You're An Idiot If You Take That New Porsche To The Track

by Per Schroeder

No, seriously, I know it’ll lap the ‘Ring in 7:25, but did you know that bumper cover is $3500?

The latest iteration of the Porsche 911 GT3 has been described as “stripped of the frivolous and prepped for track duty.” Sounds like the perfectly thrilling choice for a car guy to take to the track, eh?

Not so fast, Chief.

Look, you might be the best Doc-in-a-Box at the strip mall, but just because you can afford that shiny new Porsche doesn’t mean it’s a good choice for a novice on the race track. You spent years in school, internships and residency programs to gain the professional skills you now possess. Knowledge of which helped earn that $140,000-plus chunk of change to buy a new 911—a monumental amount that should be respected and cared for like the investment it is. Don’t be a dumbass by tearing it up before you know how to really enjoy it.


You might be better off enjoying your GT3 at an autocross...

I love the idea of exploring the limits of a car like the 911 on a track, but there are few drivers out there that can actually do so without bending a few things along the way. Just the act of driving at warp speed behind another car can give the nose of your 911 more pockmarks than a teenager the day before Prom.


You really don't want to find out what it'll cost if you send one of these tail first into the tires and/or wall.

It’s a shame that racing can be dangerous, because it’s easy to get distracted with the fun on track—you get the best seats in the house for the coolest car show ever. My entire first few track sessions I had to keep reminding myself to stay focused—after a few laps I would get hypnotized by the repetitive thrills and sensations to the point where I had to slap myself in the the face to snap out of it. I was wearing a full-face helmet, so the pain in my hand was intense.


Think Different. Think about taking something with more approachable limits to the track.

So you’re out there cruising around in your beautiful new Porsche and trying really hard not to float away in Walter Mitty-esque daydreams. Wake up!  You are not Patrick Dempsey impressing your imaginary mistress, this is real life, and if you wad up that 911, your real life wife is going to kill you.

Once you’re on track, that GT3 is no longer a shiny new car. It will be wailing in your ear like a wookiee in heat, begging you to treat it like the tool that it was meant to be. You want a fast lap? It might cost you clipping that curb at Turn 7 and tracking all the way out to the rumble strips. Get it wrong and you’ll be out in the boonies wondering where the track went.

If you are lucky, the new toy will escape with little injury—but even the smallest berms and curbs can make quick work all of those nifty race-bred parts that keep the 911 glued to the road at triple-oh-my-god-digit speeds. The car probably even still drives—and you can probably get it home under its own power—but that little agricultural expedition might cost you six large or more in parts from the factory. Plus labor. Heck, the bumper cover alone is $3500.


So, while you might be smart enough to buy the GT3, it’s a foolish choice for a first timer’s debut on track. You were smart enough to earn the money in the first place—don’t blow it on something stupid like a trip to the tirewall before you really know how to enjoy the car.  We want you out on track for years to come.

A great option to get out there is to pick up a nicely used Mazda MX-5 Cup car for under $20,000 and race it with a SCCA or NASA.  At a small fraction of the cost of that 911, it will be less pricey (and discouraging) than just a few on-track problems with your Porsche. Heck, even the stone chips that will invariably show up those first few events will cost more to fix than that race car. In contrast to that $3500 front bumper skin, the Miata’s nose will set you back less than a tenth of that!  You can afford to learn how to wield it as a hammer, a scalpel or a stethoscope—it’s a car that can teach you many things about the racetrack.

The lower speeds and handling limits of a Miata will help you quickly learn the basics. Schooling on proper racing lines and speed maintenance will be crucial to a good lap time and won’t be crutched by the Porsche’s near-boundless grip and power. And I’ll tell you the best thing about a car that can be treated as a tool that you only care about using properly.

Tools are fast.

Fast as in, “Hmmm. I think I can make it through that kink flat out.”  And that right there is where the learning really happens—on the cusp of dread and ecstasy—and that’s just as much thrill at pennies on the dollar.





