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Porsche 996: GT3 Genesis

GT3: the most evocative, desirable collection of letters and numbers as you can ask for to be tacked to the rump of a 911. Add RS into the mix and that’s even more so. The GT3, as its name and subsequent RS spin-off highlights, has its tyres firmly rooted in Porsche’s racing activities. It’s enough to elevate all the cars here above the usual rhetoric spewed about the once ‘undesirable’ 996, the GT3 badge signifying something very special indeed.

There are three GT3s in the 996 generation, the Gen1 available from 1998-2001, the Gen2 coming in 2003 until 2005, with the RS spun off that between 2004 and 2005. That Gen1 car is unique among GT3s, largely because it’s the only GT3 not to have a same-generation RS model based on it, the Gen1 being Porsche’s GT3 genesis.

It’s inconceivable that you’re reading this and don’t know at least the basics surrounding the GT3. Lighter, more engaging, its creation allowing homologation of parts to allow Porsche to race the 911 to great success around the world. Actually, with the original GT3 that lighter element is a misnomer, as put the Gen1 car on the scales and it’s carrying around 30kg more mass than its base 996 Carrera relation.

Blame that on the marginally heavier G96/90 gearbox and M96/76 engine, as well as an additional engine radiator. Porsche didn’t elect to go down the lightweight panels, thinner glass route with its first GT3 model, though it did bin the rear seats in a small – 8kg – concession to mass reduction, while Sport bucket seats removed around 20kg over the standard Carrera’s pews. As a means of recompense for the weight gain, the M96/76 engine, more commonly referred to in reverential tones as ‘the Mezger’, was fitted, its specification being pure motorsport, with lightened, stronger internals to cope with the stresses of winning competition.

And what compensation, the Le Mans-winning GT1-derived, naturally aspirated 3.6-litre flat six unit was rated at 360bhp at 7,200rpm – redlining at 7,800rpm – with peak torque of 370Nm. It’s a glorious engine with enough power to allow the GT3 to reach 62mph in 4.8 seconds, 100mph in 10.2 seconds and a quoted top speed of 187mph. But it isn’t the numbers that matter, really, rather how it delivers its performance. In Walter Röhrl’s hands the first GT3 lapped the Nürburgring in 7 minutes 56 seconds – isn’t it ridiculous to think how far things have come in under 20 years? Stopping all that are 330mm cross-drilled, inner-vented discs of 330mm in diameter, grabbed by four-piston monoblock callipers.

Getting into James Samuel’s yellow Gen1 car today demonstrates exactly what Porsche intended its customers to do with their GT3s: track them. Why else would Porsche include adjustable suspension with extended-axle geometry sitting 30mm lower than standard, an adjustable rear wing and the possibility to quickly (relatively speaking here, and if you’re a race mechanic) swap out gear ratios to suit differing tracks, as well as the synchro rings? To that Porsche added differing hubs, with 10mm larger bearings over the Carrera’s 70mm ones for the greater forces racing tyres would exert. Spherical top joints more rigidly position the front suspension, the same possible at the rear if you’re off racing, the GT department adding five alternative mountings at the back for the adjustable tubular anti-roll bars.

For the full feature, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 167 in shops now or get it delivered to your door. You can also download a digital copy, featuring a bonus gallery, to your chosen Apple or Android device. 

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964 RS v 991.2 GT3 Touring: Blood Brothers

Porsche’s 911 GT3 has been on quite a journey of late. Just five years ago, ‘Mr GT3’ himself, Andreas Preuninger, met with journalists to talk through the company’s latest, seemingly indomitable GT3 in 991.1 guise after its public reveal at the Geneva Motor Show. The venue is a long-time happy hunting ground for Porsche to unveil its hottest GT cars.

On paper at least, the car represented something of a technological tour de force: Porsche’s new 991 was its most clinical take on a track-focused GT3 yet. With an active steering rear axle, electrically assisted steering through the wheel inside plus a compulsory seven-speed PDK gearbox, this was the do-it-all GT3, supposedly providing greatness on both road and track. However, despite this influx of tech and the plethora of inevitable Porsche acronyms describing it, journalists had just one question to ask: “Why no manual gearbox?”

