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Scattering Ashes with a GT3 Pilgrim

Scattering Ashes with a GT3 Pilgrim

I got into a conversation with a friend today about scattering ashes. I’ve written about what led up to the chat and what’s happened since, but it may be too deep for a Thursday. I’ll share it another time.

It was a fun conversation. He was talking about how they scattered his dad’s ashes in a river: a strange will request, as his dad hated water and couldn’t swim. When they shook the ashes over the surface of the water, they did not float off on the current but sank straight to the bottom. “That’s aquaphobia at DNA level,” I said. “Even as ashes, he still couldn’t swim.”

Just as it’s impossible for us to sidestep our genetic building blocks, a new and interesting video on the GT3 Touring shows how closely the latest 911s remain tied to the old. The Touring is a spoilerless GT3 with a manual gearbox and all who have driven it have raved about its engine and its energy. A 9,000 redline gives it aural appeal, while the unspoilered tail brings us back in time to the first of the flared-arch, flat-tailed impact bumper cars. How it behaves under duress on track could not be more impact bumper.

Driving the Porsche is Andy Pilgrim. Born in Britain, Andy studied computer programming in the UK and then moved off to Michigan for a job with GM in Detroit. Arriving in the US with just one hundred bucks in his pocket (sounds pretty familiar), he programmed software for $12,000 a year before moving down south for better money and racing.

Working hard, he eventually saved enough cash to do a bit of racing and ended up making a name for himself. His career developed through Formula Renault into GT cars. He has raced many Porsches: at Le Mans alongside Stephane Ortelli and Sebring and Pikes Peak with Alan McNish, amongst others. He now runs a road safety school to make up for the below-par American driving test and teach kids how to drive safely, has driven with Patrick Long and Tim Pappas at Black Swan Racing and also instructs at NCM Motorsport Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky: not too far from my family in Lexington.

Andy also works with Automobile Magazine, and his latest video for their Youtube channel takes a GT3 Touring in beautiful Sapphire Blue Metallic on track in Kentucky. The run down the half-mile straight perfectly illustrates the Touring’s main selling point – the 4-litre engine – but the hot laps show how a Touring can bite. Scroll down for the video.

Physics: Modern v Classic

“It’s a very cold day here at NCM Motorsport Park and I’m trying to warm the tyres up as I wanted to give it a shot at a hot lap.” As the Pilgrim ploughs down the main straight and turns right into turn one, the rear of the car drifts left and Andy corrects, catches it, corrects again and catches that before the third swing kicks in. The behaviour will be familiar to anyone who has ever experienced an old 911 on track: it’s the laws of physics at work. The age of the thing trying to wrap up the physics doesn’t matter so much.

Porsche let Andy keep the car for a few more days until the weather warmed up and he did set a hot lap. Deciding not to change up ahead of some corners to hold on to the gear for the exit, he hits rev range one several times on the lap, but that Florida-registered demo has seen some action on Youtube and in print. No doubt the next owner will get a full warranty.

“Have to use all the road on this one. You’re going to see quite a lot of oversteer correction,” says Andy on his lap. “The Touring does not have all the downforce of the regular GT3: the regular GT3 has 150 lbs of downforce at 124 mph and the Touring has about 50 lbs of downforce.” The car sets a 2:11.8 in the cold: seven-tenths slower than a PDK GT3 over a fairly long lap, which I think is pretty good going.

“The GT3 Touring is kind of a split personality,” concludes Andy. “On track, it took all of my skill to get a really good laptime out of the car and it actually reminded me in a throwback way to the Porsche 911s I drove on track twenty years ago. They let you know there was a lot of weight back there and you used to not have a lot of downforce to help you.

“Well, welcome to the Touring: it doesn’t have a whole lot of downforce. But, on the street? I tell ya, it’s just such a joy to drive any GT3, but this one without the wing is a little more understated. If it’s not the best 911 you can buy today, it’s gotta be one of the top three.

None of my first 911s had spoilers and I can vividly remember my first high-speed drive in a friend’s ’86 3.2 Carrera with rear spoiler down the A43 near Silverstone. Hitting 130 mph in that car was completely different to my no spoiler SC Cabriolet at the same speed. I changed to a Carrera 3.0 Coupe soon after, fitted an early Turbo rear tail and have never taken it off.

Days of 120-130 mph as a regular thing on UK roads are well behind us now so spoilers may be once again irrelevant. A no-spoiler GT3 Touring would be on my list if I had the money to spend. From roughly £200k in their honeymoon period after launch, the cars are now showing somewhere around the £165k mark as used sales versus a base cost new of about £115k.

Expect to see them getting cheaper still. 991 GT3s with a few miles now start around £100k or so and, while Tourings won’t get quite that cheap anytime soon, there are always more cars for buyers to chase. Tourings will keep coming back to the market and get a little cheaper as new models supersede them. Nevertheless, they are emotional. I envy anyone who gets to drive one of these cars every day.


Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

Fassbender, Porsche and the Luck of the Irish

Fassbender, Porsche and the Luck of the Irish

“I suppose the German side wants to keep everything in control, and the Irish side wants to wreak havoc,” claims Michael Fassbender. I’m not so sure about that. When I am with Germans, I’m generally the one keeping things under control, while the rest run amok. I guess it depends on the Germans you know.

Weg mit ihren Köpfen

The Irish missionary Kilian went to Germany in 689 AD. It was a big mistake. When Kilian suggested that a local lady was not the most suitable bride for a newly-baptised duke, on the basis that she had once been married to the duke’s now-dead brother, the Germans chopped off Kilian’s head, and those of both his companions.

But times have changed. When Fassbender smashes his GT3 Cup nose-first into the Hockenheim pit wall right in front of the Porsche crew, they run through what went wrong and roll out a spare car. A few weeks later, he has another sizeable accident and another spare car is wheeled out. German-Irish relations have definitely evolved.

Anyway, this story is all about an actor en route to Le Mans. Yes, that old chestnut is back, except this time it is rather more interesting (for us Irish, at least). After a two-year learning curve racing Ferraris, Michael Fassbender is training with Porsche for a shot at the 24-Heures. His teacher, Felipe Fernandez Laser, is a VLN winner with Frikadelli Racing and should be capable of helping a decent amateur find their way up to the level of a quick GTE-AM driver.

So far, Fassbender appears to show decent potential. A ninth place finish in a Porsche Sports Cup race is no mean feat for a rookie and there are flashes of speed all the way through Porsche’s latest Youtube series, following Fassbender’s Road to Le Mans. The biggest test will be whether he can put it all together, but this is man knows what it’s like to do 10,000 hours.

Heidelberg to Aghadoe

Fassbender arrived into the world just 100 kms north of Stuttgart in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemburg on April 2, 1977. His German father, Josef, was a chef and his Irish mother, Adele, raised the kids. The pair had met while working in London but ended up moving to Germany. Adamant that the Republic would be a better environment for their kids to grow up in, Adele convinced Josef to move the family to Ireland. So, when Michael was two, they settled just outside Killarney, in County Kerry.

Killarney was rally central in the 1980s, so young Michael got into Group B. Then followed the age of Michael Schumacher and, as a young German who spoke the mother tongue fluently, Fassy followed Schumi: he’s often now found on F1 grids with Crazy Liam Cunningham and the pair met Schumi at one such weekend.


The youngster struggled to find some direction until he discovered drama in school. He immersed himself in acting and staged Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’ over two nights for the craic. He eventually moved to London to study the craft. Things were tough in the smoke and Fassbender was living on a few quid a week, working two minimum wage jobs and battling exhaustion to do as many auditions as possible. It all took its toll and Michael quit drama school to go it alone. It would not be the smoothest path to success.

When he quit his bar job after landing a part in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Band of Brothers’, the boss advised him to keep in touch, as the work might come in handy again. Fassbender laughed it off, feeling he had hit the big time, but, after a spell in LA trying to crack Hollywood, he ended up back in the bar.

Bit parts on British TV followed, leading to more and more screen time and the emergence of a fan base amongst critics. Eventually, things took off: he delivered an exceptional performance as IRA hunger striker, Bobby Sands, in the film Hunger and then Tarantino came back into his life, casting the German speaker as a British spy in Inglourious Basterds.

While the actor-turned-racer premise may initially feel like Fassbender is buying his way into racing and walking in footsteps we’ve all seen before (not that there’s owt wrong with that), there is more to this story than the same old thing and Porsche has scored big with Youtube viewers. Part 1 alone has 700k views and Porsche’s channel has 800k subscribers, so that should tell you all about the reach of this.

I am also a fan of the documentary: the way this is shot is just perfect. Fassbender is given the full expression of his Irish upbringing with no bleeps or edits and we see things exactly as his driver coach sees them. “I’m so bummed about the fuckin’ smash there behind the safety car,” is Fassbender’s first line in part 1. It’s hard to resist parts two and three after that.

Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

Think Fast: Porsche 911 GT3 R at the Nürburgring

Think Fast: Porsche 911 GT3 R at the Nürburgring

The 2005 US Grand Prix in Indianapolis came at the peak of the tyre wars between Bridgestone and Michelin. When Ralf Schumacher crashed during practice, Michelin picked up a problem and advised teams running its tyres not to race unless a pre-banking chicane was added, slowing the cars down and lessening the tyre loads.

Ferrari and the FIA vetoed the plan and all the cars came to the start grid. At the end of the warm-up lap, the Michelin cars pulled into the pits and retired. Six Bridgestone cars completed the race and F1 and Indianapolis canned their agreement.

