As the cur­tain-call sounds for the 991-gen­er­a­tion 911, rally leg­end Wal­ter Röhrl demon­strates how a raft of re­vi­sions el­e­vate the most fo­cused atmo pro­duc­tion Porsche into truly rare air

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - WORDS ANDREW FRANKEL

Hottest atmo porker hits the ice. Rohrl with it, baby!

YOU CAN never quite tell with Porsche, but the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of the 991-se­ries of GT3 RS could be the very last of the cur­rent 911 gen­er­a­tion. If all the ru­mours are cor­rect and Porsche is true to form, it will re­veal the all-new 911 (code-named 992) at the Paris mo­tor show in Oc­to­ber, seven years since the 991 made its global de­but at Frank­furt in 2011. And the whole merry-go-round will kick off another cy­cle, dur­ing the course of which the world’s first hy­brid 911s will be launched.

But back in the present day, it’s just pos­si­ble that a few of you are scratch­ing your heads not so much at the ex­is­tence of this car, but its tim­ing. It al­ways makes sense to pro­duce such cars at the end of the model’s life­time be­cause they draw at­ten­tion not only to them­selves, but the lesser 911s that might other­wise be start­ing to be over­looked in the mar­ket­place. And that be­ing the case, you’d nat­u­rally want to save the best, or at least the big­gest, till last. But that car would be the GT2 RS, which was al­ready launched to uni­ver­sal ac­claim last year. Re­mem­ber when Porsche re­placed the 997-gen­er­a­tion with the 991? It was the 997 GT2 RS that was nat­u­rally last to be launched.

In fact the rea­son this GT3 RS ap­pears to have been de­layed seems to be a com­bi­na­tion of the weather and a Lam­borgh­ini. And I’m not kid­ding. Man­u­fac­tur­ers don’t just throw these cars out when­ever they are ready, they are re­leased in ac­cor­dance with a care­fully co­or­di­nated mar­ket­ing plan that, in nor­mal times, would in­deed have seen the GT3 RS pre­date the GT2 RS.

But Lam­borgh­ini pro­duced a use­ful lit­tle de­vice called the Hu­ra­can Per­for­mante and then, in Oc­to­ber 2016, used it to blitz the pro­duc­tion-car lap record at the Nur­bur­gring.

For Porsche this was dou­bly bad news: first, it was Porsche’s own 918 Spy­der whose record the Lambo snatched, and se­condly, if a nor­mal launch sched­ule was main­tained, Porsche would have noth­ing with which to re­ply to its in-house ri­val un­til early 2018, which was not only al­most 18 months later but also a time of year when the ’Ring tends to be un­der sev­eral feet of the white stuff.

Some­thing had to be done, and that some­thing was to swap the launch dates of the GT2 RS and GT3 RS around. And late last Septem­ber, just be­fore the weather win­dow closed, the GT2 RS went and oblit­er­ated the Hu­ra­can’s record to sighs of pro­found re­lief all around Weis­sach.

Do not, how­ever, re­gard the GT3 RS as any kind of damp-squib fi­nale. Less pow­er­ful than the GT2 RS it un­doubt­edly is, it con­tains much of the same en­gi­neer­ing, has a very sim­i­lar look, pos­si­bly the best-sound­ing en­gine on sale and a price tag of $416,500, some $229,000 less than the GT2 RS. Think of it as a nor­mally as­pi­rated GT2 RS and the value is not hard to see.

Like the pre­vi­ous ‘gen 1’ 991 GT3 RS, this car re­mains very much the track­honed op­tion; a down­force-op­ti­mised, stripped-out, dual-clutch-only weapon with an ul­tra-ag­gres­sive look, es­pe­cially in the new ‘Lizard Green’ paint in which Porsche pre­sented it to us in La­p­land.

The en­gine re­mains the same 4.0-litre flat-six used in the pre­vi­ous GT3 RS and cur­rent GT3, but its out­put has been tick­led up 15kw to a claimed 383kw, not by chang­ing any of its in­ter­nals, but through care­ful op­ti­mi­sa­tion of its

res­pi­ra­tion via in­let tracts, ex­haust sys­tem and en­gine man­age­ment.

Power re­mains roughly the same as a GT3 un­til around 4500rpm, where­upon the RS’S bet­ter breath­ing makes an in­creas­ingly large dif­fer­ence all the way to the 8250rpm power peak. Max­i­mum revs re­main at a fairly in­sane 9000rpm. The seven-speed dual-clutch gear­box re­tains the same ra­tios and fi­nal drive, but has some strength­ened in­ter­nal com­po­nents for greater on-track dura­bil­ity. The 0-100km/h time is a claimed 3.2 sec­onds; top speed 312km/h.

