If you want to understand how to manage a car at the limit, put the talented Steven Kronemberger in a lively car like this lightly modded Porsche Cayman S, fit a GoPro to the right spot, and start taking notes. The way this seasoned time-attack driver vividly pushes past the limit of adhesion in this Porsche is easy for anyone to see. The trained eye will pick up on subtle inputs that make driving a car like this so demanding.
The car isn’t wildly modified; the chassis has a set of JRZ coilovers, and the engine has a set of headers with a decent tune. With 320 horsepower at the rear wheels, plenty of torque, a rapidly shifting PDK gearbox, and only 3,075 pounds to push around, this Cayman S is not slow.
Laguna Seca’s long straights are covered without much fuss — it looks too easy, almost. The braking zones are mauled with Kronemberger’s gutsy prod of the left pedal. For a middleweight car with a moderate amount of power, it spends very little time on the straighter sections of the course.
Which is just as well, because it’s the way the car rotates through the corners that makes it so incredible to watch. Despite the Cayman’s strong balance and its JRZ coilovers, it is riding on a set of heat-cycled Pirelli DH slicks, and the breakaway is inconsistent. Turning in to Turn 3, the car understeers past the apex (0:27).
The tightening corner is one that collects a lot of sand, particularly at the exit — a place where people drop wheels frequently. It’s at the exit where the Cayman snaps into frightening oversteer, but Kronemberger’s quick hands collect the slide with a blur of countersteer. With his penchant for drifts and a communicative chassis, again, it almost looks easy — almost.
Truly, tires sometimes make all the difference. “It was so unpredictable! The tires had been heat cycled. Sometimes it would oversteer, and sometimes it would understeer. Actually, this car would do almost the same time on decent street tires. I drove a Cayman S M/T with Yokohama A052 tires and sport suspension later that day, and I was only one second slower.”
His friend, the generous soul who lent Kronemberger the car for a few laps, bought the used tires unaware of the number of heat cycles they had on them. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop the duo from trying the set out for a few more hot laps at Buttonwillow a few weeks later. This time, without any sound restrictions to consider, they fitted the Cayman S with a race exhaust for a little more power and a raspy scream.
Pushing Both Axles
Watching the footage below, the mild amount of circumspection through the tighter corners of Buttonwillow is noticeable. However, there’s still an awful lot of steering corrections and feathering of the throttle happening. When it goes, it goes in a big way. Fortunately, it slides mostly at lower speeds, and its natural rotation aids it at speed. That isn’t always the case, however.
In Riverside, the course’s fastest corner, the nose begins to wash out (1:12), then he lifts to tuck the nose back in, causing the rear to let go (1:14). He catches three small slides and continues unfazed. It’s a demonstration of driving at the ragged edge, panache, and utter fearlessness. Well, he’s sensible enough to know when to back off. “I stopped after that — I was getting faster and too excited,” he laughs.
That was after he had another chance to test all four tires through one more corner. After driving through Phil Hill with a pitch on entry and a drift on the exit, almost like a rally driver might (1:25), he gently dials the lock into the tricky sweeper (1:38). We can see the nose reluctant to follow his intended line, and his tentative dabs of the throttle reinforce this point. Because he’s exceeded the limit of the front tires’ grip, he uses maintenance throttle to keep minimum speeds up without pushing the car any wider.
Because the Cayman S is a robust machine and Kronemberger knows how to push progressively, these sorts of stunts are possible. That worn rubber might keep less confident or disciplined drivers from trying, but his eagerness to explore the limits of adhesion, sensitive touch, and chutzpah makes it possible and relatively safe. True, it is possible to flirt with the edge in a touchy car, but it requires a specific set of skills, which only some possess.