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Why 'GT3' is now a trim level, not a statement of intent
'Roots in racing. Not posing.' boasted Porsche not so long ago. After a couple of days to digest it I'm not so sure this applies to the new GT3 in the way it has the previous ones. And this is about more than that gearbox; brilliant as it surely is the new 991 GT3 has subtly but fundamentally shifted the goalposts of what made previous ones so special for geeks like us.
That'll be the roots in racing bit then
Look at the last model in the context of the 997 range and the hoops you'd jump through to end up with one. You'd have started thinking 'yeah, GT3, like the idea of that.' And then began the process of qualification. Level one? Gearbox. Don't want a manual? That's you out. More interested in all-weather traction, in-gear grunt or vmax and 0-62 bragging rights? Off you go and buy a Turbo instead. And lots of fun you'd have had too - no shame in any of that.
If, however, you'd think 'top bloke' hearing the chief engineer for the GT3 range dismiss top speed as 'a by-product' you'd be through to the next level. Having decided you'd happy with a two-wheel drive, normally aspirated 911 with a manual gearbox the next question would have been are you going to track it? As in, would you ACTUALLY track it? Or just think you wanted to when actually a nice road-going 911 with a few tasty trimmings was actually what you wanted? A GTS or a thoughtfully specced Carrera 2 S perhaps, both also under the radar of any midlife crisis wannabe racer accusations from friends and family.
There's more to this than just the gearbox
If you'd got this far and not been swayed by any of the above you might just have fit the profile. Of course, if you were taking it further and wanted something with an RS and/or 4.0 badge Porsche played its final joker - the real end of level boss. Did you want this car enough to put up with some really, really tacky graphics? One loud enough to turn every head within half a mile but equipped with a hairtrigger biting point that meant they'd then be primed to point and laugh when you stalled it - again.
All of which is a very long-winded way of saying very few people will have ended up buying a GT3 by accident. Or keeping one, little things like the fact the pedals are only set for heel'n'toe when you're using track braking pressure meaning you need to be truly dedicated to enjoy one day in, day out.
So that glorious, unapologetic elitism is gone; likewise the nerdy joy in knowing your 911 had a different engine derived from a racing car, not a Carrera. In its place, the new GT3 offers eye-boggling gadgetry and pace, democratised and accessible to all up to a point. Where previous GT3s demanded a base level of competence anyone will be able to drive this one fast and feel like a hero, even if you'll still need big brass ones and a lot of talent to fully exploit its talents. Even then the opportunities to do that will be so fleeting and the stakes and speeds so high it risks irrelevance.
This stands for something else now
Overly romantic fanboy that I am I love the fact that you see more GT3s parked outside hostels at the 'ring than you ever will driving into the Square Mile or Canary Wharf. And they're the ones streaked in brake dust, windscreens covered in noise test stickers with and with empty Red Bull cans rattling around the passenger seat. Which brings us back to 'roots in racing, not posing.' For all the spine-tingling 9,000rpm redline, technology and talent I fear the new GT3 will be too accommodating of those more interested in the latter. And they were already perfectly well served by other 911s.
Before I sign off I, of course, reserve the right to renounce every word I've just written as utter cobblers at the first sniff of a drive...