911 996 GT3

Its day job was as a road car, but the GT3 was bred for the race­track

Motor (Australia) - - FEATURE : TOP FIVE 911S -

PORSCHE HAS AL­WAYS made rac­ing spe­cials of its reg­u­lar road cars, but what ce­ments the 996 GT3’s place here rather than, say, the 964 RS or 993 Car­rera RS, is that it started a dy­nasty. Its re­lease in 2000 be­gan an un­bro­ken run of ex­cel­lence that cul­mi­nates to­day with the 991.2 GT3 RS.

Com­pared to Porsche’s lat­est winged war­rior, the orig­i­nal GT3 looks more meek than mon­ster. It’s much nar­rower than its wide-body suc­ces­sors be­cause it uses the stan­dard Car­rera 2 body. A stripped-out cabin dropped weight to 1380kg and an op­tional Club­sport pack shed more ki­los by re­plac­ing the seats with rac­ing buck­ets, but an ex­tin­guisher and half cage added some. Air-con and a stereo were no-cost op­tions.

The GT3’s ground-hug­ging stance and mas­sive spoiler were rea­son­ably ex­tro­vert in 2000, but what truly made it spe­cial was a pro­duc­tion ver­sion of the 3.6-litre dry-sumped ‘Mezger’ flat-six, vari­ants of which had pow­ered Porsche’s en­durance rac­ers for years, most re­cently the Le Mans-winning GT1.

It thrived on revs, an 11.7:1 com­pres­sion ra­tio de­liv­er­ing 265kW at 7200rpm, 370Nm at 5000rpm, and a 7800rpm cut-out. In­cred­i­bly, the lat­est GT3 has just 400cc extra dis­place­ment, yet de­liv­ers 103kW and 90Nm more. Still, the 996 could do 100km/h in 4.8sec, 200km/h in 15.6sec, and hit 306km/h.

A six-speed man­ual, dif­fer­ent from the Car­rera’s, was the only ’box avail­able, the Club­sport pack also re­plac­ing the stan­dard dual-mass fly­wheel with a lighter sin­gle-mass ver­sion. Porsche boasted of the abil­ity to quickly change gear ra­tios and worn parts like syn­chros, ev­i­dence of the car’s in­tended pur­pose.

Anti-roll bars were ad­justable, springs could be swapped for rac­ing ver­sions, and low­ered sus­pen­sion dropped the cen­tre of grav­ity by 30mm. Brakes were 330mm ro­tors with four-pis­ton calipers, while 18-inch wheels wore 225/40 and 285/30 tyres.

Porsche proved the GT3’s prow­ess at the ’Ring, with Wal­ter Rohrl set­ting a time of 7min56sec and be­com­ing the first to lap a stan­dard pro­duc­tion car there in less than eight min­utes.

The 996 also in­tro­duced Porsche’s mantra of con­tin­ual evo­lu­tion and four years later the 996.2 GT3 ar­rived, based on

the facelifted 911. Its up­graded six re­ceived Var­i­oCam vari­able in­let camshafts, boost­ing out­puts to 280kW at 7400rpm and 385Nm at 5000rpm and rais­ing the rev limit to 8200rpm.

Wheels were a half-inch wider (18 by 8.5, 18 by 11.0), with 10mm wider tyres. Front ro­tors were 350mm with six-pis­ton calipers and car­bon-ce­ram­ics were op­tional. Weight rose to 1380kg, but the 0-100km/h time dropped to 4.5sec and v-max in­creased to 306km/h, de­spite shorter fifth and sixth gears.

For the 996-gen swan­song, Porsche com­bined its new mo­tor­sport badge with its old one. The GT3 RS was an even more finely honed ver­sion, its 50kg diet so se­vere even badges made way for stick­ers. The en­gine was rated the same as the GT3’s, but ram air ducts were said to lift power closer to 300kW.

Extra power and less weight cut 0.1sec from the 0-100km/h time and the 0-200km/h time was now just 14sec. Re­tuned sus­pen­sion dropped the ride height by 3mm and in­creased bump and re­bound rates by 10 and 15 per cent re­spec­tively. Fewer than 700 were built, only around 140 in right-hand drive.

Each sub­se­quent GT3 has been more pow­er­ful, faster and yet more live­able, but those who have had the priv­i­lege to drive all the gen­er­a­tions back-to-back sug­gest the orig­i­nal is as good as any of its suc­ces­sors when it comes to driv­ing thrills.

BE­LOW LEFT Porsche is renowned for mighty brakes, and the 996 GT3 had 330mm ro­tors and four-pis­ton calipers front and rear BE­LOW RIGHT GT3’s twin-el­e­ment rear spoiler was pretty rad­i­cal, and un­der it lurked a leg­endary ‘Met­zger’ flat-six

THE GT3’S GROUND-HUG­GING STANCE AND MAS­SIVE SPOILER WERE EX­TRO­VERT IN 2000

BE­LOW Ad­justable roll bars and eas­ily swap­pable springs and gear ra­tios fur­ther en­hanced the GT3’s track cre­den­tials

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