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Diving Deep into Analog Machines with One Man’s Cherished 997.1 GT3 RS

Some owners develop bonds with their cars so close that they make certain parent-child relationships cold and distant. Perhaps the involved relationship one must have when owning and modifying a car over the course of a decade, one might get closer to their car than they can with kin. Plus, a Porsche 997.1 GT3 RS doesn’t make rude comments at Thanksgiving, nor does it come home with strange suitors and expect you to make small talk. However, like a kid, the GT3 RS does cost a great deal of money—not that spending money on this beauty was something Shawn Lee ever did begrudgingly.

This simple, frill-free GT3 RS is impressive on stats alone. With 420 horsepower, less than 3,000 pounds to haul around, a slick six-speed, and as little superfluous bits as possible, there’s plenty to enjoy. But this model has some history to boot. A former car of the late Paul Walker, this GT3 RS was modified in the way that the face of The Fast and the Furious would have. Walker fitted it with Lexan rear windows, GMG Cup fenders, and Carrera GT seats in the year he owned it, then sold it to Mr. Lee.

A few tasteful modifications make this GT3 RS even more of a driver’s car.

To Lee, the analog nature of this generation of GT3 is its main appeal. « This car gives a workout, » he says. With the ability to make its driver sweat and the level of involvement it demands, it leaves you tired. « It beats on you, » Lee adds. Even compared to the 991 GT3, he finds the visceral, unfiltered experience of driving a 997 GT3 RS can’t be beaten—even if it’s not the fastest machine around nowadays. There’s a deeper connection that older cars offer the driver. The young guns and the laptime-obsessed might not feel the same way, but that relationship one forms with an analog car can really leave its owner panting, elated, and ready for another go.

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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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718 Cayman GT4 Put Through Its Paces at Knockhill

More power, more aerodynamic grip, more performance, and more usability—we’ve heard all of the new Cayman GT4’s strengths already. However, few automotive journalists can test those claims like Steve Sutcliffe. Though he might not look like a superlative athlete, the man is arguably the best driver among his peers. Ten years ago, he was given the chance to test a Honda F1 car, and was only several tenths off James Rossiter, the Honda test driver roughly half his age.

Here, Sutcliffe uses all his strengths to illuminate the incremental changes that make this car 12 seconds a lap faster around the Nurburging than the 981 GT4. Despite the car weighing 80 pounds more and retaining the same frustratingly long gear ratios, the 718 is still quicker in a straight line.

Watch how urgently the car fires off the corner at 4:38. There’s an easily accessible engine at work here.

Based upon the motor found in the rear of the latest Carrera S, the 718’s new 4.0-liter motor makes 414 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque. Though that latter figure is the same as with the outgoing 3.8-liter engine, the added displacement provides a broader powerband, which helps camouflage the car’s long gearing. With the driver more often in the optimal rev range, the new chassis is more easily exploited. 

The steering, brakes, and suspension are closely related to those found in the GT3, and Sutcliffe immediately recognizes the changes. That sharpened steering is a real asset through Knockhill’s blind entries, which Sutcliffe attacks with the commitment you’d expect from him. 

A big rear wing, an underbody diffuser, and a bigger splitter creates 269 pounds of downforce at 188 miles per hour—nothing to sniff at. Not only is this car more incisive, but added stability—a little extra composure is always nice over the crests—is another feature which goads a driver to push that much harder. 

The improved powertrain, better composed chassis, and better exhaust note make it even more thrilling to drive than its predecessor, which was a firecracker itself. Incremental changes in every department make the new 718 Cayman GT4 a dependable, confidence-inspiring car which can soak up bumps, stay on the pipe, and encourage the driver to attack. That combination of qualities—not just the bump in power—is what is responsible for its incredible 7:28 lap around the ‘Ring.

Incidentally, that’s the same as the lap set by the 997 GT3 RS 4.0. Though tire technology has come a long way in ten years, having the least expensive member of the GT family set the same lap as the former heavyweight is a testament to Porsche’s unyielding search for incremental improvements in every department.

Composure, mid-engine balance, and great engine response—what’s not to like?

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Mark Webber Hustles the GT2 RS Clubsport Around Bathurst

In a world of clean-cut, politically correct sportsmen, Mark Webber is refreshingly honest, humorous, and occasionally a bit rude. Webber is candid and transparent in front of the camera, which makes his love for the Porsche marque all the more special; he’s never playing the insincere corporate spokesman.

With a two-day beard and an open-faced helmet, Webber hops into the fearsome GT2 RS Clubsport and threads the track toy around Mt. Panorama with the smooth style which made him such a success. As part of the Bathurst 12 Hour, Webber ran a series of demonstration laps in the GT2 RS Clubsport.

Webber posing against 1 of the 200 GT2 RS Clubsports.

Though he hadn’t driven the track since 1995, when he raced there in Formula Ford, Webber clearly got up to speed quickly and had no problems brushing the barriers coming over the hill. In fact, the speeds he reached down the Conrod Straight dwarfed whatever the Formula Ford could muster.

“The last time I drove at Bathurst was 24 years ago in the Formula Ford. Driving now on this wonderful circuit with this sports car was a sensational experience for me,” says the world endurance champion of 2015. “It’s incredible how much punch the engine has. Although I wasn’t driving at the maximum racing speed, I still reached 296 km/h at the end of the straight. Crazy!”

Even driving below the limit, Webber hit 183 miles an hour down the Conrod Straight.

Even after an illustrious career in the world’s fastest cars, the GT2 RS Clubsport still wows the gritty Aussie—a testament to the seriousness of the build. Webber may have retired from competition in 2016, but it’s clear that he’s not quite ready to give up on the thrill of driving some of the greatest cars in the world.

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Leh Keen Thrashes A Screaming 993 RSR Around Daytona

I might be the odd man out here, but until I watched this footage, I always felt the 991 GT3 RS had the most glorious exhaust note in the entire 911 family. I was wrong.

At 6’5″, Keen hardly fits inside this 993 RSR.

This sonorous 993 RSR is piloted by none other than Leh Keen, whose exploits are well known here. The lanky ace dons his red and white helmet before stuffing himself into this RSR, built and run by Alex Job Racing. At 6’5″, Keen hardly fits inside and keeps hitting the dash with his knees, but still rev-matches with surgical precision and puts just enough energy into his inputs to make the car dance around Daytona.

His typically exuberant style is more measured in this footage, probably because cars like it are going for a pretty penny (or pound). Still, he hurls the car into the fast kink approaching Turn 4 (0:38) with total confidence. However, just as impressive is the way he treats the car with tons of respect; feeding the steering in gently and picking up the throttle at just the right moments. There are few demonstrations of confidence and composure behind the wheel like that high-speed pitch. Any racer worth their salt can’t help but tip their hat to this great display of talent.

Technical Information on the 993 RSR

The RSR was modified to an outrageous extent in the footwork department with two-way adjustable Bilstein shocks, fully ball-jointed suspension, a driver-adjustable front rollbar, and larger 380-mm endurance front brakes. Bodywork included a special front spoiler, an adjustable rear wing, fender flares, full welded Matter roll cage, an alloy bonnet, and a front strut brace.

That incredible noise comes from an M64/75 Type 3.8 RSR engine fitted with a stronger, lighter valvetrain; high-lift cams; and special pistons and barrels. All of this, plus revised inlet plenum and exhaust manifolds, amounted to roughly 350 horsepower. This power was sent to a single-mass flywheel, then onto to a unique six-speed Type G50/34 manual transmission. With every aspect of the powertrain addressed, this engine provided world-class sound and acceleration.

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