There are two guarantees you will find at any NASA weekend at any track in the country: You’re going to see a Miata and you’re going to see a Porsche. No question. Mazda guys love to say, “Miata is always the answer” to everything. That might be true for Spec Miata, but when I hear someone say, the Miata is the answer for everything, I assume they have never had the chance to drive a Porsche 911 GT3 RS.

And that is totally understandable. There is without a doubt a price-point/barrier-to-entry to driving a GT3 RS. Here comes the math. A brand-new Mazda Miata is $28,995 while a brand-new Porsche 911 GT3 RS is $241,300. You could literally own 8.3 Miatas for what it costs to own a GT3 RS — and that’s if you can get a GT3 RS at sticker price, which you can’t. But, what are you going to do with 8.3 Miatas?

This building is two things, first and foremost it is the Porsche Cars North America headquarters, home to CEO Timo Resch, as well as the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta. And secondly this building is the fictional Avengers Headquarters as used in the Marvel film series. My wife frantically looked everywhere, but she could not find Chris Hemsworth, who played Thor.

Let me provide you with some more math. What if I told you that you could experience driving a Porsche 911 GT3 RS for a lot less than you think? And I’m not talking about test driving this car down a freeway looking over your shoulder for the cops — and let’s be clear, you won’t find a dealership in America who will actually let you test drive this car. I’m talking about driving this car in anger, on a track, for an hour and a half, and letting somebody else cover the fuel, tire and brake wear. That “somebody else” who will pick up these operating costs is none other than Porsche itself.

The Porsche Experience Center was built alongside Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which ensures nobody should ever complain about the noise of cars ripping around the track, and it makes the Center easy to fly into from anywhere in the country to play with their Porsches.

Porsche is so convinced in its product that it built two tracks next to its North American Headquarters in Atlanta, and the company invites anyone — yes, even you — to come on out and experience the cars. And when I say experience them, I mean drive them as intended, fast, around tight corners and through quick switchbacks and slide them through water. Not only do you get to drive these amazing precision-engineered machines of speed around a road course, you get to experience dynamic driving exercises on courses you won’t find anywhere else.

The South Track, the original course at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta, is home to the Handling Circuit, The Kick Plate, Low Friction Handling, Dynamics Area, Low Friction Circle, and Off-Road Course.

To prove how good its cars are, Porsche has spared no expense creating wild exercises you get to try out. Think of it as your favorite Hot Wheels track as a kid, only you’re driving a Porsche on the track instead of pushing a toy car. Porsche has designed different roadway exercises to let you feel the handling of their cars at different speeds. Their Low Friction Handling track is a polished concrete roadway of switchbacks where you can slide the rear of the car around and feel lateral weight transfer at a controllable speed. The Skid Pads are huge circles of water where you can drift the cars around until you’re dizzy. Their Kick Plate is an incredible once in a lifetime experience where you drive a Porsche over a slippery epoxy-coated road and the car completely losses control and you are required to have quick hands to save it.

The West Track, the newest course built at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta, features a road course that combines elements from some of the most famous roads and tracks in the world from The Nurburgring in Germany, the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee and the famous Cork Screw at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca.

There is also an off-road section for SUVs, an Ice Hill to tackle — epoxy roadway covered in sprinklers that gives an extremely low friction surface as you climb a steep hillside — and Launch Control and ABS exercises. But North Star is the newly constructed West Track, an incredible combination of elevation changes, sweeping corners, fast straights and elements taken from some of the best roads and tracks on the planet. All of it threaded together to create an incredible track to tackle and showcase the performance of Porsche products.

The Porsche Playground combines two separate courses, each of which includes different exercises like The Ice Hill, Low Friction Handling and Skid Pads.

When you arrive at the Porsche Experience Center, you will immediately be immersed in all things Porsche. The design of the building, the cars on display, the café filled with books about Porsche heritage. There is a museum downstairs that has amazing historical vehicles showcasing Porsche’s motorsports dominance for 75 years and counting. All of this history and knowledge have been poured into its latest vehicles, the ones you get to drive. As you sip coffee on the upper deck of the café, you can view the tracks and hear the sounds of the newest Porsches being used for their intended purpose.

The Porsche Experience Center also has a rotating museum of heritage Porsche cars on display. This Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport driven by Frenchman Romain Dumas at Pike’s Peak in 2021 won the Time Attack 1 class with a time of 6:31.914 minutes. Unfortunately, two gophers lost their lives in the process. The car now features two cartoon gopher heads on the driver’s door next to Romain’s signature.

To ensure you get the best bang for your buck, I suggest you book your experience ahead of time. Their online portal is easy to navigate, and you can choose the car you want to drive and the specific track you want to play on. There are options to drive multiple cars and compare them to each other. Almost anything is possible as long as you get your wallet out. However, the experience costs less than you think, especially when you consider the consumables used on a track for an hour and a half. I booked the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 on the West Track for 1.5 hours and it hit my credit card for $1,000. There are cheaper options for different cars. A GT3 RS for the same track for the same amount of time was $1,600.

