HCAYMAN

Seriously Irreverent Musings

Category: Cayman GTS

Cayman GTS

Wallow Springs Raceway

I spent the day wallowing around Willow Springs International Motorsports Park last Monday.  I was supposed to be doing anything but wallowing, but wallowing was pretty much all I did.  I was participating in a PCA GPX Region Day Away From Work event.  Cumulatively, it was my fifth day of high performance drivers education.  A dispassionate observer would perceive it to be my fifth day starring in the movie Groundhog Day, as I seem to have to start from ground zero every time.

The event was billed as a drivers education and autocross day.  We drove clockwise on the Streets of Willow track.  Streets is the small, technical track at Willow Springs.  Willow Springs describes the Streets track as useful for testing and tuning.  In our case it was useful for learning—at least for some of us.  Willow Springs has another track, Big Willow, which was built for speed and for more experienced drivers.  I doubt I will ever drive on it, and that is okay with me.

Most participants experienced the day as billed.  For me it was yet another humbling attempt at circumnavigating a race track in a proficient manner.  I participated in the education portion.  I did not even consider the autocross portion.  Don’t get me wrong.  I had a blast.  I really enjoyed the event, which was really well implemented.  I also had the chance to meet and hang out with many really nice people.  But, as usual, I was painfully aware that I just do not have the desire, personality or skills to excel at this.

But I do have a car that does.  My 2015 Porsche Cayman GTS is an amazing all around car.  It is good on the street, and, in theory, good on the track.  I am not sure I will ever drive my car too much beyond five tenths of its limits, as I am way better suited to being an accountant than a driver.  My instructor for the day, Ian, never considered being an accountant, and it showed.  Ian started life as a fighter pilot.  He sees the world very differently than me.  On top of that, he is a track junkie.  He also has a Cayman GTS.  Not surprisingly, he spec’d his for the track, eschewing most options that added too much weight.  Options that I would deem absolutely necessary.  After my first less than stellar lapping session with Ian, he offered to drive me around the track a few times in his car at what he felt was seven or eight tenths.

The time I spent in the passenger seat in Ian’s car was very instructive on many levels.  I learned that Ian can drive, with a capital D.  I learned that he could actually follow the line around the track that kept vanishing like a mirage for me.  As my brain fired off warning signals, continuously triggering my fight or flight hormones, I learned that the Cayman GTS is a helluva car on the track.  To be fair to Ian, his skills were spot on.  His technique was excellent.  His line was precise.  I never felt like we were out of control.  I just never felt comfortable that the car could do what Ian was asking it to do.  Boy, was I wrong!  I did learn one other lesson—I had no interest in ever going around the track that fast.  That does not mean I did not want to get better, though.

What made Ian a good instructor for me was that, despite his uber macho fighter pilot training, he was able to understand my needs, and we shifted focus from speed to smoothness.  It turned out that besides being slow on my first lapping session, I was also abrupt and jerky in applying inputs to the car.  For the remainder of the day we focused on smoothness, starting with steering and then touching on accelerating.  We ran out of time before we tackled braking, leaving me something to work on next time.  We also worked on my seat and hand position, as I have a bad habit of shifting my hands out of the preferred 9 and 3 o’clock positions.

I definitely improved during my next three lapping sessions.  Some of my improvement related to learning the track.  Some related to working on what Ian was telling me.  Some related to the confidence I had in the car.  When I finished my last session, I realized that I had improved dramatically during the day.  For a couple of minute at a time during the third and fourth lapping sessions  Ian actually did not perceive the need to pepper me with constructive comments as I drove, a sure sign I was improving.  I was reminded yet again that smoothness comes first.  Speed follows.

