UPTOWN Deputy Editor Ronda Racha Penrice reports on the icy driving fun that is Porsche’s Camp4 Canada.
Just two days after Snowmageddon held the ATL hostage, flying out for Porsche’s Camp4 Canada looked doubtful. With some Atlantans paralyzed by black ice and two inches of snow for 15 hours or more, the irony, of course, of learning to drive on snow and ice seemed more necessity than elective. Thankfully Delta didn’t cancel the flight and I made it to the gate on time.
After a chauffeured hour-plus drive from the Montreal Airport, the Estérel Resort was a beautiful sight. So was the Porsche signage in the lobby. A well-known winter getaway also popular with businesses and conferences,Estérel is the perfect balance of modern sophistication and comfort. Dinner at on-site Rok Restaurant proved interestingly interactive as entrée selections came out raw with some spices and an intensely hot rock on which to cook it. There is something to it, though, because my red tuna was the best ever! At the mandatory morning briefing, we learned that Camp4 was introduced in 1996 in Rovaniemi, Finland and is now Porsche’s premier winter driving program, with Italy, Switzerland and China also hosting experiences. A shuttle then took us to Mécaglisse, a specialty snow and ice racetrack nestled in the Laurentian Mountains. Inside the chalet, our instructors introduced themselves. Kees Nierop, a 30-year Porsche veteran who even drove the 1987 24 Hours of Le Mans for the German innovator, guided my assigned group. I was also excellently paired with Deborah Frank, Executive Managing Editor at Departures magazine.
Outside, a fleet of roughly 20 Porsches met us on the track. We were divided into separate groups and, on different tracks, drove three different models—911 Carrera S, 911 Carrera 4S, Cayman—each intended to teach a valuable lesson. Controlling oversteering was the goal of the 911 Carrera S, which has a 3.8-liter, 6-cylinder, 400 horsepower producing rear engine and rear-wheel-drive. Sliding was also added to the equation with the all-wheel-drive 911 Carrera 4S. Drifting was the stated agenda for the 2.7 liter, 6-cylinder, 275-horsepower producing, rear-wheel-drive Cayman and that was to be achieved through a maneuver known as the Scandinavian Flick. Not spinning out was perhaps the biggest challenge.
Correctly positioning your hands on the steering wheel was the first lesson taught. Thumbs should always be on the outside of the wheel. Our instructor Kees Nierop’s voice rang through the car like God, praising and slightly chastising us but, most importantly, guiding us throughout the experience. We were encouraged to look forward and feel the car to best determine how to adjust our steering. It was all very enlightening, as we rallied, slipped and slid, even drifted a little. We also got a taste of Porsche’s advantage, experiencing the difference between maneuverability with and without the Porsche Stability Management system. Fortunately for Porsche owners, the Porsche Stability Management has a mind of its own that keeps them safe under most circumstances. Also PDK is pretty rad, easily taking you from automatic to manual transmission performance.
At the end of the day, it’s all about fun. So there’s no shame in crashing into a powdery snow bank as I did and being pulled out by the Cayenne. Well maybe a little but the high fives helped a lot. The best thing is you don’t have to own a Porsche to partake in the experience but it does cost, beginning at around $5,000 U.S. plus tax for three nights at Estérel, two days of full driving, all meals and roundtrip transfers to the track. Slots are very limited, with just under 250 people able to partake in this annual adventure, so plan ahead.