My recent test of the 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S on the third runway at Sydney Airport was noteworthy for a few reasons.
Firstly, the opportunity to safely test launch control on a car as fast as the Turbo S is special. Then there was the chance to crack 300km/h if the conditions were right. Beyond that, though, closing down a runway at an international airport, regardless of the reduced demand, is a monumental task.
Instructors from Porsche’s Track Experience – most of whom are accomplished race drivers – were on hand to marshal the event and safely guide select media and owners through two runs down ‘Runway 16L/34R’. It’s the third runway, and protrudes out into Botany Bay, if you’re checking it out on Google maps.
Prior to the restrictions brought on by COVID-19, Sydney Airport was Australia’s busiest, carrying 44 million passengers and more than 300,000 flight movements annually across the three runways. Porsche Australia and Sydney Airport coordinated with multiple government and regulatory agencies to safely and temporarily close the runway for the event.
Select owners received a ‘boarding pass’ to what has to be one of the most exclusive events ever held behind the wheel in Australia. Months of planning what started as a comment in a boardroom, meant that the event could safely take place.
“We always knew we wanted to do something special to launch the 911 Turbo S type 992,” said Belinda Coen, Marketing and Events Manager of Porsche Centre Sydney South. “Operating in the current climate at such a reduced capacity, Sydney Airport said they were able to entertain the idea, and Launch Control was born.”
Jutting into Botany Bay, and stretching almost 2.2 kilometres, the runway provided the opportunity to showcase both the incredible launch control capability of the new 911, and an attempt to hit 300km/h at the other end if wind conditions were favourable.
Of course, you also need plenty of room to slow down from such high speeds.
Deputy Chief Instructor of the Porsche Track Experience, Luke Youlden, was among the team who ensured everything took place safely. Having the wisdom and advice of a former Bathurst 1000 winner, certainly adds to the experience.
“It’s such a unique and unrivalled event,” Coen said. “It’s probably never going to be repeated - it’s once in a lifetime. Logistically there are so many things to consider – first and foremost being safety. There were numerous site visits before we could all agree it was actually possible.”
The Porsche team had to put a lot of work into understanding the length of the runway, the speed the 911s would be able to achieve at various points and lengths, and then work backwards. Despite the fact the runway is designed to handle 50,000hp passenger jets carrying 300 passengers, the surface of the runway had to be assessed for cars before the event could go ahead.
As it transpired, the side-to-side grooves in the runway, designed to aid in water dispersal, added to the grip off the mark.
As the day of the event drew closer, Australia had slowly started to emerge from the harsh COVID-19 restrictions that had effectively shut the country down and, as such, there were concerns increased air travel might make the event untenable.
Thankfully, the third runway remained available, and CarAdvice was able to participate in what was a truly once in a lifetime experience.
Motoring journalists (usually) spend a lot of time travelling, and plenty of time on runways, but never quite like this.