A CAR NAMED FIREHORSE
By Al Khoury
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We have featured quite a few Porsche 911 variants here at Oloi. This month marks our third review of a car from the 997 generation. Martina Kwan’s 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera is among good company, joining the likes of Oloi’s own one-of-a-kind 911 Carrera 4 GTS and this coveted 911 GT3 RS 4.0.
A small refresher: The 997 was produced from 2004 to 2012, with the 997.2 beginning production in 2008. This generation nixed the polarizing “fried egg” headlights of the 996, replacing them with round headlights that had been a 911 staple since the beginning.
The 2009 911 Carrera was among the first models to benefit from the 997.2 update. Porsche’s Doppelkupplung (PDK) double-clutch transmission and bi-xenon headlights were among the highlights of the second phase.
Porsche cites that direct fuel injection lowered emissions while raising performance. The 3.6-liter flat-6 Carrera motor produced 345 horsepower and 288 pound-feet of torque. The 3,200-pound Carrera could hit 60 miles per hour from a standstill in about 4.5 seconds and go on to a top speed of 180 mph. A new PDK-equipped 911 Carrera went for about $80,000 in 2009.Martina purchased her black-on-black 911 in 2011 with 20,000 miles on the odometer, which now reads 90,000. The car had few options beyond the PDK.
“I had lived in New York City for many years and did not drive much there,” Martina told Oloi. “When I moved to Miami, I tried Mercedes and BMW but my dream car was a 911. I got one as soon as I was able to. Then in 2016, I decided to become a race car driver.”
Martina drove with the Porsche Owner’s Club, racing in the modified class. With a stock 997 wing and some suspension work, she won championships in 2017 and 2018.
Martina’s 911 went full race car in 2019 to compete in the GT4 category. Modifications included a large rear wing, JRZ suspension, Forgeline wheels, Yokohama slick tires, and a full roll cage. Vision Motorsports did all the work on the racer.
“Going down this addiction path of race car driving has been pretty expensive, but so worth it,” Martina said. “I named her Firehorse. I was born in the year of the fire horse and she has accompanied me on a long journey.”
Martina’s path to professional racing driver was years in the making, but the final decision came after a revelation.
“I had gone to the racetrack a couple of times because my former company I owned sponsored an event at Pikes Peak International Raceway,” Martina said. “From 2008 my interest started to grow. I moved from Miami to California in 2013 and started driving on the canyon roads like Mulholland Drive and PCH. It was a great escape for me and some personal problems I was having at home.
“In 2016 I went on a business trip to Dubai and got on a horse in the desert and decided to do a new thing. I had only done a few track days but I decided to become a race car driver. It was at that moment I named my car Firehorse. This car has been with me for almost 10 years now. It’s been a part of this journey of complete and utter transformation to now being a 3-time champion race car driver and driving semi-professionally for Saleen last year.”
Martina launched DK Racing School in 2020, the world’s first racing school co-founded by both a male and a female FIA licensed race car driver. They hold precision driving and racing classes at Willow Springs International Raceway.
Social distancing has led to some changes in the racing industry and DK took on the challenge. Videos of Martina using her racing simulator at the school are provided to students ahead of track days. Martina and DK co-founder Dwain Dement are filmed driving the course in a regular quiet car to show the racing lines. Extensive track tour footage is also provided.
“Dwain has over 100,000 laps at Willow Springs and I have thousands of laps and three current standing track records,” Martina said. “He’s had 40 years of experience with Porsche business and 25 years with his Vision Motorsports. I’m a relative newcomer and the combination of a seasoned race car driver and somebody who just went through this provides a unique perspective.
“Our goal is to shave seconds off of people’s time. People who came to our first event in September had huge grins on their faces so we know we’re doing something right.”
DK is foregoing the use of radios that are usually shared between drivers. Students wear masks during track walks and drivers’ meetings. They are not losing out on the learning experience, however.
“Because of the intense preparation with the videos that we provided ahead of time and the driver’s meetings where I zoomed in on each corner with Google Earth, they are extremely prepared,” Martina said.
DK uses a lead-follow format for the track. Everyone gets a chance behind the first driver. People tend to follow the person in front of them regardless of how well they are following the line. Putting each student behind an instructor improves the learning experience. This also leads to better feedback in the debriefing held after each session.
Martina went into racing on her own and worked with different instructors who did not always provide in-depth guidance. When it comes to her own racing school, she wants to give an advantage to beginning race track drivers. Everything from proper gear to track etiquette and hand signals are taught.
Martin’s daily driver is Snoozefest, a 2014 Porsche Cayenne S. Martina had a 2016 GT3 RS, but figured her 911 racer made it unnecessary to keep. She and Dwain own a 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series race car named Das Beast.
“From the time that I bought the 911, the car has been incredible,” Martina said. “Especially now. It makes me feel like the Bruce Lee quote, ‘Be like water.’ I feel at one with my car when I drive it. The ultimate goal for a driver is to feel connected to the car and be like water. Dance the racetrack in tandem, if you will.”