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On the limit in Porsche’s most ex­treme atmo pro­duc­tion model

HEN Porsche in­formed us that our 911 GT3 RS drive at the Nur­bur­gring was on the GP cir­cuit rather than the Nord­schleife, I felt a pang of dis­ap­point­ment. It felt a bit like vis­it­ing the Monaco Grand Prix only to get no fur­ther than the merch tent. Hav­ing climbed out of the car af­ter a hand­ful of hot laps, soaked through with sweat, hands slightly a-tremor and then strug­gling for ways to fit what I’d just ex­pe­ri­enced into any sen­si­ble frame of ref­er­ence, I’m re­lieved that Porsche de­cided on the GP track’s more be­nign acreage of bi­tu­men rather than the pine-pin­ioned roller­coaster of the Green Hell. My in­put me­ter is pegged as it is. The lat­est 991.2 ver­sion of the GT3 RS will do that for you. In case you’re not aware, here are the cliff notes. It tips the scales at 1430 kilo­grams and fea­tures a nor­mally as­pi­rated 4.0-litre flat-six in the back, driv­ing through a seven-speed PDK gear­box. A man­ual is not avail­able. Peak power is rated at 383kw at 8250rpm, up a mere 15kw on the GT3. Torque creeps up by 10Nm to 470Nm at 6000rpm. Zero to 100km/h dis­ap­pears in 3.2 sec­onds and physics will only see the RS run out of an­swers at 312km/h. At this point most rea­son­able peo­ple may well won­der why you’d pay more than 25 per­cent over the price of the sub­lime GT3 to land a car with im­prove­ments that ap­pear dis­tinctly mar­ginal. For some, all the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion they’ll need comes in the his­tor­i­cal re­sale val­ues of Rennsport mod­els but if you re­ally want to gauge how far this car has come over its pre­de­ces­sor, con­sider this. Porsche has been flog­ging th­ese cars around the Nord­schleife ever since the first GT3 RS ap­peared in 2003. In the in­ter­ven­ing 12 years between the in­tro­duc­tion of that car and the 991 ver­sion, the lap times im­proved by 26 sec­onds. Yet this 991.2 ver­sion carves a mas­sive 24 sec­ond chunk off its pre­de­ces­sor’s time, record­ing a faintly gob­s­mack­ing 6min 56.4sec mark.

That cir­cuit pace has been achieved through four key ar­eas, and the first two are rel­a­tively easy to ex­plain. The en­gine’s ad­di­tional power comes solely from the fit­ment of a freer-breath­ing ti­ta­nium ex­haust and some elec­tronic tweaks. Other than that, it’s ab­so­lutely iden­ti­cal to the lump you get in the back of a GT3. The sec­ond fac­tor that skews things a lit­tle is the driver. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a pro­duc­tion car driven on the old track with quite the de­mented com­mit­ment that Kevin Estre dis­played when gifted an hour-long win­dow in per­fect con­di­tions by the gen­er­ous Corvette test team. He came within inches of grief af­ter mis­judg­ing the dou­ble-right af­ter the jump at Pflanz­garten but still kept it pinned, giv­ing Porsche three cars that have clocked un­der seven min­utes, the GT2 RS and 918 Spy­der be­ing the oth­ers.

The two more in­ter­est­ing spheres of devel­op­ment are aero­dy­nam­ics and sus­pen­sion setup. The way it works air­flow is par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive. The GT3 RS now de­liv­ers more down­force than any Porsche road car. Yes, that even in­cludes the mighty GT2 RS. With no tur­bocharg­ers and less cool­ing air­flow re­quired, the GT3 RS can in­stead put that air to work de­liv­er­ing real down­force. Crank the man­u­ally ad­justable rear wing to its most ag­gres­sive set­ting and the 991.2 de­liv­ers 40 per­cent more down­force than its pre­de­ces­sor. That’s a mas­sive step change in high-speed grip and a lot of work has also been de­voted to mak­ing the car sta­ble and aero­dy­nam­i­cally ef­fec­tive dur­ing high-speed braking.

The front end of the 991.1 directed cool­ing air to its front brake discs, vent­ing high pres­sure air back out of the arches through the gills atop the front guards. This lat­est car in­stead uses the front air in­takes to fun­nel air to the front dif­fuser, which then hands it over across the flat floor to the rear dif­fuser. Brake cool­ing is han­dled by those NACA ducts punched into the bon­net, which create tum­bling air vor­tices that draw fast-mov­ing air into the scoops, over­com­ing a prob­lem of early re­cessed scoop de­signs where they could only draw in rel­a­tively slow-mov­ing bound­ary layer air.

There’s a pair of three-part turn­ing vanes ahead of the front tyres that re­duce drag and send tur­bu­lent air down the un­der­side of the car out­board of the dif­fusers. The wider front guards and sculpted front wheels di­rect

air onto the broader sill ex­ten­sions, which gen­er­ate max­i­mum down­force im­me­di­ately ahead of the rear arches.

