Veteran Porsche racer and fellow journalist Tony Dron used to rave about driving his old Citroën 2CV, saying that driving it flat out was such good training for racing. With so little power, he explained, you had to be smooth and conserve energy. I remember following him once and being astonished at how quickly he could go with less than 30bhp.
Perfecting the skills of smooth driving is going to be essential in the new world of electric cars. Every unnecessary jab of the throttle, dab of the brakes and tweak of the steering wheel will use valuable watts. The more Dron-like you can be, the less time you’ll spend drinking a Costa coffee waiting for your EV to charge.
Sadly, it appears I’m some way off mastering the art of energy consumption. I’ve always prided myself on being rather good at eking the last mile out of a gallon of petrol, but it seems I’m unable to transfer this skill from the internal combustion engine to the electric motor.
I discovered this while taking part in a fascinating challenge. It had been brought to my attention that there is a large gap in Motorsport UK’s record books in the section for EVs. The very few records that exist are all for acceleration runs. What, I wondered, could we do with Porsche’s new Taycan? So I rang Porsche GB and asked if they fancied putting the Taycan’s name into those vacant spaces.
Porsche was more than up for taking on the challenge and, within hours of our phone call, had started to put into place a formidable campaign. Rather than rack up speed records with the Taycan, Porsche wanted to concentrate on endurance records. You can see the logic. Not only does it promote the company’s first – and so far only – fully electric car but, if successful, it will demonstrate the car’s performance not just in pure speed and handling, but its reliability and ability to accept fast charging without any technical issues too.
Porsche fancied Brands Hatch for the attempt, as the venue for both that fantastic BOAC 1000km race in which the 917 filled the first three places but also later triumphs such as the 1984 1000km won by a 956 driven by Jonathan Palmer and Jan Lammers.
The level of organisation required for a stunt like this would be astonishing even outside a pandemic. Take charging, for example. Disappearing to a Lidl car park during a record attempt is both impractical and against the rules. To solve the problem, a gigantic truck with 2.1 megawatts of battery power was brought over from Stuttgart, its job to charge the pair of Taycans, one a Turbo S and the other a 4S, both fitted with the 93.4kWh battery pack that is standard in the former and an option in the latter.
We had 12 records in our sights – all from a standing start, from 50km to a very ambitious 1000km – two cars and two teams of drivers. With one exception, there was a very skilled line-up across ages ranging from 20 to 80. The octogenarian? The legendary Richard Attwood, whose Salzburg-entered 917 was third across the line in that 1970 BOAC 1000km. Any disappointment in being, as Sir Stirling Moss would have said, second of the losers was washed away by his famous win with Hans Hermann at Le Mans a couple of months later.
Other team drivers were current Carrera Cup champion Harry King, 2020 Porsche Sprint Challenge Champion James Dorlin, Porsche senior press officer Rob Durrant, whose driving CV includes Caterhams and British GTs, and Jonathan Palmer who, as mentioned, has form at Brands Hatch and is also chief executive of its owner, MSV. Lastly, there was your correspondent – quite a bit of racing experience but a very small trophy display to show for it.
We started in complete darkness at 7am on a very wet track. Rob started the challenge in the Turbo S wearing Canon livery while I was in the Salzberg tribute-wrapped 4S. Unbelievable: almost off into the gravel trap on the first corner, clearly a talent issue but later, after a nose into the Racing Driver’s Book of Excuses, I blamed brand new tyres. Brands was particularly greasy and only later that morning did a dry line appear. It would disappear later as it rained stair rods as the light began to fail.
Rob had done all the sums for the event and calculated we should be aiming for a 1m 8sec lap in the 4S and 1m 11sec in the Turbo S. Greasy conditions made the 4S’s time tricky, but we managed to lap at around 1m 11/12sec. Even I could do that.
The difference between an amateur and the professionals, especially young ones, is that the pros can deal with many different inputs at once. Driving the car is so natural for them that they have spare brain capacity to deal with other stuff. Most of mine was being used to keep the car on the track and staying as close as possible to the lap time required. Only occasionally could I squint at the display on the Taycan’s dashboard showing energy consumption. I didn’t like even to take my eyes off the track to look at the brake regeneration display.
Rob had given us, along with a lap time, an energy consumption target of 70kW per 100 miles. All the other drivers managed to achieve this pretty quickly and after some practice, bettered it. I, on the other hand, started off using more electricity than Manchester during a United v City derby. When the track was less slippery and less concentration was required for the actual driving, I improved but never matched the pros’ smoothness and low energy consumption.
We paid a price for my greed for energy because the 4S required an extra pit stop for a charge. Fortunately, it didn’t wreck the whole record attempt and, at just past 8pm, which was when the curfew started, both cars crossed the line a couple of laps apart. We had set the 12 records that were our goal and even managed to bag a baker’s dozen by establishing a 12-hour record too.
These records are not going to be easy to beat. It will require both a very competent car and an impeccable level of organisation. But if I am ever involved in a similar challenge, I will first be taking some tuition from Mr Dron.
Box out – The records:
Taycan 4S ‘Salzburg’
50km: 0:30:51.611 – 60.404mph/97.212kph (Goodwin)
100km: 1:01:05.792 –
500km: 6:31:56.707 – 47.560mph/76.541kph (Goodwin, King, Attwood)
1000km: 13:00:25.473 –
47.771mph/76.199kph (Goodwin, King, Attwood)
50 miles: 0:49:18.345 –
500 miles: 10:33:35.717 –
47.348mph/76.199kph (Goodwin, King, Attwood)
1 Hour: 61.03mph/
Taycan Turbo S ‘Canon’
200km: 2:28:49.805 – 50.099mph/80.628kph (Durrant, Dorlin)
100 miles: 1:38:02.945 –
200 miles: 4:13:34.812 –
47.322mph/76.157kph (Durrant, Dorlin, Palmer)
3 Hours: 52.268mph/
84.118kph (Durrant, Dorlin, Palmer, Goodwin)
6 Hours: 60.844mph/
97.918kph (Durrant, Dorlin, Palmer, Goodwin)
12 Hours: 47.418mph/
76.313kph (Durrant, Dorlin, Palmer, Goodwin)
All records were set from a standing start.