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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
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Pushed the 944 to its limit today...

Today is Friday and at about 4pm I decided I’d had it. Texted my wife I was heading out on a drive to St. Maries, Idaho on the 97. Pretty unusual for me to do something like this at 57 but there ya have it. As I got to the garage it started raining lightly and I was going to grab the 1990 90 Quattro, but the 944 beckoned.

I don’t know the car well yet, having put about 500 miles on it since buying it from my Dad last summer. New clutch, timing belt, new correct factory dampers all around, and new Pirellis. I haven’t had it near the limit yet but have almost enough seat time to push it.

The 97 winds 30 miles along the east side of a huge lake. It’s a 35mph road with dozens of 20mph signed curves. Several opportunities present with places you can see 3 consecutive curves ahead and no blind spots. That side of the lake is barren with all the cabins still closed, so I thought it would be a nice gently spirited drive despite the wet conditions.

On the way down I went from feeling confident to actually pushing it to about 90% in places. I expected the rears to signal they were going to let go. They didn’t and for the last 10 miles I was really letting it go.

I stopped and hit the bathroom, then stretched a bit for the drive back up the 97. I had only gone a mile when I got stuck behind a plumbing truck. I resolved to pass on the double yellow and waited for a respectful spot. The pass was quick, with a blinker on to pass and then to rejoin my lane. I’m in the habit of giving the 4 ways a single flash for a variety of signaling to other drivers and did so as I pulled away, glancing in the mirror to see a wave back.

Ack! What’s this? A car right behind the plumbing truck. I cringed as I simultaneously wondered how I missed a car right behind me and guessed only a police officer would have arrived so quickly in the space I’m good at watching. The car took a hard curve and jumped out around the plumbing truck and I figured I was sunk.

Suddenly my mirrors were full of silver Mercedes. I instinctively got on the throttle for an instant to get out of his way, then put 2 and 2 together and kept my foot down to the next curve. He must have seen my red 944 flash by and decided to give chase.

I have a background in product development and am comfortable at 8/10s, so I took it right up there on the very next curve. In the rain. And he stayed right on my bumper. In the rain.

Often in this situation, you don’t know the other driver and it’s usually a “mine’s bigger” type of deal and not wise to stay on the loud pedal. But I kept the 944’s engine on song through 4 consecutive 35mph curves and with half an eye on the powerful Benz. Smooth as glass. I could tell this was not a kid with Dad’s car but in fact a superb driver. This was not going to end in a poor judgement call with him rear ending me. So it was on. Very on – in a totally collegial way.

For the next 10 minutes, I drove at or above my comfort level in a well bred sports car – diving into blind corners feeling the tires occasionally lose grip on the fog line and feathering the throttle to just hold speed waiting for an exit sight line where I could mat it again. When the individual tires lost grip the line did not change so I knew I was safely under the max grip on wet pavement for the other 3 tires. But that should tell you how hard we were pushing. If you have spent much time in this zone you will know that one “unsmooth” reaction to a hump or line of poorly fixed potholes like a jerk of the wheel or sudden dropped throttle in fear, and you’ll be in the ditch. Over and over through curve after curve. The Merc never got more than two carlengths from me and on the straights he filled my mirrors (lots of power – 400 plus I think). Never feeling taunting but in fact clearly at his limit as well and enjoying this sporting behavior.

At about the 10 minute mark, we’d covered around 6-7 miles and literally 50 sharp curves. You’d have to Google map the road to fully appreciated it. The road is just a bunch of 20-30mph curves connected by short straights of 1/8 mile or less. While it was fun, we’d been very close to the limit the entire time and it felt like time to end it gracefully. A road to the right gave me an opportunity to roll my window down and stick my hand above the roof pointing and I pulled in.

He pulled in as well and I thought “Cool, I want to meet this guy and compliment his driving.” He pulled behind me but turned onto the road and gave a double horn toot and flashed on by. For a second I was OK with it, then realized I wanted to say hello and was seriously curious where he learned to drive like that. So I did a quick 270 and saw the Merc disappear two curves away. I pushed it hard but never saw him again. That side road must be very close to his home because we were already on a remote road and that side road leads to probably a sprinkling of homes and dead ends into the forest.

Perhaps we’ll meet again – this is not a very big town and I have no doubt he saw my custom plate. Easily the best road drive I have had in 25 years. What a great chassis this is – can’t wait to get to know it a little better this coming summer.
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84 944, 87 Vanagon, 88 Mitsubishi Van Wagon, 1990 Audi 90 20V Quattro sedan, 1992 Lexus LS400, 1993 LandCruiser, 1997 LandCruiser, 2017 Subaru Outback.
Old 04-14-2018, 09:22 AM
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A great story, told well. Thanks for sharing and reminding me why I bought a 944.
Old 04-14-2018, 06:57 PM
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Understand completely, glad you got to experience the car you have.........
Old 04-14-2018, 09:00 PM
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Awesome Story indeed glad to had fun! I love driving my 944s!
Old 04-14-2018, 09:02 PM
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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
 
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Thanks. Over the last couple days I've thought about how rare that chance encounter was. Were I not alone, I would not have done it. No passenger I know would have been remotely comfortable in the rain diving into sometimes 10 corners a minute within a click or two of sliding. Things were sliding around immediately, and as we got started I grabbed all the stuff that moved and tossed it into a drift in the passenger footwell. Fire extinguisher, cell phone and charger, umbrella, coat, hat, etc. And for him the same - he happened to be alone as well in a competent and powerful older car and otherwise might have come up on me hard for fun but not hung it out like that.

