“It’s very stiff,” exclaims Autofarm’s Josh Sadler, wide-eyed as he clambers out of the blackand-orange Porsche 930’s roll cage-clad cockpit. “It just bumps around and wants to find its own path through the corners.” My heart skips another beat. Today’s test venue – Castle Combe – is not just one of the UK’s fastest circuits; it is universally renowned as the bumpiest, too. Therefore, as I’m sure you’ll appreciate, those weren’t the words I was hoping to hear just before donning my helmet and climbing behind the wheel for the first time.
While I knew ahead of today’s Porsche Club GB trackday that I’d be piloting a tuned 930, I had little more than a few scant details ahead of my early morning trip from Bournemouth across Salisbury Plain to the track in question. Before arriving brighteyed at 8am, I didn’t even know what the classic 911 I was set to drive looked like. To say I felt a sense of trepidation would be an understatement. My nerves were barely settled by setting eyes on the Turbo for the first time either. All bright orange RSR-style valances and broad black arches, the Neunelfer sat alone in the Castle Combe paddock not with purpose but with genuine menace. Before leaving the office I jokingly asked the Editor, Lee, if I needed to pack a change of underwear; all of a sudden that very question seemed facetious. The lack of comfort provided by Sadler’s first impressions was only equalled by his attire: dressed in his full race kit, the ex-Autofarm impresario knew what was what.
“Did you bring your overalls?” I shook my head. “I didn’t want to turn up to a trackday with my full kit,” I explained. The other Josh nodded, barely perceptibly, in understanding but I was now questioning my clothing choices. The full welded roll cage and all-encompassing Recaro bucket seat screamed “race car” while I’m pretty sure my £30 jeans and chain store shirt did not. At least my trusty Arai helmet gave the impression I was somewhat prepared for what lay ahead. Having moved the 930 back into the queue to head out on track, Sadler provides more first impressions from the shakedown: “The tyres are pretty old too,” he says matter-of-factly, gesticulating loosely towards the vintage Michelin TB5 semi-slick rubber. “I think Francis [Stafilopatis, owner of this and numerous other 911s] mentioned they are three years old,” adds Bernie Chodosh, the man in charge of looking after Francis’ incredible collection. “Or was it seven?” interjects his son, Adam, soon to be my passenger in the tuned Turbo.
As I buckle up the five-point race harness, there is chatter that the tyres could actually be up to ten years old. Of the three estimates, I hope this is the widest of the mark. All tyres eventually go offand, having had the (dis)pleasure of driving on such rubber in the past, I can confirm the term “wooden” is much, much more than just a cliché. With 406.8bhp – according to the dyno sheet – at the disposal of my right foot, I want nothing less than perfect traction. Thankfully, the ten-year-old estimate must be wide of the mark given that this particular 1979 911 Turbo was transformed into a track weapon during the winter of 2007 by renowned US fettlers, Patrick Motorsports. Originally prepared for road use, the Phoenix, Arizona-based concern spent a great deal of time converting the car for racing use, loosely building it to the famous Group B regulations so that Stafilopatis could compete in historic races around Europe (a photo in the car’s file shows him tackling a hillclimb in his native Greece).