The Big Guns

The fight between the 911 and the Corvette is just heating up in the ALMS. So what happens when you pit the ultimate street versions against each other?

December 10, 2009

Also from Issue 180

  • The Forgotten 911 SC-L 3.1
  • 997 Sport PASM vs. regular PASM
  • Preview: 2011 Boxster Spyder
  • Troutman-Barnes four-door 911S
  • Patrick Long 2010 GT3 Cup Tire Test
  • Modified 997 GT2
  • Market Update: 1989–98 911
  • Interview: Dirk Werner
  • Project Cayman: Lightweight Seats
  • How Not to Own a 944, Epilogue
  • Tech Forum: TPMS Part 1
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Exiting Turn 4 at Infineon Raceway, I’m flat on the gas in second gear. Short shifts up to third and then fourth come before the braking point for the plunging, left-hand Turn 6 Carrousel, which is hidden just beyond a hump in the road that’s completely blind.

Braking late here might cause the ABS to activate at exactly the wrong time and send this $194,000 997 GT2 into the tire wall. Braking slightly earlier, with lighter pressure, I attempt to carry big speed into the Carrousel. Just as I crest the hill, I downshift quickly to third, trail the brakes, and turn in. The 305-mm Michelin Pilot Sport Cups out back have had all they can take. As lazy oversteer sets in, I’m not worried — just disappointed. The momentum I worked hard for and desperately need to put down a good lap has been wasted.

Turning into the slide, the GT2 rights itself and I roll onto the throttle to get a good launch off of Turn 6. The steering wheel is pointed mostly straight even though the track continues to the left, allowing me to execute a nice drift all the way to the exit curbs heading up the short straight to Turn 7. Just past track out, I’m at redline in third and quickly shift to fourth. The GT2’s 530-hp, twin-turbo six sounds like the exhaust of a jet dryer switched to high. Question is, can this car, the ultimate 911 to date, blow the ultimate Corvette away?

The fight between Porsche and the Bow Tie in the American Le Mans Series is just heating up, but I’ve been thinking about how the latest street-legal 911 track toys stack up against the 638-hp Corvette ZR1 for a while now. Last year, I had the opportunity to drive an early ZR1 at a track day. It was a new car and the owner was a bit timid. Despite the impairments to going after a lap time, I was impressed with the overall feel of the Corvette. This feels pretty good, I thought. But surely a GT2 would be faster around the track. It has to be, right?

I looked into it and found solace in the fact that Walter Röhrl turned an amazing 7-minute, 32-second lap at the Nürburg­ring in a 997 GT2. I couldn’t find mention of a ZR1 ’Ring time anywhere, though. Surely GM would have touted a quicker time if it had one. Before long, magazines began getting their hands on ZR1s and echoed my thoughts. I kept telling myself the GT2 had to be faster around a track.

Then it happened. At a race last year, Porsche Motor­sport’s Roland Kussmaul, the godfather of modern racing 911s, showed me a video of a ZR1 lapping the ’Ring with GM test driver Jim Mero at the wheel. As I watched the video and listened to the supercharged 6.2-liter V8’s scream, Mero laid down an incredible lap. The clock stopped at 7:26.

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