Playing With Porsches In The Laurentians
MY HAND GRIPPED THE STEERING WHEEL TIGHTLY, as I looked across a huge, roughly oval, pad of ice and snow at my husband, Brad. He was piloting an identical Lizard Green 2020 911 Carrera S, throwing up a rooster tail of ice as he madly scrambled to stay more than a quarter lap ahead of me. No way! I’ve got this. Flicking the tail of the rear-wheel-drive car, Porsche Stability Management (PSM) turned off, I then counter-steered madly and flung it into another 90-degree turn and gained even more ground on him with a Scandinavian flick. I accelerated the straight line back to the other end. He couldn’t catch me.
“You cheated,” he pouted, as he got out of the car, an ear-to-ear smile on his face. “Well, maybe you kind-of shaded the rules a bit, I’ll give you that.”
Gracious in victory, I reminded him that, of course, there were no “rules,” and that our instructor, Travis Hill, who had just finished the 24 Hours Of Daytona, had only said that the best two of three wins.
“Okay,” I said, “Dinner is on me tonight.” Since I trounced him two wins to zero. Heck, I’d never raced before. Brad had the advantage of experience, in the Calabogie GT cup. But on ice, it’s a different game.
On the first driving day, we hopped on the bus after a full hour briefing augmented with computer graphic-enhanced videos covering the theory of driving under control in any condition. Our departure time? 9:11, of course.
Brad and I had just finished the last exercise in a two-day, immensely satisfying, “Ice Introduction” course, led by Porsche instructors at the Mécaglisse ice-track facility in the Laurentians. At the instigation of Melanie, the wife half of another wife-and-husband team in our group, Travis had set up a fitting end — a good-natured, safe competition hooning around one of the many ice-driving practice stations at the facility.
Two days before, we had arrived at the Estérel Resort to check in. Imagine Porsche Experience room keys! The facility is lovely, made even more special by the sumptuous welcome dinner on the first night and a full buffet breakfast the next day. Scheduling by Porsche was done with military precision and, on the first driving day, we hopped on the bus after a full hour briefing augmented with computer graphic-enhanced videos covering the theory of driving under control in any condition. Our departure time? 9:11, of course.
On arriving at the ice track on the first day (as well as on the second) we were greeted by a friendly gauntlet formed of the senior instructors, junior instructors and the hosts, a high-fiving smiley group to be sure! And, the cars were carefully arrayed down the hill with more than 30 new 992 911s in both rear-wheel and all-wheel-drive configurations. After all, who wants less than 443 horsepower on an ice track?! We found out quickly that all were shod with Nokian Hakkapeliitta 8 winter tires with 1.5-millimetre studs, in order to give us a fighting chance on the carefully groomed ice surfaces forming the ice track and the multiple stations.
Before long, we were parcelled off into groups of six to eight, paired up two to a car, and then introduced to our instructors. The groups, all assigned different colours, ours being the Acid Green group, got underway and dispersed each to their first station, each group following their instructors who themselves were in their own white Carrera S. Lizard Green, red, blue, yellow, grey, black — the cars were all the colours of the rainbow it seemed.
The first day played out much like the second day would — we enjoyed fabulous instructors who progressively built our skills to levels we couldn’t imagine attaining before attending the course. We practiced driving tail-out through slalom stations, flicking and counter-steering through Scandinavian flick (AKA “rally flick”) stations. We laughed out loud while doing the seemingly impossible, balancing the cars on the throttle around a skid pad, and then putting it all together on an ice track course. Switching between rear-wheel- and all-wheel-drive versions of the cars kept us on our toes, as well as practicing in both PSM Sport and PSM-off modes. Keeping the PDK-equipped cars in manual mode and second gear kept us grounded.
Lather, rinse, repeat. Two days of delicious buffet breakfasts at the hotel, beautifully catered lunches at the track’s chalet, and gourmet dinners (second night out on the town). Most importantly, huge amounts of time behind the wheel, and we were spent, even my “track rat” husband. During the awards dinner, awards were given by each group’s instructor to a deserving driver. Our group award went to Melanie, the one who had suggested the last day’s end-game shenanigans! Naturally!
Will I do it again? Oh my, yes! We both can hardly wait for next year — three-day Ice Force! </>
Photos by Carolyn Stewart and Pera Husi