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Porsche Celebrates Twenty Years of the 911 GT3

The GT3’s formula is something that stirs any driver with a drop of motor oil in their veins. A high-revving naturally-aspirated flat six engine closely related to the engine used in motorsports, rear wheel-drive, a lightweight construction, upgraded aerodynamics, and track-focused suspension made the GT3 a must for the drivers wanting a little more than what most supercars could offer. While there are cars with greatest statistics, the well-rounded nature of the GT3 has made it a wondrous car that still pulls at our heartstrings after twenty years. As we’ve seen, integrating more tech hasn’t dulled its appeal, either.

The successor to the 2.7 RS, the 996 GT3 ushered in a level of performance not available to customers for two decades.

Spiritual Successor

Upon its release in 1999, the Porsche GT3 was one of the few road cars to lap the Nurburgring in less than eight minutes; Walter Rohrl snagged a 7:56.33 in one of these edgy, temperamental, and rewarding cars. Lowered suspension, a distinct aero kit with an adjustable rear wing, a standard limited slip differential, adjustable suspension, and 360 horsepower made this one of the sharpest 911s available. While we Americans didn’t receive the GT3 until the 996 was facelifted, the two years on the market had us all waiting eagerly for the arrival of the next generation.

More Tech, More Speed

It was the 997 which captured the public’s attention Stateside. A bevy of new electronic systems, divided control arms, more power, and eventually center-lock hubs, the 997 was a step or two in practicality beyond the first iteration. Traction control, electronic stability control, and an optional front axle lift system made this generation of car a much more usable product, but still as capable over a backroad or a circuit. In fact, the 997 GT3 was significantly faster with a 7:40 lap at the ‘Ring.

Sophisticated but Pure

Continuing on that theme, the 991 introduced both a PDK gearbox and rear wheel-steering. These gadgets caused outrage among the purists, but the resulting performance only helped cement the 991 GT3’s reputation as one of the best track cars on sale. With its 3.8-liter’s 485 horsepower pushing a still svelte 3,153-lb car, the 991 GT3 became much more of a dragster than its predecessors, and its improved aero and agility helped chop another massive margin off its previous lap time at the Nurburgring. There aren’t many cars in the GT3’s price range which can dawdle around town comfortably and still set a ‘Ring time of 7:25.

Despite twenty years of electronic assistance and greater practicality, Porsche’s rawest car is still a hot-blooded machine. Perhaps it’s not as focused as its spiritual forebear, the 2.7 RS, but it’s still a thrilling, demanding car that rewards the talented. The 911 GT3 represents the beating heart of Porsche’s commitment to building pure, uncompromised sports cars—and proves that involvement and usability aren’t mutually exclusive.

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Does Technology Make More Enjoyable Supercars?

It’s bizarre to hear someone refer to the 997 GT3 as a representative of the « analog era » of supercars. Though it didn’t seem so at the time, by modern standards the GT3 is decidedly uncomplicated. Though it comes from the era of alphabet soup, is combination of traction control, PASM active suspension, and even Sports Chrono makes for more of a cup than a full meal. Compared to a car from a decade earlier, say a 993 Carrera RS, the GT3 is thoroughly modern. Compared to any car in the same segment today, it’s an exercise in minimalism. But what does that mean when comparing it to a modern supercar?

Though they emerged from under the same corporate umbrella, the Huracan and GT3 could hardly be more different. Whether comparing cylinder counts, gear counts, transmission types, or even driven wheels, the two don’t seem to align anywhere. Even as Lamborghinis migrate from being rolling style statements to having more and more track and on-road capability, the two struggle to find common ground.

To my eyes the Huracan is the most desirable modern Lambo since the Gallardo Balboni, but it’s not really my kind of car. As the reviewer points out in its effort to be accessible, it’s almost too civilized. This is an Italian wedge that can be daily driven, and driven swiftly with ease. At heart, I suppose many people fancy that a proper supercar should show some contempt for its driver. A proper supercar should try to kill you if you look at it wrong.

That is not to say that this particular GT3 is a widowmaker like a 935. Yet, in its comparative minimalism, it demands more of its driver. Having a traditional manual ‘box helps with this (though it is far from the end-all-be-all). Perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t rely as much on its electronic aids to go quickly. The traction control can be defeated with a single button press. The suspension isn’t infinitely variable. Just two wheels are driven, and they converse directly with your right foot via a 3.6L real-time translator.

In every measurable way, the Huracan is superior to the GT3. It’s faster in a straight line, has more traction, and is swifter around a track. But does that make it better?

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Taking Cues from the World’s Greatest Tracks: Porsche’s Leipzig

Taking the best from some of the most challenging racetracks in the world, Leipzig is an FIA-certified fantasy land for road racers of all stripes. Designed by Hermann Tilke, a former racer best known for his creation of numerous circuits on the F1 calendar, Leipzig mimics some of the world’s most famous corners for a uniquely challenging experience.

The first of which is the high-speed Sunset Bend, as borrowed from Sebring. This bend requires commitment and accuracy. The next is modeled after the famous Loews Hairpin from Monte Carlo. Famously slow and tight, this bend is deceptively difficult and requires perfect braking—both in application and release.

The stunning layout is complemented by the lush surroundings.

