State of the Art

After time in 911 track toys and club racers, what does the 997 GT3 RSR feel like?

August 31, 2009
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Cresting Turn 2 at Infineon Raceway, the GT3 RSR begs to be unleashed. Its 3.8-liter six is sharp and strong, keen to rev but with plenty of pull down low. The cockpit is filled with race car noises, but they’re not coming from the engine. Most of the racket is from the gearbox, which has a distinctly F1-like whine.

I’ve just left pit lane, having pulled the tall sequential shift lever back to grab second gear on my way up the hill. Though the RSR wants to go, its tires need a thorough warming. Headed for the next bend on light throttle, I pull back for third. A firm, determined hand is all that’s required; you keep one foot on the gas and the other off the clutch. I can feel the straight-cut teeth meshing in my hand, but I return it to the steering wheel quickly. Holding the lever is a no-no, as its load cell will tell the ECU and trans­axle that another shift is imminent.

On Johannes van Overbeek’s advice, I warm the Michelin slicks by repeatedly accelerating and decelerating. Past the long, sweeping, and plunging Turn 6 “Carousel” and onto a straight, I finally flatten the throttle in third gear. The acceleration is fierce, but I’ve felt fiercer in roadgoing 911s. The difference is the urgency, the immediacy. It’s the difference between a GT3 and a Carrera S: Both are fast, but one feels grainier, hungrier. And the RSR is nothing if not hungry.

As the Motec digital display fills in little bars on the way past 7000 rpm, dashtop shift lights begin to illuminate. My tall torso means the LEDs are blocked by the wheel, however, so I’ve got to keep an eye on the bars. I pull back again for fourth as the track furniture begins to blur.

Braking hard for a sharp right-hander, it’s time to drop two gears. You have to use the clutch to downshift, heel-and-toeing as you would in any street car. The only advantage — and it’s a big one — is that you simply nudge the shifter forward. When you do, sensations that alarm the mechanically sympathetic result. So do quick, predictable downshifts. The hair-trigger throttle response requires new muscle memory to be smooth, but it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it. If only PDK was this visceral, this satisfying.

After a few laps, the RSR comes together. With heat in the brakes and tires I enter the final bend, the Turn 11 hairpin, reasonably hot. After turn-in, I roll on the throttle. The RSR tracks out, widening its arc toward the low cement wall protecting the pits. Sam Smith is sitting on that wall at the track-out point, and I think I see his eye widen through the camera lens as the RSR flashes by.

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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