My day ended when the autocross began.  I was beat.  I had arrived at the event hotel the afternoon before.  I sat through two hours of ground school where I listened to a lot of information that was well organized, well presented, well intended and, through no fault of the speakers, ultimately not well processed, though I did get it into my head that I needed to get cotton socks for safety reasons.  After ground school was over and before the group dinner, I trekked over to Walmart to buy some socks.  I was beyond shocked at how crowded Walmart was at 7:30 pm on a Sunday night, but that needs to be part of an entirely different story.  I was up early the morning of the track day.  During the four lapping sessions I had spent over 75 minutes driving on the track.  I was done.  I took a few pictures of the guys doing the autocross, cleaned the painter’s tape off my car, put all my luggage and loose items back into my car, and headed home.

My ride home was pretty uneventful, and it gave me the opportunity to keep my hands in the 9 and 3 o’clock positions, something I have been working on all week, and even used during the 100 plus miles I put on my 89 Carrera this weekend.   Pam came home after I got home, and after verifying that I was okay and that I had a good time she asked, “Why did you leave tape on your car?”  I had no idea what she was talking about.  I was sure I had removed all of it.  I was wrong.  I guess I was so tired before I left that I missed a few spots.  Her next words were, “What did you do to your front tires?  The tread looks disgusting!”  I guess I did a little less wallowing than I thought.

Temecula, Finally

Like Rodney Dangerfield, Temecula does not get a ton of respect.  It and its surrounding areas have golf courses, casinos, spas and wineries.  It is a great place for locals to hang out.  It just does not have enough cachet or buzz surrounding it to warrant making it a real desirable destination.  According to some oenophiles, the terroir there is pretty suitable for growing grapes.  Others feel that the wine produced there is imbued with high pH levels due to the hot temperatures and dry soil, which results in wine that is too sweet.   The wine makers have tried to adapt their processes by tweaking the grapes they plant, managing the crops and tinkering with the wine post harvest.  In many respects, the wine makers are leading the charge to garner more respect for the area, which is located about 100 miles from where I live in West Los Angeles.

As I am not a golfer, gambler, spa goer or wine enthusiast, I have never considered going to Temecula.  Even though I am a native Los Angelino and have lived in Los Angeles for sixty plus years, I have never been there, though I was in the vicinity of it several times as a child in the late 50s and early 60s when my family vacationed at the then infamous Murrieta Hot Springs Resort.  I have driven by Temecula the few times I have taken the inland route up to LA from San Diego, but I have never felt compelled to stop.

Temecula does have a cool name, though.  It is an Indian/Spanish name that, depending on what reference you choose to believe, either means the place where the sun shines through the mist or means where the sand met the sun to create the world.  Lofty meaning for a reasonably pedestrian place with a less than stellar reputation.  Possibly more accurate but definitely more amusing is that the Urban Dictionary’s top definition of Temecula is, “A sunny place filled with shady people.”

Last weekend I finally had a reason to go to Temecula.  I, along with 40 or so of my PCA Los Angeles cronies, met in Corona and then drove to Temecula.  Our destination was the Monte De Oro Winery.  I did not go for the wine.  In fact, I did not drink any.   I went for the joy of driving my Cayman.  What mattered to me was the terrain, not the terroir.  Thankfully, the terrain included hills, valleys, and twisties, which made the drive to the winery fun, but as with the rest of Temecula, not stellar.  We had about 30 Porsches and, curiously, one Jensen Healey on the drive, which traversed various back roads for 66 miles from where we started in Corona.  My PCA friend, David, did a great job of selecting a route that enabled us to get the most enjoyment out of our cars.  The route consisted of a nice blend of sweeping turns, long straights, and stop signs, which enabled many of us to enjoy unbridled accelerations.

I got an early start on the day of the drive.  My PCA friend Mark, the Mark with whom I go on drives, not the Mark from whom I buy cars, and I met in West Los Angeles before we embarked on the drive to Corona.  Before meeting Mark I had to get the Cayman washed and make a trip to Starbucks for coffee, which I placed in the least functional feature of the Cayman, its cup holders.

