Porsche's Sport Plus Explained by Works Driver Tomas Duplinsky: Exclusive Interview

When people are out to grab a go-fast machine, it's all about the numbers - how much of this, how many of that and so on. What we should be asking instead is how good the electronics are. Most of the time, your shiny, new sportscar is only going to offer itself to you as far as the electronic aids allow it to. Sure, you can always dismiss the nannies, but we're not here to talk about crashes today, so let's stick to the topic. We recently got an inside view on Porsche's driving aids, the Sport Plus driving mode, to be more precise. And by inside view, we mean an interview with Porsche works driver Tomas Duplinsky.
Porsche Works Driver Tomas Duplinsky 1 photo
Photo: Porsche
A little over 30, Tomas has been racing ever since he was a teenager. Given his devotion to the era when electronics in cars only meant fuel injection, you'd say he is not exactly the right man to talk us through Porsche's Sport Plus religion. Mind you, Tomas has a deep background in SAP matters, with former jobs including titles such as Analyst Programmer. Perhaps he is the proper guy to talk us through Porsche's implementation of 1s and 0s after all...

autoevolution: Since you like classics, we'll start with a classic... question - Which is your favorite Porsche from the current range?

TD: For me it’s the GT3. I’m a big fan of the atmospheric engine. There’s just so much control at the limit. My love of none-turbos goes way back, so obviously I also love the 997 GT3, for example.

ae: For you, what is the most important difference between the 997 and the 991 GT3s?

TD: It’s a very big difference really. When you want to go on the limit or tackle a difficult corner, the integral steering helps a lot. Also in drifting, the 997 was a more aggressive car and, at the limit, the margin was very small. You had a very limited area to keep the car in a drift before spinning. Not it’s much easier to go sideways, because the limit is double or triple compared to what you used to have in the 997.

ae: Since pure driving is a religion for you, what do you thing about the lack of a manual on the GT3?

TD: The new GT3 is so powerful, so mind-blowing that it requires the PDK. We are making the cars for the customers, not only the racing drivers, you have to keep this in mind. To put a manual in the 991 GT3, with the power and the rear-axle steering, it would be an immense amount of work for the driver to deal with that. The PDK in the GT3 is faster, stronger and very precise. I actually only know a few drivers which could be faster with a manual than with the race PDK we have in the GT3.

ae: you named the 911 as your choice, what makes it better than a Cayman, for instance?

TD: I also love the styling of the 911, the pedigree of the car. I used to race old 911s, as well as the 993 and the 964 in historical races, so I have a connection to the model. But the Cayman, the new one, is a very good car.

ae: Let’s say the track is ahead of you and you have clear instructions: put on a show. Which Porsche would you choose?

TD: It’s very good to take the Turbo S, it’s just unbelievably fast, when you’re always in Sport Plus mode and you’re pushing hard.

ae: How about drifting the Turbo S?

TD: Yes, you can do that, but you need to do a lot of convincing. Convincing yourself as a driver but also the car because there is so much grip. You have to really smash it into a corner just to keep it into a drift. You feel it’s always struggling to get back in line.

ae: Everybody knows the turbos are coming, what will you as a works driver to do get the same pleasure out of your daily activity?

TD: When you’re driving in Sport Plus mode you’re high on the revs all the time and the turbo is always loaded. There’s no problem there. What the engineers have to do is work in order to eliminate the lag in Normal mode.

ae: OK, it’s 2020, you wake up in the morning: Porsche, along with everybody else, has gone turbo. What changes would you make to keep the fun alive?

TD: I would go for an old car (puts on a smile the width of a ducktail spoiler). I can work with all the changes, the emissions and regulations, but it’s affecting the motorsport. Anyways, we will see what we can do with the hybrids.

Speaking of this, we have done quite a few laps in the 918 Spyder. Mind blowing. It’s simply at another level. You can’t compare it with anything else because you have so much power from zero. After you move the pedal, the car just goes and keeps on accelerating. You don’t have to wait for anything. And it’s very neutral.

: Is there anything you need to adapt in order to take a 918 to its limit?

TD: It’s a very communicative car, the 918. You do not have to adapt yourself, you will get used to it after a few laps. And you can drive it everyday. This is the big thing I wasn’t expecting. The old Carrera GT wasn’t like this, but the 918is easy to drive.

ae: Let’s say you are not allowed to have your sportscars. Choose between the Cayenne, Panamera and the Macan for a track day.

