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Porsche 991.2 GT3 RS: first drive verdict

Precision. That was the development goal with the new GT3 RS. You can’t have missed it, the Lizard Green launch colouring hardly retiring. Thing is, you could have written it off, Porsche’s GT department firing out new models at an unprecedented rate, the Gen I car still very fresh in the memory. The huge shadow cast by the GT2 RS is still around, too, so this GT3 RS has got some fighting to do.

Twenty-four seconds covers it, though. That’s how much quicker it goes around the Nurburgring over the old Gen I 991 GT3 RS. Works Porsche Racing Driver Kévin Estre took this new car around that stretch of challenging tarmac in a scarcely believable 6 minutes 56.4 seconds. That. Is. Bonkers.

Looking at the specification it’s difficult to see where the new car gains such an advantage, we’re used to new generations eking out 5-10 seconds, but 24 is night and day. Either Andreas Preuninger has an epic poker face, or he was surprised, too. On two separate occasions up to the launch he told us he was looking at around 7 minutes 5 seconds, with only 1 second or so improvement down to the 20hp the engine gains. There’s 520hp for the record, it basically the same unit as the GT3, only inhaling and exhaling differently via RS specific intake and exhaust systems.

Twenty hp is nothing, but the engine feels different. Faster, more immediate, more, damn it, precise. That’s true of every element of the GT3 RS’s make-up, the PDK shifting even more quickly, the electronic differential, the steering – both front and rear-axle systems, all having been finessed to create a greater unity. The suspension is key, it’s basically that of the GT2 RS, which means hugely increased spring rates, solid mountings, yet softer dampers and sway bars.

It’s the chassis that’s so revelatory, a racecar set-up that’s devastatingly effective on the road, bringing it riding with supple composure that’s remarkable, and control that’s unerring. It’s unfiltered and pure, without the interfering compromises in its predecessors that would ultimately demand that you wind back the speed. The steering is crisp, quick and perfectly weighted, the front axle so sharp, the rear faithful, too.

That the chassis is mated to such an intoxicating, screamer of an engine and rapid-fire transmission only enhances the whole, allowing its performance to be fully exploited. This is RS nirvana, and a remarkable, genuinely surprising step-change over its predecessor. Nobody ever called that a dull, uninvolving, slow car, and it isn’t, it’s just that the new one is better in every single way, demonstrably so. The precision development goal is key, moving the RS to a new level, 24 seconds to be precise. Like the specification though, it’s not about the numbers, it’s about how it feels, and this new RS feels little short of sensational.

For the full report and your most comprehensive first drive verdict anywhere in the world, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 166, in shops May 16th.

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Porsche 991.2 GT3 RS: first look

It isn’t the most obvious place to unveil Porsche’s latest track-focussed, rear-wheel drive machine, but the Porsche Experience Centre, Finland is where Porsche has decided to give us an early look at the next 911 GT3 RS.

Indeed, we’re so early to see it, it has not yet been fully homologated, so all the figures aren’t available. What we can confirm is that all the rumours of a larger capacity, or even a turbocharged GT3 RS are exactly that – rumours. Indeed, the engine, intake, exhaust and electronic controls are lifted almost entirely from the GT3, so that’s a naturally-aspirated, 4.0-litre flat-six revving to 9,000rpm.

Those differences make for a slight increase in power, up from 500hp to 520hp, torque rising by around 10Nm, GT department boss Andreas Preuninger admitting that with the GT3 RS it’s not just about power, but tactility, feel and immediacy. That’s always the promise with an RS, and Preuninger’s team has gone to town to provide it. To achieve that they’ve concentrated on efficiencies, be it the way the GT3 RS shapes and utilises the air it forces through, the control of the suspension, electronic differential, response of the engine and the immediacy of the steering. Every element of the GT3’s make up has been analysed and enhanced in its transformation into the GT3 RS.

Borrowing heavily from its GT2 RS relation, its suspension is all but identical, so bushes are binned in preference of rose joints on every mount – barring the a single one for the rear-wheel steering. The spring and damper rates are essentially that of a 911 Cup car in Nürburgring trim, so there’s significantly enhanced spring rates over the GT3 – as much as double – yet a compliant ride due to the damper settings.

The most obvious carry-over from the GT2 RS is the GT3 RS’s NACA ducts on the bonnet. These, as per its turbocharged relation, not only force cooling air to the brakes, but tidy the airflow up and over the GT3 RS to its rear wing. That in turn is positioned a touch higher, allowing, in conjunction with revisions to the underbody management of the air, the GT3 RS to offer levels of downforce at least as much as if not slightly more than its predecessor, but without generating so much drag.

