Grand Tour 2021: Part Three

This is Part Three of the 924S944.com Grand Tour 2021.  The tour includes three weekends of Porsche events in a 5,000 mile trip.  Catch up with Part One here and Part Two here.

Part One brought us to Minnesota, and Part Two took us to the Black Hills of South Dakota with the Dakota Region PCA.  Part Three was a completely different Porsche Experience…the 944Fest 2021.  This annual event is a gathering of 944’s and its variants from all over, and this year was held at Nelson Ledges Race Course in Garrettsville, Ohio – about 40 miles south east of Cleveland.  Nort Northam brought his nearly-perfect 924S Special Edition too, offering a unique side-by-side view of TWO Special Editions at the same time.  With only 500 1988 Special Editions brought to North America, seeing two stock, nearly perfect and nearly original ones was a treat.  And both went on the track for the HPDE segment of the weekend.

We attended the 2019 944Fest and had a great time, but the 2020 944Fest was unfortunately canceled.  Part of the announcement for the 2021 event went like this:

Everyone was bummed that last year’s (2020) 944Fest​ was canceled due to the nationwide toilet paper shortage. Have no fear though, this year the TP situation is well in hand. We have secured for you, our humble attendees, a stockpile of the fibrous commodity in a quantity suitable to cleanse the hindquarters of an entire battalion on the morning after Taco Tuesday. With these preparations in place, we’re steamrolling ahead with 944Fest ’21! 

That alone should give you an idea of the tone of the event.  Relaxed to say the least.  And this year was the largest yet with over 75 cars in attendance, including LS Swaps, 944 Cup Cars, bone-stock nearly-perfect cars, beaters and race cars.  There was even a supercharged 928!  Elliott Grafton brought his right-hand-drive 944S2. Since Nelson Ledges was the location for the first race that the Porsche 944 competed in 1983, the venue was perfect.

Northern Ohio PCA conducted a three-day HPDE in conjunction with 944Fest.  Friday is reserved for the 944Fest participants, while the weekend is a regular two-day HPDE.  (Thanks for the folks from NOPCA for their expert assistance that made the HPDE on Friday a complete success!)  There were two groups – instructed beginners and “expert” – so each group got five half-hour sessions in the day.  We took Moe, our 28K-mile 924S Special Edition, out on track for two sessions, and his handling and performance were epic!  While not nearly as fast as the Cup Cars or the turbos, we were quite surprised to see how “capable” the car handled.  Once the hard street tires were warmed up, he handled braking and turns really well.  Impressive.

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There were a couple of mishaps involving the tire walls.  The “Pink Pig” replica got into a little shunt with the wall while the #514 went off and rolled at the tires.  Not to fear – it held up well and was fixed in a matter of hours – testament to the strength and durability of these cars.  The dents at the top of the windshield have already been repaired as of this writing!

Saturday was a gimmick “scavenger hunt” that utilized a 944 story, GPS maps and a decoder wheel.  Using the decoder, you had to decode your next location and then use your GPS to find that location and determine the best route to it.  At each of five locations, there were clues to solving the story and a checkpoint stamp.  Then on to the next.  The final checkpoint was a restaurant for lunch!  The correct answer would be revealed later in the day with trophies awarded.

After the road trip we collected back at the track for a car show and concours where we competed for trophies made out of pistons from 944s!  One if the most unusual awards was the “Most Quotidian” Trophy that went to RJ Lassider.  “Quotidian” is defined as something mundane or occurring every day, and in this case applied to the most common 944 at the track – that best exhibits Quodianism.  His car?  Guards Red, Cookie Cutter wheels, cracking road guards, and we all loved every piece of it!

Other trophies were awarded for “best” in several classes, but there was also trophies for the “Best Beater,” “Best Non-944” and others.  Trophies were awarded at a final session gathered around the “host tent” with hot dogs and hamburgers served hot off the grille.  There were plenty of door prizes donated by sponsors, and everyone got to take home at least one prize, if not two or three.  At the end of the day, a bonfire and “beer exchange” topped off a great event.

We are looking forward to next year, and so should you. We are a long way from northern Ohio – about 1100 miles for us in Central Florida – but the trip is definitely worth it.  Keep an eye on 944Fest.com and we will see you there next year!

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Author: Kevin Duffy, Author and Chief Geek

Kevin Duffy is a retired Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Daytona State College in Florida and a dedicated car guy. He now spends his time with Porsche 924S, 944's and 968's in his backyard shop. He is active in the Porsche Club of America, and he concentrates on 924S and the 924S Special Editions, doing rescues and restorations.

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