Road-le­gal 996 Cup

Few ex­pe­ri­ences are as tan­talis­ing as driv­ing a race car on the road. We head to the hills of Eber­bach, Ger­many to sam­ple a spe­cial 996 Cup

Total 911 - - Contents - Writ­ten by Wil­helm Lut­je­harms Pho­tog­ra­phy by charles rus­sell

It’s built for heavy-duty com­pe­ti­tion on the race track. We take the first wa­ter-cooled 911 Cup car for a spin on the road…

Race cars are un­com­pro­mis­ing, fo­cused ma­chines. De­signed, de­vel­oped and engi­neered ex­clu­sively for the rigours of motorsport, they ges­tate new tech­nolo­gies for up­com­ing road cars and, in the case of the 996 Cup, in­spire a new gen­er­a­tion of 911 en­thu­si­asts to get out and race.

Even though race cars are meant to prove their met­tle on closed cir­cuits, there is a guilty in­dul­gence to driv­ing a race car on a pub­lic road. They seem so out of place among the mun­dane, mass-pro­duced cars lit­ter­ing the pub­lic high­way that the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is truly unique; the ma­chine’s per­for­mance po­ten­tial makes you feel un­touch­able.

When we orig­i­nally ap­proached the owner of this car and asked about the pos­si­bil­ity of fea­tur­ing it in an is­sue of To­tal 911, he sim­ply said: “No prob­lem, we just put garage plates on the car and you can drive it.” His re­sponse took us by sur­prise, but I was ex­cited by the prospect of driv­ing a 996 Cup on the pub­lic road. This is go­ing to be one hell of a drive.

The 996 Cup first ap­peared as early as the 1998 rac­ing sea­son. Al­though it of­fered 360bhp and

360Nm in 1998, by 2002 those out­puts had in­creased to 380bhp and, again, an iden­ti­cal 380Nm. For the 2002 sea­son six-pis­ton calipers were in­stalled at the front which clamped 350mm discs, while the rear re­tained 330mm discs. A to­tal of 138 Cup cars were man­u­fac­tured that year, which was a record at the time for pro­duc­tion-based race cars built by Porsche AG. The same year also saw the in­tro­duc­tion of a new pow­er­train fea­ture: the trans­mis­sion was cooled by means of an oil spray, as well as an oil­wa­ter heat ex­changer.

This Pure white 2002 996 Cup in our pic­tures has a par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing his­tory. It was al­lo­cated as a test car to re­spected Porsche en­gi­neer Roland Kuss­maul un­til 2005. Dur­ing that year the car was sent to Asia and placed in a liv­ery for an ex­hi­bi­tion, but was never raced there.

Dur­ing the years it was in Herr Kuss­maul’s cus­tody it re­ceived sev­eral up­grades from the fac­tory for the pur­poses of test­ing, be­fore the re­sults of this work were im­ple­mented to new clients’ cars. For ex­am­ple, the car has its rev lim­iter set at a heady 8,000rpm – at the time it was one of the high­estrevving Cup cars ever to have been de­vel­oped at the fac­tory. So, need­less to say, the car has a thick and fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory file.

The car’s first pri­vate owner was Dr Siegfried Brunn of Brunn Rac­ing fame, who pur­chased the car for en­durance rac­ing in 2005. Sub­se­quently the shocks were up­graded with Sachs units and a dif­fer­ent lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial and long-dis­tance rac­ing tank were fit­ted. Dr Brunn is a re­spected cit­i­zen of the town, and even the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties recog­nise him when he takes race cars out on the road for a brief shake­down or to quickly test an as­pect of the car.

The car even­tu­ally par­tic­i­pated in a race at the Nür­bur­gring in 2006, when Philip Brunn drove the car to a top-15 fin­ish. Ten years later it was sold to its sec­ond owner, a South African Porsche col­lec­tor.