Mark and I had a great drive to Corona.  We only made one wrong turn, which, frankly, was somewhat pathetic, as we both had our NAV systems guiding us.  We were kibitzing on our cell phones, which overrode the audio feature of the NAV system, causing us to miss transitioning to the 15 when we should have.  Realizing our mistake, we turned around.  At that point, I opted to take advantage of the detour and stopped at McDonald’s and then at the gas station before heading the last few miles to Corona.

I arrived in Corona, took a much needed pit stop, signed the de rigueur insurance forms and chatted with my friends until it was time to head to the winery.  We left in two run groups.  Mark and I were in the first one, which got split up a couple of times due to traffic signals.  I had the Cayman in manual Sport Plus mode for most of the ride.  I used the paddles to control the shift points, enabling me to rev the engine and really enjoy the sound of my naturally aspirated flat six.  It was good for the Cayman to get out on the open road, as it had been confined to city driving for the past few months.  Mark and I continued to chit chat on the ride to the winery.  Our conversation included some mundane topics and some important ones, like the readout on his speedometer at various points in time.  In theory, the second group left 15 minutes after we did.  I can only assume that they left early because they arrived at the winery about five minutes after us, and we were not dawdling on the drive.

The winery was very nice.  We enjoyed lunch on the patio overlooking the vineyards and the surrounding valley.  While the views were not spectacular, they were very pleasant, even if I did gripe about the lack of scenery suitable for photographs.  After an hour of socializing and eating, it was time to head home.  That’s when things took a slight turn for the worse.  I knew the ride home would be irritating.  I expected a certain amount of traffic.  That was one of the main reasons I chose to take the Cayman, as I did not want to clutch myself to death on the way back.  What I was surprised about was the distance, as I had not given it much thought until I sat in the Cayman and set the NAV to my home address.  At that time I was shocked to see it was a tad over100 miles.  Oh well.

Despite the distance and the traffic, the ride home was fun.  Mark was using Waze to plot his route.  I wasn’t.  At one point he exited the freeway and took a detour hoping to save some time and avoid some traffic.  I took the long way around, staying on the freeway, bypassing the 91, ignoring my NAV and going up the 15 all the way to the 60.  We kept up a running conversation along the way and I thought I was about an exit behind him until I caught up at the East LA interchange, putting a smile on my face and leaving me with a good feeling about Temecula.

 

 

 

 

Split Porschenality

2017 was a year of recovery for me.  It didn’t start out that way.  In retrospect, I hit bottom in March when I purchased the 1974 911 Targa.  Not because it was a bad car or a bad purchase, but because it was my third car.  Not the third car I had ever bought, but the third Porsche I owned concurrently.  I did not need the car.  I simply wanted it.  I had an unquenched thirst for a reasonably early 911.  So I bought it.  After I bought it, I convinced myself that I was happy and I was done buying cars.  Well, maybe Pam or the fact that I was out of room in the garage and driveway had a lot to do with convincing me I was done buying cars.  In any event, I spent the second quarter driving the 911 and the Cayman and letting the 912 just sit in the garage, except when I pulled it out to teach my younger daughter, Kim, to drive a car with a manual transmission.

Then I noticed that I still had a desire to purchase additional Porsches.  A strong one.  It scared me.  Not a lot, but enough.  I began to question myself.  What was I doing?  How deep did I want to get into this?  What was driving me?  The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had no interest in collecting more cars nor did I have an interest in modifying them or working on them, though early on I thought I did, but the reality was that I would rather work in the kitchen than in the garage, even in my newly repaired garage.  So where was this compulsion coming from?  What was causing it?  Obviously, some of it came from my DNA.

I have always had a weakness for cars.  I have always been attracted to them.  I have always looked at them with longing.  Cars have never been about basic transportation for me.  They have not always been about looks or comfort, either.  Instead, I have consistently opted for functionality and performance and to a lesser extent comfort.  For 30 years I was smitten with BMWs, mainly 3 and 5 Series coupes or sedans.  I could not walk into a showroom without feeling an irrational urge to buy a new one, though I never wanted to have more than one BMW at the same time.  Recently, I have lost that loving feeling towards them.  Porsches have taken their place, and I can walk into a BMW dealership and feel no need to buy or even sit in one.  Walking into a Porsche dealership continues to be another story.

