PORSCHE TO PORT WAKE­FIELD

SOME­WHERE IN SOUTH AUS­TRALIA IS A LOST GRAND PRIX CIR­CUIT. WE WENT LOOK­ING FOR IT IN PORSCHE’S UL­TI­MATE ROAD RACER

Motor (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

A 911 GT2 RS helps us hunt down the long-lost home of the 1955 Aus­tralian Grand Prix

WE ARE REC­OM­MENDED A FEW ROADS – GORGE, CHAIN OF PONDS AND NORTH EAST. DE­TOUR? OF COURSE

N SOUTH AUS­TRALIA, you can walk where Jack Brab­ham once raced, swat­ting away flies and won­der­ing where the hell you’ve just driven your­self to. A pad­dock near Port Wake­field, 100km north-west of Ade­laide, could be any other as you drive past on the ad­ja­cent dirt road, the land­scape flat, fea­ture­less and so dull, even grass strug­gles to take up per­ma­nent res­i­dence. Yet through the low salt­bush in this ex­pan­sive place with its big blue sky and dis­tant hori­zons, the rem­nants of Aus­tralia’s first bi­tu­men pur­pose-built car rac­ing cir­cuit can be found.

Hav­ing stepped over the low fence and walked into the pad­dock look­ing for the old 2km-long Port Wake­field grand prix cir­cuit – tres­pass­ing, tech­ni­cally, given it’s pri­vate prop­erty – we find sur­viv­ing por­tions of bi­tu­men, slowly re­ced­ing back into the earth. In the dis­tance, the road on which we ar­rived is no longer vis­i­ble, hid­den be­low the knee-high arid scrub. But pok­ing above it is the dis­tinc­tive roofline of a 991 Porsche 911, in mer­cury sil­ver, rak­ing back­wards to the most enor­mous rear wing you’ll ever see on a road car. It’s a 911 GT2 RS, and with­out be­ing able to see the road it’s parked on, it looks like it’s just landed in the mid­dle of the pad­dock from the sky it­self. You couldn’t imag­ine a stranger place to see the fastest pro­duc­tion car in the world, ac­cord­ing to Nur­bur­gring lap times any­way.

We’ve driven it here to pay homage to the Aus­tralian chap­ter of Porsche’s history, as we cel­e­brate 70 years since “No 1” hit the pub­lic road in Ger­many. It was in Port Wake­field, in 1952, that Porsche cel­e­brated its first mo­tor­sport vic­tory on Aus­tralian soil – two 356s fin­ish­ing one-two in class for the Stand­ing Start Quar­ter Mile, at the Port Wake­field Speed Tri­als, held down the road (sort of) at the old mil­i­tary proof­ing range. In the hands of Ken Harper and Ken McConville, mem­ber and pres­i­dent re­spec­tively of the Aus­tralian Mo­tor Sports Club, the 356s recorded quar­ter mile times of 20.9 and 21.0 re­spec­tively to take top hon­ours. Of course, very few peo­ple had heard of Porsche at the time, and no­body knew that these would be the first of many Aus­tralian mo­tor­sport vic­to­ries, in­clud­ing very nearly an Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship in 1969.

It was Alan Hamil­ton, driv­ing a trick 911T/R, that missed out on the ’69 ATCC crown by a sin­gle point to ‘Pete’ Geoghe­gan in his Ford Mus­tang. It was Alan’s fa­ther, Norman Hamil­ton, that first recog­nised the po­ten­tial of the then-un­known Porsche brand (you can read the fa­mous and amus­ing ori­gin story of Porsche in Aus­tralia on page 65). As well as be­ing only the sec­ond of­fi­cial Porsche agent out­side Ger­many, Hamil­ton con­vinced Ferry Porsche to build the first two right-hand drive mod­els, which be­came the first two Porsches to ar­rive in Aus­tralia, a Fish Sil­ver 356 Cabri­o­let and a Ma­roon 356 Coupe. Un­veiled at a cock­tail party at Al­bert Park on Novem­ber 1, 1951, it was these two cars that Harper and McConville raced at Port Wake­field in 1952.

To find these old, happy hunt­ing grounds, we set off from Aus­tralia’s new­est rac­ing cir­cuit, The Bend Mo­tor­sport Park. Last month you would have read how the 911 GT2 RS set a scorch­ing first pro­duc­tion car lap record (3:24.079) on The Bend’s epic, 35-cor­ner, 7.77km con­fig­u­ra­tion. It won’t be set­ting any records on its way north to Port Wake­field to­day, other than per­haps Most Smart­phone Photos Taken Of One Car in 24 Hours, as we dis­cover, this be­ing the first GT2 RS in South Aus­tralia and caus­ing quite a stir.