Preuninger’s response, championing the merits of a clinical transmission system in a car built for performance driving, was of course perfectly sensical, yet it drew little inspiration among hacks. Surely Porsche, the company famed for its mantra of ‘it’s not how fast you go, but how you get there,’ wasn’t in the process of killing off the manual gearbox? That reaction from the press at Geneva, plus the ensuing wave of outcry from the buying public, forced Porsche to reconsider. From there, the GT3’s story – and inevitably, its future – has drastically altered.

It began with the 2015 Cayman GT4, Porsche GT department’s first foray into fettling the company’s mid-engined, baby sports car. It boasted the usual repertoire for a car blessed with Weissach wizardry, including a tuned engine, a healthy weight reduction and, for the first time in four years, a six-speed manual gearbox.

Needless to say, the Cayman proved a popular acquisition. While there’s little doubt enthusiasts were intrigued by a mid-engined GT car built by Preuninger’s team, Total 911 also witnessed staunch Neunelfer customers ditching the ‘uninvolving’ GT3 in favour of the analogue GT4. Estimated worldwide sales of up to 5,000 units later, Porsche had well and truly got the message.

Though the GT4 proved successful, enthusiasts still coveted a lightweight, manual 911, which was cut from the same cloth. This duly arrived in 2016 with the 991 R. Considered by many to be the 911 of the decade, its only problem was the fact it was largely unobtainable, with 918 Spyder owners offered first dibs on a car with a limited production run of just 991 cars globally.

The debacle sparked widespread anger among long-time buyers of Porsche GT cars who missed out in favour of the super wealthy, many of whom didn’t share that passion for the brand and who consequently flipped the R for obscene sums of money. However, Porsche was clearly getting warmer in its mission to deliver an analogue experience in a modern, blue-chip 911, but it still needed a launch that would really appeal to the masses.

That car came in 2017 with the launch of Porsche’s 991.2 GT3 with Touring Pack which, for the first time since the 997 generation, would come only with a six-speed manual transmission. The Touring’s repertoire is impressive: gone is the fixed wing and PDK gearbox resplendent on that 991.1 car, replaced by a discreet, traditional 911 silhouette and, of course, three pedals in the driver’s footwell.

Sound familiar? It should do, for while the Touring represents new ground for Porsche’s GT3 lineage, there’s evidence to suggest the company may have looked to its past for inspiration when building it. We are talking, of course, about the 964 RS.

To read the full feature of our comprehensive 964 RS v 991.2 GT3 Touring test, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 165, in stores now or available to purchase here

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Porsche 911 Carrera T first drive verdict

When it was launched, the Carrera T’s spec sheet raised more than a few eyebrows among enthusiasts. Billed as a more focussed Carrera, it would perhaps fill the gap for those wanting a GT3 Touring-inspired enthusiasts car for a rather more conservative budget. Some 20 kilograms lighter than an equivalent 991.2 Carrera, the T – further reviving the Touring name used on the entry-level 911 of the ’60s and early ’70s – also boasts key chassis tweaks to entice wallets from the pockets of purists.

The car’s paring back includes thinner glass aft of the ‘B’ pillar (an idea taken from the GT2 RS), rear seat and PCM delete (speccing them back in is a no-cost option), plus a removal of some sound deadening. By way of chassis tweaks, the Carrera T comes with Sport suspension as standard, something you can’t spec on a 991.2 Carrera, plus a mechanical limited slip differential so long as you spec the manual gearbox.

Speaking of transmission, the diff’s final drive ratio has been shortened, though the gearbox itself still has seven gears – this isn’t the same unit as found in the GT Department’s 911 R or GT3 Touring. In terms of engine, the Carrera T utilises the same 370hp flat six as the entry-level 911, though a Sports exhaust comes as standard specification. Elsewhere, your main touch point to the car comes via a smaller-diameter GT Sports wheel, and you’ll sit in four-way electrically adjustable seats (therefore the lightest outside of a bucket) with Sport-Tex centers replacing the usual leather. On paper it seems the Carrera T has been built purely for serious driving in mind then, but is the reality any different?

