996 GT3 SHOOTOUT

Words: Johnny Ti­pler Pho­tog­ra­phy: Amy Shore The GT3 was Porsche’s first crack at a spicy, Rs-style ver­sion of the 996. We drive both Mark 1 and Mark 2 ver­sions – and, what-d’ya-know, they’re both Speed Yel­low! How cool is that for two hot num­bers?

911 Porsche World - - This Month -

Gen 1 and gen 2 GT3S go head-to-head in a road racer show­down

So sleek, so pur­pose­ful; no other Porsche has quite the same shark-like de­meanour as the 996 GT3. With good rea­son, too. The com­pany’s rad­i­cal evo­lu­tion from air-cooled, hand-crafted cars to robo­tised pro­duc­tion-line wa­ter-cooled mod­els from 1996 de­manded a flag­ship, some­thing to lead the charge, a com­pe­ti­tionori­en­tated car along the lines of the ’73 2.7 RS and its 964 and 993 RS suc­ces­sors. Launched in May 1999, the 996 GT3 did the busi­ness straight away, com­bin­ing a higher per­for­mance, nor­mally-as­pi­rated en­gine with sports-tuned, track-fo­cused sus­pen­sion to pro­duce a highly-strung thor­ough­bred. Like RSS from pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions, the GT3 de­mands to be put through its paces ev­ery time it’s fired up and, as we’ll find out, it never dis­ap­points.

Named af­ter the FIA’S GT3 en­durance rac­ing class, it was im­me­di­ately pressed into ser­vice for the show­case Car­rera Cup and Porsche Su­per­cup race se­ries, as well as be­ing the weapon of choice for con­tenders in stand-out events like the Nür­bur­gring 24Hours, and the N-GT class of the FIA GT Cham­pi­onship from 2000 which it cleaned up in. In its first-ever race, Man­they Rac­ing’s GT3 won the GT class at the 1999 Le Mans 24-Hours in the hands of Uwe Alzen/pa­trick Huis­man/luca Ric­citelli. Soon enough, in­house su­per-tester Wal­ter Röhrl lapped the daunt­ing Nür­bur­gring Nord­schleife in 7m 56s, in other words, sub-8m, a statis­tic im­me­di­ately seized upon by Porsche PRS, since it was the first pro­duc­tion car ever to do so. It looked the part, too: sub­tle chin spoiler and nar­row air-dam, aero­dy­nam­i­cally con­fig­ured and flared sills, and fixed dou­bledecker ‘swan neck’ rear wing.

The GT3 was the prog­eny of An­dreas Pre­uninger, Man­ager of Porsche High Per­for­mance Cars and head of Porsche’s GT se­ries pro­duc­tion depart­ment. Known for his purist ap­proach to driv­ing, Pre­uninger de­signed a set-up cal­cu­lated to in­spire max­i­mum driver in­volve­ment, and that ex­cluded the Tip­tronic and later PDK gear­boxes. Un­veiled at the 1999 Geneva Show and re­leased in May that year, the 996 GT3 was based upon the re­cently in­tro­duced Car­rera 4 bodyshell, mod­i­fied to ac­com­mo­date the GT3’S dry-sump oil tank, dif­fer­ent en­gine mounts, and larger fuel tank. Re­ly­ing on en­gine up­grades rather than forced in­duc­tion to achieve higher per­for­mance, the GT3 body had no need of Turbo- or Gt2-style vents, an ab­sence that com­ple­ments its over­all sleek­ness. Now for the sci­ence bit. While stan­dard 996 Car­reras were pow­ered by the 3.4-litre flat­six at the time, the GT3 was equipped with a new 3.6-litre unit. Re­garded as bul­let­proof, the 3.6 “Met­zger” en­gine was built up us­ing the 964 crank­case, al­lied to a pair of wa­ter-cooled cylin­der banks and camshafts in an ar­range­ment con­cep­tu­ally sim­i­lar to the 959 su­per­car and 956/962 and GT1

rac­ing mod­els. Re-engi­neered in nor­mallyaspi­rated for­mat for greater pro­duc­tion vol­ume and wider ho­molo­ga­tion po­ten­tial, with higher 11.7:1 com­pres­sion ra­tio, Var­i­o­cam tim­ing ad­just­ment and four-valves per cylin­der, its plasma-ni­trided crank­shaft and ti­ta­nium con­rods en­abled it to rev sig­nif­i­cantly higher than the stan­dard en­gine. The six- speed trans­mis­sion and dual-mass fly­wheel with 40-per cent LSD was de­rived from the 993 GT2, and at launch, the 360bhp @ 7200rpm GT3 was the most pow­er­ful nor­mally-as­pi­rated 911 ever to go on sale. The 0–60mph sprint took 4.7 sec­onds, while top speed was 187mph.

