GT3 SQUADRON - JZ Machtech

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GT3 SQUADRON - JZ Machtech

August 2011 www.911porscheworld.com

GT3 SQUADRON

Last of the road racers: amazing new

GT3 RS 4.0 is the end of an era

SIZE MATTERS: BIG BORE 996

AUTOFARM TAKES THE 996 TO 3.9-LITRES

ART FOR ART’S SAKE

LONDON 911S THAT LIVE IN A GALLERY

HOW TO: PORSCHE CLASSIC RADIO

FITTING PORSCHE’S RETRO INSPIRED RADIO

BUYERS’ GUIDE: PORSCHE 914/6

PORSCHE THAT DARED TO BE DIFFERENT

£4.50 US$9.99 CANADA $12.95

No.209 www.911porscheworld.com


42 911 & PORSCHE WORLD


GT3 RS GROUP TEST

GT3

SQUADRON

Tracing the evolution of the

GT3 RS we gather the four

variants together for the

ultimate group test. Hold

on, it’s going to be fast

Words: Adam Towler

Photography: Antony Fraser

When Porsche launched the 996, the

course of the 911 was changed forever.

This most radical of rebirths gave the car

a new life stretching way into the future,

but it also threw up some interesting

questions. One of these was how would the company

develop its more enthusiast-orientated models in the

future. Having spent much of the 1980s chasing

volume and ignoring by and large the needs of those

who wanted a more specialist car – Club Sport

excepted perhaps – the 1990s had seen the company

re-focus on its founding principles and launch a string

of RS models that today command very strong prices.

If the 1991 964 RS quite literally shook up the

establishment, for better or for worse, then the 3.8-litre

cars culminating in the superb 993 RS allowed wealthy

enthusiasts the chance to have their cake and eat it. And

then there was the GT2, a car that re-defined aggression

in a 911 and possessed the results on the track to

underline this menacing aura. In the twilight of its career,

the original 911 had enjoyed something of a purple patch.

Come 1999, and the expectant audience were shown

the GT3: a new name, and a new kind of sporting 911. Out

with the RS badge went the traditional methods of weight

loss – in fact, the car was slightly heavier than a

contemporary Carrera – and in came a stunning new

water-cooled Motorsport engine, the ‘Mezger’. Developed

from the 911 GT1 engine, but with its roots firmly planted

in the back catalogue of the air-cooled 911, the

combination of this engine and superb chassis design,

aerodynamics, braking and versatility more than won over

those who drove it.

Nevertheless, towards the end of the 996 model

generation the RS badge was resurrected. But although

that implies that this was some kind of run-out edition,

which in some ways it was, it was also a homologation

special in the traditional sense. At 50kg lighter than a Mk2

GT3 thanks to a serious diet and lighter materials in the

body, it crucially incorporated a variety of strengthening

and geometry changing parts in the suspension that were

required for the 2004-spec race car, the GT3 RSR.

911 & PORSCHE WORLD 43


Original incarnation of the

Mezger engine installed in

the tail of the 996 GT3 RS

gives 381bhp. Interior is

rather more basic than any

of the 997 generation GT3s

Narrow body 996 GT3 RS

struggles to contain the

Manthey wheel and tyre

combo. On the road it still

cuts it as a great drive,

with easily the slickest,

lightest gearchange of

the bunch

A relatively small team under the direction of Andreas

Preuninger was developing the GT3 models. In this pre-

Cayenne era it wasn’t so easy to get a small production

run of extreme cars built, but Preuninger was determined,

even sketching the retro-inspired graphics out in his own

time. The green light was given, with the car announced

in the autumn of 2003, and instantly the interest in the

return of the RS badge bubbled over uncontrollably.

What buyers were getting was in many ways the last of

the truly raw 911s, although we weren’t to know it at the

time. Looking at the car today amongst the three 997s it

unsurprisingly looks the odd one out. Much smaller –

certainly to the naked eye – and the only car here to use

a ‘narrow’ bodyshell, it nevertheless looks superbly

purposeful with its low ride height and sizeable, Cup-style

rear wing. It’s a relatively simple car, the extra firm

suspension devoid of any PASM management and a total

absence of any traction control system. It really is just

you, the controls and whatever you had for breakfast that

morning. For some, therein lies its appeal, although it does

mean it’s a less versatile car than its successors,

particularly in ride comfort on poor road surfaces. Still,

with 381bhp it predictably flies, the soundtrack instantly

recognisable, and with the simpler hydraulic power

steering of the 996 and much lighter gearchange than

the latest cars, it’s a very instinctive car to drive quickly.

