Chances are that most Executive Traveller readers have already travelled down a Sydney Airport runway in excess of 250km/h.
But the proposition is slightly different when you’re sitting in a plush seat at the pointy end of a jet, compared to a contoured racing seat in the cockpit of a Porsche 911, with your backside mere inches from the asphalt.
And that's exactly what we were doing when Porsche Australia and Sydney Airport collaborated on a one-of-a-kind event that will probably not be repeated for a long time, if ever.
Billed as ‘Launch Control’, the morning saw a bevy of high-performance Porsche vehicles let loose down one of the few places where you can actually exploit their full potential – Sydney Airport’s 2.4km long runway known as 16L/34R.
The slimmest of silver linings
While COVID-19 has played havoc with the travel industry and put many of us firmly landbound, this one-of-a-kind experience is something that just would not have been possible without the global effects of the pandemic.
Prior to COVID-19, Sydney Airport was Australia’s busiest airport, hosting 44 million passengers and more than 300,000 flight movements annually across its three runways, explains Matt Duffy, GM of Operations at Sydney Airport.
But with passenger traffic down by 96%, Sydney Airport – assisted by a host of government and regulatory agencies – was able to temporarily shut down the runway and hand it over to trio of bitumen-burning 911 Turbo S coupes.
So what’s it like barrelling down a runway when you’re not in a plane, but instead a Porsche 911 Turbo S capable of hitting 330km/h?
The Launch Control experience
After detailed safety briefings and signing plenty of paperwork, I’m finally sitting in the drivers seat facing down the runway, which looks even wider than you’d imagine from this viewpoint.
My instructor asks me to put the car in Sports Plus mode, hold my foot on the brake and press the accelerator hard.
This engages Launch Control: a slice of race-bred technology that's all about getting off the line as quickly as possible.
The engine quickly revs up to 5500rpm, catapulting the car (and me) with acceleration so astonishing that it leaves your brain confused and the rest of your body shaking.
The 911 Turbo S rapidly reaches 200km/h in under 10 seconds.
My first run of 400m (a good old fashioned quarter-mile, for any imperialists out there) is just for familiarisation, but in that short distance I reached just over 200km/h before slowly heading back to the start using the adjacent taxiway.
Now it's time to unleash the beast on a full 1000m of the runway, with few hundred metres afterwards to slow down.
Despite having already experienced the Launch Control, the second 'launch' feels just as surprising – and just as brutal.
With a much longer runway under the wheels, the Turbo S keeps pulling hard: hitting 200, then 220, and then 250kmh with no sign of slowing down.
Thankfully, the runway's 45m width means I can concentrate on the horizon and not the speed itself – but as we reach the 1000m mark I look down and see 296km/h on the display, which means we’re moving at almost 80 metres per second.
Slowing down doesn’t require the massive carbon ceramic brakes to work too hard, as we have quite a lot of runoff. The 911 car crackles and spits as we come to a slow.
The experience, sadly, is over all too quickly but it’s something I’ll never forget, even if this opportunity created by extraordinary circumstances leaves a slightly bittersweet taste.