Not long ago, taking your Porsche to the track for a weekend put you in a rather small group of Porsche owners. But over the last ten years the popularity of what might be termed casual motorsports, or non-competitive track days, has exploded in popularity. For many it begins with the relatively tame confines of a parking lot filled with cones and then escalates to running high-performance track days with any number of clubs. Of course, if enjoying your car on the open track days doesn’t satisfy your need for speed, you can continue your track progression with wheel-to-wheel racing.
For those Porsche owners who are considering entering the wonderful world of motorsports, here is how it generally works. As we mentioned earlier, discovering your car’s limits in autocross is a great way to develop a feel for basic vehicle dynamics and to improve your driving skills at relatively low speeds. When you decide to do your first track day, also known as Driver Ed (DE) or High Performance Driving Experience (HPDE), you’ll be pleased to know you’ll have an instructor with you for at least one weekend, and often for several weekends, before you are turned loose on the track. This is for your safety, the safety of others, and the well-being of your car.
Being a track day instructor and club racer myself, I’ve gone from the parking lot to wheel-to-wheel racing and watched many other Porsche owners do the same. There are several different approaches to becoming a weekend warrior of motorsports; first you must find the car that is right for you.
Often the first-time student shows up in his late-model street car, a relatively new 911, Boxster or Cayman and goes out to “enjoy” his car in a high-performance setting.” This is generally enough to get about 80 percent of the drivers hooked on the track experience. As these new drivers progress, they begin to have second thoughts about using their daily driver Porsche for a track vehicle. While driver’s education weekends tend to sound benign, make no mistake, “incidents” can and do happen on the track. Rare? Yes, but they do happen. And just for the record the euphemism “incident” sounds harmless until you have one and your pride and joy is on a flatbed heading home. Suddenly that “incident” looks a lot more like a wreck or a blown motor. For these rare occasions, track-day insurance can be a real savior.
With that thought in mind, consider this advice; do not take a car on the track that you can’t afford to repair, which leads to, what else, the designated track car. Unless you are actually racing, this designated track car is a wonderful excuse to own another Porsche. Or, if you are looking for a car reliable enough to run hard at the track and drive home, there is no brand better than Porsche. And here is another bonus: Generally speaking the parts used to modify a car for track use do not necessarily inflate the value of the vehicle. For that reason, things like bigger sway bars, roll bars, five-point belts and short-shift kits come cheap when you buy them already attached to a car. When you participate in DEs, HPDEs or track days you’ll notice another element of the experience unique to Porsche: There are plenty of 20- and 30-year-old cars on track. Driving a 1986 944 or 1983 911 on the race track and then driving it home seems like a normal practice, and this speaks volumes about the quality built into these early Porsches.
So now the big question: What car should you buy to drive to the track and still be able to use as a weekend driver or even a daily driver? We put the limitation of driving to the track only because if you don’t drive the car to the track you need a trailer, and if you have a trailer you need a tow vehicle and, well, you can see where this is all going. So let’s take a look at some cars that will provide reliable transportation during the week and thrills on the occasional track weekend. We’ll progress up the Porsche food chain based on value, which oddly enough also corresponds to performance.