State of the Art

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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So what’s left of the 99913 that went to the wall at Sebring, the 99913 that set fast time at Le Mans? “Well…the seat,” chuckles Johannes. “Definitely the seat.” The steering wheel is another likely candidate. After that it gets difficult, because maintaining a race car’s “originality” during an active campaign isn’t on any race team’s agenda. Winning is, so what works trumps what’s original — as it should.

Wanting to make the most of my time in the RSR, Johannes put me in Scott Mercer’s GT3 Cup (see p. 72–80) so I could get up to speed in a modern competition Porsche. Fortu­nately, the two cars — being factory-built, turn-key racing 911s — are highly similar, using the same tub and basic powertrain.

Time in the Cup eliminated about 75 percent of the RSR’s learning curve, the sequential shifter and pedal inputs being the biggest hurdles. At Thunder­hill, I killed the Cup a few times before leaving the staging area. Part of that was due the car’s grabby clutch, but a bigger factor was its hair-trigger throttle response. It takes some throttle to get a GT3 Cup moving, but the 3.6 revs up instantly and comes back down just as quickly — so quickly, in fact, that the engine management system can’t react soon enough to keep things running. Hit the loud pedal just right, and you can stall a Cup with the clutch in!

There was more to think about. The Cup doesn’t like trundling around. Run­ning through the paddock at 15 mph, the car bucked so violently in first gear that an upshift to second was the only way to go. And the coolant temperature readout on the dash requires constant vigilance — more than a few minutes of idling, or even something as simple as too-slow lapping, can cook the engine.

Two weeks later, that experience has prepared me well. Like the Cup, the RSR does without ABS and power-assisted brakes, but it does have ignition-based traction control. Expecting me to push harder, Johannes explains the steering-wheel-mounted buttons that select the system’s twelve settings. All but the least aggressive, he says, are far too intrusive for today’s dry conditions.

From the cockpit, the biggest difference between Cup and RSR is the stuff that surrounds you. The Cup’s cabin is simple and traditionally race car-like; the RSR feels like an episode of San­ford and Son. There’s stuff everywhere: ahead, metal flex tubes sprout from the door and dash to direct cool air at the driver; to the right, an ice chest for a cool suit; to the left, two water-bottle holders; over­head, surgical tubing hung from the roll cage to keep the seatbelts out of the way during driver changes; in front of the pedals, a false carbon-fiber floor.

It’s time to go. Johannes cinches my belts and shuts the door. With the main power on, ignition on, and the starter button depressed, the 3.8 fires back up. While you’d expect the RSR to be less behaved than the Cup on pit lane, the opposite is true: The 3.8’s tuning allows it to traverse the paddock smoothly in first gear. With a wave-through from the track steward, I head onto Infineon for my second, and last, session.

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