A few days before this happened, I finally found time to finish up a couple things. A slight dead spot on center as it transitioned from left to right turned out to be the left tie rod which I replaced Wednesday. So, the steering feel is now truly remarkable and I'm sure the coming alignment will make that even more precise.

Yeah, that was amazing. For those that appreciate such things, I hardly touched the brakes, using the engine as you would in competition to control speed into corners when possible and having it in the power band. So when I came out of curves at full throttle there would sometimes be the slightest rear jiggle of a driven tire patch losing grip. He must have been holding gears in his automatic (I think those are all autos) and doing the same thing because I did not see a single lurch from a switch to brakes and back to throttle which you'll easily see at such close quarters. Hope I find a note on the car sometime this summer....
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84 944, 87 Vanagon, 88 Mitsubishi Van Wagon, 1990 Audi 90 20V Quattro sedan, 1992 Lexus LS400, 1993 LandCruiser, 1997 LandCruiser, 2017 Subaru Outback.
Old 04-15-2018, 10:16 AM
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Wow, sounds like a fantasic experience, great story and very competent company. People who are quick to write off the 944 as underpowered or "poor man's porsche" have never had a drive like that.

Thanks for sharing!
Old 04-15-2018, 05:38 PM
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If you want to push a car to the limit, do it on the track. With a car that's in proper shape.

Not on the street.

People could be walking around, some animal, a car part could fail, etc.
Old 04-16-2018, 05:00 AM
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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
 
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Yes, I agree. No matter how good you are, no matter how good the car is, the street has variables that are dangerous at limit-handling which a track does not. In addition, you are forcing others to accept the risk of your behavior. That means someone's Mom, Sister, or a child. No excuses for overdriving a public roadway.

Glad you brought it up.
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84 944, 87 Vanagon, 88 Mitsubishi Van Wagon, 1990 Audi 90 20V Quattro sedan, 1992 Lexus LS400, 1993 LandCruiser, 1997 LandCruiser, 2017 Subaru Outback.
Old 04-16-2018, 08:51 AM
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Great story, although a I did cringe at some of your description. Ever since I spent the better part of 5 years doing open wheel SCCA racing, my overly aggressive street driving has all but disappeared. However, last Summer I did have a similar event driving on dry roads through some great twisties on a warm Summer day. I’d describe it more as fast flowing through hilly curves at about 7/10ths. I was in my 912 closely followed by a brand new Corvette Stingray. We got to the first stop light and pulled up next to me with the biggest grin on his face and said, “thank you for that”. And then he rumbled off......
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Old 04-16-2018, 04:00 PM
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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
 
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Yep - appreciate the honesty in the 'cringe' comment. I'm in my late 50s and have a personal lifelong ethic against any vehicle racing on a public roadway, and a long automotive development career with GM, and Lexus. I routinely drove prototypes home, and carried papers in my wallet allowing me to operate vehicles that did not conform to DOT/NHTSA and other rules. Many of them were hyperfast. So it came with the territory - respect for the road.

I like the fast flowing comment - captures part of the feel of it. I think you're right about track driving and its impact on street driving. Something about human nature there. You wring out a machine on a track a few times and it makes you keenly aware of the danger and folly of doing the same on the road where there are oil patches, manhole covers, children and too many other variables to count. Makes the track feel safe, and the road feel dangerous. Which is how it should be, eh?
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84 944, 87 Vanagon, 88 Mitsubishi Van Wagon, 1990 Audi 90 20V Quattro sedan, 1992 Lexus LS400, 1993 LandCruiser, 1997 LandCruiser, 2017 Subaru Outback.
Old 04-16-2018, 09:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IdahoDoug View Post
I like the fast flowing comment - captures part of the feel of it. I think you're right about track driving and its impact on street driving. Something about human nature there. You wring out a machine on a track a few times and it makes you keenly aware of the danger and folly of doing the same on the road ?
Especially when you know what the inside wall of Turn 7 feels like at MidOhio from pushing to hard. LOL
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Old 04-17-2018, 03:02 AM
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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
 
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Ooh. I tried to look it up but couldn't find a photo or similar. Couldn't, but rarely does contact occur that doesn't leave an impression.
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84 944, 87 Vanagon, 88 Mitsubishi Van Wagon, 1990 Audi 90 20V Quattro sedan, 1992 Lexus LS400, 1993 LandCruiser, 1997 LandCruiser, 2017 Subaru Outback.
Old Yesterday, 08:55 PM
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