The Center has a state-of-the-art driving simulation room with access to tracks all over the world and dynamic simulators. The simulators are so realistic, they have been known to give some people motion sickness.

I chose to drive the 718 Cayman because the GT3 RS is pretty unattainable for your average person. Getting to drive a halo car like that would be cool, but for me I was more interested in testing something that I thought someday I could afford. The 718 is an affordable sports car in relation to what it is, a two-seater, mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, vehicle made to perform. I chose to cater my experience to see how good the 718 is. We have all read countless articles in car magazines about how great Porsches are, but I was tired of endlessly reading about them. I wanted to actually feel it in the seat.

You choose the vehicle you want to drive. If you want to see what it is like to drive a 911 GT3 RS, no problem. They will have it waiting on the tarmac for you topped off with fuel up and warmed up. I chose a 718 Porsche Cayman GT4.

After I bummed around the facility for a while, enjoyed the café, played in the simulation room, looked at all of the cars in the museum, and checked the price tags on shirts in the posh gift shop — nope, I didn’t buy anything — it was finally time to stop dreaming about Porsches and drive one. I was summoned with a buzzer to the registration desk and met my instructor for the day, Chris. Chris was an affable dude with a big grin and an eagerness to show me how good these cars were. We headed down to the staging area where a Guards Red Porsche GT4 with gold wheels was waiting. Chris walked me through the specifics of the car, the usual stuff how to adjust the bucket seats, the buttons to turn off the electronic nannies and then how to engage the 7-speed PDK transmission.

The point of the Porsche Experience Center is right in the name, “experience” and you will get to fully enjoy of the experience of a Porsche at full throttle around the tracks. These cars are simply amazing.

For you track day purists hearing about the PDK transmission, you may say, “It’s not a real sports car if it doesn’t have a stick shift!” I used to sound just like you. But the reality is this: We were both wrong. Until you drive a Porsche with a PDK, until you experience how good this transmission is, until you realize the transmission is faster, better and smarter than you are, only then will you come to the dark side — the lightning fast upshifts side. The programming of this transmission is set for tracks. It puts the car in the right gear providing the right power always. It is simply incredible. And what it allows you to do is concentrate on what is happening through the windshield. It allows you to hit your marks, find the braking zone, touch the apex and roll on the power with sudden expertise. You are not thinking about heel-to-downshifts, you are thinking about how to knock off two more tenths of a second out of the next corner.

The low-friction circle is a polished concrete pad with sprinklers on it. This is your chance to be a drift hero in a safe environment.

My instructor and I headed out on track and enjoyed the Porsche playground. I got to drift the 718 on the Skid Pad. I got to spin out on the Kick Plate, I got to slide the rear-end around on the Low Friction Handling circuit. We played with the launch control — amazing with the PDK — and felt the insane g’s of the ABS brakes. Then we started putting down laps on the West Track.

The track is complicated, it has a lot of elevation, blind turns and hairpins. It takes a few laps to get the confidence needed to really push the car. But after some recon laps and some great coaching by Chris, I was on the gas and I was hammering the GT4 around the course. Chris was an excellent guide, he allowed me the opportunity to run the car hard. He knew I had some driving experience with NASA and he allowed me liberties with the Porsche I thought might have been poor judgment on his part. These are stock cars, there is no brake pedal in the passenger floorboard.

You don’t have to fly to Germany to run an iconic part of The Ring, they have replicated one of the banked bowl corners from Nürburgring, which you can absolutely fly through, feeling all of the g force and speed allowed in such a steep banked turn.

Lap after lap we pushed the Porsche harder, deeper and faster through curves of the West Track. My favorite curve was the bowl from the Nürburgring, a steep bank allowing the car to go faster than your brain thinks is possible. But with the GT4 it was possible. The sounds this car made was a symphony to my ears, the forces exerted on my body was almost exhausting. The Porsche Experience Center has a cool little outdoor lounge between the two tracks where drivers can take a break, enjoy a bottle of water and watch the beautiful cars go by. It looked like a really cool place to hang out. But I never got the chance. I skipped the Top Golf experience of sitting on a nice outdoor couch and talking trash with other attendees and instead kept putting in laps with the GT4 until unfortunately my time was up and my heart was broken.

Across the parking lot from the Porsche North American Headquarters is the Kimpton Overland Hotel Atlanta Airport decked out in full Porsche livery.

It was certainly the fastest hour and a half on track I have ever felt. When the session was over, my adrenaline was pumping and I had a massive smile plastered on my face. All of this joy was because the car was even better than I dreamed it would be. I’ve spent a lot of years beating on cars, and most cars eventually have their weak spots — and I usually find them quickly. The GT4 did not have a weak spot, other than me as its driver. According to Chris, all cars at the Porsche Experience Center are bone stock and have street alignments in them. “We don’t even add camber to these cars,” said Chris. “We want you to experience the car just as you would on the street.” Well, for the safety of the general public, I hope nobody experiences the GT4 like I just had on the West Track. I was absolutely smashing and loving every law-breaking minute of it.

