Porsche Owners Club at Laguna Seca: Climbing the Performance Driving Ladder
What better way for The Speed Journal to spend a long weekend than with the Porsche Owners Club at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. Jeff Francis recently jumped in a race-prepared Porsche Boxster hardtop to join the fun.
The Porsche Owners Club is targeted to owners of Porsches who want to get more out of their ownership experience through performance driving on a race track. With over five decades of operation and 1200 members, the POC runs primarily on purpose built tracks in central and southern California with a brief visit to Nevada. Multiple classes allow a venue for the rookie who merely wants to get direction from a driving coach all the way up to the seasoned racer with robust equipment who wants the full spirit of competition and a season-long championship.
As Dwain Dement of Vision Motorsports and Chief Driving Instructor for the POC explained to The Speed Journal, the entry fee for a weekend includes time with a driving instructor who is matched for the driver and the car. The objective is to make it as easy as possible to get instruction – the smiles exiting the car are evidence of the rewards of a positive driving experience.
The POC focuses solely on race track weekend events. The priority is track time and many participants run race-prepared cars that are not street legal, but are delivered with trailers. The regulations are broad enough that originality is not a virtue, so many cars are customized and upgraded, sprouting a variety of wings, splitters, and fender flares. Cars range from decades old to very new. At the top classes, larger budgets can become involved and cars can be barely a step or two removed from modern professional race competition.
Participation, however, is not limited to race cars. A variety of classes based on experience and speed allow those with daily drivers or weekend vintage cars to get track time as well. Blue painter’s tape applied to the doors or flanks is an easy way to display a temporary car number for the weekend.
Some POC members start with cars with fewer driver aids and technology. As their skills develop, they work their way through other classes into faster cars and competitive racing. The POC framework provides a well-organized ladder for this kind of growth.
Others take less direct routes. After buying and driving a high technology street car, some realize they need the POC experience to learn the fundamentals of spirited driving rather than relying on the car to do all the work.
The POC also seeks to find ways for its members to connect with each other and with the club off the track. Its newsletter (appropriately named “Velocity”) recently moved to an electronic format and features pieces written by and featuring individual members and cars. The club has plans for a 2017 yearbook to provide a more polished year-in-review where members can see their cars and re-live the events. Of course, a weekend at the track wouldn’t be the same without bench racing after the last session has been run, so the traditional barbeque brings everyone together with food and beverage.
It should be noted that the POC is Porsche-focused, but not Porsche exclusive. The POC are racers first so it is common to find other marques in the fray, often because a member has invited a friend along for the weekend. If you don’t have a Porsche, let that not be a hurdle to being involved. But if you don’t have a Porsche or a racing Porsche of your own, there is another way…
Shops like Vision Motorsports and Vali Motorsport provide “arrive and drive” customer services, so you can arrange to rent a car for the weekend from them. They’ll provide the car, prepare it, get it to the track, and support you for your weekend of running. For his weekend with the POC, Jeff Francis elected to run a Boxter with a Cayman-like hardtop with Vali Motorsport. The car was fully stripped of weight and prepared for GT4 racing with 245 horsepower delivered through a 6 speed gearbox. Laguna Seca’s low noise limits also required a special exhaust treatment to keep the howl below the mandated 92Db.
Vali Motorsport serviced a dozen cars for the weekend in different classes, so it was quite an operation of logistics.
The POC slotted Francis into the red group which was the fastest class. The Boxter had pace, but the class had plenty of very quick runners. Francis had a front row seat to watch some of the fastest drivers and cars circulate around the track.
Driving standards at the POC are high. The multi-class system is designed to ensure rookies get proper training, those with some experience become refined and seasoned, and those veterans with skill and desire have a place to run competitively. Driving coaches along the way coordinated by Dwain Dement provide the instruction. Those who outgrow the POC are likely destined to professional racing in some form.
Porsche events can be fun, but the best Porsche events are those featuring the cars in motion in a beautiful setting along with the camaraderie of other racers. The sights and sounds make for a great experience and the POC system provides a great framework for drivers of all skill levels and interests to enjoy. The POC events are an extension of the passion, loyalty and high standards associated with the Porsche marque.
The Speed Journal would like to thank the Porsche Owners Club, POC Chief Driving Instructor Dwain Dement of Vision Motorsports, POC President Ron Palmer, Vali Motorsports, Dave Elsner and the POC members for their cooperation, assistance and hospitality.