Some sense of the in­flu­ence of the GT2 RS on this car can be seen in the sus­pen­sion, which is es­sen­tially car­ried over from its tur­bocharged sib­ling, mean­ing its front spring rates are dou­ble those of the old GT3 RS and 40 per­cent stiffer at the back. Es­sen­tially the Weis­sach en­gi­neers started with some­thing close to a full rac­ing car set-up and worked their way back un­til reach­ing a point where the car was us­able on the road. Al­most ev­ery union, front and rear, is rose-jointed. It also comes with com­pletely re­pro­grammed four­wheel steer­ing.

The car leans heav­ily on the GT2 RS for its aero pack too, in­clud­ing a new bon­net con­tain­ing NACA ducts for ad­di­tional brake cool­ing pur­poses. Porsche won’t say just how much down­force the new car gen­er­ates, but it’s be­lieved the goal was not a mas­sive in­crease over the out­go­ing GT3 RS, but to de­liver a mod­est im­prove­ment along with a re­duc­tion in drag, which is pretty much the holy grail in aero en­gi­neer­ing terms.

As with the last GT3 RS, the bon­net and front guards are made from car­bon­fi­bre while the roof is mag­ne­sium, but there is a Weis­sach pack that can be added, the prin­ci­ple ele­ment be­ing a roof fea­tur­ing a car­bon­fi­bre sand­wich con­struc­tion, along with op­tional forged mag­ne­sium wheels. In its light­est (and dear­est) pos­si­ble con­fig­u­ra­tion, Porsche claims a weight of 1430kg.

As a re­sult of all these mod­i­fi­ca­tions, it is qui­etly an­tic­i­pated within Porsche that the new GT3 RS will prove it­self to be around 10 sec­onds per lap quicker than its pre­de­ces­sor around the Nur­bur­gring.

While I’d love to tell you how the car drives, Porsche deemed it too early to al­low the press be­hind the wheel, so rel­e­gated me to the pas­sen­ger seat next to dou­ble world rally cham­pion Wal­ter Rohrl.

Even then I should have been able to im­part some sense of how quick the car felt, how­ever the venue for my ride was a track cut into the ice at Porsche’s Win­ter Driv­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence in north­ern Fin­land. Here there was not enough trac­tion even for Porsche’s all-wheel drive fleet to use all its power so the GT3 RS was hob­bled from the start, even on sharply stud­ded tyres.

For what it’s worth, the in­te­rior is ex­actly as you’d ex­pect for such a car. Ev­ery­thing is stripped right back, a cage oc­cu­py­ing the space where the rear seats would be in any nor­mal 911. There are car­bon­fi­bre seats, GT3 RS badges, cord pulls for door han­dles and to­day, a brisk -28 de­grees Cel­sius show­ing at the bot­tom of the right-hand dial.

Wal­ter dis­penses with the usual pleas­antries, nails the power and with a shriek from the en­gine, we are pro­pelled si­mul­ta­ne­ously for­ward and side­ways. How does the new sus­pen­sion af­fect the car? What’s the aero bal­ance like? Does it feel any quicker? Good ques­tions, which I wish I could an­swer. All I feel re­ally qual­i­fied to tell you is that if there is a bet­ter sound­ing pro­duc­tion 911 in ex­is­tence, I’ve not heard it. The noise this car makes is ut­terly hyp­notic, and not just at 9000rpm, but right through the en­tire rev-range Rohrl was us­ing.

It was al­most as mes­meris­ing as watch­ing the man him­self. Rohrl can an­tic­i­pate ex­actly how the car will re­spond to any given in­put by in­stinct alone, which, when the car is never point­ing in the same di­rec­tion as that in which it’s trav­el­ling, gives him an in­su­per­a­ble ad­van­tage over us mere mor­tals who spend all our time re­act­ing to and try­ing to man­age the un­ex­pected. He is al­ways at least one cor­ner ahead of the car.

I’m sorry not to be any more il­lu­mi­nat­ing than this, though given what is known al­ready of its con­stituent in­gre­di­ents – it is es­sen­tially a blend of the old GT3 RS, cur­rent GT3 with a large chunk of GT2 RS thrown in, com­plete with its own lit­tle twist in the pow­er­train depart­ment – it would be al­most un­be­liev­able were the car not at least to match the ex­pec­ta­tions of its badge. Some­time later this year we will let you know for sure.

Model Porsche 911 GT3 RS En­gine 3996cc, flat 6cyl, 24v Max power 383kw @ 8250rpm Max torque 460Nm @ 6000rpm Trans­mis­sion 7-speed dual-clutch L/W/H/WB 4557/1880/1297/2453mm Weight 1430kg 0-100km/h 3.2sec (claimed) Econ­omy 12.8L/100km Price $416,500 On...

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