Catching Up with Porsche Macan Viral Racer Paul Solk
Avid Rennlister waited a long time to scratch his Porsche itch. To say that he’s made up for that lost time is a massive understatement.
Like most of us, Rennlister Paul Solk grew up obsessing over everything Porsche. And even though he got bogged down with responsibilities over the years, he eventually lived up to his promise to himself to own a Porsche by the time he turned 40.
Little did he know that his purchase would lead to a viral video and a new hobby to obsess over. And eventually, his second Porsche. We sit down with Solk to get the scoop on what he’s been up to since he caught the racing bug two years ago.
RENNLIST: Thanks for speaking with us today. Can you give us a little background on how you first got into cars, Porsches in particular?
PAUL SOLK: Well, first off, thank you for the opportunity. As for how I got into cars, well, I am sure, like many Rennlisters, it started with a toy car and some imaginary engine noises as a kid. I was always fascinated by things that move. In fact, when I was young and the family used to travel, my carry-on bag was actually a Matchbox carrying case!
From there it was slot cars, RC cars, and go-karts at summer camp. And once I was old enough, I became an avid fan of all things racing. I grew up pretty close to Englishtown and Wall Stadium Speedway in New Jersey. Englishtown is well known for its NHRA races. To this day I remember sitting outside at home on a Friday night and hearing the motors at full bore five-plus miles away! It still brings a smile to my face.
I was that kid who sat in his parent’s cars in the garage imagining I was driving for hours. As for Porsche, well, who didn’t grow up dreaming of a 911? In fact, my first ride in an exotic car was a red 911 when I was about six years old. That gauge cluster, whale tail, and those black Fuchs spoke wheels were forever ingrained in my mind.
‘When I was about 9, I told my parents that I would own a Porsche by the time I was 40. I just never envisioned it would lead me down the road it has.’
We didn’t have the motorsports coverage we do today, so a lot of times all you had were articles and still images. Some of those images will live with me forever. I always held race car drivers to a different level than other athletes. The risk/reward ratio was just not comparable.
To this day, I am up at ridiculous hours to catch F1, MotoGP, WSBK, WEC, Aussie Supercars, and BTCC. In fact, my entire DVR is probably racing and Family Guy. When I was about 9, I told my parents that I would own a Porsche by the time I was 40. The Macan was my 40th birthday present to myself. I just never envisioned it would be a crossover and that it would lead me down the road it has.
Speaking of your Macan, its track-day video was a big hit among our readership. What motivated you to wring out your brand-new crossover on the track in the first place?
I had actually never even heard of a DE [driver education] prior to owning the Macan. From the day I test drove it, I always knew that it was capable of far more than I would ever be able to experience on the road. Shortly after purchasing the Macan, I was introduced to PCA and subsequently invited by my dealer, who is now a very close friend, to participate in this thing called a “DE.”
When it was described to me, it didn’t take much convincing. Essentially it was simply a case of where do I sign up? I mean, being able to drive my Porsche as it was intended, without the risk of handcuffs? I’m in! I didn’t expect to be quick or anything. I just really wanted to experience what the Macan was actually capable of.
The best part of tracking the Macan had to be the reactions of everybody else when they saw your ride. How did people generally respond to it?
Let’s just say there were mixed responses. In fact, I still remember some of the looks and comments from that first day. But for the most part, people were overwhelmingly welcoming. I am not even sure Mike Holmes, my instructor in that video, was too excited when I introduced myself and showed him what we would be driving.
In fact, he looked quite underwhelmed. But by the end of the second lap, he was all smiles. By the end of the day, the comments had shifted to nothing but heaps of praise from everyone at the track. I may have even convinced a few people to go out and buy a Macan after that weekend! The predominant theme was “that shouldn’t have been possible.” I made a believer out of Mike, that’s for sure.
It’s been a couple of years since you made that video. And we understand you’ve got a new ride now. Can you tell us a little bit about it, as well as what you’re up to these days?
I do indeed. The Macan is still in the stable, but she has a little sister now. Ironically, the Macan was exceptional on brakes, tires, oil, and general maintenance when I tracked it. It was meticulously maintained after every weekend, and we couldn’t believe how well it was doing. I think we got 3,000 road miles plus a good four-track weekend out of my original brake pads. And it’s not as if I was taking it easy!
I honestly believe that the Macan and Porsches in general really are that overengineered. Eventually, however, my instructors and I came to realize that I may actually have a knack for this track-driving thing. And the Macan would only take me so far. So, I added a 2009 Boxster S to the stable. I’ve gone from no Porsches to two Porsches in 14 months! This was not the plan.