First, the good news. The 911 Carrera T improves on what is already a fantastic entry-level 911 in the standard Carrera, offering a car with slightly more focus overall. The differences are mainly small but nevertheless evident, for example we felt the T is incrementally more sprightly accelerating out of corners than its entry-level stablemate. Likewise the gearbox, often a source of anguish for Total 911 since its inception (due to a clunky shift and vagueness in gear selections) offers a better throw, though it’s more to do with the sensations brought about by a stubbier shifter rather than any mechanical overhaul.

The Sports chassis, however, is excellent. It’s perfectly palatable over longer journeys (we should know, we drove the Carrera T back from Monaco to Porsche GB HQ in Reading) and offers plenty of poise and – that word again – focus through the undulating twists and turns of a mountain pass. It doesn’t entirely eliminate body roll in the corners either, which we very much like, the T’s ability to move around offering a far more engaging driving experience.

There’s a little more noise to enjoy from the 9A2 flat six thanks to the removal of some sound deadening, and the fatter, smaller-diameter 360mm GT Sport steering wheel, optional on the rest of the Carrera range, is the perfect ally for pointing the car through turns, further adding to the T’s sensory delight. All this means it’s an incredibly fun car to drive on a good road.

However, there are some areas of improvement that the Carrera T project has shunned, largely revolving around that seven-speed gearbox: its shift is still less than perfect, and a re-gear – implied at the car’s launch – hasn’t materialised. As such, due to the torquey nature of the turbocharged flat six, many mountain passes can be tackled solely in third gear, a ratio that’s also good for a top speed of 102mph. This is at odds with a car that has supposedly been built to appeal to a driving purist. We’d have liked to have seen the Carrera T utilise shorter gears.

Questions can also be raised over the level of weight-saving Porsche has subjected the Carrera T to. For one, that claimed 20kg weight saving is slightly more diminished in reality, as the quoted weight of the actual car we tested was only 5kg lighter than a Carrera. We know a company like Porsche, whose history is punctuated by proper lightweight specials, can do better.

Don’t get us wrong, at £85,576, the Carrera T is worth the £7,000 premium over a 991.2 Carrera, also representing better value for money than a 991.2 Carrera S at £87,335 plus options, but the reality is it won’t trouble anything above that in the current Porsche 911 range. The Carrera T is a fun car to drive, but it could be so much more.

Total 911 tips:

  • Do spec PCM, the car doesn’t save enough weight otherwise for its omission to matter
  • Don’t spec PDK or rear axle steering, they’re at odds with the true purpose of a Carrera T
 
Monaco to Reading in 48 hours: our epic road trip with the 991 Carrera T is in Total 911 issue 162, in shops January or available to order online via here
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Diamonds in the Ruf

You’ve seen the tape, right? Stefan Roser, a 1987 Yellow Bird and a VHS cassette at the Nürburgring. The footage from that record-breaking drive is perhaps the first viral video ever created. As a result, most motoring enthusiasts know about the CTR ‘Yellow Bird’ and RUF Automobile, the ingenious company that created it. Like the Yellow Bird nickname, that Nürburgring video lap sensation wasn’t planned: it just happened, catapulting the hitherto relatively unknown manufacturer firmly into the consciousness of car fans the world over.

Technology would again play into RUF’s hands, its manufacturer status seeing it being included in Sony’s smash hit PlayStation game Gran Turismo 2 when Porsche itself wasn’t. That gaming exposure further cemented the small, bespoke manufacturer’s status among petrolheads, but for all the Yellow Bird’s 211mph achievements, RUF still flies under the radar.

Deliberately so, RUF remains something of an enigma. We know it produces its own cars, having had manufacturer status since 1981, but, really, few know anything else. The Pfaffenhausen-based company opened 78 years ago in 1939 with Alois Ruf Sr, a talented engineer repairing, improving and building vehicles. However, it was his son, Alois Ruf Jr, who would indulge in his passion for sports cars – and specifically the 911 – within the family business.

