Porsche 911 GT3

Still the best recipe to satisfy track hunger

GLENN BUTLER

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

SOMEBODY got the recipe wrong. It was probably nothing more sinister than a pinch too much of this, or a dash too much of that, but a small mistake becomes a huge problem when youíre whipping up titanium alloy for connecting rods for a 3.8-litre flat-six engine that spends its life screaming to 9000rpm.

None of the five 991-Type 911 GT3s delivered to Australian buyers in early 2014 threw a rod, but a few European cars did. That was enough for Porsche to call a worldwide halt to deliveries and recall every GT3 in customer hands. Those cars sat motionless for six months, waiting for Porscheís conrod supplier to get the recipe right. And now that they have, the purest 911 can hit the track again.

As we know, the GT3 is a 911 honed for pace and precision on a race track.

This $293,600 rear-drive coupe is based on the $251K Carrera S and shares the Sís larger 3.8-litre flat-six, but the internals of that engine have been reworked for an extra 53kW and to make it rev higher and harder.

Far from being a Ďstripperí 911, the GT3 actually gets more tech.

For starters, two rear suspension control arms are replaced with electro-mechanical actuators to provide active rear steering.

Porsche says this delivers a tighter turning circle at slow speeds and enhances stability at high speeds.

Then thereís the active rear diff and Porscheís Torque Vectoring Plus electronics. Unlike the previous GT3ís rear differential, which had preset locking values, the new system is fully variable for greater finesse under power.

The greatest compliment you can pay these systems is that you canít feel them working.

The new GT3 has a bigger footprint than the 997 MkII: wheelbase is 103mm longer, front track has grown 51mm and the rear Michelins are 31mm further apart.

Itís therefore no great surprise that kerb weight is up, but the 36kg increase is tiny considering the dimensional growth. Itís also irrelevant because real-world performance is hugely improved, and not just because the PDKís shorter gear ratios and finaldrive ratio combine with the power increase to carve 0.6sec off the 0-100km/h time (now 3.5sec).

Wheels tested the 991-Type GT3 at Queensland Raceway, laying down a best time of 60.3sec for the clubman circuit. Our best in the 997 GT3 at the same track in 2007 was 63.5sec.

Itís possible that my driving skills have improved in the intervening years, but the greater improver is the GT3. And not just in outright pace. Itís hard to ignore the direct-injection engineís extra aggro, the higher levels of grip the Michelins provide, and the ferocity of the GT3ís bigger brakes. The GT3ís composure and stability at pace is equally astonishing, and a joy to experience. This is not a scary 911 to drive, not even on the edge.

One aspect that may upset purists is the omission of a manual gearbox from Porscheís track weapon. Itís hard to deny the romance of DIY heel-n-toeing, but on racetracks the PDK is the faster, better option. It lets the driver change gears in a blink and focus more on braking points, apexes and accelerating at breathtaking speeds down the straights. And thatís totally in tune with the GT3ís track focus.

It may not be the fastest 911 coupe, nor is it the most expensive. Both those honours go to the $445K, 412kW 911 Turbo.

But the GT3 is the best proponent of the 911 ethos, the purest expression of Porscheís pursuit of driving bliss. It nails the recipe.

PLUS & MINUS

Dual-clutch only; no back seat; compromised road manners Rev-hungry engine; steering; handling; brakes; grip

01 IN A FLAP

Porscheís Alcantara-clad sports steering wheel, optional since 997, includes shift paddles that rotate with the wheel. Makes changing gear mid-powerslide much easier, weíre told...

02 CIRCLE WORK

GT3ís active rear steering has the sensory effect of shortening the wheelbase under 80km/h and increasing it beyond that.

Porsche claims 1.5 degrees of rear-wheel lock is equal to an additional 20 degrees up front.

03 PREPARE TO BRACE

If youíre serious about taking your GT3 to a track Ė and word is 80 percent of all GT3s sold get tracked at some point Ė then Porsche will fit a half-cage, racing seats and five-point harness at no extra cost.

Take it to the limits IF PROOF were needed that the 911 GT3 can handle track-day punishment, then Wheelsí experience as part of Porsche Australiaís Level 4 Master driving course at Queensland Raceway delivered.

In one day, three drivers completed 30 full-noise laps each in the same red GT3, honing their track craft under the expert tutelage of Bathurst winner Tomas Mezera and Carrera Cup champs Craig Baird and Alex Davison.

Apart from fresh rubber and regular refuelling, the GT3 ran the entire day without a hint of fatigue.

Wheelsí fastest time in the final session was 3.2sec faster than our 997 GT3 time seven years ago.

OR TRY THESE...

Audi R8 4.2 quattro $287,500

NOW in its twilight years ahead of a new-generation R8 due in 2015, but still a cracking drive. Still has more visual impact than the GT3, but it isnít as sharp dynamically or as involving. Or anything like as fast.

Ferrari 458 Speciale $550,000

PRACTICALLY twice the price, but what a car! Exotic, exuberant and exhilarating, though unlikely to handle track punishment as adroitly as the Porsche. And if you think the GT3 is outlandish, then the 458 Speciale dials that up to 11.