But there was more to this than nature affecting me.  Nurture was playing a role here, too.  Most normal people would call me a Porsheholic.  And to a large extent, I guess I am.  But I do not hang around with enough normal people.  My Facebook news feed is a continuous stream of cars, cars and more cars.  Sometimes people are present.  No need to even describe my Instagram feed.  My circle of friends includes many serious car club guys.  They are car collectors and restorers.  They own way more cars than I own.  They have multiple garages to house them.  They keep many mechanics in business.  They own cars which have had more oil changes than miles driven.  They were more likely to encourage me than not.  Most thought I was simply committed to the Porsche marque not committable.  Clearly, they were affecting my judgement.  At least I was still sane enough to realize that.

Thankfully, summer arrived.  I wanted to drive the 911, but, as it did not have air conditioning, it was very tough to justify, even though I was more willing to accept sweat dripping from my brow and my shirt sticking to the seat when I drove it than I was willing to accept not driving it.  That’s when it dawned on me.  I really only cared about driving my cars.  That was why I owned them.  As I have written about before, my friend Mark helped me realize that I had no need to own more cars.  I just needed to own the right cars.  And one of the right cars for me was his 1989 Carrera Targa.  So, counterintuitively, I took my first step towards recovery by buying his 1989 Carrera …. and selling my 1969 912 and my 1974 911.

I have owned the 1989 Carrera for the past four months.  My Porscheholism has gone into remission.  I have no desire to purchase another Porsche, even a 993.  My driving needs are met completely by my Cayman GTS and my Carrera.  It is with more than a slight sense of relief that I can go to any car event and leave without longing to purchase another car, even when great ones are dangled in my path.  I can go into a Porsche showroom and leave feeling the same way.  Having said that, it is not clear if I have recovered or just replaced one illness with another.

Now that I can drive either car any time in relative comfort, I find myself having issues deciding which car to drive.  It’s not like one is more fun to drive than the other.  I love driving them both, even though the two cars represent wildly different manifestations of Porsche engineering.  One is essentially analog.  One is essentially digital.  One is air-cooled.  One is water-cooled.  One has a rear engine.  One has a mid-engine.  One has a manual transmission.  One has a dual electronic clutch transmission.  One has a few creature comforts.  One has a lot, including a seriously good air-conditioner and seat warmers, arguably one of the least functional features to have in a car in LA.  One has classic styling.  One has masculine elegance.  One represents the past.  One represents the current, though with the advent of the Cayman 718 and its turbocharged four banger, I could argue that both represent the past.  So while I no longer long to possess another Porsche, I now long for a way to choose which Porsche to drive.

This is not an issue to be taken lightly.  It has been causing me serious angst.  I have spoken to several of my car club cronies about it, as they are way more experienced with it than I am.  While they cannot help me solve my problem, at least they understand it and have helped me label it.  Apparently, I have a split Porschenality.  I am not alone, but I am definitely in the minority, as most Porsche sports car owners are either 911 centric or Boxster/Cayman centric.  Sort of like most people are either right or left brain dominant.  Only a relative handful show convergence.

As 2017 draws to a close, I have been searching for worthy resolutions for 2018.  So far I have only one on my list:  Find a way to decide which car to drive.  Somehow I doubt I will, but I will have lots of fun trying.

 

 

Fun To Fatality

My friends and I play with our cars.  We enjoy spirited drives through back roads and mountain passes.  We push it somewhat but not too much.  I wish everyone else did the same.

