20 Years of Supercars

Also from Issue 153

  • SPECIAL: 20 Years of Excellence
  • SPECIAL: 911 3.2 vs. 968 vs. 986 2.5
  • eBay 911 SC Driven 3,865 Miles Home
  • Ferry’s First: Type 64 History and Drive
  • 2007 997 GT3 RS Road Test
  • 2007 997 GT3, GT3 RS, and GT3 Cup
  • 1996 993 Carrera RS Replica Drive
  • Market Update: 1989-98 911s
  • 1973 911 Carrera 2.7 RSL Drive
  • 1972 916 2.4S Drive
  • Ultimate 911E hot rod
  • 2006 ALMS Wrap-Up
  • IMSA GT3 Cup
  • 356 Restoration Part 18
  • Tech Forum: 20-Year-Old Porsches
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The single-plug ignition and sequential fuel injection is controlled by a Bosch M5.2 engine management system, which helps to give the GT1 superb and nearly lag-free throttle response despite its modest 8.5:1 compression ratio. Pickup is keen even from low revs, and the GT1 feels far more responsive and faster than the heavier and less powerful 959S. Driving at modest speeds in third gear is no chore, and, on the open road, driving one gear higher than you might in a 993 Turbo makes for smooth progress and less chance of inducing traction problems on wet or bumpy surfaces.

Ironically, the docile nature of the GT1’s flat six is what makes the car seem slower than it actually is. The official figures from Porsche stated 0-62 mph in 3.7 seconds, 0-100 mph in 7.2 seconds, and an electronically limited 194-mph top speed. The latest 997 Turbo can almost match these numbers with just 480 bhp, but they were spectacular for a street-legal car in 1997 — and lightning fast by any standard.

However, the subjective feel of a car is just as important. The smoothness and linearity of this 911’s torque curve means that, rather than receiving a truly massive punch in the kidneys with each shift like you might in a car with more turbo lag, the GT1 street provides a long, hard blast of acceleration that’s only punctuated by five gear changes.

Braking is something this car handles just as well. The rotors are 380-mm discs like those found in the race cars, but are vented steel rather than carbon. The alloy calipers are the same, though, and these have eight-pistons each in front and four-pistons each at the rear — linked to ABS. Fitted with street pads, their stopping power is simply awesome. It’s the sort of race-car deceleration that will have your eyeballs popping out on organ stops — with the seatbelt threatening to leave permanent marks on your chest. Porsche says the brakes have a maximum performance on the order of 2000 bhp and, thanks to the Bosch ABS, that means 60-0 mph takes just 2.5 seconds.

The downforce generated by the GT1’s spoiler package works extremely well when you’re going fast — effectively doubling the weight of the car at 124 mph. At lower speeds, you must rely on sheer mechanical grip and common sense. The former is prodigious, the latter up to you. Body roll seems almost non-existent and the tires’ grip is so great that you’d have to be suicidal to exceed the limit of adhesion on a public road. In a steady state cornering test, the limited-slip differential pushes the forward 295/35ZR18 Pirellis P-Zeros progressively wide. Fortu-nately, there’s plenty of feedback from the power-assisted steering setup.

It takes a heavy, determined right foot to break the 335/30ZR18 rear tires loose. When they finally do let go, you know about it — and you’ll want to rein it in quickly. Limited steering lock means that, once you reach a certain angle of sideways, a spin is essentially unavoidable.

So how fast can you really drive a 911 GT1 safely on public roads? The answer lies not in its performance but in common sense. The low-speed ride is very firm, the ground clearance minimal, and the huge front tires want to follow every groove and camber in the road. So you must concentrate on guiding the steering wheel more than you would in a normal performance road car. The ride is firm at low speeds, but go faster and, as if by magic, it gets better. So does stability. Fast autobahn sweepers can be taken with a level of confidence you’ll find in few road cars.

The GT1 is a long and wide car and suffers the usual problems of big mid-engined supercars, especially on narrow country roads. Although it hardly rolls in corners, the GT1’s physical width works against it on smaller roads. Intro-duce bumps or tight bends and a well-driven Carrera or a fast hot-hatch would easily embarrass it. But on wide, smooth roads with sweeping bends, the 911 GT1 would be a speck in the distance — while rewarding you with the unique sensations only top-flight racers experience.

That the 911 GT1 is a fantastic car, a Porsche that gets better the faster you go, is inescapable. But that is its liability, too. On most public roads, its raison d’etre can’t sensibly be applied. Even if you live close to an autobahn, you’d have to pick your window carefully to avoid the frustration of getting tangled up in traffic. Ideally, GT1 owners should live within reasonable distance of a race track to really get their money’s worth…

Carrera GT: Materials as Technology
Porsche’s background is very strongly rooted in motorsports. But while the 959 was derived from a Paris-Dakar rally car and the 911 GT1 “Street” is a road-legal homologation special, the Carrera GT has no direct competition pedigree.

What is clear from the basic forms of the 959 and GT1 are constraints imposed by a 911 basis. The 959 is essentially a 1980s Carrera/Turbo under its skin with a sophisticated AWD system and a raft of other technologies in tow while the GT1’s need to look like the 911, even a little, dictated its visuals almost as much as the wind tunnel did. No such parameters hindered the evolution of the Carrera GT. It was as “blue sky” a road-going supercar project as any design team could ever wish for. That said, Porsche has never denied that its Carrera GT concept was derived from a “what might have been” Le Mans challenger whose budget was channeled into the Cayenne SUV project instead.

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