Even in this sil­ver, the GT2 RS is hardly sub­tle. Wide hips con­ceal enor­mous 325mm rear tyres wrapped around low-off­set 21-inch wheels, that enor­mous rear wing tow­ers as if stolen off

a 911 RSR racer, the front lip juts ag­gres­sively out­wards, while gill-like car­bon-fi­bre vents on the front guards and NACA ducts on the bon­net hit the GT2 RS’s in­tent home. Peak­ing in­side re­veals a wicked in­te­rior, red Al­can­tara stretch­ing up the in­side of the A-pil­lars to the ceil­ing as if specced by Lu­cifer him­self.

The GT2 RS in­te­rior is other­wise stan­dard 991 fare, red and black Al­can­tara thrown around with di­a­bol­i­cal aban­don. There’s a more road-friendly seat belt har­ness (com­pared to the race-ready, FIA-tagged of­fer­ing of a GT3), yet an ex­tin­guisher still takes up res­i­dence in the pas­sen­ger footwell, a cage scaf­folds it­self through where the rear ‘seats’ would nor­mally be, the rear wing vis­i­ble in the rear vi­sion mirror over the top of the cage’s cen­tral ‘X’-brace. The speedome­ter reads to 400km/h. Just sit­ting in the GT2 RS is some­thing spe­cial.

Hav­ing in­serted the chunky key­fob and turned it, like a key, the GT2 RS idles, im­pa­tiently, in a way that might re­mind some of heav­ily mod­i­fied RB26-pow­ered GT-Rs or 2JZ Supras. Very loud, deep and with the oc­ca­sional miss in the idle, it’s dis­tinct.

With the in­ter­cooler spray tank empty from a Mr W. Luff’s ex­ploits the day be­fore, Su­percheap Auto is our first desti­na­tion to find some dis­tilled wa­ter. It’s im­pos­si­ble, it turns out, yet we are papped by yet another smart­phone by Tim, dig­i­tally dis­tribut­ing his spy shot, like a Stasi agent, to the tight-knit com­mu­nity of South Aus­tralian car nuts. Just like that, we feel like we’re be­ing watched. And it turns out Tim can rec­om­mend us a few roads – Gorge, Chain of Ponds and North East, in fact. De­tour to Port Wake­field? Of course.

Hav­ing passed through the charm­ingly Ger­manic Hah­n­dorf in our Teu­tonic Ter­roriser, a small mous­ta­chioed old man ap­proaches. “How much?” Seems to be the most com­mon by­stander ques­tion of the day. We tell him the fig­ure. He is quiet; his eye­brows raise. And just when we thought this bloke was nor­mal, he goes full South Aus­tralian on us. “It’s horny,” he grins, eyes wide. I grab the photographer and al­most launch­con­trol out of there.

The twisty roads beckon. As we find our­selves in the Ade­laide Hills in Porsche’s bel­low­ing, loud, tech­ni­cal-sound­ing 515kW beast, we be­gin to ex­plore the GT2 RS it­self. First les­son – warm the tyres and the brakes be­cause when cold, the GT2 RS feels to be at a quar­ter of its abil­ity, the cold front tyres chat­ter­ing as the front pushes eas­ily, the enor­mous car­bon-ce­ramic brakes feel­ing wooden, about a quar­ter throt­tle all that’s us­able as those big, grumpy rear Miche­lin Pilot Sport Cup 2s slip and slide around. But al­ready we’ve no­ticed one thing: the power. Even warm­ing up on part throt­tle, the GT2 RS is charg­ing at an enor­mous clip. There’s a fore­bod­ing sense that all the power in the world is about to be un­leashed.

Full throt­tle in the GT2 RS is some­thing that will never leave you, and not just be­cause you feel like you’re get­ting about 100kW more than you thought to brace your­self for. It picks you up from low in the revs and hurls you for­ward with a tur­bocharged wallop of low-down torque, into a rush­ing, scenery warp­ing, power-rich top-end as po­tent as any nar­cotic. I’ve never felt a car ac­cel­er­ate harder from 2000rpm. Even in the driver’s seat, you feel 10 per cent pas­sen­ger the first few times you ex­pe­ri­ence the full ac­cel­er­a­tive might of the GT2 RS.

But just as re­mark­able as the power is how in con­trol you al­ways feel. The way you can mete out what feel like in­di­vid­ual kilo­watts via the throt­tle pedal is as­ton­ish­ing, par­tic­u­larly for such a heav­ily tur­bocharged en­gine. And re­ally hits home that the dif­fer­ence be­tween scary power and fun power is con­trol.

At any given mo­ment, you feel in­ti­mately across how much

trac­tion you’re us­ing of those rear tyres. And of trac­tion, there is a sur­pris­ing amount, with the sen­sa­tion of it in­creas­ing as the car squats hard, owing to the physics of its rear-en­gine lay­out. Yet even the in­her­ently strong 911 pur­chase stands no chance against 515kW and your right foot. Squeeze in just a lit­tle bit too much throt­tle and the GT2 RS squir­rels with wheel­spin as it charges like a scalded dog down the road.

