The Big Guns

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After watching the video, I still couldn’t believe that a ZR1 could beat a GT2 on track. Or most tracks, anyway. For one, the Nürburgring has a straightaway longer than the full length of most tracks in North America — and the Corvette’s 108-hp advantage could make up the difference on that straight alone. Next, who really knows what kind of chicanery manufacturers go through in order to achieve a top time at the ’Ring?

This year’s wild ALMS finale at Laguna brought my curiosity to a boil. I asked Scott Mercer, a friend and student who happens to have both a GT2 and ZR1 in his collection, about his willingness to pit his cars against each other. As always, he was game to see a race.

So less than a month after the epic Porsche-Corvette finish at Laguna, a customer GT2 and customer ZR1 are sitting on pit lane at Infineon Race­­way in Sonoma, California on a beautiful fall day. This 2.5-mile road course is known as a “handling” track. What it lacks in straights it makes up for in blind crests and really fast sweeping corners.

To learn as much as possible, I wanted to use data acquisition to record every good lap — and every mistake. Subjec­tive feedback is one thing, but data provides an objective measure in addition to lap times to determine where each car’s strengths and weaknesses are. I called Kenny Gorman of Gorman Motor­sports, who specializes in all things data for race cars, and he agreed to come out and monitor the test with the GPS-based Traqmate system.

With the Traqmate fired up and ready to go, I settle back into the familiar GT2. The cabin, equipped with shell bucket seats and proper belts for the track, feels spacious yet intimate. The driving position, ergonomics, and view out the windshield, in fact, are very similar to the GT3 RSR I’m used to. Acceler­ating out of the pits, the thrust in second is impressive by any standard.

Driving hard on the out lap, I’m using the brakes and throttle aggressively to generate heat in the brakes. The GT2 drives like a very well tuned GT3 RS with more power and more weight over its rear tires. Exiting Turn 11, the last turn on the circuit, I plant my foot to the floor and, after very subtle turbo lag, the GT2 plants itself on its rears and rockets towards Turn 1. The amount of available grip exiting slow corners is fantastic.

With 530 hp and 503 lb-ft of torque, the GT2 is the most powerful production 911 yet. Critically, the rear-engined, rear-drive supercar can use all of it. That makes exiting Turn 2 an experience akin to roller-coaster acceleration — fast and deliberate, with a sense of hooked-in forward momentum that only gets more intense. In fact, the GT2’s rear-end grip is so good that it tends to cause power-on understeer, which isn’t helped by the off-camber exit of Turn 2.

Heading into Turn 3, a left-hander with a downhill turn-in that rises dramatically just past the apex, the GT2 is settled. When I touch the inside curbing, the car easily swallows the curb in a way that reminds me how unbelievably tough Por­sches are. With each shift, turn of the wheel, or press of the brake pedal, the GT2 taunts you to push it harder.

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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