Quick Thinking: The Grid Walk

Former F1 Driver , Martin Brundle, was the man chosen by ITV to develop the idea of a live TV “grid walk” before F1 race starts. Broadcasters had tried it before, but run-of-the-mill TV presenters were not the right people to get in the faces of drivers in the final tense minutes before lights out. Brundle blended his understanding of the pressures that came with the job, a good sense of humour and a lightning fast ability to think on the spot and became the de-facto gridwalk persona.

The 2005 US Grand Prix gridwalk is a great example of why Brundle has been so successful. In the midst of a media frenzy, he quizzes F1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone, at length, making several points on behalf of the fans without losing his cool. Brundle’s talent shines through when he asks the man who can famously arrange anything why this problem can’t be easily solved.

“Surely we just all need to take a sensible pill and then go motor racing?” says Martin. “Tell me where we can buy the pills,” replies Bernie, giving Brundle a playful dig. “Okay, we need to talk to Mrs Ecclestone,” Martin says: cheeky and quick all in one.

Thinking fast under pressure is common skill in racers. The speed of change on a racetrack means that most reactions to an emerging situation must be assigned automatically, living sufficient conscious capacity to make quick, confident decisions when faced with a series of options.

Of course, the skill is not always full developed and we often see things going wrong when a lesser decision plays out. But unforgettable moments are made when a champion driver focuses their ability to think fast and run against the odds, pulling off something that rails against our instincts.

Think Fast: when events are coming at you quickly, how good is your ability to react effectively?

One such moment was made at this year’s Nürburgring 24-Hour. After leading the early part of the race, Manthey Racing’s lead 911 had a puncture and was forced down the order. When Kévin Estre took over the sister car, he set a series of incredible laps, pulling more than twenty seconds back on Dirk Müller’s Black Falcon Mercedes.

Eventually the cars were line astern and fighting hard for the lead. The Porsche’s pace was mighty: Estre picked up the slipstream on Dottinger Hohe and decided now was his time. As the leader drifted left to lap a backmarker, Estre calculated that the verge would be dry. Putting two wheels on the grass and not lifting the throttle, he swooped to the lead.

The team of Estre, Christensen, Bamber and Vanthoor stayed in front until a five-minute time penalty for missed yellow flags put the Porsche out of contention. Having led the race for 105 of 157 laps, the Manthey car was forced to settle for second position. Two weeks after the ADAC Total Nürburgring 24-Hours, the number 911 car was retrospectively disqualified by DMSB officials. Manthey issued the following statement:

“The engine in our inspected #911 car complied with all the key points of the homologation. The only thing that was not consistent with the prescribed 2 x 34.6-millimetre diameter of the restrictor, which was the size we used, was the performance value calculated by the ADAC technical committee. We must accept that we did not check the plausibility of the value calculated by the organiser, neither on the test bench in Weissach nor on our chassis dynamometer in Meuspath. We accept the judgement and will not lodge an appeal.”

Disqualified from second place – does anyone really care about that? Winning is a statistic: proof you existed. But writing a move like this into the culture of motorsport is proof that you lived. Long after people have forgotten the winner of the 2019 Nürburgring 24-Hour, they will remember this pass, and Kévin Estre. So far, it’s the Porsche move of the year.

Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

Michael Ammermüller is 2019 Supercup Champion

Michael Ammermüller is 2019 Supercup Champion

I caught the first Porsche Supercup race of the Mexico Grand Prix weekend tonight. While I haven’t missed a Grand Prix in over ten years, it’s been a while since I watched a Supercup race. Unsurprisingly, not much has changed since last time.

Michael Ammermüller has been a smooth operator since coming to Supercup in 2012. A former Red Bull Racing test driver, he raced single seaters before Porsches, so, when he does not start on pole, he has a way of getting to the front without inflicting too much collateral damage en route. This is not the Supercup norm.

The first race in Mexico exemplified the contrast between the man from Passau in Bavaria and most of the rest, when the championship leader took an early lead and wasted no time building a gap. Meanwhile, the young hot shots who have vied for Weissach’s attention and championship honours all year were dropping bodywork and running miles beyond track limits to ultimately slow each other down and finish well off the pace.

Holding on to positions by cutting corners and chicanes is amateur stuff: they could all do with watching how the champion brought his third title home. It was a surprise that the race director did not pull them up a bit harder. I guess that is probably fair enough in the title decider for a one-make championship but, if drivers knew they would be penalised for running off track and gaining an advantage, then they might drive accordingly.

Ammermüller is now just two races off a new record of wins in the series and has matched René Rast for total championships won. Four would match Patrick Huismann and five would set a new benchmark. Onwards and upwards, Michael.

