PORSCHE’S 911 GT3 RS SWEATS THE DETAILS TO EARN A MASTERS IN AIR MANAGEMENT. RESULT? A ROAD-GOING TRACK STAR
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