It had the han­dling to match as well. The sus­pen­sion was low­ered by 30mm and con­sisted of ad­justable dampers, stiffer fly­wheel, al­low­ing the revs to rise and fall springs and ad­justable anti-roll bars, with more rapidly. The Com­fort fea­tures leather­cross-drilled and ven­ti­lated 330mm disc up­hol­stered bucket seats, but no rear seats or brakes with four-pot calipers and ABS 5.3. cen­tre con­sole. In both cases the space-saver Wider track was ob­tained by means of 5mm spare is re­placed by a punc­ture re­pair kit and spac­ers, set off by light­weight ten-spoke 18-in in­fla­tor – all very well if you de­tect your tyre wheels, 8in front, 10in rear, shod with 225/40 de­flat­ing but use­less if it’s shred­ded by the and 285/30 ZR 18 tyres. De­signer Pre­uninger time you come to a stand­still. The Mk1 was the last Porsche to have a throt­tle ca­ble, and apart fromabs it had no other driver aids. It ” was also the last road-go­ing Porsche to be built on the mo­tor­sport pro­duc­tion line, and though it’s a heav­ier car than the stan­dard 996 Car­rera, the Mk2 is heav­ier still. The Mk1 had a rep­u­ta­tion for worn syn­chro rings, but a se­cond batch of cars in­cor­po­rated steel syn­chro rings, which the Mk2 re­ceived as a is on record as be­ing com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing mat­ter of course. max­i­mum ‘feel’ with the GT3, on the premise In 2004 the Mk2 ap­peared on the scene, that a fast car lack­ing sen­sory ap­pre­ci­a­tion is along with the GT3 RS. There’s a school of worth­less. To pro­vide greater scope for thought that be­lieves the GT3 was soft­ened to achiev­ing this sen­sa­tional over­load, road­pro­duce more of a con­trast with the hard­go­ing mod­els come in two trim lev­els: Com­fort edged GT3 RS ver­sion in­tro­duced at the or Club­sport, the lat­ter fea­tur­ing rac­ing seats same time, and if noth­ing else, the pres­ence and rear roll cage at no ex­tra charge. Club of cup hold­ers per­haps hints at such a re­vised Sport ver­sions also em­ploy a sin­gle-mass sta­tus. The Mk2 (you’ll also see them re­ferred

De­signer Pre­uninger com­mit­ted to max­i­mum ‘feel’ with the GT3

to as gen 1 and gen 2 now) was the first GT3 to be avail­able in the USA, tra­di­tion­ally leg­isla­tively averse to tuned ver­sions. Ex­ter­nally the Mk2 dis­plays sev­eral stylis­tic changes, too, some sub­tle, some not so sub­tle. Less ex­ag­ger­ated, kind of like Art Deco’s rigid­ity against Art Nou­veau’s florid­ity. That’s to say that, vis­ually it was toned down. The head­lights were mod­i­fied to dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from the Boxster, and to ex­pand the fried egg sim­ile, the Mk2’s eggs oc­cu­pied less of the fry­ing pan. The front and rear aprons are dif­fer­ent, too, earn­ing the Mk2 some ma­tu­rity in the process, with slightly dif­fer­ent ge­om­e­try and slope an­gles to the in­lets and air ducts – which should ide­ally have mesh be­hind them to stop ingress of garbage. The 18in ten-spoke wheels were sim­pli­fied, side skirts mas­saged to pro­vide more aero, and the rear wing con­fig­ured as a plat­form on a pair of struts in­stead of the Mk 1’s ele­gant swan- neck bi­plane. More sig­nif­i­cantly, power rose to 381bhp with torque up to 284lb ft, most of which was avail­able from 2000rpm, and it was shorter geared in fifth and sixth. Sus­pen­sion was fur­ther low­ered and firmed, brakes were beefed up with six-pot calipers up front, with Porsche’s ce­ramic com­pos­ite brake sys­tem op­tional – for a tri­fling £5356 ex­tra. Still, when track-test­ing a GT3 with ce­ramic brakes, Au­to­car mag­a­zine’s test team dis­cov­ered that, ‘not even sev­eral com­mit­ted laps of the Nür­bur­gring could in­duce any fade.’ Sticky tyres aided traction, too: be­spoke semi-slick Miche­lin Pi­lot Sport N1 tyres were de­vel­oped specif­i­cally for the GT3. It was, how­ever, 30kg heav­ier than the Mk1.

At launch, the GT3 was well re­ceived. ‘A joy to use,’ said Au­to­car, ‘but no quicker than the stan­dard 911.’ Test­ing the car at Mill­brook prov­ing ground, they reck­oned this was due to the fact that the GT3 weighed 30kg more than the reg­u­lar 996 Car­rera, and, ‘it wasn’t as quick as we’d hoped.’ Nev­er­the­less, there were few other gripes: brak­ing, they re­ported, ‘is chestcrush­ing from any speed.’ At low speeds and in town it was not an il­lu­mi­nat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, though there were com­pen­sa­tions: ‘For an en­gine that of­fers 100bhp per litre, it has an un­nat­u­ral dose of de­port­ment at low speeds.’ And han­dling, too: ‘the pay­back is stun­ning body con­trol on any given road, just grip and com­po­sure.’ Turn-in was found to be much sharper than the stan­dard model, ‘more on its toes with front-end bite.’

When the Mk 2 GT3 be­came avail­able, Au­to­car mag­a­zine was on the case again: ‘the lat­est GT3 is in a dif­fer­ent league from its an­ces­tor when it comes to straight-line go,’ they claimed, ‘…so it qual­i­fies as a gen­uine su­per­car.’ More com­pli­ant than its pre­de­ces­sor, they ven­tured. ‘Rock hard and

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