You want to be Lars Kern. You want his life. You want his job. But, what does he do? His unwritten job description would sound a little something like, he is in charge of making Porsches feel like Porsches. Sports cars, electric sedans, SUVs, even race cars. All of them.
He is Porsche’s test driver. Driver, singular.
How did that happen? In 2012, as a talented amateur racer and an equally promising engineering student, the young German was taken on by Porsche. The agreement was he’d do some test driving and complete his studies at night.
Now 32, he is the chief tester for the German company’s road cars during the week, and races on weekends. His records include lapping the Nürburgring-Nordschleife in a Porsche GT2 RS in 2017 in 6 mins 47.25 seconds, the fastest time in a street-legal production car to that date.
Of course, Porsche has other test drivers. The other guys tests brakes, this guy tests traction control.
Lars Kern tests everything on every model Porsche builds, start to finish. He is involved from the first pen stroke of a design, through building test mules, to endless laps around the skidpad to driving the cars as fast as they will go on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, the narrow, tree-lined, terrifying, invigorating German track that Jackie Stewart appropriately dubbed the “Green Hell.”
Kern knows each of the 73 turns—or 154, depending on what source you cite and what you consider a “turn”—as well as you know your driveway.
Not that it’s all balls-out on the Nürburgring. His central mission, as mentioned, is to make Porsches feel like Porsches, be they Boxsters or Panameras or Cayennes. And although he’s an engineer, he’s the first to admit he’s no specialist.
There is a difference between a test driver and a race driver. As said by Kern, as a test driver, he doesn’t like to take chances. Because if he wads up a test car, Porsche has likely lost a great deal of data.
Multiple Porsche race drivers have tested with him at the Nürburgring. Some are a bit faster because they’re pushing the envelope, slamming the rumble strips on every corner.
But they aren’t learning a lot about the car. They are also used to having massive aero downforce and slick tires, and they tend to slide around, which costs them time. But look at Kern’s hands in the many YouTube in-car videos of his drives at the Nürburgring: a gentle grip, economy of motion, extremely quick but usually tiny inputs when needed.