Values have been fairly unspectacular in recent years, but

I wouldn’t bet on it staying that way forever. We all know

what happens to limited edition RS 911s over time…

Given the success of the 996 GT3 RS it was less of a

surprise that the next GT3 would have an even more

extreme variant with those two letters attached to its

bodywork. Sure enough, following the introduction of the

997 GT3 in 2006, an RS variant appeared a year later.

Rob Young’s (of tuning company DMS) black with

orange example has a great patina of hard track day

miles, but seems all the better for it. This was the point

where Porsche really settled on what a modern era RS

should be: lots of naturally aspirated power (409bhp in

this case – the same as the regular GT3 but with a lighter

flywheel), the voluptuous wide-arch body for extra tyre

contact patch with the road, a big rear wing and a lurid

paint job. Oh, and the small matter of a superb chassis for

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION

PORSCHE 996 GT3 RS

ENGINE:

POWER:

TORQUE:

TRANSMISSION:

TOP SPEED:

0–62MPH:

3.6-litre flat-six

381bhp @ 7400rpm

284lbs/ft @ 5000rpm

Six-speed manual

190mph

4.4 secs

44 911 & PORSCHE WORLD


GT3 RS GROUP TEST

road and track use. The 997.1 RS weighed 20kg less than

the equivalent GT3, and thanks to suspension revisions –

a longer wheelbase and split track control arms – has a

beautifully poised and confidence inspiring manner to

how it drives. Using PASM technology, Porsche was now

able to give the RS all the body control it needed while

retaining a surprising amount of comfort: in fact, during

this period the hardcore machinery such as the RS

started to ride better than some of the regular 911s

in the range.

It was the turn of the safety colours, with Orange, Viper

Green and black or silver with orange as the launch

colours, but personally, I’ll never forget the green press

car, complete with green half cage in the back, which

actually came up for sale fairly recently at a dealer. For

sheer road presence little else can touch it, even now.

If the gen1 RS is a definite future classic, then it was

obvious that for the gen2 car Porsche would dig a bit

deeper and move the model on again. In fact, what they

produced was a brutal thug of a car, closer than ever to

its racing brethren yet still able to consume long road

journeys should the need arise. The gen1 model had

seemed lairy, particularly in the brighter colours, but as

this well-worn press fleet RS 3.8 we have here proves,

with its centre-lock wheels, aggressive noise and huge

rear wing the gen2 car is even more tightly focused. For

some, the rear wing is too much; personally, the fact that

it’s virtually the same as the racing cars from Weissach is

more than enough justification.

This time, Porsche found a bit more power over the

standard GT3, upping the peak horsepower to a stunning

435bhp while extracting more mid-range shove from the

extra 200cc of capacity. You can feel that additional

torque quite easily: the 3.6-litre car is always keen, but it

thrives on revs and needs them to really get going. The

gen2 car has a more immediate and definite punch to it,

yet with even more ferocity towards the red line. Once

again Porsche trimmed a bit of weight off the GT3, but

with modern cars there’s only so much you can do

without resorting to drastic composite panels. And that

sort of brings us to our fourth and final car, the RS 4.0.

With all of the lighter panels developed for the GT2 RS,

this is the 997 GT3 concept taken to the extreme.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION

PORSCHE 997 GT3 RS GEN 1

ENGINE:

POWER:

TORQUE:

TRANSMISSION:

TOP SPEED:

0–62MPH:

3.8-litre flat-six

409bhp @ 7600rpm

289lbs/ft @ 5000rpm

Six-speed manual

193mph

4.2 secs

With a wider track and

longer wheelbase, the first

997 GT3 RS introduced a

new level of stability to the

911. Of all the GT3 RS

models it’s probably the

most road friendly

The 997 GT3 blasted

through the 400bhp barrier,

putting out 409bhp, a lot

for a normally aspirated six

cylinder engine, but there

was more to come

911 & PORSCHE WORLD

45


Second generation 997 GT3

RS marked a real hardcore

change of direction. Every

facet was honed and

sharpened. No wonder that

in standard form it finished

13th overall at last years

Nurburgring 24 Hour race

Centre lock wheels look

the part and ceramic

brakes offer stupendous

stopping power. Press car

is devoid of sound system

and even air con. Steering

wheel plastic and nasty!

It’s a privilege to have both 3.8 and 4.0 cars here at the

same time, and a wonderful opportunity to drive them

back-to-back over the same testing lanes just off

Salisbury Plain, as there’s no better way to pinpoint the

differences. I drive the RS 3.8 first to remind myself of its

award-winning greatness, and it doesn’t disappoint. There

just isn’t anything else available that offers the

comprehensive road/track package that Porsche has

developed these cars into in recent years. Speed, driver

involvement, authenticity of image and an innate

hardiness mean that for a high-end track day or fast road

car they’re unbeatable.

