After a successful test last fall, I committed to running a Spec Boxster in addition to the Miata for the 2017 season. Atlanta Speedwerks built two and took them to down to Florida to compete in the Porsche Club Racing 48 hours of Sebring.
I knew as soon as I saw the cars rolling out of the trailer it was going to be a good weekend. The offsetting red and black color scheme looks fantastic. And then there is the sound. The purposeful exhaust rumble at idle transforms into the iconic flat six wail at full chat.
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I tempered my expectations knowing what a challenge it is taking a brand new race car to an unfamiliar track. The Boxster handles very differently than a Miata. Both are small and lightweight, but the mid-mounted engine in the Porsche gives it a propensity to swap ends easily.
If I had to choose one word to describe the dynamics of the Porsche it would be 'rotate.' The front end of the car points with alacrity at even smallest amount of trail braking.
Driving a Spec Boxster at the limit is a delicate balance of pointing the front of the car and catching the slide with your right foot. The technique takes commitment and a well developed sense of yaw. Get it right, though, and it is sublime.
Come down to turn 17 at 124mph, turn in toward the end of the wall, stomp on the brakes as hard as the ABS will let you, quickly release the brakes, point toward the dot on the bridge, crack the throttle to settle the rear, progressively feeding it in as you drift out toward the tire wall, engine singing.
It took the better part of the practice day and the 'fun race' for me to learn the nuances of the track and get up to speed. I qualified 8th in class for the first sprint race.
I had a decent start and battled up to 5th place behind Todd. Then I had a wild ride in turn one when I went wide avoiding a car on the inside and did not get on throttle soon enough. Fortunately I was able to keep it off the wall and battle back, finishing a respectable 7th.
The second sprint race was a bit more dramatic. The engine cover came loose and kept hitting the back of the seat and the camera. Then I missed a shift, narrowly avoiding getting T-boned by a kamikaze move in the next corner. I charged back though the field hunting down other SPBs. It was one step forward and two steps back as I made passes then lost those hard earned positions with a slide in turn 3 and then in turn 5. I finished a frustrating 11th. At least my subframe was intact, unlike the car in front of me that got hit.
The motor checked out okay at the track after the missed shift. Brian and Jim, bribed with smoked prime rib from the PCA banquet, agreed to change the slipping clutch so I could run in the Enduro on Sunday.
On it from the start, Todd and I rocketed though traffic in the first few laps. I finally felt comfortable with the handling and turned my fastest times of the weekend. A few laps in I lost part of the exhaust and the motor started to bog on the straights. I retired it when the pits opened, concerned there was a broken valve spring from the overrev.
Todd took the lead in SPB, then hit the golden pit stop when the double yellow came out. He won the class and finished 2nd overall out of 70 some-odd cars with a full lap on most of the field.
As with any new race car build, the team encountered a few niggles. The factory throttle pedal and gear lever were not designed to withstand the rigors of competition. Todd broke both, and my pedal was hanging on by a thread.
Fortunately the engine withstood the abuse. Gotta love German engineering.
All in all it was a good first weekend. The track is fun and challenging. The paddock was full of cool, friendly people, especially the SPB competition. In addition, the Porsche Club of America really knows how to put on an event (stay tuned for a full blog post on this).
I'm really looking forward to racing the Red Rocket at Road Atlanta the end of March.
In the meantime, its back to the Miata for a Majors race in just a few weeks. It will be a whole new level of competition on my home track.