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Formula Motorsports

Half Million Reasons

OK, I’m a hundred north on price and the Carrera GT is the Prototype that isn’t, assembled in a town that will be.

For more than a half century, like some complicated and unusually savvy butterfly, Porsche has regularly dared writers/drivers to try and pin it down. Perennially, attempts have taken form of short stories, collections of local-color vignettes and sprawling, motor magazine epics. But the subject is so large that maybe the minimal approach is most effective: the simple seeming but densely layered subjective evocation, nearly free of proper nouns. Come with me on a day at Leipzig; test this ultimatum of automotive expression, along with GT2’s, Turbo’s, C4S’s and a dash of Cayenne for spice!

This UK excursion consists of an invited group of GT buyers and I, not being one of the “fortunate few”, tagged along as a “guest”. All organized to delight the crap out of us! Captains of Industry? NOT TODAY! Ahh, cars and race tracks; it is of Man’s first disobedience.

Part of the former East Germany and dubbed the “City of Heroes” for its role in the democratic revolution of 1989, Leipzig’s cultural roots stem from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. For centuries it rivaled Salzburg and Vienna as a center of European music and its Gowanda’s Symphony, founded in 1743 claiming to be the world’s oldest orchestra. Bach, Wagner, Mendelssohn and Goethe would set a scene from Faust in the Auerbachs Keller restaurant, a favorite watering hole. Within walking distance of our hotel lay the opera house, alongside a huge central market. Striding ever forward you face the astonishing railway station (Europe’s biggest).

The 450 acre Porsche complex in Leipzig, the production site for the GT, is one of the most advanced manufacturing facilities is the world. Built alongside, a new customer center offering a wide range of services including exhibition, race control, cinema and restaurant with panoramic vistas. The distinctive tower spears the Leipzig skyline, reflecting a symbol Porsche serves to this eastern German region.

2.5 miles in length, 12 meters in width, the FIA approved competition standard race/test circuit is inspired by some of the world’s legendary corners. The Corkscrew at Laguna Seca, Parabolica at Monza and Bus Stop of Spa Francorchamps are there, as is an off-road course of 6 Kilometers.

Chatting up a storm, our flight from Stansted brought about a festive occasion. Touring the plant was insightful yet one could not help but notice that Helmets and Piloti driving shoes were de rigueur. Approaching the three very long silver arrows, 10 cylinders barking to pincer levels, only to give way to skin tingling silence. Yes, we boys were given to keys to our playground and parental supervision was NOT the order of the day! Well, almost.

Seems as if the ADULTS had some ridiculous idea that we “kinder” would get in trouble if left on our own! Hah! Walter Rorhl was to be one of three drivers with marching orders from “Mom and Dad”; hands OFF the steering wheel! Indeed, he protested (sure) and was a no show, WE, didn’t care. My factory pilot whipped up a fine recipe through each drive, ultimately offering me an opportunity of getting up to speed much sooner than any solo trip I could muster. As playground rules go, I can’t blame them much, matter of factly, a factory GT pilot was quick to make the point of a U.S. “groupie” who had, only days before, “stuffed” aGT2 big time!

OK, just get me IN and get it ON. Wonderful course layout allowed us a true stretch of performance architecture, akin to my experience with 962’s. YES, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, it’s EVERYTHING I WANT!!!!!!!!!!!!

GT’s right seat focus draws immediately to the retro “ball” shifter…Very ergonomic, hmm…Must be a 60’s term, yes?. Acceleration is steam catapult in feel, through all six flicks of the wrist. Achieving 200+ is child’s play in a “real” drivers hands. Absolutely FLAT is the order of turn negotiation. Neck exercise suggested. 3000 lbs, 10 pistons, 600 “prancing” horses; Enzo…He must allow a wave bye!

Between stints in the GT, I drove the pants off the rest of the stable, along with my friends Randy and Meyhrig. Randy drives great, Meyhrig is an ANIMAL. We cowboys shot up the town, retiring to the fascination of exhibition hall, loaded with “as run” race cars. These are machines left in original race condition saddled with dirt and grease, just what we boys LOVE! A playground without dirt, well, isn’t fun.

As “Mom and Dad” called the slightly soiled boys in for dinner, reflections of sheer enjoyment could be seen on each of our wind burned cheeks. Sitting among epicurean delights for a pre-orchestral tasting encapsulated an already delightful tour of assembly, testing, vintage Porsche examples set out for our pleasure. Jaded as I can be, in this “thing of ours”, please allow a replay of this day or just PINCH ME!

Guilty Pleasures

The emphasis is on pleasure. A guilty pleasure can be anything from food (a bucket of fried chicken) to music (country) to down and dirty catfights. It can be where we go (Greek Islands) and what we go for (Victoria’s Secret). It is anything we want to keep to ourselves. It is what we work hard to own, but cannot admit to! A pair of Minolo Blaniks; better yet, old comic books. A trampoline, sensen gum, long legs in spike heels. It’s almost every single one of Andy Warhol’s obsessions.

Now, that I can do IT with more understanding, traveling through Europe, connecting my past with Porsche alongside current racing activities remain first and foremost on this Guilty Pleasure list, my “giveth” and “taketh” away.

The way the world is now, nothing might seem as superfluous as sports car racing. A guilty pleasure if there ever was one. But it’s not as though we’re (drivers/spectators) ignoring what’s going on in the world. It’s just that we need a respite. And nothing provides that pleasure more than racing. Even if we might be feeling a little guilty about it right now. Just to remind us why racing makes us feel good, we break out the bubbly with a portfolio of images and sensations that celebrate European racing scenes. Images of the broad swatch of Spa’s Ardennes forest, only two hours from Nurburgring’s roiling, dangerous curves, forever carving a path around it’s spired castle, never backpeddling on a fast lap filled with pictorial scenes of Italy’s sun drenched parabolica poised within Monza !