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Thursday, May 15, 2014 6:17 AM
I have to disagree. If you've never been to the track, you'll be in HPDE1 with NASA and those guys are slow as balls. If there's an instructor in the seat beside you with any group, chances are you'll keep it together. Of course there are exceptions. Once you get faster and you're able to hit a line and start looking for more speed, then you become more of a danger to the car IMO. In my limited experience, all the first timers have erred on the side of caution.
Mike D
Mike Dlink
Thursday, May 15, 2014 6:38 AM
I agree with the sentiment of this article, but it could have been easily summed up as don't bring anything to the track your not prepared to leave behind. That being said, you don't necessarily need to get into a Miata to have a good time on the track with out spending a pretty penny. You can still do it in a Porsche, you just need to get one that's a bit older, or maybe a used Cayman cup car. There is a benifit in hitting the track in a Porsche as part of the PCA.

Sorry but this article just doesn't live up to the MotoIQ standard that I have experienced so far. For example, this article could have explored more options listing the pros and cons of each; used race cars, older sports cars, etc etc. This article could have also gone over the different racing classes and types available to the beginner driver; lapping, time attack, and even door to door racing.

Also most regions of the PCA require you to do a 2 day drivers school weekend before they will let you participate in any of their hdpe's and plenty of track time before you go door to door racing in the PCA.

Per Schroeder
Per Schroederlink
Thursday, May 15, 2014 6:44 AM
Thanks for the comments--this is actually an editorial column--we're carving out that space under columns now. It was meant to be an opinion piece--not a tech article on the subject. I will be tackling larger articles like that shortly.
Thursday, May 15, 2014 6:55 AM
If you can get the engine sorted out I feel like a hopped up 1st gen Boxster S would make for a great track Porsche
Thursday, May 15, 2014 6:58 AM
Per Schroeder writing for MotoIQ? my head just exploded.

Per Schroeder
Per Schroederlink
Thursday, May 15, 2014 7:04 AM
Hopefully in a good way.
Thursday, May 15, 2014 7:07 AM
absolutely in a good way! We've missed your presence over on GRM Forums (as much as you used to be over there at least!)
Thursday, May 15, 2014 7:58 AM
I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment in this article. One of our local open track groups had a new guy show up in a really nice Elise. He proceeded to make a hefty mistake in a section of track where people don't usually get it wrong, and hit a section of guardrail that hadn't been hit in 20+ years... He hasn't been back since. In the past I've also seen new guys show up in other expensive new cars, like P-cars, Corvettes, etc because they feel like they need the fastest car they can afford. I wish there was a better way of getting the message across to people that you can't "win" an open track day by having a faster car. You only "win" by learning to better yourself as a driver.
Don't get me started on the "gentlemen racers" that show up in pro racing before they are ready... lol.
Thursday, May 15, 2014 8:02 AM
Welcome aboard Per!

For the uninitiated, Per's been a motorsports writer since Moses. He did a really nice tech article on improving contact patch with solid axle chariots, a feature on how he helped Noah shave seconds off the Ark's lap times, and more recently compared the performance of castor oil to coal dust.

Oh, and he wrote for GRM for just a bit too. :)
Thursday, May 15, 2014 8:35 AM
Per, great to see you here!

I'll go one step further and say to track a GT3 is just unwise from a financial standpoint unless you're straight up ballin' with a 7-figure income every year. Assuming you don't actually damage your 6-figure GT3 in any off-track excursions, the pure maintaince costs for a P-car is pretty astronomical for more moderate income folks like myself (I don't think I could afford it even if the car were free). If only tracking a couple times a year, sure, go for it. For cars tracked more often... well, that 7-figure income will come in handy.

Heck, a primary reason I ditched my Evo was due to the cost of tracking it. My S2000 is way easier on the wallet (double fuel economy, 1/3 less tire wear, like a 1/10th of the brake pad wear, less drivetrain fluids to change, etc).
Thursday, May 15, 2014 9:12 AM
Could've written this article with one sentence. Don't race it if you can't replace it.
Thursday, May 15, 2014 11:22 AM
Absolutely dead-on correct. I've been deeply involved in DEs for over twenty years and the challenge of the day is keeping the new drivers in a safe enough envelope that they can learn something. There seem to be two reflexive approaches to learning performance driving. One is to throw the car past the limit in any situation and try to catch it; the other is to incrementally sneak up on said limits and learn to avoid calamity when the warning signs become obvious. To do all that in a GT-3 means keeping a tight rein on its incredible capabilities at ALL times until you begin to grow into your own. The Miata will keep most anyone entertained AND learning without worrying as much about scratching the paint on a safety barrier, all the while diminishing the potential consequences of a shunt when the car ahead of you wets down the line when his/her radiator hose bursts.

