpoint of having been a flight instructor. It may not apply here, but when you're teaching a newbie to fly, you begin in a very basic machine with no special aids or electronic assistants. Once the student shows proficiency, then you move up to the next level of complexity. It's a process that has worked for me in both military and civilian aviation. We justified this learning strategy by reminding students that systems, especially complex electronic ones, can and do fail. When everything is working as it should, a chimpanzee could fly the airplane. I used to tell students they don't get the paycheck for flying a perfect jet -- it's when stuff starts breaking down that you earn your money.

Skip Barber takes the same approach, and that's why I keep returning to them when I want driving instruction. You begin with a bare-bones Miata on the skidpad, then autocross, and then finally, the racetrack. Even then, I can tell you that the first time your ABS fails in an MX-5, it's a real eye-opener, especially at the end of a long straight leading to a hairpin.

This is what concerns me about all of these electronic nannies. My granddaughter could probably get a GT4 around the track quite competently when everything is working. But when PSM fails...?
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Old 03-27-2017, 10:08 AM   #7
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We had this discussion about mid-day as I was becoming concerned that he didn't realize that the car doing a lot of the work. He understood and worked on improving himself in the later sessions.
Sounds like you had it covered. Also sounds like you had a good student. I've a couple good ones lately - after having way too many know-it-alls at a couple events.
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