The in­te­grated rear spoiler does most of the aero­dy­namic don­key work at the back, kick­ing in­ef­fi­cient vor­tices way be­hind the car, while the rear wing can be ad­justed through four steps of -1, +1, +3 and +5. The un­der­body dif­fusers help re­duce body pitch at speed, im­prov­ing sta­bil­ity un­der heavy braking.

You feel this on track. The big braking zones at the end of the straight and into the Dun­lop curve feel rock steady, and you can even take lib­er­ties in trail braking with­out set­ting the tail loose. The front end is mighty, helped by sig­nif­i­cant re­vi­sions to the sus­pen­sion. That old GT3 RS tech­nique of eas­ing the front end into a corner to feel out its pur­chase and then hav­ing ac­com­plished that, set­ting to work manag­ing the rear grip post-apex is a thing of the past. This 991.2 feels all of a piece, with far sharper turn-in and su­pe­rior grip al­low­ing you to pick up the throt­tle ear­lier and harder. The GT2 RS in front of us is driv­ing a 2:18s pace – about what a fac­tory test driver could man­age in a Car­rera S ab­so­lutely balls out. On the down­hill leg, the GT3 RS is saun­ter­ing. It’s only on the pull up­hill that the tur­bocharged car makes its ad­di­tional 132kw felt.

That said, de­spite its mod­est uptick in horses over the GT3, this is a phe­nom­e­nal pow­er­plant. It’s tractable at low revs, but the ca­reen­ing frenzy of revs stam­ped­ing between 7500 and the 9000rpm red­line is pure racer. The sound­track builds in lay­ers to a point where you think it has reached its crescendo. Keep your foot in. There’s an­other level that el­e­vates the GT3 RS from its lumpenly road­bound ri­vals to some­thing that feels as if it’s es­caped from the grid and had num­ber plates hastily slapped on. It some­how man­ages to feel both spiky and fluid at the same time and the lack of much in the way of dis­cernible fly­wheel ef­fect makes it dev­as­tat­ingly ef­fec­tive on track. You’ll gid­dily zing it to each strato­spheric up­shift in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the dual-clutch ’box bark­ing an elec­tri­fy­ing fusil­lade of down­shifts. It gets my vote as the most thrilling con­tem­po­rary pro­duc­tion sports car en­gine.

The keen­ness of its re­sponse has been echoed in the way that chas­sis dy­nam­ics have been honed. Porsche has been through the sus­pen­sion of this car and has, as far as it can, gone on a search and de­stroy mis­sion for rub­ber. The elas­tomer bush­ings of the old car have been re­placed by twenty all-metal uni­ball bear­ings, re­duc­ing the vari­ables the chas­sis en­gi­neers have to work with and ced­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity to the damp­ing.

As you’d ex­pect, all of the elec­tronic sys­tems that con­trol the four-wheel steer­ing, the sta­bil­ity con­trol, trans­mis­sion logic and the torque vec­tor­ing have been re­cal­i­brated and op­ti­mised to ac­com­mo­date the ad­di­tional ef­fects of the im­proved aero pack­age.

In case you re­ally wanted to pare weight out of the car, the op­tional $34,390 Weis­sach pack saves 16.5kg and swaps the mag­ne­sium roof panel for a car­bon­fi­bre re­in­forced plas­tic (CFRP) item, while the bon­net is also CFRP, as are the front and rear anti-roll bars and cou­pling rods. You also get a CFRP rear wing and mir­ror shells and six-point har­nesses.

Throw an­other $7600 Porsche’s way and they’ll take fur­ther weight out of it by swap­ping out the no-cost op­tion steel roll cage for a ti­ta­nium item. Or you could tack $21,590 to the bill and get the car with Porsche Car­bon Com­pos­ite Brakes, which are 50 per­cent lighter than their steel equiv­a­lents. Op­tional mag­ne­sium wheels that save 11.5kg are due in Fe­bru­ary.

In July, an even grip­pier Miche­lin Pi­lot Sport Cup R tyre will be made avail­able as an op­tion. As you might well have fig­ured out by now, there prob­a­bly won’t be any Aussie GT3 RS cars leav­ing the Porsche deal­ers at the flat $416,500 price be­fore on-roads.

Yes, it’s an evo­lu­tion­ary model but, as we’ve seen, evo­lu­tion some­times takes rapid leaps for­ward. It’s the prod­uct of in­cre­men­tal gains or, as An­dreas Pre­uninger says, “11,000 parts made to feel like one.” If you’re one of the lucky few to get a slot, you’ll have landed pos­si­bly the finest sports car for sale at any price.

Model Porsche 911 GT3 RS (991.2) En­gine 3996cc flat 6, dohc, 24v Max power 383kw @ 8250rpm Max torque 470Nm @ 6000rpm Trans­mis­sion 7-speed dual-clutch Weight 1430kg 0-100km/h 3.2sec Econ­omy 12.8L/100km Price $416,500 On sale Now, first de­liv­er­ies Q4 2018

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