Porsche Experience Centre Silverstone
It’s one thing having a shiny Porsche 911 on your drive for the neighbours to idolise, but it’s another proposition entirely to be able to use that 911 according to the very remit that Butzi himself created the car for – and that’s spirited street and track use.
Thankfully, Porsche is still very much aware of this dictum today, and fully recognises the importance of a driver being suitably cultivated as to the abilities and performance characteristics of the sportscar they’ve purchased.
As such, the acquisition of a new Porsche model now secures UK owners a half-day driving course at the Porsche Experience Centre, Silverstone (customers in North America now have the new Experience Centre at Porsche’s new headquarters at Atlanta, Georgia).
The Centre provides focused driver training to help improve your driving credentials across a variety of situations and scenarios in your Porsche.
One of five such Centres in the world (and a first when it opened in 2008 after some six years of development), the superb facilities at Porsche Cars GB’s Experience Centre – appropriately situated alongside the Hangar Straight at the home of British motorsport – include a handling circuit, ice hill, kick plate, low-friction zone, and even a sophisticated human performance laboratory.
Better still, the Experience Centre underwent a hefty expansion programme in 2014 that doubled the size of its on-site facilities. This included construction of a second handling course around an all-new launch-control and brake-testing straight, as well as an enlarged cafeteria and conference room with all-new driving simulators inside the Centre.
The result of all this is quite something: never before has a new 911 owner been lavished with such a platform on which to hone his skill behind the wheel and, ultimately, get the most out of that Porsche 911.
It’s a two-way thing, of course, because by the time you’ve reached even the elegantly presented atrium inside the Centre, you can’t help but feel inspired by the Porsche brand.
Two modern-day motoring greats will likely have commanded your eyesight on the way in (in my case it was the exquisite 997 Rennsport pairing of an RS 4.0 and GT2 RS), while the Atrium itself spoils the enthusiast with any number of evocative racers of years gone by.
Today, I’m greeted by the short-wheelbase 911 raced at the recent Goodwood Members’ Meeting by Porsche’s first Le Mans winner, the legendary Richard Attwood, though a 2008 RS Spyder is known to grace the floor space too.
Although the atmosphere around the Atrium is relaxed and serene, there is much going on at the PEC. As well as privately booked conferences and business lunches inside, the asphalt outside is a constant hive of activity, with an array of 911s, Boxsters, Caymans, Cayennes, Macans and Panameras taking to the six various circuits and test beds across the site.
Meanwhile, those sitting by the restaurant’s bay windows are afforded a panoramic view of a utopian Porsche motoring mini-world.
The most popular course available is the Porsche Driving Experience. These 90-minute sessions offer a focused introduction to the driving dynamics of each particular Porsche model via use of the handling circuits, low-friction zone, kick plate and ice hill.
The standout course is ‘Evolution RS’, where you’ll pilot a scintillating selection of 997 Rennsports, encompassing both iterations of GT3 RS (including the one we drove here) plus the halo RS 4.0.
We recommend ‘Evolution 911’ though, which offers up a driving experience through 30 years of Porsche’s fabled 911 via drives in G-series, 993 and 991-generation Carreras.
Away from these gift-orientated experiences, the Porsche Sport Driving School is for those who require a more rigorous exploration of the performance and handling dynamics of their 911.
This is split into four programmes: Warmup, Precision, Performance, and Master, and use of your own 911 will be required for each. The Warm-up training is a half-day course among the driving facilities at the PEC, and it’s this course that you’ll receive as a complimentary gift from Porsche GB upon purchase of a new 911.
From there, you can accomplish one and two-course days with the Precision and Performance programmes respectively, before graduating to the Master course, devoted to motorsport-orientated aspects of performance driving on the full Silverstone Grand Prix circuit next door to the Centre.
It all sounds like the perfect proving ground for you as a driver, but how do the facilities stack up in the real world? Well, to start with, the handling courses sprawled around the grounds of the PEC mimic more of a fast B-road than a bona fide race track (there’s little run-off and barriers sit just metres back from the black top), but there’s no denying that the new circuit offers another dimension to the Centre.
While the old circuit is without doubt the faster of the two, the twists, drops and cambers of the new track require more of a technical approach from the driver.
Both beautifully smooth under your N-rated tyres, it’s possible to start linking several corners together and progressively build up a racing line – a style you simply can’t execute on a public road.
Each time you climb behind the wheel of a Porsche at the PEC, an experienced Porsche Driving Consultant, who will provide personal coaching to hone your driving, will join you in the passenger seat.
Headed up by Gordy Robertson (he of the famous Porsche GB PR videos onYouTube), the PDC team at Silverstone boasts an enviable résumé of talent and experience – including former Carrera Cup champion Barry Horne and, if you’re lucky, Le Mans hero Richard Attwood himself – to pass on their unrivalled technical knowledge of how to get the best from a Porsche sports car.
There’s no question you’ll be learning from the best, in the best environment: there’s simply no better place for you to garner an intricate understanding of your own capabilities behind the wheel of a Porsche 911.