State of the Art

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In the upper reaches of second gear, the accelerative rush is profound. The RSR’s 485+hp pushes its 2,700 pounds smartly. The ultra-linear, normally aspirated rush continues in third, so I pull back once more. Now in fourth gear, the RSR is carrying serious speed, making the kink between Turn 11 and Turn 1 feel like Turn 11.5. Johannes is flat all the way to 1, a sweeping left that heads up the hill to the slower, blind Turn 2. I’m normally flat here, too, but the RSR’s pace makes the wall-lined kink feel one lane wide.

After a cool-down lap, I pit, flip the ignition off, and listen to the RSR’s shutdown ting-ting!, which sounds like two nails being spit through its twin exhaust pipes. I unlatch the impossibly light door and push it open for cool air as a few Lizards walk up. “You were shifting at, what, 7200–7400 rpm?” asks Johannes. “You know, you can go to 9000.” But I’ll be leaving that for my second session, an hour from now.

A drive in a 997 RSR doesn’t come along every day. First, these cars are rare, with single-digit annual production numbers. Then there’s attrition, the result of hard living in the FIA, the Le Mans Series, and the American Le Mans Series. Finally, there’s the price tag, a cool half-million bucks, not to mention the cost to actually run the thing. The RSR’s hourly rate has a comma in it.

This car, WP0 ZZZ 99Z7 S799913, has a colorful history, and colorful is certainly the word you’d use to describe its vinyl-wrap livery. Designed by motorsport artist Troy Lee, it lays more hues on the GT3 RSR’s flanks than you can comprehend in a single viewing. The various forms add visual intrigue to a 911 that is neither as delicate nor as pretty as many of its predecessors. It is, however, as im­posing as any of them, and Lee’s busy shapes somehow force your focus to the car’s lights and various go-fast mechanical elements.

On that note, it’s easy to see why, so dressed, 99913 made a splash when it rolled into scrutineering at the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car went on to set the fastest race lap in its class, but gearbox problems relegated it to a seventh-place finish. It wasn’t the car’s only heartbreak that year: At the ALMS season opener, Jörg Berg­meister banged 99913’s fenders with the Ferrari F430 of Jaime Melo in what may be the best last lap in Sebring history. While Melo came out ahead on a questionable move, the moment has lived on through YouTube, letting people return to the thrill.

2007 was one of the most interesting years in ALMS history. That year, Roger Penske beat Audi’s LMP1 juggernaut in eight of twelve races with a supposedly slower car, the LMP2 Porsche RS Spyder. It was also the year that Ferrari finally snatched the GT2 championship from Por­sche. As Flying Lizard’s “lead” RSR, 99913 was Weapon Number One in Stutt­gart’s efforts to keep Maranello at bay.

It wasn’t an easy season. After wins at Lime Rock and Mid-Ohio, 99913 was starting to feel tired. It wasn’t so much the mechanicals, it was the car itself. In testing, suspension tweaks that should have made a difference didn’t. Knowing that chassis are wear items, the Lizards talked about a new tub. A crash and fire at Detroit ended their discussion. Per Por­sche policy, 99913’s VIN tags were cut out and sent to Weis­sach. Porsche then supplied a new tub stamped with the same VIN. The first 99913 headed for the crusher as the new one went on to win Petit Le Mans.

Also from Issue 176

  • Ruf’s Old/New-School 997E Targa
  • 908/3 Driven on the Street!
  • First RHD 356 Coupe
  • Spec 911. vs. GT3 RS vs. GT3 Cup
  • The Fourth Glöckler
  • Infamous Mulholland 911 Street Racer
  • 170-mph 924 Autobahn Sleeper
  • Market Update: 1999-2007 911s
  • Porsche Icon: 550
  • Project Cayman: An Introduction
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