The Big Guns

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Coming down Infineon’s high-speed esses, the GT2 feels slightly unwilling to turn into Turn 8. What initially feels like mild understeer is really just a need to turn the steering wheel more aggressively. Before the GT2 has a chance to compose itself, I turn quickly to the right into the very quick 8A. The quick left-to-right weight transfer takes some timing and patience in order to avoid upsetting the chassis. Like all 911s, the GT2 regains its composure once I’m back on the gas.

Turbo-boosting my way through Turn 9 — a fast, fourth-gear left-hander — I concentrate on getting over to the left side of the track to set up for the entry to Turn 10, another fast fourth-gear turn, this time to the right. At turn-in, the back end begins to step out, but it can be corrected quickly with countersteer. At the limit the GT2 is predictable, but the window of available traction is small. At five degrees of slip angle, the GT2 is easy to control and place on the track. Beyond that threshold, it becomes less stable with each additional degree of rotation.

My seat-of-the-pants diagnosis is that this phenomenon is tire-related. It seems that once the Pilot Sport Cups’ surface temperature surpasses a certain value, grip diminishes rapidly. The front axle of the car never suffers from the temperature-related drop-off in grip. But with a 38.5/61.5 weight distribution, the front tires aren’t getting used like rears are.

Variable-vane twin turbochargers and electronic fuel injection are marvels of modern engineering, producing a powerband that’s smooth and consistent from idle to redline. Some reviewers claim the 997 GT2 has virtually no lag. On the street, its lag is detectible but not obvious. On the track, however, it’s more pronounced. Exiting Turn 3, I flatten the throttle to get a squirt up the hill to 3A. The expected rush of acceleration comes, but it comes three tenths of a second later than I expect. The delay in power delivery is noticeable in the esses, too, where I have to lift slightly followed by going back to power immediately. Anytime I lift, boost pressure is lost and that hesitation is the system recharging itself. With a slightly different driving style, the minor lag can be negated and Infineon can be negotiated at a blistering pace.

In this case, the GT2’s three laps stand at 1:49.8, 1:49.8, and 1:49.2.

Jumping out of the GT2 and into the ZR1 requires a lack of preconceived ideas. If you’re familiar with a Por­sche, everything about the Vette is different. Sitting in the ZR1 feels foreign at first. Its hood is big, the cabin snug-fitting, and the steering wheel…well, it’s the same wheel the last Chevy Cobalt I rented had. Really, GM? In a $105,000 car, the one thing you look at and touch most is the same found in a Cobalt?

Admittedly, I’ve never been a huge Cor­vette fan. When I was growing up, they were big on the outside, small on the inside, heavy, and not fast. In 1973, the Vette tipped the scales at 3,400 pounds. The optional 7.4-liter V8 made 275 hp while the base 5.7 made an anemic 190. Good thing it wasn’t fast, because a modern-day, bargain-basement Kia will out-handle and out-stop it. Of course, like all auto­makers, the General had some good and bad years. But, despite continuous improvements, I never aspired to own a Corvette. Or, frankly, even drive one.

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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