A mythical venue where legends are made
Porsche Track Experience at Spa-Francorchamps
The Porsche Track Experience’s annual trip to Spa is a highlight of the annual training calendar. Just be courageous. Especially through corners
The myth of the track is difficult to describeIt’s 6.13am. The fog lifts over the Ardennes, the sun slowly rises through the dense forest towards the S-curve at Spa-Francorchamps, light wind makes the fir needles on the trees ripple and we can hear a noise like a turbine moving at several thousand revolutions per minute in far distance. Later, when Porsche sports cars, GT models and 911s drive through the 21 bends of the 7,004-metre long track, the trees will dampen the sound of the engines and tyres. Spa is home to Eau Rouge, one of the great corners in motorsport. One that does not forgive any mistakes and is the epitome of perfection. Downhill, an almost 18 per cent gradient, left, right, it’s like there’s a mountain growing in real time in front of you. Compression, flying blind. A place where you feel compelled to display courage.
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps has an exciting history
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps has an exciting history
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is a historic circuit in the French-speaking Walloon region of Belgium, situated just 20 kilometres from the German border. The track has been given the nickname “Ardennes roller coaster”, not least because of its topography and the high centrifugal forces in some passages. The circuit celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020.Racetrack aside, Spa itself also has an exciting history. Although the town has just 10,000 inhabitants, it is already known worldwide for its name – a synonym for wellness. Even as early as the 18th century, famous guests trusted in the healing effect of the approximately 300 springs.It’s not about setting records. It’s about getting driving skills"The Porsche Track Experience has a long tradition at Porsche and was established as the Porsche Sports Driving School back in 1974", explains Sabine, who is responsible for the project on the Porsche side. "We are at Spa once a year with a maximum of 48 participants, and the track here is definitely a highlight for everyone", she continues. After all, it has a certain myth about it that is hard to put into words. Those who have completed the previous training levels – Precision and Performance – can further improve their driving skills at the two-day Master Training."The racetrack is made for a strong Porsche," explains Jens, who, together with Swen as supervisor, manages the driving programme. "Here, it’s not about setting records, but ensuring safety at all times, even at higher speeds".
Spa-Francorchamps is the ideal race track for a strong Porsche
Porsche meets Spa-Francorchamps: a great racetrack deserves a great car
On the evening before their first day on the racetrack, the participants took part in the virtual track walk and a safety briefing. "World stars such as Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Stefan Bellof have driven here. If that doesn’t give it mythical status, then I don’t know what does", says Wolfgang, who has taken part lots of times because he appreciates the small groups and the long driving time.
Today I have the job of my life
Matteo Cairoli | Porsche Motorsport Expert
"Spa means smooth, fast driving. You have to achieve lots of speed from passage to passage, the track is hilly, fast and somehow also majestic", summarises Matteo Cairoli – Porsche Motorsport Expert. During the Master Training sessions of the Porsche Track Experience, the participants are usually accompanied by a Porsche factory driver or prospective factory driver who provides knowledge and feedback to promote the further development of the participant’s driving skills. Matteo, for example, explains to Markus how he could drive better through the Les Combes chicane and approach Pouhon, the double-left bend, more accurately. Pouhon is the second 'courage bend' at Spa that can be driven at almost full throttle and with only one steering turn.
Matteo shares his knowledge with the participants
Matteo shares his knowledge with the participants
"I always wanted to race: when I was a little kid I played 'Gran Turismo' and 'Forza Motorsport' and later practised a lot in the simulator. Today I have the job of my life", says Matteo, who has just looked at Klemens’ analysis and given him tips for the perfect placement of the car at the exit of Eau Rouge. The 23-year-old Italian is a born team player, a driver who always stresses that although the mechanics are in the background during races, they are still much more important than he is. Spa is one of his favourite circuits and he mentions it several times in the same breath as Le Mans and the Nürburgring-Nordschleife.Improving skills from lap to lapAfter two days of training, the participants are as excited as the professionals. Harry, for example, praises the team’s perfect time management before he sets off. He has this to say about his favourite pass through Eau Rouge: "There really is nothing like the perfect positioning of the car, precise work, coupled with courage. I’ve driven it well a few times today. Feels a lot faster than yesterday", says Harry. The video analysis will confirm his gut feeling later.
Ready for the race track after two days of training
Ready for the racetrack after two days of training
Kelly, who has travelled here from the USA and – tongue-in-cheek – says he is the best man on the track, has also improved from lap to lap and hit the ideal line more accurately. During the analysis session with the instructors, he’s also able to take away a few tips with him, such as the one that in theory everyone should be aware of: "If you drive too fast into the bend, you’ll mess it up."
It’s crazy here. It’s exhausting. But I’ve learned a lot
Wolfgang | Porsche Track Experience participant
The myth of the track is simply indescribable
Spa-Francorchamps: a track that will leave you breathless
Klemens travelled here in his own Porsche from Austria: "I’m sure I am here for a tenth time, it’s so much fun here. The track really challenges you." And Wolfgang shares this opinion. As his wife, who is accompanying him, opens the door for him, he says: "It’s crazy here. It’s exhausting, but I’ve learned a lot. For example, the perfect turning angle into the bends, I haven’t been that good at it in the past. I immediately try to put the theoretical training and the results of the video analysis into practice". His favourite section of the track? "The chicane Les Combes to Eau Rouge and the Kemmel straight. I had a lot of respect for it at first. But in the past few days I’ve driven the chicane so often that I feel much safer there now."
The track really challenges the participants, but also excites them
The track really challenges the participants, but also excites them
The myth of the track is difficult to describe even after spending a few days there. It’s probably the location, embedded in the Ardennes, and the 100-metre elevation differences in the track layout. Maybe it’s also the lap records set here by Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna that made history – combined with the concept that Spa is the venue for the Belgian Grand Prix in Formula 1. Or maybe it’s simply that when you’re on the Eau Rouge, you feel like you’re sitting in a plane just before take-off.
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