The 3.8 demands to be driven. It snaps forward at the

merest hint of encouragement, and although the ride is

very firm, the car has so much body control – even

through a couple of frankly evil compressions. In all

honesty, I finish the loop and wonder how anything can

match it, let alone beat it. But the frustrating thing if you

currently own an RS 3.8 – and if you do I apologies for

saying this – is that the following drive in the RS 4.0 is a

revelation. Where the 3.8 felt brawny between 4-

6,000rpm the 4.0 completely smashes time and distance;

where the 3.8 had seemed rapid towards the red-line the

4.0 almost explodes out of its engine bay like the Hulk

splitting his shirt (in fact the prototype engine apparently

ripped itself clean off its mounts in the test mule, and

I’m not surprised).

I thought the 3.8 had seemed alert, almost hyper agile,

but the suspension changes to the 4.0 give it a clarity of

response that’s immediately obvious. Thank those rose

joints, for it actually makes the older car seem slightly

blunt in comparison. And where the 3.8 had occasionally

fought the road over the worst bumps, ridges and pot

holes, the 4.0 seems to have the peculiar ability to not

notice them. The only way I can liken it at speed is that it

seems to float – not in a woolly way, but with a sense of

calmness that’s almost uncanny.

Finally, there’s the question of noise. All four of these

cars sound utterly fantastic, but once you start accessing

that fat mid range of the 4.0, it’s as if someone has added

an extra finger or two to the chord being played on the

organ over your shoulder. There’s that same bloody

thunder and rising wail, but it’s like the difference in

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION

PORSCHE 997 GT3 RS GEN 2

ENGINE:

POWER:

TORQUE:

TRANSMISSION:

TOP SPEED:

0–62MPH:

3.8-litre flat-six

435bhp @ 7600rpm

317lbs/ft @ 6250rpm

Six-speed manual

193mph

4.1 secs

46 911 & PORSCHE WORLD


GT3 RS GROUP TEST

listening to a favourite piece of music on a very good hi-fi

system, and then on one of those lottery win systems

that footballers get installed in their homes. All of these

improvements are fairly small, incremental ones, but

added together they make the RS 4.0 the undisputed king

of the family tree. More than that, it’s a car that can hold

its own against any era of 911 RS, and it seems a shame

that Porsche aren’t entering one with number plates still

attached into the Nürburgring 24 hour race this year. The

official line is a lack of competition means it isn’t

worthwhile, but it would be fascinating to see what the

RS 4.0 could do given its extra power, torque and

aerodynamic effect over the 3.8 raced last year.

After spending the day driving and being surrounded

by these cars I feel a little bit punch drunk. It’s a sensory

overload thing, but in the nicest possible way. Each one is

a great car in its own right, the 996 undisputedly from a

different era, the three 997s clearly showing the

meticulous evolution that the GT department has

embarked upon in recent times. The next RS will be

different again, based on a larger and probably more

refined sort of 911, and with a Motorsport-developed

version of the DFI engine. It’ll sound different, go

differently, and maybe conjure slightly different

emotions, but if these four cars teach us anything it’s

that we should be positive about the future considering

the track record on display here. The modern GT3 RS has

done wonders for Porsche: not only in terms of its image,

but also from a financial standpoint. The company is now

at the point where so high is the reputation of the cars

that it can easily sell every one it makes, and there must

be some healthy profit margin in all those GT3s flying

out the door.

Ten years ago many wondered whether the RS badge

was dead. The truth couldn’t have been more different:

we’ve been blessed with some wonderful cars since, and

long may that continue. PW

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION

PORSCHE 997 GT3 RS GEN 3

ENGINE:

POWER:

TORQUE:

TRANSMISSION:

TOP SPEED:

0–62MPH:

4.0-litre flat-six

500bhp @ 5250rpm

339lbs/ft @ 5750rpm

Six-speed manual

193mph

3.9 secs

THANKS TO:

Rob Young at DMS: www.dmsautomotive.com / 0845 850 1845 for

the 997. GT3 RS gen1

Speed Kings Motorsport: www.speedkingsmotorsport.com /

0845 052 2956 for the 996

Major Jim Cameron for getting us access to some

top-secret army roads!

Left: Trade mark half roll

cage shrouded by

lightweight plexiglass

rear window. Above: PDK

steering wheel – minus

shifters – is a big

improvement over

3.8’s wheel

The final incarnation of GT3

RS. Harder, faster and just

plain hardcore, although

with a surprisingly

compliant ride compared

with the 3.8 GT3 RS

911 & PORSCHE WORLD

47

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