On to to­day. We find our­selves out­side the small, pic­turesque Ger­man town of Eber­bach. A me­chanic pours some 100-oc­tane rac­ing fuel into the 996

Cup’s fender-mounted fuel filler. The white Cup car pro­vides an ap­petis­ing con­trast to the light- and dark­green hues of the sur­round­ing forests and moun­tains. It looks to­tally out of place com­pared to its nat­u­ral sur­round­ings, al­though the Pure white body pan­els – clean with­out any spon­sored wraps or stick­ers – look more like those of a road than race car.

Com­pared with its road-go­ing coun­ter­parts the 996 Cup sits closer to the road; has a larger, sharper rear wing and BBS split-rim wheels, but once you climb in – over the roll cage – and lower your­self into the bucket seat there is no doubt that the car will of­fer a vastly dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence com­pared to a road car. The fact that the steer­ing wheel needs to be clicked into place is an­other high­light!

To­day th­ese roads are lit­tered with bik­ers en­joy­ing the per­fect, dry sum­mer weather in

Europe, but a few decades ago one of th­ese roads was used for an an­nual hill­climb event… and it’s not dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand why. The route we’ve cho­sen for our drive of­fers a per­fect com­bi­na­tion of hair­pins mixed in with some faster cor­ners. The for­est scenery is tremen­dously invit­ing, es­pe­cially as you watch the black tar­mac curve and thrust its way through the green­ery in front of the car.

Once you’re in situ, the Re­caro race seat of­fers al­most no body move­ment in ei­ther the lat­eral or hor­i­zon­tal axis, while the ex­tru­sions around your head ob­scure a large part of the cabin from your vi­sion. Then, once you have clicked the five straps into the cen­tre unit of the har­ness, you can just about move your head and arms, but that is it; you feel 100 per cent strapped in and part of the car.

As I’ll be driv­ing the car on the road there is no need for a hel­met, which is a rather lib­er­at­ing con­ces­sion that al­lows me to ab­sorb what the car has to of­fer with all of my senses. When you look around, apart from the dash­board, which is the same as in road-go­ing 911s, there is lit­tle more than white, bare metal in sight.

Un­like newer Cup cars (and other race cars, for that mat­ter), this 16-year-old Cup car can still be started with a twist of the key to the left of the steer­ing wheel. I first click the Al­can­tara steer­ing

wheel into the steer­ing col­umn, and as the engine kicks in a loud, in­tense, me­chan­i­cal clat­ter­ing em­anates from be­hind the seat. The most chal­leng­ing as­pect is to pull away smoothly from stand­still. You need to give plenty of throt­tle in­put and let the clutch slip, but at the same time you want to ex­pe­dite this ma­noeu­vre as much as pos­si­ble to min­imise clutch wear.

I im­me­di­ately no­tice that some­thing is wrong

– the car doesn’t want to ex­ceed 40mph, no mat­ter what I do. Even­tu­ally, after we’ve parked the car and gone through all the set­tings, we re­alise I ac­ci­den­tally ac­ti­vated the speed lim­iter!

Fi­nally, with the lim­iter dis­en­gaged, I’m off. The mo­ment the 996 Cup picks up speed there is an ur­gency from the driv­e­train that sig­nals the car’s true in­tent. Mash the throt­tle pedal flat and the revs rise quickly. Past 6,000rpm, for the fi­nal 2,000rpm in its al­lot­ted range, the engine starts to sound its best as that flat six sound in­tensely and harshly en­ters the cabin. The din over­whelms all the other me­chan­i­cal noises and pro­vides a rac­ing sound­track for the driver, as well as those for­tu­nate on­look­ers that find them­selves in the same val­ley as this road.

Need­less to say, as the 996 Cup as­cends the moun­tain pass, pho­tog­ra­pher Charles and I need to

“See­ing a 911 race car nav­i­gat­ing traf­fic be­fore head­ing up through the hills is an ex­pe­ri­ence not to for­get”

raise our voices to mild shouts in or­der to hear each other clearly. It’s all in vain, how­ever; in glee­ful de­feat we give up talk­ing to one an­other as our wide eyes and eu­phoric laugh­ter quickly sum up our thoughts of this ex­cep­tional car.

