Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Back to back test drives with Mazen’s cars

When Mazen told me that he was buying a nearly new Porsche 991 GT3, we quickly made a plan whereby I would help him pick up the car at the dealership in Montreal and deliver it to his place an hour west of town. The plan involved me driving his also almost new BMW M3 CS on the way out, and then driving the GT3 back to Montreal to drop myself off, stopping for dinner on the way.

The evening began with me meeting Mazen at Holand Leasing, a fancy dealership filled with exotics and luxury cars. It was also the home of Rolls Royce Montreal. Mazen's car was waiting under a cover, waiting for its 'reveal'. Mazen looked like a kid on Christmas morning as the car was revealed (Mazen had of course seen it before and even driven it, and I had seen photos) and I was excited too. I have seen dozens of these reveals online, but it's different when it's your buddy's car and you know that you're going to get to drive it too.
undercover GT3
On its way out into the world
Crappy night photo of both cars
Leaving the dealership at sunset
Mazen's GT3 was a manual 991.2 version. The 991.1 cars were not offered with manual transmissions, but Porsche soon realized that this was a mistake. The 991.2 had a new 4.0 liter engine and was available with a manual transmission... the trouble was to find one in this spec without paying a huge supplement. After casually searching for a while, Mazen found this "used" 2018 one with only 100 km (yes, 100!) on the clock and after agonizing over the decision to buy his dream car now or to wait, he decided to go for it. When he saw that I was almost as excited as he was, he invited me to be part of the delivery of the new car, which is how I ended up meeting him at the dealership.

For what must have been liabilty reasons, it was the salesman who drove the Porsche oustide of the the dealership and we got ready to leave. Leaving at the same time was a lovely and rare Aston Martin Vantage V12S, complete with factory roll bar. I got behind the wheel of the also cool, rare and fast M3 CS and we headed into traffic. Mazen had programmed a setting he thought I would like for the M3, adjusting the suspension, steering and throttle response into a preset “package”. He chose well. The car is a riot to drive, although I had to get used to the gearbox controls (trying to put into park or neutral when starting and stopping) and the fact that you don't need to insert the key anywhere (unlike the GT3, which has a 911-typical left-side keyhole). I've always thought Heads-Up displays were gimmicky, but I was happy to have it in this car, so I could monitor my speed and which gear I was in. 

I love the BMW's interior, especially the alcantara wheel and the great seats. The throttle response is razor sharp and the torque that is always on hand is enough to easily lose your license. The ride was not too harsh, considering the fact that the M3 CS is the even more hard-core version of the M3. I saw online that reviewers balked at the extra cost of the M3 CS in comparison to a regular M3, but it is just a much more rare and special car. I have never seen another one on the road, and even at the track, I have only seen one (an M4 CS, in fact). Also, I have never seen another BMW in this colour. Given the subtle silver colour of the GT3 and the loud colour and exhaust of the M3 CS, I think that the BMW was drawing at least as many stares as the GT3 as we drove along. 