Related: Porsche Macan Embarrasses Multiple Sports Cars at the Track (Video)
After a few DEs in the Boxster, it was quickly evident that I needed to make some changes. I was very fortunate to meet some fellow Rennlisters and PCA club racers along the way who convinced me not to do anything to the car until I addressed safety. Now, the Boxster is a dedicated PCA Club Racing-legal I Class race car. Fully gutted and caged with a fire suppression system.
The Macan, on the other hand, now tows a Featherlite 3110 trailer with the Boxster loaded up. I spend as much time as possible together at the track with fellow PCA members picking up seat time and making memories. I am still trying to comprehend it all myself.
Even though your Macan has gone from track hero to tow vehicle, do you still get the urge to wring it out every now and then?
It comes up all the time. I am always tempted to tech it just in case. Whenever it rains to the point that the Boxster doesn’t go out, the Macan is always smiling at me and urging me on. I am also really curious as to what kind of times I could turn in it now that I actually know the track and have some understanding of how to drive. I’m thinking a 1:34 is easily possible.
We always joke that with the AWD and ground clearance, taking an off-track agricultural run isn’t really an issue. So, in short, yes, I absolutely want to get it back out there. But it’s also pretty funny when you pull up to a traffic light where two lanes merge into one when towing. Everyone moves over because they don’t want to get “stuck” behind the guy with the trailer. Then you take them off the line and they have no idea what just happened.
You exhibited some truly excellent driving from the get go, even without having ever set foot (or tire) on a track. How do you feel your skills have improved over the last couple of years?
Wow. I don’t even know where to start. I’m really blessed. Bodymotion Racing is 10 minutes from my house and is probably one of the top Porsche racing shops in the nation. I have a mentor, Frank Pray, who is well known among Rennlisters and PCA club racers. Frank is always willing to dish out advice and volunteer his time when he is not racing. If he charged people for all the advice he gave out in the forums, he may be able to stop working!
I realized very early on that investing money in myself was far more valuable than investing money in the car. I’ve worked with Scott Leder and Robert Slonaker from a coaching perspective. I constantly try to pick Peter Krause‘s brain. I watch all the Speed Secrets and Ross videos, and I approach the hobby with the level of dedication I feel it deserves.
‘Being able to drive my Porsche as it was intended, without the risk of handcuffs? I’m in! I just really wanted to experience what the Macan was actually capable of.’
To say I have been a student of the sport would be an understatement. I spend more time reviewing data and track notes and listening to other people than I do in the seat. As for seat time, I think I did 65 days last year alone. And it is true what they say, there’s no substitute for having your butt in the seat!
I am at the point now that I don’t have to constantly think about where to put the car, it just comes naturally. My awareness level doesn’t even compare to when I started. The fast laps that used to have me tensed up and on the edge of my seat are now my consistent comfortable laps. My hands are quicker, and my feet are quicker in transition. I am comfortable on and off line, running alone or with another car inches away.
My ability to anticipate, get my eyes up, and knowing when to have slow hands and when to have quick hands has improved considerably. I now know when I am pushing too hard. I’ve learned how to listen to my coach, my car, the track, and other drivers. And I learned how to comprehend what they are telling me and then execute. Overall, I’m light years beyond those green DE days. I am a different driver entirely.
Any future upgrades for your current ride or your racing career?
Right now, the current ride is holding her own. I had my rookie race weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park two weeks ago. I took a win in the practice race, a P2 overall and P1 in class, a P7 overall and P3 in class (had grid issues), and then an overall multi-class race win in my first weekend out.
My biggest investment continues to be in myself. I would love to throw a set of JRZ Pro adjustables on there. I’m giving up a lot in terms of suspension to the competition, but I still feel that the money is better invested in myself. I won’t be able to make Summit Point this year, but I am hoping to make it to the PittRace with Bodymotion and my coach. If the stars don’t align then I will start focusing on next year.
The end goal in Club Racing is always the same: have fun, be safe, respect your competition, and respect the equipment. But I Class is getting nice and competitive right now, so next year the focus is on a championship with all the prerequisites I previously mentioned. Go big or go home. For now, I am still that little kid with a toy car making engine sounds every time I get in that race car and strap in.
Every time I walk by her in the garage I feel the need to rub my hand over her. The “feeling” that Porsche and my toy cars gave me all those years ago is now alive again in my 43-year-old self. Then, I get to finish the weekend and drive home in my Macan.
If I’m lucky, just the sight of the two of them together will make someone else smile and I’ll get the wave, thumbs up, or nod. It really hits me how lucky I am and makes me so grateful to be able to live out my dreams. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to tell my story, and the next time someone mutters that a Macan isn’t a “real” Porsche, just point them to that video.