Today our PCA Los Angeles Region had a driving event.  The first part of our drive was on one of the most well known recreational roads in Southern California, Angeles Crest Highway.  The problem with that is it is a two lane highway crowded with lots of vehicles moving at various rates of speed.  There are normal (read slow) drivers that clog the road.  Some are nice enough to let us by.  Many are not.  There are drivers like us who enjoy a little speed around the bends but are generally safe.  There are the bicycle riders who slog up the hill and always seem to be just too far to the left.  There are the motorcycle riders, most of whom are generally safe.  Then there are the crazy motorcycle riders who think the road is for a Moto GP event.  They dart in and out of traffic, angle their bikes to the left and right and make insane passes on both sides of the double yellow line.  The combination of all these vehicles can be deadly.  It was today.

Our ride up Angeles Crest was fine.  There were all the usual characters I described above, but we had no issues getting to our first turn, Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road.  Angeles Crest is fun, but Upper Big Tujunga is sublime.  It is recently paved and has a great assortment of varying radius turns.  That combined with less traffic then Angeles Crest made for an awesome ride until we teed into Angeles Forest Highway.  Angeles Forest Highway is just about as awesome as Upper Big Tujunga.  We powered down it for about 10 or so miles until we teed into Mt. Emma Road.  Mt. Emma Road is pretty isolated.  There are very few cars on it, and we just tore it up for about 10 miles until we teed into Fort Tejon Road, another empty patch of turns which we tore up for another seven miles or so before we turned onto Valyermo Road.  At this point in our drive we were literally in the middle of nowhere.  And the roads just stretched on for miles with no one else on them.

Our Porsches were screaming.  The flat six engines, either air or water cooled, were just howling.  Drives like this are an assault on just about all of my senses.  I have the window down and the tunes turned up.  I love to watch the line of Porsches strung out ahead of me.  As we pass through Valyemo, the turns just keep on coming.  We hop onto Big Pines Road and Highway before finally getting back onto Angeles Crest in Wrightwood for stories and a well deserved lunch at the Grizzly Café.  As we had about 40 Porsches today, the parking lot was overflowing, and we were parked three deep.

After lunch I was on my own.  There was no organized ride back, and I just felt like driving by myself.  I was vacillating about how to get back.  I thought about just going up and over Angeles Crest, but a huge sink hole had opened up on it early in the summer.  It was unclear if the road was open or if there would be lots of delays for construction.  So that left the freeway or pretty much going back the way I came.  The freeway was not compelling.  So I pretty much retraced my route to get back.  That is with one exception.  I opted to stay bypass Angeles Crest on the way home and stay on Bug Tujunga.  Too bad I missed the turn and ended up back on Angeles Crest, which is not usually a big deal.  It was today.

On the way down Angeles Crest, I noticed that there was a lot of traffic coming the other way.  I also noticed lots of Porsches coming the other way.  Many of them looked familiar.  Many of them flashed their lights.  I was a little surprised by this, as the turns come quick on this road and I do not usually get that many acknowledgements from 911s when I am in my Cayman.  I kept driving and soon I was within five miles of the run out into La Canada, where we had started this morning.  All of a sudden I came to a dead stop.  Literally.

Soon the cars in front of me, two of which were my Porsche friends I had caught up with, turned around and started going back up the hill.  One of them stopped and said, “Angeles  Crest is closed.  There has been a fatal accident just ahead of us.”  Thankfully, I have no idea what happened, and thankfully I did not see the carnage.  So I turned around and followed them back up the hill, knowing that I had about a 30 mile detour to get back out of the canyon.

I drove that 30 miles slowly and carefully, reflecting on how fun can turn fatal.  As I thought about it, I was actually surprised that given the traffic on Angeles Crest that there are not more accidents.  As I was meandering down Big Tujunga Canyon, my thoughts became reality.  We came to another complete stop for yet another accident.  Thankfully, this one was not deadly.

For the past few hours I have been thinking about my drive.  I love my car.  I love driving in the twisties.  It takes so much concentration that it is unbelievably relaxing, in a tiring sort of way.  I am somewhat depressed, though.  Mostly for the person who lost their life, but somewhat for me, as I may never feel the same way about spirited drives again.

 

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