Even the butter has Porsche flair at the upscale dining venue, Restaurant 356, which overlooks the South Track.

Once my session was sadly over, I met my wife for dinner at Restaurant 356, one of a few in-house dining options, located atop Porsche’s headquarters. The food was good, the drinks were stiff — since I was done driving for the day — and my wife couldn’t care less about how much I loved driving the GT4. She liked the Porsche bread and butter — the butter shaped like 911s — but she has been married to me for a long time and doesn’t share the same passion for German automobiles. She is more of an Italian girl. Not Italian like Ferrari, more Italian like bruschetta. We enjoyed dinner, and my wife continued to look around for Chris Hemsworth. He wasn’t there.

Every aspect of the Kimpton Hotel, even inside each room, is adorned with Porsche artwork and design details.

After dinner we walked across the parking lot to our room at the Kimpton Overland hotel. Our spacious room overlooked the tracks at Porsche Experience Center Atlanta. Even though I was done driving my dream car, I was able to enjoy watching other people rip around the tracks. It was obvious who was comfortable at speed and who was still learning to trust the ability of these machines. Of course, I sat on the couch and narrated every move of every car and driver for my wife, “That guy missed the apex. He needs to get more to the right before the crest of the hill. This guy sucks!” When my wife couldn’t take it anymore, she suggested we hit the bar and get me away from the Porsches so we could talk about something else —  anything else.

If you request a track view room you will get to wake up to the wonderful sounds of Porsche engines flailing away on the track and enjoy your coffee while watching other people drive on the Porsche playground.

The joke was on her because the bar at the Kimpton Overland is on the roof and it overlooks both tracks and the runway to the airport in Atlanta. So, then she got to listen to me narrate which driver missed an apex and which pilot had a rougher than normal landing. She is such a lucky girl. But, the drinks were delicious and the sunset was gorgeous. Overall, best day ever. Well, my best day ever, not hers.

There is an open-air rooftop bar at the Kimpton Overland Hotel that oversees the tracks. You can enjoy a cocktail and watch the Porsches slide and the planes land at the Atlanta airport.

Was the hour and a half of track time in a Porsche GT4 worth $1,000? Without hesitation, absolutely yes. I didn’t have to wrench on or tow anything. All I did was show up and drive. When you look at the dollars per minute on track and, of course, the caliber of car you get to drive, the Porsche Experience Center is a great deal and an epic opportunity to taste all things Porsche. And if you don’t want to travel all the way to Atlanta, Porsche has a similar Porsche Experience Center in Los Angeles.

There is one caveat to this deal-of-a-century opportunity to drive a super-fast car for a reasonable price: You are going to want one. What seems like $1,000 day will quickly end up with you on building your dream car and setting up European delivery. I’m sorry to break this to you, that will not be cheap. That is the genius of the Porsche Experience Center, “Come out, drive one of our cars, no pressure to buy, just enjoy this thing we created.”

Porsche knows what it has created, and words don’t do it justice. This is a thing of motion, and to experience the emotion of it, you simply have to drive one.


Rob Krider is a four-time NASA Honda Challenge 4 National Champion, the author of the novel, “Cadet Blues,” and is the host of the “Stories and Cocktails” podcast.

Images courtesy of Rob Krider and Zach Rigg


  1. No question that’s a great deal and worth every penny and definitely now on the bucket list, whether next time I’m in LA or if I’m ever in Atlanta.
    I’ve coached an advanced driver at Sears Point in a Cayman GT4 and it’s a good fast track car. But after being in the driver’s seat or passenger seat of so many cool cars over the years, I’m pretty jaded. I wasn’t impressed with the visibility out the car, especially the forward visibility. It’s not a 911’s visibility. And of course, neither the straight line nor the cornering is that of a GT3RS. It doesn’t have the tire nor the aero. Like with just about everything else, I either want the best or nothing. If I got a Porsche it would be a GT3RS or nothing. And I wouldn’t buy it new, I’d buy it used, at the right time, from a motivated seller.
    As far as production cars are concerned, it would be that or a Huracan Performante. Would love to drive them both back to back. But it wouldn’t be the primary track car, especially not at Laguna, which is murder on brakes. The primary track car is going to be much lighter weight and smog exempt. I also like cars that make me work for my lap time and grow as a driver………….manual transmission with no rev matching, no ABS, no traction/stability control. Will it be faster than a GT3RS? Probably not. At least not on CA tracks. These cars have had decades of evolution and development and their cornering and braking is incredible. Combined with the electronic aids it makes them very hard to beat. But it will be less expensive to buy, to run and keep my skills sharper. You can say the same thing about an early Miata, but I want something much more powerful and faster.

    • I’m guessing you haven’t priced many used GT3RS cars 🙂 They cost far more than a new one.

  2. They are NOT TRACKS! They are road courses. There’s a big difference for insurance purposes.

  3. $1000 for 90 minutes is a bargain. I drive Spec Racer Ford Gen IIIs and to rent one for an SCCA race day is $1500.

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