At Porsche’s North American Camp4, anyone can test the limits of models including the 911 and 718 Cayman
If you are going to be schooled, make it a day of gratuitous fun. Let loose in new 2017 Porsches on a track of ice and snow with an instructor’s commands floating into the cockpit via walkie-talkie. Go on a crisp day with fat snowflakes covering the test fleet while the sun shines on roughly 3 miles (5 km) of friction-free track.
Prepare to compare the differences between a rear-drive 911 Carrera S, all-wheel-drive Carrera 4S, and mid-engine, rear-drive 718 Cayman S as their respective back ends swing out and you work to correct the drift to ensure yours is not the car being towed out of a snowbank.
The original Camp4 started in Finland in 1996, and Porsche added winter driving schools in Switzerland, Italy, and China. The North American Camp4 has been in Mecaglisse, Quebec, the ski country north of Montreal, since 2009.
Camp4 Canada operates for three weeks in February and offers three levels of instruction over four or five days on road courses and skidpads, retreating to a spa resort each night. Pricing ranges from about $4,550 USD to $8,580 USD.
To open the camp this year, Porsche invited journalists to spend a day on the purpose-built motorcross track as well as the skidpads.
We drove the latest in Porsche’s lineup shod with 1.5mm studded Nokian Hakkapeliitta 8 winter tires. Who says you can’t drive a sports car in the snow?
The Porsche Stability Management system was disengaged most of the day so that the back end could swing out as we applied a light brake and drifted, straightening the wheel when the nose is pointed in the right direction and accelerating out of the spin. There was coffee—and there were indeed donuts—because the point is to test the limits of grip in a safe environment, picking up skills that can be used on any surface.
I only kissed a snowbank once—gently but full on the lips—and didn’t need winching out, though others did. I was able to back out gently, but my Cayman needed some high-tech remedial work. Porsche engineers carry wooden spoons to scrape the snow out of the grilles before returning cars to the slalom course.
The day is designed to show that drifting is the most efficient way through a corner in a low-traction situation. Come off the gas, brake lightly, slide through the turn, correct, pause, and recover with countersteering. With its engine weight in the middle and its ability to pivot, the Cayman was the most fun.
You would think all-wheel drive sending power to the front wheels would mess up a good drift, but steady throttle keeps the car sideways. My driving partner brushed the side of the snowbank with our Carrera 4S, sending up an impressive rooster tail of snow as he powered out of the turn unscathed. It’s the kind of thing best learned here, not in traffic.