Porsche Party

A few hun­dred miles up the coast in a 911 GT3 Tour­ing

Automobile - - Contents - By Au­to­mo­bile Staff

There are Porsche fans, and then there are the faith­ful—the pil­grims who flocked to WeatherTech Race­way La­guna Seca for Rennsport Re­union VI— a cel­e­bra­tion of the Ger­man carmaker that has stamped its in­deli­ble mark on the sports car land­scape.

MORE THAN ONE at­tendee at Porsche’s Rennsport Re­union VI in late Septem­ber re­marked, “Only Porsche could pull this off.” And by the end of the four-day cel­e­bra­tion of the mar­que’s mo­tor­sports his­tory, we agreed. Rennsport, held for the third time at WeatherTech Race­way La­guna Seca, is un­like any other au­to­mo­tive cel­e­bra­tion we’ve en­coun­tered.

A large part of the magic is thanks to a steady thrum of sol­i­dar­ity per­me­at­ing the event. On one end, 918 Spy­der own­ers made a big show, park­ing in a lot filled with shiny GT2 RSs and Car­rera GTs. In the pad­dock area, 959s had their own re­served park­ing tent, which at one point at­tracted 14 ex­am­ples of the revo­lu­tion­ary mid1980s su­per­car. Down at the other end, Porschep­hiles climbed out of their first-gen Boxsters and raggedy 944s to peer into the cock­pit of an eight-fig­ure 718 RSK.

Who would have thought such a con­cen­tra­tion of un­fath­omably valu­able cars and ul­tra-high-net-worth in­di­vid­u­als could have evolved into such a mas­sively suc­cess­ful gath­er­ing? Per­haps no one aside from rac­ing hero and vin­tage-rac­ing or­ga­nizer Brian Red­man and Porsche’s late pub­lic re­la­tions mae­stro Bob Carl­son, the men who con­ceived Rennsport at the turn of the cen­tury and launched the first in­stall­ment at Lime Rock Park in 2001.

More so than per­haps any other ma­jor au­to­mo­tive event, Rennsport is deeply per­sonal. There’s some­thing in­tan­gi­ble about Porsche zealotry—more than 15,000 showed up for that first edi­tion at Lime Rock, and at­ten­dance has grown with each out­ing, peak­ing at more than 81,000 over the four days this time around. A com­mon thread among the peo­ple we spoke to: They didn’t show up just to look at cool cars. Al­most uni­ver­sally, it seems, there’s a story be­hind the in­ter­est.

My Rennsport ex­pe­ri­ence be­gins with my fa­ther and ends with a road trip up the Cal­i­for­nia coast in a 2018 911 GT3 Tour­ing. A long­time me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer, my dad can’t re­call when he first caught the bug. He tells me of his stand­off­ish out-of-state grand­fa­ther who oc­ca­sion­ally picked him up in a 1960s 911, only to have it sold out from un­der his nose when my great-grand­fa­ther died. He tells me of the time he tem­po­rar­ily swapped his Nissan Max­ima for his brother’s then-new red 944 and of my great-un­cle with a 356 in Ger­many.

I fi­nally con­vinced him to sell his Nissan Mu­rano for a friend’s 1981 911 Targa. Seven years later, I live in Cal­i­for­nia, dad’s fly­ing in, and a sur­prise awaits him. From the minute we pur­chased the Targa, it was a shared ex­pe­ri­ence, and now it’s my turn to pay it for­ward with a road trip in a new 911 GT3 Tour­ing.

Sure, we could have wormed our way be­hind the wheel of a GT2 RS, but the new-for-2018 GT3 Tour­ing seemed more apro­pos, a purer ex­pres­sion of Porsche’s mo­tor­sports ethos. It’s the same GT3 we know and love, only sans rear wing and Al­can­tara in­te­rior, re­placed with a full leather in­te­rior kit and a sub­tle rear-deck­lid “GT3 Tour­ing” badge. It’s a GT3 for grown-ups, for the type of driver who’s more in­clined to plan a cross-coun­try cruise than a rip down the main straight.

De­spite the prom­ise of Rennsport and a road trip up the coast in what I told my dad would be a 718 Boxster S, spir­its weren’t sharp the morn­ing of de­par­ture. The old man was fresh off the plane from a stint in Sin­ga­pore, and there was no time for cof­fee or break­fast stops if we wanted to make the check-in time in Mon­terey.

Bleary eyes cleared the minute the Sap­phire Blue Metal­lic coupe came into sight. Eyes got even wider when the nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 4.0-liter kicked over, rat­tling and thrum­ming in a way that’s uniquely GT3.

We aimed to hit Mon­terey via coastal roads, pri­mar­ily Pa­cific Coast High­way. It’s one of those great Amer­i­can stretches, along the same lines as Route 66 and the Blue Ridge Park­way. Stages through Mal­ibu and Santa Bar­bara are pic­turesque, but the coastal scenery turns breath­tak­ing in Big Sur, be­gin­ning just north of San Simeon.

The grins wouldn’t fade. Straight por­tions of PCH were con­quered with a 9,000-rpm wail, tighter sec­tions dis­patched with the GT3’s un­canny grip and sym­bi­otic steer­ing. When traf­fic slowed along the way, we de­vel­oped a habit of wait­ing 30 sec­onds for the of­fend­ing mini­vans and the like to gather dis­tance be­fore blast­ing off, the up­roar­i­ous six-cylin­der scream de­flect­ing from the rocky cliff walls.

We pulled over a few times to change driv­ers and snap pho­tos—some cap­tured on our fam­ily Le­ica M3, in­her­ited from the 356-driv­ing un­cle. Out there on the coast, ears ring­ing from a sprint through a tun­nel, was a spe­cial mo­ment—one of many Rennsport sto­ries cre­ated that week for thou­sands of peo­ple.

This road to La­guna Seca set the stage for the en­tire trip, a per­fect pre-cho­rus for what was to come. Bet­ter yet, we knew that once the event reached its crescendo, we would point the GT3 Tour­ing south and do it all over again. AM

MYS­TI­CALFor all that lay in store at Rennsport Re­union, the jour­ney there was just as mes­mer­iz­ing.

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