There is a small fraction of our participants who are disproportionately ego-involved in their lap times from the first moment of their first instructional lap, going hand in hand with horsepower worship and the ability to send their tires up in smoke when leaving the pits. Those guys won't even read this post, as they are as blind to constructive criticism as they are black flags. Their first clue is when none of your instructors will ride with them.

There is not, of course, anything wrong with learning to drive your GT-3 (or GT-R, or Z06, etc) at a DE. Just go into it with your mind open, your ego tucked into a soft pocket somewhere, and the sense of where you are and what you're doing, AND what could happen if you run out of pavement, traction, and luck.

Some of us even think it's a badge of honor to have the fronts of our toys plastered with track rubber and often have trouble communicating with the concours crowd.

Constructively . . .
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Thursday, May 15, 2014 12:25 PM
Hey, Per, will you sign my old, ratty GRM T-shirt?!

Per Schroeder
Per Schroederlink
Thursday, May 15, 2014 12:28 PM
Ha...no. But I will sign your new MotoIQ shirt which you can buy up there ^^^^

Speaking of which, I need to get one myself!
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Thursday, May 15, 2014 1:46 PM
Mike Kojima himself gave me my MotoIQ shirt. I've never taken it off.
Thursday, May 15, 2014 1:52 PM
@ Dusty: Must smell like Martin by now...
Thursday, May 15, 2014 7:15 PM
I for one will say I really enjoyed this, and look forward to more editorial-style posts in the future.
Thursday, May 15, 2014 9:24 PM
I understand it's an editorial, but I am going to say I didn't really learn anything from it. I only own one car, I only have a parking space for one car and I use my one car for everything. I don't have the luxury of being able to have a track car and a daily driver. It's not lack of money really, but all the other things that go along with it.

I hope it's not what you meant, but the tone of your article to me says "keep off the track if you don't have a dedicated track car". I'm a big boy though. If I want to take my one car to the track, I'm going to do it. I know the risks.
Thursday, May 15, 2014 10:19 PM
@x01, the way I took it as: if you're a nouveau rich guy with lack of track driving experience/skill, don't take your shiny new GT3 onto the track for risk of wadding it up.

Reasoning? The limit of the GT3 is very high. If you exceed that limit, likely to happen with little track driving experience, the outcome will be very bad. Better to start off in a car with lower limits, say a Miata, to learn driving skill and technique as exceeding the lower limit of the Miata will probably result in less damage to the car and the wallet. To take this example to the extreme, you're not going to stick a guy who has never been on track into an F1 car.
Thursday, May 15, 2014 10:45 PM
@spdracerut, I agree with you, and to some extent the author. Just the tone of the article was a little off-putting to me. Regardless, glad to see opinion articles on the site.
Friday, May 16, 2014 12:28 AM
There is more to it than "cant replace it, dont race it". first let me tell i am not a top notch driver. I only do trackdays, and i don't use R compound tyres right now. The reason is not cost, but limits. I still feel i have not learned to control my car at its current low limit, so there is no point in using better tyres until i do. First crawl, then walk, then run.

Mind you, i can still lap faster than most ferrari and boxster drivers that come around here... 911 drivers usually know their stuff and i am no match at all though. The reason is, except these 911 drivers, the pilots of these high end machines are either afraid of breaking their expensive toy, which i am not, or they have absolutely no clue what their car can do, and drive so slowly they become a danger to them and others.

Bringing a 911 or a ferrari to a race track when you have never really raced before is just showing off. Better stay parked, it will not be fun on the track when the same 15 year old rusted piece of junk overtakes your brand new racing monster every couple of laps.

Sunday, May 18, 2014 9:27 PM
Ha, the author of this article knows his subject all too well. I was working the track during an autocross event in which the owner of a brand spanking new GT3 showed up with massive gumball Hoosiers on! I remember his run very vividly, as he revved the crap out of his motor, launched hard and proceeded to deliver a very loud albeit slow run through the course. I remember thinking aloud, "that's an interesting smell, it's not rubber and there was no tire smoke...so what that smell?" Someone proceeded to inform me that it was the SMELL OF BURNING CLUTCH that filled up the entire track! I often wonder just how much clutch he went through on that one run alone.
Dan Barnes
Dan Barneslink
Sunday, May 25, 2014 8:07 AM
Welcome, Per! Good to see you around here.

I'll just add that in years of having access to the most expensive cars, I had the most fun in the least expensive ones.
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