The top speed remains the same 193mph quoted for the Gen1 car, but that’s likely to be conservative, as is the 3.2 second 0-62mph time. As with the earlier GT3 RS, this Gen2 car will be PDK only, the gearbox, like every other element worked on with some specific RS additions. There are bigger bearings inside, as well as a revised shift strategy, which in conjunction with revisions to software controlling the differential, traction, stability and rear-wheel steering systems allow more speed to be created from the GT3 RS around a track.

How much it’ll manage around that track remains conjecture, as it’s yet to run against the clocks, but Preuninger is confident of a time of around 7 minutes 5 seconds or so. He’s quick to admit that from that sizeable gain only around one second is attributable to the increased performance from the engine, the rest down to the chassis, tyres and aerodynamic changes.

Of course, this wouldn’t be an RS without some mass reduction. It’ll cause some consternation among the detail statos out there, as it’s likely Porsche will quote a kerbweight that matches the outgoing car. That’s 1,420kg in case you need reminding. That, like Porsche’s typically conservative performance figures, isn’t entirely representative, as there’s been a change in the way it can legally homologate the weight, it no longer possible to do so with all the weight saving options on it – think options like PCCB carbon ceramic brakes, plus no air conditioning or radio.

The weight figure, then, is more representative of reality, though Porsche has shifted significant mass, not least 5kg from the interior alone. The biggest potential saving comes courtesy of the possibility of GT3 RS customers optioning the Weissach Pack, which apes that of the GT2 RS, including elements like carbon fibre roof and bonnet body panels as well as magnesium wheels and a titanium roll cage. Choose it and the mass drops by 29kg, though thanks to production delays with the magnesium wheels – which account for around 12.5kg of those weight savings – Porsche will offer the Weissach as a two-stage package, with early customer orders not able to have it with the magnesium wheels.

If you’re in the lucky enough position to have an order in for one you’ll be dropping £141,346 before you add any options – the Weissach Package adding around £21,000 to the GT2 RS, so it’s not likely to be any cheaper here. Like the previous RS, limitations in build capacity, rather than any cap on build numbers will likely mean that individual options like Paint to Sample aren’t offered to UK buyers, in a bid to secure a greater portion of the production availability, though we’re rather taken by the Lizard Green launch colour Preuninger picked for the latest car to wear the RS badge. It’s also good to see the over GT3 RS script making a return, just in case you needed reminding this is something rather special indeed.

 

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Better than stock? Modified Porsche 996 GT3s do battle

As much as any other model, the 996 GT3 epitomises Porsche’s design and manufacturing philosophy. A perfect blend of road-going sportscar with track-orientated elaborations, it’s a direct manifestation of the philosophy that goes back way beyond the much vaunted ’73 2.7 RS to evolutions of the 356, such as the 356 Carrera of 1955.

The company has always sought to implant lessons learned on track in its road-going models, so it was only a matter of time after the firm made the quantum leap from air-cooled 911s to liquid-cooled engines in 1998 before a new standard bearer was launched.

Come the Geneva Auto Salon in April 1999, the 996 GT3 was announced. It unites a higher performance normally-aspirated engine with a track-tuned chassis and augments the lineage of Porsche thoroughbreds in the RS idiom.

Modified GT3s 2

It certainly looks the part with its deep front spoiler and airdam, aerodynamically configured sills and fixed double-decker ‘swan neck’ wing on the engine lid (in Gen1 guise) instead of the previous retractable wing of the standard 996.

With a nod to the FIA’s GT3 endurance racing class, it was immediately seized on as the vehicle of choice for the Carrera Cup and Porsche Supercup series and, from 2000, the N-GT class of the FIA GT Championship, as well as international races like the Nürburgring 24 Hours.

It was an immediate sensation. Manthey Racing’s GT3 won the GT class at the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours with drivers Uwe Alzen/Patrick Huisman/Luca Riccitelli at the wheel. Shortly afterwards, Porsche’s test driver Walter Röhrl took a GT3 around the 14-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7 minutes 56 seconds – the first ever time under 8 minutes for a production car – much to the glee of the Porsche motorsport PR department.

Modified GT3s 3

The 996 GT3 is the hallowed offspring of Andreas Preuninger, head of Porsche’s GT series production department and manager of Porsche High Performance Cars.

A renowned purist, he designed a specification that would encourage maximum driver involvement and for that reason Tiptronic and PDK transmissions were off the menu. The 996 GT3 uses the then-new Carrera 4’s narrow (as opposed to wider C4S) bodyshell, adapted to house the GT3’s dry-sump oil tank, different engine mounts and larger fuel tank.

To read our modified 996 GT3 head-to-head in full, pick up Total 911 issue 129 in store now. Alternatively, order your copy online for home delivery, or download it straight to your digital device.

Modified GT3s 4

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