THE leaders of a Lower Mainland Porsche club that made headlines earlier this month when some of its members were reportedly clocked doing as much as 50 kilometres per hour over the speed limit are defending their organization's reputation.
Four members of the local chapter of the Porsche Club of America were pulled over Aug. 4 after a West Vancouver police officer reported the luxury car drivers reaching speeds of between 125 and 131 k.p.h. in an 80-zone. In addition to hefty fines, the drivers had their cars impounded for seven days and were the target of some uncomfortable media attention.
At the time, the members were travelling in an early morning convoy of about 50 of the club's Porsches. Members of the group had been warned for speeding just one week before the incident, at the same location by the same traffic officer.
But the club is not a haven for daredevil street racers, said Ray Gumbel, president of the organization's Western Canada chapter.
"It's a car enthusiast club," said Gumbel. "We do social events, show-and-shines, autocross events, driver education days at Mission raceway, and a lot of driving tours."
The early morning excursion, called Bob's Breakfast Club, leaves from West Vancouver every second Saturday morning during the spring and summer. Drivers head up to Squamish and then return to the North Shore, usually meeting up at the Tomahawk Restaurant for breakfast around 8 a.m. The tour was started by past Porsche Club president Bob Benson and has been going for 15 years.
"We've never had an incident like this," said Gumbel. The early morning tour is meant to be a leisurely drive on empty roads, said Gumbel. The breakfast club has strict rules: Drivers of Porsches must obey traffic laws and are not allowed to pass each other.
If club leaders do notice drivers who are not following the rules, "we pull them over and we say: 'Listen, this is just a driving tour, and if you want to go race we have track events for that," said Gumbel. "Or we ask them to leave this event because it would nullify our insurance."
Since the Aug. 4 incident, club leaders have spoken to the four drivers, who are all still members of the club. The drivers have hired lawyers and will likely be contesting the traffic tickets they received, said Bob Benson.
Meanwhile, the club is focused on maintaining good relations with the WVPD. Gumbel has also spoken with the constable who pulled the men over.
"He's not out to shut us down," said Benson of the police officer. "He wants us to go a little slower."
At an Aug. 18 meeting, club members agreed to tighten up the rules to make it easier to identify drivers. The insurance waiver forms participants sign will now include the driver's licence number and the vehicle make and licence plate, information that will allow the club to "more readily police any known infractions . . . and deal with them on a one-to-one basis," said Benson.
It's an exclusive club, but Gumbel and Benson want North Shore residents to know that the members of the Porsche club don't think they're above the law.
"We're going to proceed with having the drive, but have a lot more responsibility to our participants and their actions," said Benson. The next breakfast club ride will likely take place on Sunday, Sept. 9.