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I Tracked My Porsche 911 With 248,000 Miles

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author photo by Tyler Hoover April 2017

After a successful cross-country drive in Apollo 911, my 1999 Porsche with 248,000 miles, I asked the Oversteer and YouTube peanut gallery what I should do next. The resounding answer: TRACK IT! That's an insane proposition, given there's nothing more abusive -- but Apollo 911 is like an aging 1990s action-film star: Despite being well past his prime, he can't stop making macho movies. So I said Hasta la Vista to prudence -- and I hit the track.

I had two major concerns with tracking my arthritic Porsche. The first was, of course, the cost of failure. If the motor decided to self-terminate, I would be looking at a minimum of $8,000 to rebuild it -- and considering I only paid $9,500 for my scruffy 911, it probably wouldn't be worth fixing. Used motors are not much cheaper -- and putting in a used engine would involve reliving the anxiety associated with this infamous engine.

My other big challenge was the driver. I haven't been on a race track in almost 13 years -- since I boiled the brakes in a C5 Corvette and went spinning off course. To counter the idiot factor, I signed up for a performance driving school. I also purchased a 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 to bear my amateurish abuse -- but after tossing and turning in bed the night before the event, trying to decide what to bring ... I ultimately chose both the Porsche and the Mustang.

Yes, I'm probably the first person to ever bring a backup hooptie to a track night. But made perfect sense to me. This way, my night wasn't completely ruined if one of the cars had problems. I never considered that both of them could...

The class was put on by some incredible talent, including a national-champion driver and a former chief executive of the Sports Car Club of America. I'm sure I tested their patience -- and they questioned my mental stability -- as I switched between two totally opposite cars at will. Shockingly, after the very informative class, they let me on the track.

I drove in the Novice group, which meant I was sharing the track with about 30 other similarly skilled drivers. We were forbidden to pass each other, except in designated passing zones, and the slower driver in front had to signal the driver behind to pass. Throughout each of the three sessions, a handful of cars spun off the course in hilarious (but harmless) fashion.

I started the first heat in the 911, and I couldn't believe how strong and capable it felt. There were several cars more powerful in the straights, but few could keep up with me in the corners. Unfortunately, it was in the high-speed turns where I noticed Apollo 911 was losing oil pressure. It was running wonderfully -- better than ever, actually -- but I pulled off to the pits to check things out. The oil level was full, and nothing looked or sounded out of place.

Fortunately, I also had the Mustang -- so I took it out for the second heat. The difference in the cars was unbelievable. While they reached similar top speeds of 110 miles per hour on the straights, the Mustang's brakes -- despite being brand-new -- were far inferior to the Porsche's, and the rear end of the car simply refused to stay planted. My best lap in the Mustang was almost 30 seconds slower than my best lap in the 911. The pony car survived the entire session, but I smelled burning brakes -- and the pedal went mushy on the cooldown lap.

With one track session remaining, my backup car idea had just backfired on me. While the Mustang's brakes felt fine after they cooled down, I wasn't eager to relive my near-death C5 Corvette experience from over a decade before. I also didn't want to hurt the 911, even though it never gave any indication it was starved for oil.

Rather than wisely taking my balls and going home, I decided to track the 911 again. I told myself not to drive it too hard -- but when I noticed a 2008 Honda Civic Si on my tail, I couldn't help myself. I went full-out, and the Civic continued to give chase. I was too busy looking in my rearview mirror, and I came into a turn way too fast. This marked my introduction to the 911's famous "snap oversteer" -- and I was poorly equipped to handle it.

Fortunately, I spun harmlessly, rear-end first, into the grass, only damaging my ego. Anytime you go off course, it results in an automatic black flag -- requiring you to head into the pits for a safety lecture. I was politely told not to be an idiot, and I was sent back out. Once again, I planned on taking it easy for the rest of my final run -- until I spotted a new Miata in the distance.

I was determined to prove Apollo 911's dominance -- and once again, I was driving at the very limit. I slowly reeled in the Miata and I was allowed to pass just before the end of the session. I left the track feeling a mix of beaming paternal pride and regret for the flogging I had just given my 911.

Once again, Apollo 911 had proved itself and survived -- but unfortunately, there's a little more to the story. I'll be back ... for more on that later.

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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I Tracked My Porsche 911 With 248,000 Miles - Autotrader