9000 RPM SCREAMER

THE 991.2 911 GT3 BLEW OUR MINDS AND MADE US STRUGGLE TO IMAGINE HOW IT COULD BE ANY BETTER. AND THEN WE DROVE THE RS VERSION

BY DYLAN CAMPBELL

SITTING IN the Nurburgring GP circuit pit lane, the Lizard Green beast couldnít look any more ostentatious if it tried. So bright you feel like you need a welding mask just to look at it. Then thereís the protruding gills in the front guards, the NACA ducts on the bonnet and enormous, aggressively offset wheels barely concealing bulging brake calipers and carbon discs big enough in which to catch you own reflection as you have a perve. Thereís the protruding front lip and the deliciously bluepurple-gold discoloured titanium tail-pipes at the rear.

Then thereís that rear wing, that thing that possesses some sort of magical power to make you 15 years old again no matter your age. And betrays the true personalities of this radical machineís creators, serious-faced, crisply dressed German engineers, doctorate-educated hoons barely hiding beneath the thinnest of professional veneers.

Of course, itís the new Porsche 911 GT3 RS, the road racer, the car that makes track-day attendees obsessively compulsively check their rear-vision mirrors after every apex. This is version 991.2, a GT3 thatís pummelled a can of spinach, followed by half a dozen espresso shots.

ITS SOUND IS UNMISTAKEABLE FROM A CUP CAR, IN BOTH NOTE AND VOLUME. ITíS LOUD

To wind back the hyperbole, the new RS is more like a GT3 thatís attending a fancy dress party Ė dressed as a racecar and maybe like the star child that is 10 per cent better at everything else than its little sibling. But only 10 per cent Ė the GT3 and GT3 RS relation has probably never been as close in the dynastyís history as 991.2, Porsche making its weightsaving Weissach Package available on GT3 RS for the first time possibly to create as much technical differentiation between the two cars as possible. But the changes, though subtle, are still many, lending the RS even more mongrel to create the mightiest naturally aspirated Porsche ever. And one of the most exciting road cars on sale today.

After driving the 991.2 GT3 we thought naturally aspirated Porsche engines couldnít get any more responsive or muscular, but thatís exactly what theyíve done with the RS. We thought the PDK couldnít possibly get any quicker, but itís even more instant in the RS and with a crisp aggressiveness weíve not felt from a PDK before. And we thought there was no way the GT3 could get more precise, agile or stable, and then we drove the 991.2 GT3 RS. The RS is the GT3, perhaps unsurprisingly, wound to eleven, with more power, more downforce, more feel and more noise.

Downforce is the big ticket item with this new car; the 991.2 GT3 RS has more downforce than any production Porsche ever made. More than the GT2 RS which is held back by its prodigal cooling requirements and even more than the fabled 918 Spyder supercar. Yikes.

With both the front diffuser and rear wing adjustable, in its most aggressive setting there is a whopping 586kg of downforce at the GT3 RSís drag-reduced 307km/h top speed, split 30 per cent front and 70 per cent rear. Itís an absurd amount for a road car and more than twice as much as the 991.2 GT3, itself a car that made a big deal out of its increased downforce. A Carrera Cup car has only 14 per cent more downforce than a 991.2 GT3 RS.

And itís with the Cup car the GT3 RS shares its engine, almost identically so excluding the airbox and exhaust system. The Cup car also does away with the new-for-991.2-GT3 variable intake, which ensures maximum inlet air-flow no matter the engine speed.

That can be as high as 9000rpm. With a new dry sump system incorporating seven scavenge pumps, and a fixed valvetrain replacing the previous 991 3.8-litreís hydraulic tappets, the GT3 RSís 4.0-litre unit is bulletproof.

With 383kW and 470Nm it is also the most powerful naturally aspirated production series engine in Porscheís history. To extract the extra 15kW and 10Nm from the 991.2 GT3, Porsche needed only fit the Turbo widebody to the RS ó as has become tradition ó and used its side intakes to create a ram air effect. The variable cam timing software is also tweaked and presto, more power.

YOU CAN HOLD IT FLAT WHEN YOUR BRAIN IS SCREAMING ďLIFTĒ

Every person on earth, man, woman, young, old, must experience the 9000rpm roaring might of the new 4.0-litre horizontally opposed flat-six GT3 engine at some point in their life. Itís a dreamy experience, the rev-hungry engine combining with a 13.3:1 compression ratio to produce unbelievable grunt and response. This is a sensational engine that utterly dominates the car and whose sound is unmistakeable from a Carrera Cup car, in note and volume. Itís really loud.

Though we only got eight laps around the Nurburgring Grand Prix circuit in the new GT3 RS, it was worth flying half way across the world for them as we staggered from the car mumbling, lost for words, shaking slightly and facing a comedown that would rival the most potent narcotics.

05 APEX-HUNTING RENNSPORT HEROES

1. 996 GT3 (2004): THE ORIGINAL

A 280kW/385Nm naturally aspirated 3.6-litre rear-driver weighing just 1360kg sounds like a quick beast even by todayís standards. Did a 7:53 at the Nurburgring.

2. 997 GT3 RS (2007): SECOND CHAPTER

Porsche fiddled with the 3.6-litre boxer six, extracting 305kW/405Nm Ė 4.2 seconds was the magic 100km/h number, and a Nordschleife time now at just 7:42.

3. 997.2 GT3 RS (2010): UP TO 3.8 LITRES

Bigger engine, 331kW and 440Nm would leave the previous 997 RS behind. There was an 8500rpm cut off. Made a fantastic noise although getting expensive Ė $358,290.