As we fought our way through the tail end of rush hour traffic, we couldn't really accelerate for more than a second or two at a time. Still, I enjoyed the first part of the ride which took us to the restaurant. We parked the cars near each other and I tried to get a decent photo in the low light. After dinner, we headed for Ontario, a lovely two-car convoy on highway 40. On occasion, I would drop down a few gears (from 7th to 3rd!) and enjoy a short burst of ridiculous and loud acceleration. I'm sure Mazen was giggling in the GT3 when I would blow by him in his own car. He could not respond, as the GT3 was doing its low-rpm break-in mileage. The route was mainly boring, with a couple of kilometers of country road near the end to make things slightly more interesting. When we got to his house, we parked the M3 and he handed me the keys to the GT3 so I could drive myself home. The GT3 reminded me more of my 2003 M3 than of Mazen's modern M3... the gear shift was heavy and mechanical feeling, and the whole car felt more analog. There was no mountain of torque at low RPM, although still more than my 3.2 liter M3. The carbon seats were supportive and comfortable, although I was less surprised than Mazen about this, as I've been doing long trips in race bucket seats for years now. The interior of the car feels very high end and the controls all feel like quality bits. The steering wheel was alcantara in this car as well. I loved it, but I know it's a pain to keep clean and new-looking. Mazen was still super excited as we headed back to the highway. We filled up with gas on the way, and I managed to get a good look at the whole car under the lights of the gas station. The interior really is nice. The ride home was uneventful. I could not really feel the awesome performance of the engine or test the reputation of the amazing suspension. I could, however, feel that I was driving something special. I think what amazed me the most was how docile and comfortable the car is (although I did stall a couple of times on takeoff...). I used to think that people who bought GT3's and never drove them on a track were posers, but I can see now that the car is special at all times, even just loping down the highway. I still think that anyone who does not take a GT3 on track even a single time is missing out on something great, but I no longer think it's ridiculous to have a GT3 as a street-only car (mind you, I am not sure if this would apply to a GT3 RS). 
Gassing up for the trip back to Montreal
Amazing seats and cool red belts
I look forward to a test drive when I can rev to 9000 rpm, but even with an hour of driving at low rpm on regular roads, I can see what the hype is about, and why Mazen coudn't stop grinning the whole time. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The end of an era...

The track at St-Eustache is closing in a couple weeks and our club has held its last official events there. I headed out to the track on the last two Mondays, and to the very rainy last track day on the last Saturday of September.

I never improved on my best time... on the first Monday, there were several puddles on the track and I only managed a high 1:02, which was not bad given the conditions. I passed quite a few cars that were taking easy in those conditions.

On the Saturday track day, it rained non stop. The car performed well enough, but the transmission started popping out of 3rd gear when I let go the of the gas, and I wondered if it would do this in the dry... I ended up leaving after lunch because I was getting pretty wet and the car wasn't doing that great.

Finally, on the last Monday, it was dry, but the 3rd gear problem was getting worse, in that I had to keep my hand on the shifter until I was on the gas to prevent it from popping out. I again put in laps in the high 1:02 range and in my second session, I took out Carl's friend Federico and was about a second slower. It was a bit of a disappointing end to the St-Eustache era, but Federico seemed to really enjoy the ride.

Lining up for my last session ever at St-Eustache. No, I did not catch and pass that S2000.
Braking hard with Federico aboard
All in all, it's been a sad couple of weeks for those who enjoy track driving.This was my home track and there is no real alternative to Monday night lapping there. The Wednesday night lapping at ICAR will have to do, and I will have to find some other types of events to attend, or do more instructing with the BMW club.

In other Civic news, I decided that it would be more logical and economical to simply change the engine of the Civic for next season rather than rebuild it. I came across an inexpensive H23a DOHC vtec and bought it. It came with parts I don't need and that can be sold. I got a good deal on the H2B adapter plate on Ebay by making a low-ball offer that was accepted and picked up an inexpensive used header I found on Facebook and that will be it for the major parts needed. I just have to get a distributor, because the engine did not come with one. If all goes well, the engine can be in bofpre winter. If not, it's not a big deal, it can wait until spring.

In other news, my friend just bought a nearly new Porsche 911 GT3 and I have been invited to go help him pick it up and drive it to Hawkesbury (using his also awesome BMW M3CS). That should be great fun and I'll try to get some photos.

Other photos from the last events at St-Eustache:

Serious-looking Civic coupe
Lovely and clean RX7
Never seen a Golf R in this colour
Sweet Audi RS4
The Civic between sessions
It was pretty wet on the last track day at St-Eustache
My old car and the crazy Chumpcar PT Cruiser
Carl's last driver's meeting at St-Eustache
The calm before the storm
The weather was actually fine before the action started
Tastefully modified Miata
Marc's M3 and the Civic
The K-powered Klub
Civic looking sharp after the body work
Cool cars around town:

Sweet RHD Land Cruiser
Not sure if I like the GT63S... I like the wheels
Polestar electric vehicle... I could see myself in a car like this some day!
Budget sports cars from different eras
I've grown used to this colour now and I quite like it.
These original Hummers are rare now. This one was quite rusted.
A strangely short Winnebago in Deschaillons