At the December Holiday/Christmas party, Michael Dietzel won the grand prize, a certificate for the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta or One Porsche Drive (OPD). This is his report on the experience.
OPD is within the Atlanta Airport security zone. It's on the site of a former Ford assembly plant, and before that it had been a race track. You cannot just show up; you need to make reservations, by phone or on their website.
There are a number of activities available, including:
- Driving real cars (Speed costs money; how fast do you want to go...) with a coach on their playground. You can choose from number of different Porsche. Sessions last 90 minutes and start every two hours beginning at 9 a.m.
- Tours of OPD. These take 90 minutes and are normally done on Wednesdays and Fridays at 11 a.m.
- Driving simulators – Pretend to race on a number of different tracks in a wide range of virtual cars. Sessions last 30 minutes (two races) or 60 minutes (4 races). There are three real time video screens, force feedback steering wheel, brake and accelerator pedals (PDK transmissions...)
- Eating: 356 Restaurant and Carrera Cafe are on site.
In addition to these activities , there are displays, a mechanical restoration center and the gift shop on site.
If you want to schedule a visit, I would suggest you go to the website and plan your activities. Call them at 888-204-7474 and schedule your day. If you have a non-driver coming with you, they will also need to be scheduled.
It was raining in Atlanta. At the entrance, you need to show a drivers license, passport or other government ID. After the guard checks your information, you will receive your temporary ID tag and directions as to where to park.
Upon entering the OPD building, you will be warmly greeted and directed to the registration desk where you get to sign a number of forms. You will also get you real ID tag for the day; you get to keep it.
You will also see the car your right brain registered to drive...
At the appointed time, e. g. 9 a.m., you meet your instructor, and he takes you down to your car for the next 90 minutes. I was assigned a yellow 718 Boxster.
After adjusting the seat and steering wheel, I drove into the playground. First off was the Handling Circuit, which is a high speed path on the outside area of the grounds.
After a few laps, I moved to the Dynamics Area. There, the Sport Chrono Launch Control is used for an exciting start (in the wet), naked, full-on acceleration and then full ABS stop. After a few evolutions (did I mention it was raining...) we moved over to the adjacent slalom course. I had several good runs but I did kill Little Timmy several times. I also learned that I turn harder to the left than to the right. G-meters are cool.
After that, we moved over to the kick plate area. Driving forward at about 20 mph you cross over a plate that kicks the back of you your car, randomly, right or left. There are sprinklers wetting the surface (on a rainy day this seems to be redundant but hey, it's a Porsche thing) to add interest to the event. Your mission is not end up looking back at OSD. Several tries later, I was actually able to recover and drive forward (hint- throw the steering wheel, don't turn it) with only a minor amount of over-correction. Oh, there are also two rows of yellow poles that pop up in the center of the patch to add more interest.
The low friction circle was next. This is a polished concrete circle with sprinklers to keep it wet. The intent in this area was to learn to initiate and continue a drift. I never really got it going (excuses, I'm not used to turbo lag and my reaction time is meh). My instructor got special permission and showed my how easy it was to start and continue doing drifts on the circle.
We then went to the low friction handling course. This is a polished concrete road that is very slick on a dry day (did I mention it was raining...). Using my best granny driving skills. (You should accelerate more here.) I was able to break the rear end loose yet stay on the concrete. The instructor said that if we went off course, we would have to go have the car/tires inspected. The other car out at the same time had to take a timeout and get inspected.
As time was running down, we went back and did some more slalom runs, poor Timmy.
I offered to do the off-road course in the Boxster but was told that it was not (normally) allowed.
The activities are conducted with great emphasis on safety and awareness that there may be other cars in the playground. While I was driving, there was only one other car active. In later sessions I saw eight to ten cars out at one time.
Tour of OPD
Ann and I got back together and joined the group for a tour of the building. Amazingly, most of the people signed up for the tour did not have Porsches! The 'docents' were from the local Porsche group and an actual Porsche employee leading the tour.
The building is the working home to Porsche NA, their finance group, Porsche Design as well as the activity center.
There are cars on display in . One car is the 919 hybrid in the earliest picture.
There is an area where, if you are inclined, you can configure your new Porsche. We didn't do that.
Should you order a new Porsche, you can have it delivered to OPD. They can do two deliveries each day. Your car will be unveiled and a rep will explain all of its features. They will also get to experience a similar car on the playground.
There is an area for mechanical repair (body work is done in Germany) for any classic Porsche. Classic being defined as a Porsche which is out of production for more than 10 years. I didn't see a great deal of activity in the shop, but they are booked through 2018.
There is also a museum area with examples of cars from earlier days.
As with all tours, it ends in the gift shop. There, you can buy a new Porsche for less than $7000!
If you are going to buy something at the gift shop, mention that you are a PCA member and you may get a discount. Also, they don't take cash, so you will have to use a credit card.
For lunch, we had sandwiches in the Carrera Cafe and watched others drive on the playground.
If you want fancier dining, the 356 restaurant is located on the second level. Employees have a cafeteria, also on the second floor.
After eating, we walked around the building, exploring and revisiting the many cars and displays. We really liked the 1949 Gmund 356 and a Chalk Panamera on display.
The final event of our day was with the drive simulators. There are 6 frame seats. Each seat has steering wheels (with lots of buttons) and a set of gas/brake/clutch petals. Mounted in front of each seat are 3 video monitors giving a front and side views of your car's gauges, mirrors, etc.
The frames are firmly sitting on the floor but the steering wheel has force feedback to give the experience of the track surface.
Participants can choose from a number of different cars and tracks. VIR was one of the tracks but Roebling Road was not. All the drivers have to be on the same track/car combination.
Ann and I did two race sessions. We both improved our best time in the second race. Someone (not mentioning Ann) experienced motion sickness, which did slow her down.
Getting out the frame is a lot harder than getting in...
The simulator room can be rented for $400 for an hour, and food and drinks can be catered. Just imagine, 6 drinking, alpha males racing each other.
Everyone we met at OPD was very friendly and helpful. We had a great time!