One of the coolest parts of going to Porsche's Camp4 Canada was learning all about how the circuits used for the driving experience are crafted. It's a delicate art, trying to balance how much snow and ice are underneath the cars. The people who run and maintain the tracks, Mécaglisse, are artists, and they take great pride in their art. Here are a few things we learned about the circuit, and how they keep such excellent surfaces.
1. First of all, Mécaglisse is a four-season racing circuit with multiple configurations. At the beginning of every winter they wait until its cold enough to freeze (not a long wait this far north), then the track is carefully cleaned of any debris, and they add water to slowly build a base layer of ice. This base layer is a few inches thick and provides both a consistent surface for the courses and gives the paved track a buffer of protection from being torn apart by the studded shoes found on some of the Porsches.
2. After each day of driving, in order to repair the ice that has been torn up by the students and their usually wild driving, the course is treated to a nice leveling. To do this, Mécaglisse runs a contraption similar to a Zamboni over the circuit, dragging a hot slab of steel that melts all the day's snow and ice debris back into the base layer. What they are left with is a smooth surface of ice to prep as needed. On occasion, if the weather or track conditions call for it, they can add more ice by feeding in water to the surface.
3. Once the ice has refrozen into a billiard table smooth track surface, the prep crew grooms the course, bringing snow from the surrounding snow banks onto the surface to give it some grip. As you might expect, they can completely control the conditions of the course based on the amount of snow they add or remove. As the day wears on, the snow wears down and you have to use the skills you've learned to help keep your wits about you in the cockpit and your Porsche on the track.
4. Speaking of the snow banks surrounding the courses, these are all carefully groomed as well. I didn't see any snow-making machines at the track, so the snow must have appeared the natural way, from the sky. The edges of the course are clearly marked, and you certainly don't want to exceed them, as you can potentially damage the Porsches. Besides, if you stuff your ride a number of unpleasant things happen:
- You'll be mocked relentlessly.
- They'll call a Cayenne down to tow you out.
- The instructors will jokingly say that you owe your classmates a round at the tavern that night.
- Last, but not least, you'll hear about it for the rest of your trip.
While we managed to keep our Porsches out of the snow walls, some others had the tell-tale wheel-full-of-snow that indicated they weren't so lucky.
5. The final tidbit of info I'll leave you with is probably my favorite. The snow and ice at Mécaglisse all remain purely white and untainted for the entire time the track is in use. If you've ever driven in snowy environments, you'll notice that the roads usually end up being littered with a grey or even black sludge that is a mixture of any number of contaminants. This track is completely devoid of those contaminants. Here's how they keep it that way.
All of the Porsche 991 Carrera 2S and 4S models, as well as the 981 Caymans, used for the Camp4 courses have never been driven on the road.
These Porsches are taken straight from the factory and shipped to the circuit. They are unloaded and then given a thorough wash-down, just in case. These cars are brand new Porsches that have never racked up even one road mile, and we get to flog them on an ice circuit. Just another testament to Porsche's amazing cars.
Outside of official school Porsches, the track does get occasional visitors and the instructors occasionally drive their own cars, too. For these times, those cars are subjected to a rigorous wash-down with hot steamy water to make sure every last bit of road grime and salt has been sent packing before the drivers can even think about bringing their rides onto the pristine circuit.
So much work goes into making the surface of this track as perfect as it can possibly be, but so often that prep work is forgotten completely by all those enjoying its benefits. The behind-the-scenes work can sometimes be the most fascinating. It's always good to have artisans who take pride in what they do, and these guys and gals are no exception. Well done Mécaglisse, what a track you've got!