You're An Idiot If You Take That New Porsche To The Track
No, seriously, I know it’ll lap the ‘Ring in 7:25, but did you know that bumper cover is $3500?
The latest iteration of the Porsche 911 GT3 has been described as “stripped of the frivolous and prepped for track duty.” Sounds like the perfectly thrilling choice for a car guy to take to the track, eh?
Not so fast, Chief.
Look, you might be the best Doc-in-a-Box at the strip mall, but just because you can afford that shiny new Porsche doesn’t mean it’s a good choice for a novice on the race track. You spent years in school, internships and residency programs to gain the professional skills you now possess. Knowledge of which helped earn that $140,000-plus chunk of change to buy a new 911—a monumental amount that should be respected and cared for like the investment it is. Don’t be a dumbass by tearing it up before you know how to really enjoy it.
I love the idea of exploring the limits of a car like the 911 on a track, but there are few drivers out there that can actually do so without bending a few things along the way. Just the act of driving at warp speed behind another car can give the nose of your 911 more pockmarks than a teenager the day before Prom.
It’s a shame that racing can be dangerous, because it’s easy to get distracted with the fun on track—you get the best seats in the house for the coolest car show ever. My entire first few track sessions I had to keep reminding myself to stay focused—after a few laps I would get hypnotized by the repetitive thrills and sensations to the point where I had to slap myself in the the face to snap out of it. I was wearing a full-face helmet, so the pain in my hand was intense.
So you’re out there cruising around in your beautiful new Porsche and trying really hard not to float away in Walter Mitty-esque daydreams. Wake up! You are not Patrick Dempsey impressing your imaginary mistress, this is real life, and if you wad up that 911, your real life wife is going to kill you.
Once you’re on track, that GT3 is no longer a shiny new car. It will be wailing in your ear like a wookiee in heat, begging you to treat it like the tool that it was meant to be. You want a fast lap? It might cost you clipping that curb at Turn 7 and tracking all the way out to the rumble strips. Get it wrong and you’ll be out in the boonies wondering where the track went.
If you are lucky, the new toy will escape with little injury—but even the smallest berms and curbs can make quick work all of those nifty race-bred parts that keep the 911 glued to the road at triple-oh-my-god-digit speeds. The car probably even still drives—and you can probably get it home under its own power—but that little agricultural expedition might cost you six large or more in parts from the factory. Plus labor. Heck, the bumper cover alone is $3500.
So, while you might be smart enough to buy the GT3, it’s a foolish choice for a first timer’s debut on track. You were smart enough to earn the money in the first place—don’t blow it on something stupid like a trip to the tirewall before you really know how to enjoy the car. We want you out on track for years to come.
A great option to get out there is to pick up a nicely used Mazda MX-5 Cup car for under $20,000 and race it with a SCCA or NASA. At a small fraction of the cost of that 911, it will be less pricey (and discouraging) than just a few on-track problems with your Porsche. Heck, even the stone chips that will invariably show up those first few events will cost more to fix than that race car. In contrast to that $3500 front bumper skin, the Miata’s nose will set you back less than a tenth of that! You can afford to learn how to wield it as a hammer, a scalpel or a stethoscope—it’s a car that can teach you many things about the racetrack.
The lower speeds and handling limits of a Miata will help you quickly learn the basics. Schooling on proper racing lines and speed maintenance will be crucial to a good lap time and won’t be crutched by the Porsche’s near-boundless grip and power. And I’ll tell you the best thing about a car that can be treated as a tool that you only care about using properly.
Tools are fast.
Fast as in, “Hmmm. I think I can make it through that kink flat out.” And that right there is where the learning really happens—on the cusp of dread and ecstasy—and that’s just as much thrill at pennies on the dollar.