TD: The Panamera, a GTS. For me, the GTS, not the Turbo, is always the model that tops the range.

ae: How about the Macan?

TD: It’s very good, but with the Macan you can’t go sideways like with the Panamera.

ae: What is your favorite manoeuvre?

TD: I like fast, dangerous corners with powerslides. Something like Eau Rouge [Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps]. On Slovakia Ring is the second corner, the fast one, where the car is doing at least 160-180 km/h (100-110 mph). When you want to stay on the throttle, you just go a little bit sideways and powerslide your way out of the corner. Not drifting, but only a bit of a slide.

ae: It would be nice if you could go through the process for us. You approach the corner and...

: I do not brake (laughs). When you brake you are slow. When you go full throttle into the corner, for example on Istambul Park, bend number eleven. I’ll use this as an example, since it’s fresh. We’ve done this last month, 24 days on Istambul Park. This is like a right-hander going uphill. You have a small bump at the base, which you hit at about 200 km/h (124 mph).

The most important thing in corners like this - you have to be strictly on the apex. Very precise on the turning point and then strict on the apex. When you miss the apex by 30 centimeters / 12 inches [a Porsche tire width], you go off.

So you hit the bump, the car jumps a bit, then you go over the vibrator on the right side. This will kick you in and when it does that, the Carrera will start sliding automatically. You are countersterring to the left side, but still full throttle. Always full throttle, when you lift... I don’t want to talk about it.

When you’re in front of the corner, you must decide if you have the balls to do that or not. When you decide to lift in the middle of the corner, or at the end of the corner, it’s too late and you will crash.

You will crash and die on this corner. People think “Yeah, I have so much space on the left.” But you will not crash on the left, you will it the barrier on the inside. At 200.

What happens is you try and try to keep the throttle pinned and then you say “oh, it’s not working”. That’s when you decide to lift or brake - the weight goes to the front, the car turns in and when this happens at such speeds, you hit the barrier instantly. There is no driver in the world or no PSM [Porsche Stability Management] that can save you from that situation.

ae: Let’s talk electronics - do you perform all that dance with Sport Plus or with PSM Off?

TD: We are driving PSM Off as instructors, but it needs a lot of warming up. For example, on Istambul Park, we did 550 laps as instructors. The first 200 were in Sport Plus. You really need to see what the cars are doing, since we are always switching the cars from Carrera S to 4S to Turbo. Each car comes with its own options and that means different wheels and different brakes.

As for the Sport Plus - our very good friend,Walter Röhrl, said he is faster in the new cars using Sport Plus, faster than with PSM Off. From this generation, the 991, the Sport Plus is extremely well modulated. It also allows little drifts, the ABS goes in a racing mode, kicking in very late. That’s because a lot of the Sport Plus settings are taken over from the 911 Cup cars.

ae: Are you talking about the 991 or 997 racers?

TD: Cup cars in general.

ae: Please elaborate on the PSM’s level of intervention.

TD: it all depends on the corner and the speed really. In some of the bends, yo can do the powerslides. A real drift you can’t do, it will step in.

When we’re driving PSM Off, all the systems have been shut down and you also save the brakes a little bit - when you’re in Sport Plus, the car always uses selective braking to correct you. But, really, you need to be experienced on that track, with that car. It’s not like “Oh, I’m a cool Porsche driver!” All of us need to have a few dozen, perhaps a hundred laps in Sport Plus before you can switch it off. Only then do you know the rubber, you know where you can go over the curb and where you can’t, where it’s slippery and where it’s not.

This is the stage of an interview where we usually thank our guest. We never got to do that with Tomas, since we wandered from one topic to another until the other Porsche officials had to kidnap him. Oh dear, we had covered a bit more than just electronics. We did the interview on the sideline of the Porsche Roadtour 2014. Compared to last year's Porsche Roadshow, this is a new concept. The focus is shifted from the automaker's sporting side to the lifestyle part of the Porsche experience. A few hours of driving all the models in Porsche's range followed, but we could only focus on one button. Yes, that's the one.
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About the author: Andrei Tutu
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In his quest to bring you the most impressive automotive creations, Andrei relies on learning as a superpower. There's quite a bit of room in the garage that is this aficionado's heart, so factory-condition classics and widebody contraptions with turbos poking through the hood can peacefully coexist.
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