Another UCR member takes in the CAMP4 experience.
BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS ARTICLE, hopefully spring has sprung. Winter in Canada is very long, especially when we are unable to drive our favourite Porsche for 4-5 months.
Luckily Porsche Cars Canada offers an exciting winter driving experience called Camp4. It offers drivers a first-hand experience to learn how to drive their high performance sports car on snow, ice, and other slippery conditions, with training by professional rally drivers at Circuit Mécaglisse in the Laurentian region of Quebec.
Preparation for this ice track begins in December. Water is sprayed daily onto the track to form a thick layer of ice over the asphalt road course until the whole 6.4km track and 2 skid pads are completely iced. Camp4 is also available internationally in Finland, Italy, Switzerland and China, but Quebec is the only North America location.
The program is taught by a team of expert instructors with sport driving or racing backgrounds. 2018 was the 8th year with the first time being completely sold out. Offered in 3 different levels – Camp4, Camp4S and Ice-force, each level builds more rally inspired skill to drift a sports car around on an ice track.
My experience first begun when I first got a call from Matthew Tam at Porsche Center North Toronto (PCNT) in October about my interest to attend, offering February 14-15, 2018. My heart skipped a beat. It was a dream come true for me. I have looked at this program every year hoping one day I would attend. Every good husband knows you cannot leave your wife alone on Valentine’s Day. So, the first thing I did after I hung up was to ask my wife Pammy if she would come along with me? She knows how much I love my Porsche and how much I wanted to attend Camp4, and after some thought, she agreed to come along and make it a small winter getaway. A few other fellow PCA UCR members, Desmond Tam, Greg Sin, and Henry Au and their significant others also attended this event.
February 14, 2018, 8:30am
After months of anticipation, the day finally came. After dropping the kids off at school and making sure someone will pick them up from school. We headed out on the road towards Estérel, Quebec, a small town 608km from Toronto. Camp4 participants are booked into the Estérel Resort, a luxury hotel with three well known onsite restaurants and spa. The resort is about 30 minutes south of Circuit Mécaglisse where Camp4 is hosted. The weather was perfect for the drive, even with some construction traffic going through Montreal, we made it to the hotel by 4:30pm. Once we arrived, we were greeted by Porsche Experience staff who checked us into the Camp4 program, and provided us with a schedule for the two days, name tags, and our driving group was assigned.
Most participants have now arrived, a welcome dinner was served at the Rok restaurant, there was at least 5 long tables of 10 people, and each table was assigned a run group colour. Many of the guests were Porsche dealership clients like ourselves, or from Porsche Canada head office and dealership staff. This was a great opportunity to meet other people with whom you will be spending the next day driving. A delicious 4 course dinner was served with the highlight being the hot stone cooking entrée with the choice of either beef tenderloin or scallops. Our table consisted of my fellow PCA UCR members, Matthew and Adriano from PCNT and other PCNT clients. After dinner, some of us in the group enjoyed a dip in the the outdoor hot tub, a preamble for the next day.
February 15, 2018, 7:00am
It was an early start to the day with my alarm going off at 6:30am, a full breakfast buffet was served from 7:00-7:45am at the hotel and drivers briefing was at 8:15am. With all the excitement, everyone got up early and made it to breakfast on time. Weather wasn’t ideal, the warming temperatures caused thick fog limiting visibility with a high chance for heavy rain and freezing rain later in the day. These changing conditions whould make for an interesting day!
The objective of the course was to understand how the car will respond to throttle, braking, and steering with all three affecting weight transfer and that is key to car control on ice.
Drivers meeting hosted by Jonathan Urlin, operations manager of Porsche Experience Canada, went over background information about Circuit Mécaglisse, history of the Camp4 program in Canada, plus a short introduction to goals of driving. He presented an informative talk about the friction circle, contact patch, understeer, oversteer and weight transfer in detail with help of computer animations to demonstrate how the car will perform in different conditions. The objective of the course was to understand how the car will respond to throttle, braking, and steering with all three affecting weight transfer and that is key to car control on ice. In this one-day program, there were 4 different driving exercises: 1) Slalom – where we practice how to use the pendular effect to get the car around each cone. 2) Skid Pad Exercises- to learn how to correct under and oversteer. 3) Brake Skid Exercise – to use the brakes to induce a skid. 4) Rally or Scandinavian flick – is the most efficient and fastest way around a hairpin on ice, requiring us to make use of skills learned in three previous exercises. We drove brand new 911 (991.2) Carrera S (C2S) and Carrera 4S (C4S) models powered by 420hp 3.0L Twin turbocharged engines, all with PDK and running on Nokian Hakkapeliitta 8 winter tires with 1.5mm studs.
We received a brief introduction to each group’s senior instructor, junior instructor and assistant, then we broke out into our groups and got into our pre-warmed cars all lined up like a Le Mans start.