Porsche Supercup renews F1® contract to 2022

Porsche recently renewed its contract to run Supercup races as part of Grand Prix weekends up to and including 2022. “We’re proud to forge ahead with this close and long-established partnership,” said Fritz Enzinger. “Formula 1® offers an exclusive setting with a unique flair. This fascination and high media importance represent an ideal overall package for our racing series.”

Supercup has been part of F1’s support programme since its debut season in 1993. Famous and fashionable circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps, Monza and Monte Carlo are regular fixtures on the racing calendar of the international one-make cup. Drivers compete in 485 hp Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars: the racing vehicles are technically identical, as are the tyres and the fuel, guaranteeing equal chances for all.

“We are pleased to extend our long-standing partnership with Porsche for a further three years,” said Ross Brawn, F1’s Motorsport Director. “This one-make series provides some of the most spectacular racing of any series and contributes significantly to the show that’s on offer over a Grand Prix weekend. Furthermore, in the thirty years during which it has run alongside Formula 1, the Porsche Supercup has provided an excellent launch pad for many drivers who have also made their mark in international races at all levels.”

Porsche works driver, Earl Bamber, is so far the only Supercup champion (2015) who has gone on to win a World Endurance Driver’s Championship title (2017), although 2014 champ, Nicki Thiim, did win a World Endurance GT Driver’s Championship title with Aston in 2016.

René Rast was one of the most thrilling Supercup champions to watch. He has gone on to win the 24 Hours of both Spa and the Nürburgring, as well as DTM titles in 2017 and 2019. Double champion, Richard Westbrook (2006/7) went on to win the 2009 FIA GT2 championship, while 2001 champion Jorg Bergmeister won the 2003 Daytona 24 Hours and the 2006 Rolex Grand-Am championship.

In recent years, the Supercup series has become a bit of a proving ground for Porsche Juniors, with Sven Muller winning the 2016 title and Dennis Olsen running Ammermüller hard in 2017. I like to see cut of the Juniors in Supercup, but it does give me a thrill to see a proper gentleman-racer-with a-day-job like Ammermüller take the title. His trademark speed and class is what Supercup is all about. What a great job.

Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

Porsche hot rods and Normalisation

Porsche hot rods and Normalisation

I spent part of yesterday writing a blog for the Classic Retrofit website covering Patrick Motorsport’s latest project car: a 1986 Porsche hot rod 911 Carrera 3.2 backdated to ’73 RSR style.

Originally supplied as a factory black 911, Patrick retained the original colour and went with blue as an accent shade inside and out. The blue interior is all about impact and takes zero prisoners. The result is a head-turning build that took the Sponsor’s Choice award at the recent Werks Reunion in the Corral de Tierra Country Club, Monterey.

Jonny’s electric air conditioning for air-cooled Porsche 911s was part of the spec for the award-winning build, hence the blog on his website. Patrick Motorsports did a video of the A/C in action, showing a reduction of 30°C at the dash vents versus the ambient temperature. No doubt that was impressive, but the additional spec of the car looks equally impressive.

The builder went through a rough spec on a video shot at the Werks Reunion prize giving. It apparently runs a turbocharged engine, later transmission (I presume this means G50), big brake conversion and more but if the story of what sounds like an interesting build is available online, I couldn’t find it. I think I understand why this might be.

We can all allow what is everyday in our world to feel normal and unworthy of mention. As we do more cool stuff on top of cool stuff, the cool stuff becomes normalised and starts to feel old hat and uninteresting to others. If you were a chef and knew how to poach the perfect egg, poached eggs would feel boring to you. Egg plus boiling water: what else is there to say? But there is lots more to say: poaching the perfect egg was a challenge that took me boxes of eggs to master. Cooking is simple when you know where to start, but that does not mean that a Michelin chef explaining how to poach the perfect egg is something no one wants to know more about.

I have now been writing about Porsches for over fifteen years and have spent most of my working days with at least one 911. They feel very normal to me, so I am probably guilty of skipping across stories that others who don’t spend as much time around these cars would find quite interesting. Clients who have been in this game much longer than I have can be quite blasé about their work on road car restorations or engine rebuilds, but these things are always of interest to owners and they are always worth mentioning.

The weight of life’s other projects – raising kids, maintaining investments, running a business and keeping clients happy – sometimes makes it inevitable that we will take things for granted. Mindfulness and other practices of increasing awareness can help us fight this and focus on what is important, but there are not enough hours in the day to do everything, including enjoying the fruits of our labour.

If your 911, 944, Boxster or GT3 has begin to feel normal and perhaps even boring, stop and think about that. These cars are definitely not boring, so have you just normalised ownership? If you’ve managed to keep Porsche ownership fresh across decades of ownership, how have you done it? I would be interested to know your tips and techniques.

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