If you are reading this, then you have seen Ken Block’s trilogy of Gymkhana videos and thought “I can do that”. Beginning your day on the skid pad at Camp4 brings on a very real ego check. You are not that good and neither am I!
To begin our day, the yellow run group took to the skid pad in brand spanking new Euro spec Porsche 911 Carrera 4 drop tops equipped with the PDK double clutch transmission. This meant there would be no focus lost while shifting gears. Believe me, if you want to get it right, you really have to focus. The first few laps come with the Porsche Stability Management turned on. Then, the Sport Plus mode is engaged, which allows for more driver input and less e-nanny input. As you become more comfortable/brave/patient, you turn off the PSM. This is the time when you realize how little talent you have behind the wheel.
I was very proud that after an hour and a half of lapping, I was able to pull off a perfect circular drift for a lap and a half, in both directions. That perfect drift means not moving the steering wheel, keeping the wheels pointed straight and modulating the throttle very gently. A lap and a half each way felt like quite an accomplishment for this guy who used to rally front wheel drive cars with a pinch over 100 horsepower. The C4S Convertible is all wheel drive and produces a pinch under 400 horsepower. Twice the drive wheels and four times the power!
Porsche Camp4 is billed as the Ultimate Winter Driving Experience. Without exaggeration, it is.
Camp4 is not new, having been held for the past 10 years in Finland, educating Porsche owners in the finer points of driving their Porsche year round. Yes, Porsche drivers in Europe have been driving their cars in the Winter for a very long time. They know that when equipped with proper snow tires, a Porsche just may be the ultimate winter driving machine.
When Porsche Canada announced a couple of years ago that they were no longer going to spend boat loads of cash promoting the brand at auto shows, they also promised that they would be bolstering the brand with exciting new lifestyle and driving events. The first was the Porsche World Roadshow, where prospective clients were invited to Mosport to be immersed in everything Porsche. That immersion went well beyond just driving Porsches on the world famous track that used to play host to the Canadian Grand Prix. Every person participants met during the event were long time devotees of the Porsche brand and the infectious love for the brand rubs off.
Traditionally, many Canadian sports car owners tuck their pride and joy away in a cozy garage for the Winter months. Porsche Canada knows how good these cars are in the snow and ice, so they decided to bring the Camp4 experience to Canada to show what their product can do when faced with an extreme Canadian Winter.
Camp4 Canada is held at the Mecaglisse driving facility in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec. This incredible facility offers a variety of track configurations, including a double skid pad, that allows instructors to run several different driving exercises at once. Consumer who take part in the program will experience 2 full days of intensive training on the ice, in exercises that get progressively more difficult as the student’s talent level increases.
The program includes 3 nights at the Fairmont Tremblant Resort, along with all meals and transportation to and from Mecaglisse. As one might expect, the food at the Fairmont is outstanding and features fresh local cheeses and brews from the local Saint Arnauld brewery. Trackside meals are plentiful and are served in a pine plank chalet that is kept toasty with a wood fired stove.
After lunch, the yellow group moved to the track section where we got to play in the rear wheel drive Cayman S. Once again, we began with PSM on, Sport Plus off. As we progressed, the nannies went for a nappie. While some of the guys in our group concentrated on getting their drifts perfect, I was content to dial in a bit of speed along with the drift. With studded snow tires, the Cayman S is unbelievably confident on polished ice if you are brave enough to let the car run. In fact, there are times when it almost seems to have more grip at speed. The small handling track is much like a miniature Mosport, with a long straight, an off camber hairpin and some serious elevation changes. Tons of great fun!
Our final stop of the day was the larger handling track, where we were driving stunning deep blue Carrera 4s, again with the PDK transmission. Beginning with a wide open slalom, our instructor, JP Clinging, had us work on getting sideways through the cones rather than staying tight like you would on a dry autocross course. It was getting late in the afternoon and even the more experienced drivers among us began making mistakes. From this section, we moved out onto the large handling course where JP showed us the basics of beginning a turn with the brakes, aka The Scandinavian Flick. I don’t know if it was because I was getting tired, or I was over thinking it but I just could not get it right in the 911, where I had been doing The Flick just fine earlier in the Cayman S.
After our turn attempting The Flick, we would cruise back around the long track to our starting point. We were instructed to drift the cars a bit but not get too fast. Like several others, this is where I ran out of talent and planted the 911 on top of a snow bank. I was one of the few who put it in deep enough that I needed a push to help the studded, 4wd 911 dig itself out. At least I wasn’t the guy who needed a tow strap, shovels and manpower!
For the Porsche driver who wants to learn how to extract the most from themselves and their car, or even the driving enthusiast who just needs a break during the Winter and wants to be more like Ken Block, Camp4 is a must do event. At $4,995 Canadian, the program is not inexpensive but it may teach you some skills that will save a life one day. It is also one of the most memorable driving experiences you will ever have.
Camp4 Canada runs until March 5 and there are still a few open spots. You can learn more and book your Camp4 here.