I’ve had four memorable Porsche drives. Well, three because the first involved me sitting still in the 996-generation 911 as a schoolboy. I was in the showroom at Porsche Centre Hatfield and going through the gears. Even then I was struck by the inherent rightness of the 911.
My first actual drive in a Porsche was in my gap year, and it cost me over £700 of my hard-earned holiday budget. Having hitched up the west coast of Australia I flew back from Darwin to Melbourne, via Brisbane. I was there for less than 12 hours but it was enough time for a pricey Porsche Driving Experience. I remember little of the day, beyond spinning out in a 911 cabriolet on a wet skid pan, thinking the Cayenne Turbo was able to operate outside of the accepted laws of physics, and realising that the 911 Turbo was ungodly fast.
It wasn’t until CAR’s 2007 Performance Car of the Year test that I scored my first proper Porsche drive. I remember it for all the wrong reasons. I’d spent the day in Cadwell Park’s pits, not driving anything (I was a recent recruit as junior staff writer, after all). But with 20 minutes left of the day, and our work done, we were free to go out in what we liked. I persuaded the boss to let me have a go in the GT3 RS. Road test ed Chris Chilton and freelancer Ben Oliver exchanged worried looks. So editor Phil McNamara jumped in alongside me and as I came to brake for every corner pointed out that ‘this is where Chilton lost it’ and ‘Matt Neal had a big spin here. Look, you can still see the grass on the track.’
The only offs of the day were in the GT3 RS – everything else stayed firmly on track. Conscious of this, I was a nervous wreck; don’t think I’ve ever driven a car so badly. I don’t think I topped 70mph, and the only lines I took were forming on my forehead.
But all is better now. In the June 2008 issue we take Porsche’s current line-up to north Wales, and I was lucky enough to help out. It meant a week in the boggo Cayman and if I won the lottery today, it would be in my garage. On standard 17-inch wheels, with no options whatsoever. Simply brilliant.