RUF attracts a different audience – a discerning clientele, who appreciate the engineering, the subtleties that define RUF’s models. Sure, a yellow, 469hp, turbocharged narrow-bodied 911 that monstered a performance test for American magazine Road & Track’s 1984 and 1987 ‘The World’s Fastest Cars’ features doesn’t exactly describe that, but then you don’t humble contemporary Ferraris, Lamborghinis and, yes, Porsches, without next-level engineering capability and skill.

It is that which defines RUF, that exacting attention to detail, with the focus on integrity rather than simply beautifying. If form follows that function it’s a bonus. RUF is about hand-built, small-volume vehicles, built as Alois and his family like them, and by family, that also includes its loyal customers.

US-based Arling Wang is among them. A long-time Porsche enthusiast and owner of LA specialists Rstrada, he’s also had a close relationship with Ruf for over six years now. Even better, he personally owns four RUF creations, and has visited Pfaffenhausen on countless occasions – so he’s better qualified than most to comment on Alois Jr’s enigmatic concern. Wang begins describing it, “With RUF it’s much more about a personal relationship. Every car you buy, you get to know them more.”

Wang buys into that relationship as much as he does the cars themselves, adding: “Ultimately the RUF package speaks to a certain owner, somebody who likes to have different things. For me, it’s about being low key, yet more sophisticated. If you know, you know; with a RUF it’s very much for you, it’s not for other people.” He adds: “It’s such an interesting company, all they do in-house is essentially run a family business, they don’t really care about what people say about their product, they only care about the people who believe in them.”

For the full article on Ruf Automobile’s incredible 911-based creations, pick up a copy of Total 911 issue 160 in stores now or get it delivered to you via our online shop. Alternatively, download a digital copy to any device via Apple Newsstand or Google Play

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Reimagined 993 revealed by Guntherwerks

We’re all familiar with backdating and re-imagining, but Guntherwerks 400R has taken the 933 and re-engineered it for today. “Aesthetically and technologically, the 993 is considered by many Porsche aficionados as the last real Porsche. With the 400R, we set out to build a car that incorporated modern technology while still appealing to the enthusiasts who covet these cars today,” says Peter Nam, CEO of Guntherwerks

To achieve that a donor 993’s monocoque is stripped and seam welded, before carbon fibre body panels are fitted. The front and rear wings, bonnet, bumpers engine cover and roof are all carbon fibre, supplied by Guntherwerks affiliate company Vorsteiner. Visually it draws heavily on the 993 GT, though the large rear wing can be replaced by an evolution of the classic ducktail spoiler if the customer prefers. Underneath either engine cover is a naturally-aspirated flat-six completely re-built by Rothsport.

The now 4.0-litre capacity unit features Mahle pistons, billet crankshafts, rods and barrels, twin-spark Motec engine management coil over plug ignition an individual throttle bodies for a 7,800rpm redline, over 400bhp and 300lb.ft of torque. Lightweight headers lead to a 997 GT3 rear silencer.

The transmission is a re-built Porsche/Getrag G50 with custom ratios, a new shift linkage, single mass flywheel and upgraded differential. The suspension features unique billet wishbones, RS uprights, KW Clubsport coilovers with a front lift kit, the steering getting an electric pump; Guntherwerks promising modern 911 handling, but retaining the 993’s steering feel. The wheels are bespoke 3 piece forged aluminium in 9×18 front and 12×18 sizes front and rear, behind these are six and four, respectively, piston Brembo R35 GTR brakes.

“In essence, the 400R is the car we imagine Porsche would have built if the advanced technology within the 400R was available,” says Nam. Like the exterior, the interior benefits from lightweight revisions. There are carbon seats, a rear-seat delete carbon panel, modern air conditioning and custom upholstery. The lighting is all LED, from the unique headlights to the taillights. Unveiled at Quail, USA, the 400R will be built in series of 25 cars, with a starting price of $525,000 (£407,600, before taxes). Production starts later this year.

What are your thoughts on Guntherwerks’ reimagined 993?

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