The Porsche Camp4 racetrack is perched more than 9,000 feet above sea level. So if the sight of the new Porsche 911 Carrera S to which I was assigned didn't take my breath away, the elevation certainly did. But armed with water, aspirin, and special acupressure wristbands to prevent motion sickness, I was ready to start my engine.
The one-day program was divided into four specific exercises: The skid pad, an obstacle-avoidance course, a slalom course, and the full track. The skid pad was a large circle cut into the snow. The goal wasn't to just drive around it, but rather, to drift around it sideways.
My instructor, Claude, did a couple of example laps before it was my turn. He made it look so easy. The trick is to turn the wheel and accelerate quickly to make the back of the car come out, then to counter-steer to make the car correct. To keep the car moving around the circle, it's a delicate dance of acceleration, lift, and slight but precise steering input. At first it felt unusual to try to drift the car, because many of the techniques go against what we learn in driver's ed. But after a while, the concept clicked, and I really got a feel for how the car responded in the snow.
The obstacle-avoidance course consisted of a straight, followed by a sharp swerve to the left (as if going around a car or other object at the last second). This one was slightly easier to master, although none of us went very fast. By the end of our runs, most of us were drifting out of the way, rather than steering around.
The slalom course put together the techniques we'd learned in the previous two exercises. It was fun to drift the car from side-to-side around the cones.
The grand finale was driving the full track. It was an exhilarating combination of uphill straights, sharp turns, and lots of elevation changes. Admittedly, some of us lost control a time or two and plowed into the high snow banks (I crashed twice, including once going into the pit lane. I claim the latter was my homage to Lewis Hamilton, a la his pit stop in Shanghai last season). Fortunately, snow is forgiving, unlike concrete.
If I were able, I'd have taken the five-day course. During the one-day program, I felt like I never fully grasped the concepts of what we were trying to learn until the exercise was over. More driving time would have definitely helped. But at the end of the day, all of us felt like we'd learned something new - and we had a lot of fun in the process.
Click here for some basic winter driving tips, straight from the Porsche Camp4 Colorado curriculum.