In general, I like to figure out things on my own. Typically, I’m loath to take advice or direction or perish the thought, instruction. I’m terribly guilty of wandering the isles of my local home improvement center looking for something and declining offers of help. My pat response to any offer of help is “well, that would take the fun out of this”. The helpful staff is entitled to their chuckle when I reluctantly ask for help.
This winter, I’ve seen a number of advertisements for the Porsche Camp4, a winter driving school that offers several courses, each one building upon the other. As someone who has been driving in the snow as a daily event 5 months out of each year for the past 40 or so, I know a thing or two about winter driving. As the family Porsche sports cars hibernate in the winter, I didn’t give Camp4 much thought.
However, a few weeks back, while skiing in BC, I was impressed with a safety message at a ski area that imparted the message “if you are concerned about people skiing beyond their skill level, please have a chat with yourself”! That struck me as rather blunt and a bit amusing. However that message did get me thinking that perhaps it was time to refresh my winter driving skills. So, I booked an introduction course at Camp4.
With some trepidation, I recently headed to Camp4. Esterel Resort, north on Montreal, serves as the basecamp for Camp4. It is rather European with well-appointed comfortable rooms along with a host of non-Porsche activities including snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and spa. The five course welcome dinner was unique; your choice of meat or seafood is served on a hot rock, which is the cooking element! Clearly, it is with the same precision and perfection that Porsche designs and builds the best cars in the world, that they host customer events.
Camp4 day starts with an hour-long technical session, aided by excellent animation, helping us understand the basic dynamics of weight transfer. As we were about to learn, this understanding is the key to getting the car to go where we want it to go. Our day was spent learning how to initiate weight transfer and then how to use the steering wheel, brake-pedal and throttle to steer the car. The day was structured with four sessions each designed to teach us a specific element of car control and how to initiate and use weight transfer. Porsche provides 911S and 4S vehicles equipped with PDK for the training sessions. Our group of eight shared four cars and three instructors. Radios provided immediate feedback non-stop through each session. There was no standing around, just driving and practicing our new skills either on a skid pad, slalom course or rally circuit. The road surface is ice, thick ice, so traction is at a premium even with top-notch snow tires and small studs. Learning how to recover from under steer and over steer in a controlled environment at a friendly speed was huge to our learning.
Photo by Keith Glover
The day was intensive. My instincts regarding car control were put on notice. Everything I knew about winter driving was challenged. Imagine circling an ice covered skid pad with the goal of maintaining a power induced rear wheel drift for 360 degrees. Oh, the skid pad is on an incline. Sound easy? It is not! Initiating a four-wheel drift requires an understanding of weight transfer and how to use steering input and brakes to setup the car and the relationship with the throttle. Trial and error was the code for the day. Along with real-time instruction, the instructors provided a debriefing at the end of each session and did an excellent job of relating our new found skill in context of winter performance driving and how to use it.
Reflecting on my day at Camp4, it was fantastic! From the basics of weight transfer that we should already know, to learning so much about car control and how to drive safely in winter conditions was great. Our instructor, an accomplished Porsche Cup driver, told our group that everything we learned during our time at Camp4 are the skills that he uses to pilot his race car to the podium each race. He likened steering, brake and throttle as the instruments working in harmony that allow him to get around the race track quicker than most. His message was that what we learned on the ice is directly applicable to our warm weather track driving. On the ice, things happen in slow motion. It was cool to learn things that would be more difficult to master at a track day or DE.
My time at Camp4 was over all to quickly. I’m glad to have made the trek to Camp4 and look forward to going back next year for a multi-day course. Learning how to take a 911 to the limit, then beyond the limit and driving out of a slide was absolutely intoxicating. In my 19 years of Porsche ownership and having attended many events such as new car launches, driving schools and track days, my day at Camp4 was simply the best. Thanks to my wife for supporting me in all things Porsche, and to Porsche for running a most excellent driver education program. – Keith Glover
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Date Posted: February 23, 2018