Next comes the Victoria Turn, as based on a now-replaced corner at Rio de Janeiro. Tilke notes, « As you pass through the dip of the bend, you move from oversteering to understeering, which is what makes this bend so exciting. » Before the bend, Tilke recommends braking smoothly, reducing the vehicle speed and then moving into the turn with precision but without understeering.

The high-speed Mobil 1 S, as borrowed from the Nurburgring, follows. Careful usage of the curbs and a courage pay dividends here. The challenging Lesmo bend, as found originally at Monza, is long and difficult to plan; luring drivers to carry too much speed and run out of road come exit.

To master the Bus Stop, as borrowed from the original Spa-Francorchamps, drivers must brake assertively, change direction over the curbing, and try not to overcook it while the car is subjected to loading from every direction.

The rollercoaster descent of the Corkscrew comes next. With a 12% gradient, this corner mimics the Laguna Seca original and gives drivers the sensation that their stomach is coming up through their esophagus. Quite a sensation when approaching a blind corner with such a steep drop.

The Parabolica challenges drivers and car; it seems never-ending and rewards bravery and high entry speeds. The subsequent esses, as taken from Suzuka, require constant attitude changes and an incredibly precise application of the throttle to keep on-line. Impetuous, greedy driving will yield poor speeds.

These are only some of the great bends that make up Leipzig. With unique characters and specific challenges, these corners keep the driver constantly on their toes; supreme confidence is needed to master this involving track.

Hop onboard for a lap of the circuit in a 4.0-liter 997 RS.

 
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Tuned 996 C2 Dices with GT3s in France

It’s hard to fathom that what for a long-time was considered the « redheaded stepchild » of the 911 family can, if driven well, casually dice with the latest and greatest thoroughbreds in the Porsche stable. A 991 GT3 ought to casually show the aging, 3.4-liter 996 its heels, but Guillaume Artufel’s 996, aided by his wonderful driving skills, remains in contention with cars costing ten times as much at the high-speed Circuit Du Var Luc in Southern France.

There are a few choice modifications that help this 3.4-liter 996 keep up. GT3-style seats help keep Artufel stable while hurtling down the former AGS-Formula 1 test track, KW coilovers offer some stability, Federal semi-slicks provide the stick, and as it’s a fairly focused track toy, it sports a cage. Other than that, it’s a plain-jane 996.

So, how does such a simple car run down a pair of well-driven GT3s? Artufel’s a masterful driver, and never looks flustered behind the wheel. Though he’s driving the Porsche to the edge of adhesion in hairpins and fifth-gear kinks alike, he never looks like he’s trying; he exudes calmness in the cabin.

It could be his tires, but he simply looks to trace tidier lines and show greater confidence in the high-speed sections, where he’s able to wrangle the red 997.2 GT3. Considering how this red car has some 150 horsepower on the camera car, straightline speeds are incomparable, but the 996 shows similar poise and, perhaps spurred on by a bit of underdog’s bravado, Artfuel likes nipping at the GT3’s bumper when he can. That said, the GT3 looks far more stable in the fast direction changes, though Artufel’s second-nature countersteering helps there.

Though the 996 slides at speed (5:05 and 6:08), it still behaves nicely and doesn’t surprise Artufel.

Even more impressive that a 991 GT3 joins the fray and fails to walk away for a long time. The 991’s combination of a broader powerband and a PDK gearbox gives it the ability to waltz away from the red car in a straight line, but due to Circuit Du Var’s narrow confines and a likely discrepancy in driving talent, it takes a long time to find a way around. Meanwhile, Artufel’s comfort behind the wheel helps him observe the fracas from a friendly distance, and, incidentally, demonstrates how wonderful these often-overlooked Porsches are with the right modifications and the proper touch.

Nipping down the inside, Artufel gives a friendly and audacious honk.

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Watch This 911 GT3 Rally Car Fly Through the Woods

I feel for right-seaters in rally cars, I really do, especially on gravel. Even while reading the pace notes, they are completely at the mercy of the driver. On this test route, the person in the navigator’s position appears to be simply acting as ballast. Based on their clothing, they may well be an unsuspecting member of the team. I’m sure they were fitted with a helmet and gently coerced, or stuffed kicking and screaming, into the Porsche. The view over the dash in this GT3 is very standard for a modern 911 racecar, save the for tall handbrake and rally computer. The view out the windscreen is something else entirely.

Tuthill Porsche’s RGT rally kit is designed to make 997 and 991-generation cars competitive R-GT class rallying. The car in the video is slated to run in a Spanish rally series this season. While 911s are no strangers to rallying, it is still unusual to see a modern 911 on a gravel rally stage. Like its forebears (and many current « Safari » 911s) the car looks very much at home on the loose surface and over the bumps. The longer suspension travel and narrower tires seem to play in to the 911’s inherent strengths, especially when getting power down out of a corner.

Tuthill Porsche is making a serious name for themselves in rallying with their RGT programme. The first WRC-eligible RGT competed in the 2014 Rally Deutschland. At the close of the event, Richard Tuthill’s GT3 became the first Porsche to finish a WRC event in 28 years.

The R-GT class is currently very small. Regular entrants are limited to just 911 GT3s, the Lotus Exige S R-GT and Fiat 124 Spider G-GT. Additional passports are issued to individual cars at the FIA’s discretion. The added diversity is more than welcome amidst the sea of Subarus, Volkswagens and Mitsubishis seen at most WRC events.

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