Respect needed to tame a widow-maker

DRIV­ING IM­PRES­SION/ Ler­ato Matebese donned his rac­ing gloves and headed to the Western Cape to drive the Porsche 911 GT2 RS

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

Very few cars have the in­fa­mous rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing re­ferred to as the widow-maker. The Porsche 911 GT2, which first broke cover in 1993 in the 993 mould was not only the most pow­er­ful 911 of all time at the time, but it was also no­to­ri­ous for taming and curb­ing overzeal­ous driv­ers with its sav­age, snappy rear-end. Try to grab it by the scruff of the neck and wres­tle it and it would send you into the hedge rear-end first. It was a rep­u­ta­tion that con­tin­ued in the 996 and 997 models.

So, when I was in­vited to drive the lat­est vari­ant of the model in the Western Cape re­cently, it was with both trep­i­da­tion and excitement. I was fi­nally go­ing to drive the last word in the Porsche 911 port­fo­lio in the form of the 991.2 GT2 RS, which packs 515kW and 750Nm and sends it all to the rear axle.

Oh dear, I thought to my­self. Of course, be­ing that time of the year in the Western Cape where in­clement weather is the or­der of the day, I prayed for dry con­di­tions while I was there.

Prior to tak­ing com­mand of the GT2 RS and con­vey­ing to you my ex­pe­ri­ence of the ve­hi­cle, it is worth men­tion­ing the num­ber plate (6 47 3 GP) plas­tered to this car has a sig­nif­i­cance. It is es­sen­tially the time it took for the model to lap the Nur­bur­gring, Nord­schleife prov­ing ground in Ger­many.

The model holds the lap record for pro­duc­tion sports cars at the track, which also trounces the Porsche 918 hy­brid hy­per­car and speaks vol­umes of the GT2 RS’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

It has a host of light­weight ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing a car­bon fi­bre bon­net, fend­ers and rear wing, a mag­ne­sium roof and wheels, no rear seats and ti­ta­nium roll cage, as part of the Weis­sach Pack­age, which sheds an ex­tra 20kg off the 1,470kg over a stan­dard Club Sport pack­age-equipped GT2 RS.

To bring that into con­text, that is a few ki­los lighter than the Volk­swa­gen Golf R and it packs more than dou­ble the Golf’s en­gine out­put. The whole body squats tightly over 265/35/20 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres at the front and fat 325/30/21 gum­balls at the rear.

The cabin sports light­weight bucket seats with car­bon fi­bre shells, red Al­can­tara steer­ing wheel and roof lin­ing and just the bare driver essentials. Sound dead­en­ing ma­te­ri­als have also been tossed.

Mo­ti­va­tion comes in the form of a 3.8l, twin-turbo flat six, mated ex­clu­sively to a sev­en­speed PDK gear­box and, with the aid of launch con­trol, it can cat­a­pult from stand­still to 100km/h in 2.8 sec­onds (0200km/h in 8.3 sec­onds) and on to a top speed of 340km/h.

Fir­ing up the en­gine — par­tic­u­larly with the sports ex­hausts but­ton ac­ti­vated — en­gulfs the cabin with a rau­cous bark be­fore set­tling into a gur­gling tim­bre just above idle.

Nos­ing the ve­hi­cle onto the road, the first thing you no­tice is how much more raw the thing feels over, say, the GT3 I drove at the end of 2017. The damp­ing is quite firm and in line with what this thing can achieve once taken off the leash.

Of course, one al­ways ap­proaches a 700hp car with respect and once I was on some bar­ren, mostly flat back roads, I primed the gear­box and sus­pen­sion into their max­i­mum at­tack set­ting, pulled the left car­bon fi­bre steer­ing pad­dle and mashed the pedal with aban­don. for the first time since I had set off that morn­ing.

As with most tur­bocharged cars, there is a mo­men­tary pause be­fore things start to hap­pen, but noth­ing quite primes your senses for what is an avalanche of power and torque served up in one fell swoop. The car squats, al­most dig­ging its spikes into the road like a 100m ath­lete would, and then pounds the tar­mac into sub­mis­sion. The me­chan­i­cal grip al­most de­fies what should be pos­si­ble for a rear-wheel drive car.

This thing goes like the prover­bial bat out of hell and just keeps pil­ing on the speed. It is a bru­tal an­i­mal for the most part, but a sur­pris­ingly cul­tured one that still needs to be treated with respect. How­ever, all that colos­sal power is ac­tu­ally ac­ces­si­ble with a lin­ear al­most flat torque curve that makes the McLaren 720S feel too peaky in its power de­liv­ery in com­par­i­son.

As men­tioned, there is so much grip and com­po­sure through the bends that you can lean more on the chas­sis than you would care to imag­ine. Adopt a smooth driv­ing style and the GT2 RS re­wards hand­somely, but treat it with dis­dain and it will be quick to dis­play its widow-maker ten­den­cies.

Ev­ery­thing about the GT2 RS is an event, from the rau­cous ex­haust to the way it makes you feel so in­vin­ci­ble be­hind the wheel. Whether it is the best 911 yet is a state­ment I can only con­clude once I have driven the forth­com­ing GT3 RS.

How­ever, as a driv­ing ma­chine with the abil­ity to cover ground at the lick of a Boe­ing 737 on take-off, there are few cars that come close, cer­tainly not at the price.

Top: Car­bon fi­bre helps to re­duce the weight sig­nif­i­cantly. Above: Ev­ery piece of aero is both func­tional and dra­matic. Left: The Weis­sach Pack­age pro­vides plenty of red ac­cents.

The Weis­sach Pack­age also means nice seats, race belts and a half roll cage.

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