Shooting star

Take a high-G tour of Porsche’s Leipzig test track with its youngest Carrera Cup pilot

4y ago

At just 21 years of age, Michelle Gatting is the youngest professional driver in the Porsche Carrera Cup. We meet her on a cold foggy morning at the Leipzig test centre, already strapped into the driver’s seat of a rumbling a GT3.

“Slow or fast?” the softly spoken Dane asks without a trace of irony, pulling onto the circuit and immediately flooring the throttle. “It’s a little slippery today,” she adds as we barrel deep and late into the first right-hander. “When the track is wet, things get difficult. You can’t overestimate yourself, especially not in the GT3.” This is humble stuff from a woman who at just 13 years old took her first championship title on the Danish go-kart circuit.

But there’s a very real hint of respect in her voice: “The GT3 is practically a race car. If you monkey around with it, it’ll make an even bigger monkey out of you.” Even as she’s uttering this we unfurl on to the main straight and Gatting tears through the gears to 9,000rpm, the exhaust hollering through the cockpit and pinning us both to our seats. Is it comfort or not at this moment that Gatting aced a selection process at the FIA Institute Academy, posting a faster track time than any other European driver?

The GT3 brakes hard for the next corner and pitches in flat and steady, its widened track and extended wheelbase providing remarkable composure at unnerving speed. G-forces make it hard to look up or forward, as Gatting quietly explains the various qualities of the Leipzig track. “It’s a terrific test centre, with several different tracks all together in one place. And everything here is simply Porsche.”

The FIA-certified oval was designed by Hermann Tilke, a man responsible for racetracks in Malaysia, Bahrain and elsewhere. It’s a vital part of Porsche’s development arsenal, with a 1.5-mile handling circuit and a 150-metre wet handling surface also on site.

She continues to push the GT3, passed obvious limits of adhesion and braking, the noise of exhaust and tyres occasionally drowning out her measured observations. The car and its driver remain resolutely settled, however, nodding gently in unison as Gatting flicks down through the GT3’s short ratio gears for the sharp left/right of Suzaka S.

“If you’re a Porsche freak, you’ve got to come here,” she laughs. “There are also a lot of competent people in Leipzig you can learn from.” It’s a typically frank and modest statement from the 2011 Rookie Champion of Formula Ford, whose progress through the Porsche ranks has been little short of meteoric. She hooks up another gear and we roar towards a blind crest. The GT3 is in its element and Gatting, we suspect, is only just getting started.

The Porsche 911 GT3 has a combined fuel consumption of 12.4 l/100 km and CO2 emissions of 289 g/km in the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC).

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