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Porsche back on track in Oz
Resumed Porsche Track Experience events in QLD stoked by pent-up demand, staycations
26 Oct 2020
QUEENSLAND’S reduced pandemic restrictions and risk have enabled Porsche to resume its Track Experience events in the state, with strong demand for the program resulting from customers exploring new recreational activities in the absence of overseas or interstate travel.
Pent-up demand for the Porsche-operated driver training scheme has also built up during the hiatus since the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix was cancelled over concerns around COVID-19 in March and nationwide pandemic control measures introduced soon after.
Speaking with GoAuto at the recent 718 4.0 GTS and 911 Turbo S launch, Porsche Cars Australia head of PR Chris Jordan said the company had experienced “really strong interest” in Track Experience since its reopening was announced.
Mr Jordan said demand had been high despite ongoing travel restrictions meaning the program was only open to residents of Queensland and people from areas of the country, such as South Australia, that were allowed to cross the state’s border.
“As soon as the border with New South Wales opens, we’ll have even more interest through that,” he added. “The program usually runs 12 months of the year, so it was a big thing to be shut March-September.”
In addition to pent-up demand, Mr Jordan said the fact people were re-evaluating their leisure options due to the pandemic had led to extra enquiry for Porsche Track Experience.
“People are really keen to do something. Recreation, leisure, holiday, whatever you want to call it people want to do things,” he explained.
“We’re just doing the Queensland programs for the rest of the year, but we’ve already got customers enquiring about when we’re coming back to The Bend (in South Australia) or Sydney Motorsport Park.”
Mr Jordan agreed that for now the combination of pent-up demand and interest from those considering Porsche Track Experience for the first time was helping offset the lack of overseas customers partaking in the program.
However, he said the lack of access for many Australians outside Queensland and the restriction of events to the Sunshine State would ultimately reduce the overall pool of potential customers.
“We’ve gone from having global catchment to literally two states and effectively one because those in South Australia are asking us when we’re coming back to The Bend,” said Mr Jordan. “It’s not so much reluctance to travel, they just love The Bend.”
Mr Jordan was optimistic that “next year’s (Track Experience) calendar will hopefully look pretty similar to what the 2019 calendar looked like”.
That said, a question remains over whether overseas customers be able to return for much of 2021.
Mr Jordan said the attraction for overseas customers was “the fact they can do it here as part of a holiday” rather than a lack of equivalent events in their own country.
“There are programs in China, Southeast Asia and Japan but a lot of customers from around the world and particularly Asia like to come here and do it as part of a holiday,” he said.
“Perhaps they’re doing it in their own countries as well, but we do see international guests at Track Experience. It’s something else we’re keen to bring back once conditions and restrictions allow.”
GoAuto understands that the majority of Porsche Track Experience driving instructors – a team of sole-trader contractors led by Bathurst winners Tomas Mezera and Luke Youlden – were surviving on the federal JobKeeper subsidy while Porsche Track Experience and other similar work was restricted due to COVID-19.
Mr Jordan said the Track Experience program was less about revenue and profit for PCA and more about “showing people why a Porsche sportscar is special and all those things we always talk about in terms of not just how they handle but how they last all day at a racetrack”.
“You can tell someone and that’s great but if you can show someone that’s even better.”
Although trips to Finland for ice driving are likely to remain off the table next year, the Porsche High Flyer event that coincides with the Australian Grand Prix and transports customers between the Porsche Pavilion hospitality suite within Albert Park and track sessions at Philip Island could happen.
In addition to five levels of driver training beginning at RACQ Mobility Centre of Excellence in Brisbane and culminating with laps in a 911 GT3 Cup Car at Queensland Raceway, the Porsche Track Experience usually includes a series of summer Advanced Driver track days at Sydney Motorsport Park, Philip Island, The Bend and Barbagallo Raceway in Western Australia.
“We’ve had many people who have gone into Porsche Track Experience and work their way up from Level 1 all the way up to Level 5 and doing multiple days of Level 4 and Level 5, then from that point on going into the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid in terms of getting into sprints, hill climbs, club days, state racing and all the way to Porsche PAYCE Carrera Cup,” said Mr Jordan.
“The majority of participants in our Porsche Track Experience programs in Australia are new to Porsche. Our Porsche Advanced Driver Training events and Porsche Targa Tours are an exception, as they are specifically targeted to Porsche owners.”
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