After checking out of the hotel, we got on the bus and set off for Circuit Mécaglisse approximately 40km north of the hotel. As we climbed to higher elevation the fog got thicker, and the temperature was above zero. When we arrived, we were greeted by a group of energetic and passionate staff giving everyone a big high five as we got off the bus, really makes us feel like a superstar. We received a brief introduction to each group’s senior instructor, junior instructor and assistant, then we broke out into our groups and got into our pre-warmed cars all lined up like a Le Mans start. Each group has 8 drivers and 4 cars, the instructors have pre-assigned us into pairs so they know exactly how much seat time each driver gets. We were first assigned to a beautiful GT Silver Carrera S for our first exercise.
We arrived at the slalom course setup with seven cones equally spaced along a straight section of the ice track. Keith our senior instructor checked proper seating position, then demonstrated of how to use throttle to swing the tail of the 911 out and drift around each cone like a pendulum. He reminded us that today’s driving is all about finesse and smoothness, he made the slalom look much easier than it is. We started right away and switched drivers every four runs. After some practice we were able to swing the rear out further and further and feel the lateral transition of the car. It took a little getting used to, for those of us that participate in Driver Education (DE) we always look at the shortest distance to get around each cone, and not big wide arcs to get around each cone. It was a balance between the throttle and steering, on a few occasions I applied a little too much throttle and the back end quickly swung around until we faced the start line again! This is when we hear Keith’s voice on the radio saying, “good try, too much gas!” As the group practiced more we started to hear more praises from Keith which was encouraging. The setup of the slalom allowed for lots of room for errors and provided a safe environment to explore the limits of traction in these cars.
At the skid pad exercise, there were 2 skid pads, one 80M, the other 60M diameter. Here we practiced how to correct understeer and oversteer.
The rain was coming down harder now, but it did not stop our enthusiastic Camp4 staff from standing outside on the snow bank instructing us over the radio. At the skid pad exercise, there were 2 skid pads, one 80M, the other 60M diameter. Here we practiced how to correct understeer and oversteer. We were first instructed to induce under or oversteer by driving around the circle faster and faster, add steering hard towards the centre then we would try to correct it. We first tried on the larger diameter skid pad then moved to the smaller skid pad to practice. Conditions were changing with the rain and the traction level around the skid pad was not equal making it more difficult to try and correct and hold a drift. After everyone had a chance to practice both we headed back to the chalet by the track for lunch.
Before going in for lunch, we took a large group picture in front of a guards red 991.2 GT3 and the beautiful Porsche logo ice sculpture. This GT3 had winter tires and spikes, and will be used in the Porsche Camp4 Ice Force course along with the two Miami Blue Turbo and Turbo S. We were provided with a fabulous catered hot lunch where we had a chance to mingle with others and share our exciting stories about the morning.
We wasted no time, after lunch we headed right into the third driving exercise. We were assigned into a group of guard red Carrera 4S to learn how to induce a skid using the brakes alone. The course was setup in a wide open area with a set of cones (apex) we are aiming to drift past. We had to drive fast and steer hard just before the cones, then hold braking to cause the rear end to slide out, leaving you pointing towards the exit of the turn. As the conditions changed with more rain, and the ice slowly turned to slush, we had a lot of trouble breaking traction on our C4S. It was amazing to feel the acceleration off the line in the AWD 4S vs the RWD C2S we had in the morning. After about an hour of practice, we headed back to the chalet for a short bathroom and snack break and moved onto our last exercise of the day.
This last exercise was the Scandinavian or rally flick, here we put together everything we have learnt for the day. We used a right hairpin turn on the ice track located at the end of a long straight.
This last exercise was the Scandinavian or rally flick, here we put together everything we have learnt for the day. We used a right hairpin turn on the ice track located at the end of a long straight. The setup had a set of cones at the end of the straight, when we hit the first set of cones we were instructed to steer hard left and brake to induce the skid. Once the car starts skidding, we had to quickly counter steer right to swing the back of the car around into a controlled drift towards the apex of the hairpin. After a few runs, most of us are able to competently perform the flick, but we still needed a lot of practice to hold the drift through the turn which will be taught in the more advanced Camp4 courses. It was amazing how well balanced these cars are even in these low traction conditions. Each of us had 3-4 tries before driver change, and this was my favorite exercise of the day especially when you get it right. The time flew by quickly and soon we were called back into the pits to park our cars.
We regrouped back in the chalet and each group’s instructor took us out onto the full track to do a hot lap. This was an incredible experience, the speed was much higher then what we did during the day and it was amazing to see what these cars are capable of when the professional is behind the wheel, it was like a dance with the cars on ice.
All good things must come to an end, the day concluded after we received our certificates and parting gift. We were shuttled back down the hill to the awaiting bus to return to the hotel. When I met up with my wife, I was glad to hear that she also had a wonderful experience spending the day at the Amerispa at the Estérel Resort.
Overall, this was a bucket list experience for me and exceeded all my expectations of the program. From the arrival to departure the energy level, passion and professionalism of everyone involved was extraordinary making it a blast for everyone. In a day, I had fun while learning about car control in slippery conditions, and techniques that can help me regain control on the track doing DE or everyday driving around our wintery roads. It is good to know that I can now drive my fun to drive sports car for the winter. I look forward to one day further improve my winter driving skills by attending the multiday Camp4 course. I highly recommend trying this if you drive your Porsche all winter, you will definitely walk away feeling more confident and overall a better driver. </>
Photos by Ben Leung and Porsche Canada