Arguably, ferries remain a favorite means of crossing the Channel. Sure, they’re slow and can grunt when you least expect it, but the ferry from Dover to Calais affects a clean beginning to the competition awaiting my entrance. Accompanying me for the ride is an ending to whatever happened before this continental entrance.

Close friend, co-driver and Ex Pat., Randy Sesson suggests the “Chunnel” trains may cut our excursion by a few hours and I agree. Regrettably, these tunnel dwelling, car crammed monoliths would disallow the cleansing of my spirit. Replaced by contemplation of speed, curves and danger, all which loomed east as our rain soaked coach pierced the tunnels brow surrounded by a frail Calais horizon. A day break; precursor to interpretation of guilt or pleasure. Would it tag us to the end of our journey?

I suppose it is time for stomach ailments to cease. They won’t! Every morning, prior to climbing into a cockpit, I’m sick. From music to fasting, nothing helps. This apparent psychosis emanates through fears of first lap embarrassment.

Kept at bay with butterfly vigilance, it knows no ceasefire and will be with me forever!

First day tests completed at the G.P. circuit, on to the Hotel Reidel, across the road from Der Ring, Nurburg, Germany. Gifted a drive in a DTM car, delivered through the smooth, swift G.P. South circuit is comparative to piloting an F 1 with 4 seats!

Time is ripe for relaxation, come late afternoon. One click down from us, RingMeisters overwhelm, Der Nordschleif! Ring taxis abound, chauffeuring tourists, impressing novitiates with power slides wherever opportunity presents itself. Pecking order is a tradition on these public days. Coupling oneself to the local slogan, Master of the Ring, goes a long way in construction of a reputation. People emigrate/participate clueless, explicitly incapable in discovering the known players, indeed, they don’t know thezeitgeist!

On this late afternoon, Wannabe’s clamor from painted divides, comprising Nordschlief’s parking corral. Stop watches strewn about, frauleins wrapped in Gucci; all, toiling, indeed broiling with expectancy through prospecting low lap times. Machines of significant worth, specially treated for this particular venue, their heaves and snorts fill the air along with anticipation as they await their untested Meister and toll booth ticket holder, who must go out to better the sweeping hands of his cohorts chronograph. Maintaining a voyeuristic approach to this perennial ritual would be healthy, in part due to my required drive in official practice, the following day at Spa. Perched above the fray, securely stationed above this cage, I remark to my colleague, “How many of these ego maniacs get scrapped off the landscape anywhere and everywhere? My German counterpart, deadpanned in response “Ve don keep coun, Mark”! On the morning following our largess at a previous night’s festivities, we discover a Ferrari, coupled to an Italian dinner partner; neither would complete an attempt in becoming part of the living legends that are the RingMeisters. Ever evolving within the cruelty which befalls them, incapable of comprehending the capacity of life’s guilt and pleasures; confined to within Nordschlief, directed to its embarkation point.

Upon exiting a Cup Car, days later in Spa, two hours from *Castle Nurburg, a Brit Crew member bounded over, exclaiming, “Mark, Mark, remember the boy with the red Testarossa…the one we had dinner with at Hotel Reidel, the lad bought the farm at *Bergwerk, his girlfriend is in hospital”. Feeling the cruelty which befell this time traveler, all the while knowing what was discussed at our table, hours before his fate caught up to him. My aggrieved response, “can we contact his parents in Italy; they should know who was with him; we should do the right thing, tell them what they want to hear from someone who broke bread with him, someone who spoke to Vitorio last”. Remembering his bravado coursing through our prior evening, richened in colorful broken English, “Mark, you drive ere, not too match, I wit expedience, I know everyting for deez plaize, Victorio drive ere too many times”. We bandied stories related to the drama, unique to this circuit and kept within its boundaries; taming his boundaries was our hope. Alas, it soon became apparent, my diatribe over dinner fell on deaf ears, and our boy was all caught up in this adventitious RingMeister moniker. Too late for admitted guilt in driving pleasure, its lesson would play “hooky”.

According to my sources, the impact was inevitable, occupant unrecognizable, red car from Marinello…no longer red. Understandably distraught, Girlfriend was ambulatory and escorted away from the hordes who dominated this infamous parking lot. Immediately following; interlopers, vacuous yet contrite, scattered back into daily existences awaiting another public day.Kinder, overflowing with the effluence of the foolhardy. RingMeisters, less one.

On to Belgium. Re-introduced by Randy to a pleasurable, long lost friend who has managed a triumphant de-institution in careers. This talented driver tuned in, turned on, dropped out; bought a house in the Ardennes forest, five minutes from Spa. Beautiful house! $125K! By New York standards it was a palace. His days are filled with tutoring talented drivers ….We heightened stories of race days gone by; spent hours over dinner re-acquainting ourselves in nuances associated with the new Spa circuit……the guilt, the pleasures…..what a life!?

  • RingMeister-Well respected group of drivers knowing every centimeter of the 300 plus turns of the 20 Kilometers, making up the Nordschlief.

*Nurburg Castle-As you shift up to top gear on the very long, kinked straight, there in view sits the Castle of Nurburg, it resides within the town of Nurburg, which in turn resides within the confines of the Nordschleif. Everything about the Ring is HUGE.

*Bergwerk- Grouping of turns on the Nordschleif (North part) of Nurburgring.