Having turned half a century old this year, a career change for me is as likely as finding my wife in the kitchen.
So I did not think I would be replacing Porsche Works Driver Earl Anderson Bamber anytime soon when I signed up for the Porsche Media Driving Academy 2016, held at Sepang F1 Circuit in KL.
I had to promise my editor that I would attend the next two levels in the next two years if he let me go for the first level classed “Individual”. I agreed to his condition, then he said I had to buy a Porsche at the end of the whole programme.
After the initial scare but not before thinking, “But he didn’t say the car”, I went about to register myself online for the event as required by the kind folks at Porsche Asia Pacific.
Indicating my helmet size and shoe size got me excited. “Surely it means I get to take home the Porsche Motorsport helmet and Porsche racing boots. They would not let me wear those with someone else’s ‘bau’ (smell) right?”
A quick search on Porsche Singapore’s website under Porsche Driver’s Selection confirmed there were two Porsche helmet designs – open and full face (“Either would do, thank you very much!”) and three models of driving shoes (“Any would do!”).
For the Porsche T-shirt, I ticked “M” and for helmet size, I confidently chose “L”, having more than 10 helmets for my motorcycles. I do have a big head on a smallish body balanced by a pot belly.
And so the day arrived when I packed my bag to leave for Changi Airport. I chucked my orange Puma Sparco driving shoes into the luggage just in case I did not get any Porsche driving shoes. I also brought along a helmet bag to carry the complimentary Porsche helmet if there was no helmet bag provided.
Upon arriving at the curiously named Sama-Sama Hotel where we were to stay for the night, I received my goodie bag, which was too small to contain a helmet or shoes.
“Ahhh, we will get them tomorrow at the track,” I assured myself.
The white Porsche T-shirt in the bag with a retro 1973 Porsche RS 2.7 cloth badge and embroidery was really attractive. It was a good thing I chose “M” as it fitted me perfectly when I sucked in my belly.
Early the next morning, we were whisked to the Sepang racetrack. The first order of the day was my second breakfast and more coffee. Then it was an introduction to the dynamics of front-engine, mid-engine and rear-engine layouts. This was simply and brilliantly demonstrated with a pole and a water-filled 5-litre plastic bottle at each end.
For front-engine effect, the front container had more water. For mid-engine, both were equal, and for rear-engine, yes, there was more water in the rear bottle. Grasping the pole at the middle and running the slalom clearly demonstrated the balance and poise of the “mid-engine” setup compared with the other two. And incidentally, Porsche is the only automaker which has all three engine configurations in their cars.
After a safety briefing, we were unleashed on the track, but it looked like there were no driving shoes to take home. However, the white open-face Porsche Motorsport helmets in the cubbyholes at the reception area kept me buoyant.
First off was learning the safety line which involved accelerating, braking, turning, aiming for the apex and steering before accelerating again. This was done in the 911 Carrera S Cabriolet and the Macan S.
Having “mastered” the art, we moved on to experiencing sudden lane change, so as not to panic in the real world when a Pokèmon hunter suddenly dashes across your path at Changi Village Road.
Porsche’s PSM or Porsche Stability Management kept the Carrera and Cayenne from skidding and barrel-rolling so that I could go back to the loving arms of my wife.
The third lesson was to feel the effects of ABS braking before the most fun aspect of the driving clinic – the slalom in a 718 Boxster S.
The final exercise for the day was convoy driving around the circuit led by an instructor. For that, we were finally given our helmets, but not before being handed the ominous balaclava which smelled freshly washed.
However, the “L” size helmet would not fit my head. Maybe the balaclava was too thick. I asked for “XL”, but it pressed against my temples. There was, of course, no “XXL” and no helmet to take home.
I think I was fastest in the slalom, but I was sent to the airport to catch my flight before the prize-giving ceremony. I am still waiting for the call from Porsche Asia Pacific.
That night when my wife came into the bedroom, I told her I had a headache.
Read about Porsche World Roadshow 2016 at Sepang.