The limit of trac­tion is so dis­pro­por­tion­ately ac­ces­si­ble com­pared to the other lim­its of the GT2 RS. Max­i­mum lat­eral grip, once the tyres are warm, is track-only stuff, un­less you take your brain out. The brakes are seem­ingly as pow­er­ful as the en­gine; your phys­i­cal abil­ity to with­stand G-forces be­comes as lim­it­ing a fac­tor as grip it­self. This is a car that shrinks around you, like all other 991 911s, yet you are go­ing so much faster, it de­mands max­i­mum con­cen­tra­tion.

While the power is the most re­mark­able thing about the GT2 RS, it dis­tracts from the bril­liance ev­ery­where else in the car. The han­dling is sub­lime, the PDK ul­tra re­spon­sive and mak­ing the old man­ual of the 997 GT2 RS noth­ing but a mem­ory. Un­like the GT3, a man­ual wouldn’t work in the 991.2 GT2 RS. It’s just way too fast.

This would also be a ter­ri­fy­ing car with the elec­tron­ics off. It would be here you’d find the old “widow maker” DNA. In the PSM Sport set­ting, enough power over­steer is per­mit­ted on cor­ner exit, with so lit­tle throt­tle, even with the tyres up to tem­per­a­ture, that you would think at least four times about de­ac­ti­vat­ing the ESP or trac­tion con­trol. And even then, you wouldn’t blame Porsche for pro­gram­ming in a “are you sure?” prompt as a fi­nal step. Pre­dictably, you do find your­self ques­tion­ing the wis­dom of Porsche re­mov­ing the all-wheel drive sys­tem, yet while the GT2 RS would be un­doubt­edly even faster, it would be less ex­cit­ing and pos­si­bly less ap­peal­ing. Dan­ger and fear, it seems, is part of the GT2 RS al­lure.

Af­ter un­box­ing the GT2 RS on the roads in Ade­laide’s Hills, as much as I dared any­way, and com­ing down from the drug that is its power, I no­ticed I had no clue what the GT2 RS is like at its high­est en­gine speeds. In com­plete con­trast to a GT3, there is so much per­for­mance avail­able be­low 5000rpm that you never re­ally feel robbed of revs like you might in, say, a Ferrari 488. Not even for the noise, ei­ther – the GT2 RS sounds awe­some at all en­gine speeds, a thrummy, brood­ing, al­most war­bly, bassy blare. There’s bur­bling on the over­run and a lit­tle bit of blow-off valve if you go look­ing for it, al­though in­ter­est­ingly it’s de­void of the ex­ces­sive un­der-load turbo hiss­ing of a 720S or a 488.

YOU COULDN’T IMAG­INE A STRANGER PLACE TO SEE THE FASTEST PRO­DUC­TION CAR IN THE WORLD

As we drudge up the Princes High­way to­wards Port Wake­field, the GT2 RS, at nor­mal speeds, stuns again at how easy it is to drive. Vis­i­bil­ity is good, the ride is okay, the tyres are noisy but tol­er­a­ble. Cu­ri­ously, even at 110km/h in 19 de­grees am­bi­ent, the wa­ter temp sits at 114 de­grees (well within its nor­mal range). Ex­plains some­what the huge aper­tures of the front bar, which push the aes­thetic lim­its, re­quired to feed the enor­mous ra­di­a­tors dis­pelling prob­a­bly another thou­sand kilo­watts of en­ergy.

It turns out the GT2 RS is not merely a rear-drive 911 Turbo with a big wing, sticky tyres and the boost turned up. Its en­gine rep­re­sents a new level of tur­bocharged per­for­mance. Un­like other new-age turbo supercars that seem en­gi­neered to im­i­tate the lin­ear power de­liv­ery of a nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gine, the GT2 RS owns its tur­bocharged-ness with truly breath­tak­ing mid-range punch and a level of re­sponse and throt­tle pre­ci­sion we’ve never felt from a turbo en­gine be­fore.

We roll into dusty Port Wake­field, amongst the road trains, won­der­ing what it must have felt like ar­riv­ing here 66 years ago in a 356. As we turn off in search of the old Port Wake­field cir­cuit, peo­ple stare at the GT2 RS with the most con­fused looks on their faces – and we needn’t won­der a mo­ment longer.

MON­TA­CUTE CHAIN OF PONDS

OP­PO­SITE TOP As well as patches of orig­i­nal bi­tu­men, you can find the oc­ca­sional tyre that marked the track lim­its of the old Port Wake­field cir­cuit. You’d need a Cayenne to drive on what’s left of the track LEFT There’s not much out here. Windswept and dry, Port Wake­field town has a vibe like you’ve driven five hours from Ade­laide. It’s 100km away

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