4. 997.2 GT3 RS 4.0 (2012): THE MEZGER

One of the greatest sports cars in history, 4.0-litre producing 368kW/460Nm with 1360kg to shift, 0-100km/h 3.9sec, and a scorching 7:27 íRing time. Worth $1.5m today.

5. 991 GT3 RS (2016): PHYSICALLY BIGGER

Engine bumped from 3.8 to 4.0 litres over base 991 GT3. About 1420kg, but with 368kW the Nurburgring time drops to ďunder 7:20Ē while 0-100km/h is covered in just 3.3sec.

On a circuit, the new GT3 RS is totally spellbinding ó and face-bending. Power? Immense, unrelenting. Traction? Prodigious, thanks to the rear-engine layout and huge 325mm-wide rear Cup 2 tyres.

The noise? Unearthly. Then thereís the engineís responsiveness, low-down flexibility and torque weíve not felt in a naturally aspirated Porsche before, the front endís precision and the perfectly judged weighting of every control.

Shift speeds from the PDK are at another level, and we didnít think there was another level after driving the 991.2 GT3. Upshifts are instant and a little bit angry. Downshifts are scary fast, letting you grab lower gears in brutally quick succession under brakes. Itís a brilliant transmission.

A revised all-wheel steering calibration brings a new apex- greedy eagerness to the entire GT3 RS chassis. As you tip into a corner for the first time, less steering lock is required as the car rotates quicker than youíre expecting. You have to recalibrate your brain.

But the real magic begins as you carry more and more speed into tight corners, asking more of the front-end mid corner and expecting understeer or oversteer, but instead the car responding and rotating even more in a way that feels spooky, or like you have 20 per cent more grip than what you actually have, making for an incredible sensation.

Thereís a lot of grip, too. Interestingly, Porsche is planning to offer another tyre for the GT3 RS, an even-stickier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup R taking purchase to another level beyond the Cup 2. Road legal, and probably eyeopening in the wet, we canít wait to drive on it, although itís currently not confirmed for Australia.

Possibly the most irrelevant part of the new GT3 RS for the road is the aero, but its performance is very real on the track. Itís not until youíre well beyond 150km/h that a surprising stability emerges as the towering rear wing does its thing. One corner on the Nurburgring GP circuit, a fast right-hander more a corner than a kink (T13), in the psychotically fast GT3 RS you can hold it flat when your brain is screaming ďliftĒ thanks to the downforce on offer, if you are brave enough. Youíll be rewarded with one of the most exciting feelings in driving this side of a fourth-gear powerslide.

As with all 991 911s, the GT3 RS is superbly balanced, particularly for a rear-engined car, responding to your inputs with a sensitivity that takes you by surprise at first. It likes deft and measured inputs and gets upset with anything else. Driving a GT3 RS is relatively easy to about seven or eight tenths, yet extracting more beyond that is an exponentially difficult challenge, but a fun one. This is a fun car.

Itís also very difficult to fault. We didnít drive it on the road so for all we know, those enormous 325-section rear tyres roar with noise on motorways; and perhaps the firmer spring rates in the GT3 RS have done all sorts of unspeakable things to the ride comfort. But we doubt it. And, in a way, who cares.

Perhaps if you were going to wonder one thing about the GT3 RS it would be ó like all other 991 911s ó what other planet it might be on if it weighed 1300kg. But that is pure pointless fantasy.

ON A RACETRACK, YOU NEED TO ACTIVELY REMIND YOURSELF THAT YOUíRE IN A ROAD CAR

At 1430kg, one of the big differences between RS and GT3 is Porscheís obvious efforts to reduce weight as much as possible. While thereís a part-titanium exhaust as standard (with those gorgeous discoloured tips), a magnesium roof and a new type of lightweight glass for the rear window and rear side windows (a polycarbonate alternative that is more rigid and scratchresistant) the GT3 RS still weighs about as much as the old one.

Rich, crazy people will option the new-for-GT3-RS Weissach Package, first seen on 918 Spyder and then GT2 RS, and itís so diet obsessed you might just see it on the front cover of New Idea. At $41,990 it cuts another 28kg from the RSís curb weight thanks mostly to forged magnesium wheels (-11.5 valuable unsprung kilograms) which are identical to the standard 20/21inch rims save for a stamp; but also carbon-fibre swaybars and drop-links (-5.3kg) and a titanium cage replacing the steel item of the no-cost-option Clubsport Package (-9.6kg). Get the optional $21,590 Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brake package and itís possible the GT3 RSís weight will dip below 1400kg.

We should probably mention how fast the new GT3 RS is on paper, as well. Perhaps you heard that it casually dropped below the seven-minute mark at the Nordschleife the other month with a how-is-that-even-possible 6:56.4 lap time. Thatís just quicker than a 918 Spyder (6:57sec) and somehow 24 seconds faster than the 991 GT3 RS Ė and that was hardly a car youíd describe as sluggish. Although the 991.2ís time was set on the new Michelin Cup R tyres, which probably says a lot. And have you watched the lap? Itís like Porsche told its works driver, Kevin Estre, to come back in less than seven minutes or donít come back at all.

Meanwhile, heading further into the zone of exponentially diminishing returns, the 0-100km/h time is now 3.2sec with launch control, 0.1sec quicker than the 991 GT3 RS. Knowing Porsche, this is probably the slowest run itíll do.

But you donít need to check the on-paper figures to know that this is a seriously fast car. In fact, driving it on a racetrack, you need to actively remind yourself that youíre in a road car. The GT3 RS will presumably work in freezing temperatures of the snow to the simmering heat of the desert. It will idle away in a traffic jam for hours if need be; it will likely last for hundreds of thousands of kilometres.

You canít say all this about a Cup car, and yet the new GT3 RS does a mighty good impression of one. And that kind of says it all.