Hold on tight as Journalist Lisa MacFarlane follows professional race car drivers on a four-day Porsche Driving Experience Tour through southern BC.
Day 1: YVR to Whistler
Following a meet-and-greet with the friendly Porsche team at YVR’s Fairmont, sixteen of us leap into one of eight cars to play follow-the-leader in head-turning formation up to Whistler, with one pit stop in the Callaghan Valley. We’re paired up for the drive and I’m with Steven, a stand-up comic, who will prove to be an entertaining co-pilot for the four-day tour.
Steven and I follow celebrated competitive drivers Pierre Des Marais and Kees Nierop, our instructors. Cars are equipped with CB radios for communication, and Kees’s running commentary—a mix of tour guide, instruction, and hilariously dry observations of slower cars hanging out in the passing lane—is well worth the price of admission. We experiment with Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes, selected with a dial on the steering wheel. An able beast is the C4S, with 420 horsepower and 368 lb-ft of torque. New for 2017 are twin turbo-chargers.
Pulling into Callaghan Valley we’re soon seated in brand new Cayennes for muddy off-roading directed by Pierre, which includes a river crossing where we get the SUV balanced on two wheels at what seems like an impossible angle, followed by an impressive hill climb on loose shale rock. Less than five per cent of Cayenne drivers ever venture off-road, which is too bad; It’s a surprisingly capable off-roader.
Back in our 911s, we arrive at the Four Seasons Hotel Whistler for cocktails and an excellent group dinner before resting up for the next day’s drive.
Day 2: Whistler to Predator Ridge
The thrill of having one’s gas pumped by a former Le Mans competitor at a station by Emerald Lake is not lost on our group. “We’re not worthy,” we inform Kees, but it’s all part of the superb experience as we make our way to Pemberton. I’ve skipped breakfast in favour of a banana, as the infamous Duffy Lake Road is a rollicking set of twisties. Kees watches us in his rearview mirror as we rip in and out of the corners, and offers critiques. “Eyes up,” is one we hear on repeat as he urges us to watch the road farther ahead to better anticipate the turns. This is one of the most exhilarating drives I’ve experienced. Steven has found a classic rock station on satellite radio, we’ve got Kees chirping on the CB, and my window’s open to hear the throaty exhaust in sport mode as I gear down into yet another tight bend. There are no words fit to print for the feeling of tires gripping the road as we mat it out of the corners.
Day 3: Predator Ridge to Osoyoos
After recharging at Sparkling Hill Resort, our squadron winds past Vernon’s vineyards and lakes. The 4S with the PDK automatic transmission shifts faster and more efficiently than I ever could, and I’m starting to really enjoy downshifting with a flip of a paddle. There’s a fun sense of camaraderie within the group as we pull over for several breaks and driver changes before arriving at our hotel for the night. Today has been a relaxed drive and we’re discussing tomorrow’s plan: track day.
Day 4: Circuit Area 27
It has rained heavily overnight. Kees and Pierre are surveying the track before we head out. Our team gets the go-ahead, and we follow our lead car slowly to inspect the turns and get a sense of the circuit which includes a blind hill. Kees is on the radio; it’s go time. On the first lap, I’m far too fast coming into a hairpin and the backend fishtails three times on the wet pavement before traction control kicks in and we’re back in business on a straightaway. What a rush (and entertaining for the guy from Toronto following me). There’s no passing of other cars; e switch up the pole position for each lap. The C4S acceleration stats range from 3.8 seconds for a PDK with launch control to 4.0 seconds for the manual. Top track speed is 303 km/h. Area 27 is a members-only track designed by Jacques Villeneuve and its situation in the remote hills of Osoyoos is stunning. Kees invites me for a lap in his passenger seat—a highlight. I decide he’s some kind of wizard as he smoothly executes each turn, even with one eye trained on his four drivers behind, and one hand holding the CB radio providing feedback. “We’re on the throttle, here we go. Use as much of the track as you can. Eyes up.”
For a Porsche enthusiast, this driving experience is pure magic. Consider this your invitation to the next Porsche Performance Tour of British Columbia. porschedrivingexperience.com