Each and ev­ery gear shift is a high­light. Not only is each swap pre­cise and short, but if you glance down for a mo­ment you can see how the ’box’s link­age mech­a­nism op­er­ates. It does feel as if the gear lever is slightly higher than that of the road car, but I think it is be­cause you are sit­ting lower in the Cup car than in the road car.

As you press the throt­tle pedal, its lack of in­er­tia, by virtue of the ut­terly ma­jes­tic mo­tor and the light­ness of the car, is im­me­di­ately ev­i­dent as the 380bhp sup­plies near-in­stant ac­cel­er­a­tion, es­pe­cially if you keep the engine speeds higher up in the rev range. The brakes feel expressly po­tent un­der­neath my foot but, as is of­ten the case with race cars, they scream loudly when the pads rub the discs.

On th­ese nar­row roads a three-point turn also quickly turns into a six- or seven-point ma­noeu­vre, owing to the car’s wide turn­ing cir­cle. But the mo­ment you have made that fi­nal turn you can in­dulge in the raw, in­tox­i­cat­ing driv­e­train sound of an engine that can trace its roots to the Le Mans-win­ning GT1 race car. On a con­stant throt­tle, me­chan­i­cal noise is at its low­est, but the mo­ment you climb off the throt­tle or put your foot down that ca­coph­ony re­turns in­stantly.

Hy­draulic power steer­ing al­lows the steer­ing wheel to bris­tle with feed­back. I can feel ex­actly when the front axle loads up, and even more so when the front wheels sniff out any tram­lines or un­du­la­tions in the road. This is ob­vi­ously ex­ac­er­bated by the front cam­ber set­tings, al­low­ing the nose to easily point into a cor­ner when you turn the wheel

– a road car sim­ply can­not repli­cate that. Even shod with wet-weather rac­ing tyres the 996 Cup’s grip is im­mense. As I turn into cor­ners there is vir­tu­ally no body lean; the car changes direc­tion at will.

Later that af­ter­noon as the pre­vi­ous owner pi­lots the car in front of us, it is notable how flat the 996 Cup cor­ners. The wheels ex­hibit min­i­mal hor­i­zon­tal move­ment, which, given the lim­ited space un­der the wheel arches, is just as well.

Al­though you will never get the tyres up to work­ing tem­per­a­ture on a pub­lic road and be able to at­tack cor­ners with the same fe­roc­ity as you would on a race track, see­ing a 911 race car nav­i­gat­ing traf­fic be­fore head­ing up through the hills is an ex­pe­ri­ence not to for­get.

Suf­fice to say the 996 Cup is one of the most ex­cit­ing 911s that I’ve driven on the road. It’s hard to ex­plain, but the pu­rity and com­pro­mis­ing na­ture of a race car awak­ens an urge in you to ex­pe­ri­ence it on a road – the vis­ceral na­ture of a track-bred car de­liv­ers ex­hil­a­ra­tion in a way few stan­dard 911s can repli­cate.

What’s more, the cleanliness of this car and the fact it has cov­ered only 6,800 miles – al­though race cars’ lives are mea­sured in hours, not miles – fur­ther adds to the oc­ca­sion of driv­ing it.

Would you want to drive the 996 Cup reg­u­larly on the road? Prob­a­bly not, but maybe for a quick, ex­hil­a­rat­ing trip once ev­ery month or two, cer­tainly! The 996 GT3 road cars feel com­par­a­tively lux­u­ri­ous after a stint in the Cup. To il­lus­trate my point, a day after my drive in this car I spent two days at the wheel of a 996 GT3. The lat­ter is a car that you can drive com­fort­ably on track or across Europe, but it can’t of­fer that raw, in­tense and un­for­giv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of the Cup car…

The 996 might still di­vide opin­ion to this day but, as with ev­ery 911 range, the race cars are at the pin­na­cle of their gen­er­a­tion. Apart from the 996 GT3 RS en­durance rac­ers, the 996 Cup sits at the very peak of the 996 Porsche Motorsport pyra­mid.

BELOW Mezger unit can trace its routes back to the Le Man­swin­ning GT1 of 1998

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