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Tuesday 10th May 2005


CARGRAPHIC GT3 RSC

Nick Hall grabs a tweaked and honed Porsche GT3 RS and shakes it down.

Cargraphic Porsche GT3 RS
Cargraphic Porsche GT3 RS

Icons are rarely perfect, and most have deep flaws. John Lennon had Yoko One, Elvis Presley had his drugs and hamburgers and Michael Jackson, well, erm, he has very expensive lawyers…

GT3 RS too soft?

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Photos by Nick Hall
Photos by Nick Hall

It’s the same in the car world and there’s rarely a perfect car, even the Porsche GT3 RS, which has slain rivals like Ferrari’s 360 Stradale in head-to-head tests, has its problems – namely the suspension. Luckily there are companies like Cargraphic out there that like to sort it out.

The standard RS may be a track-orientated car with a full roll-cage and stripped interior, but it is still too soft for serious track use because it is, when all said and done, a fancy road car with attitude.

It also understeers to keep enthusiastic amateurs from planting the car backwards into the nearest tree. Argue the point all you want, but virtually every modern car bar the hardest TVRs have understeer dialled in to safeguard the occupants. While it has significantly less than a Boxster, the GT3 RS isn’t immune to this treatment – no matter what some drooling members of the motoring press might have you believe.

True balance

But true enthusiasts want a car that follows your hands and turns in when they want it to, and not a millisecond later. So Cargraphic, headed up by amiable brothers Michael and Thomas Schnarr, set about creating a track-tuned ‘GT3 RSC’ with perfect balance, more power and better aerodynamics. In doing so they could well have built the best road going Porsche of recent times and taken an icon to an even higher plane.

This very car starred at the Tuner Grand Prix in March, when it finished third in the GT Class in the hands of former works Porsche driver Marc Basseng. Considering this car has 411bhp and was only beaten by two 650bhp GT2 leviathans, and it set the fastest ever official time for a normally aspirated car on road tyres at Hockenheim in the process, that was no small feat.

This is that very same car, complete with livery and entry numbers. Driving a racing spec machine through the streets of a small German town that was blessed with more than its fair share of attractive young blonde girls was pretty high up there on the pleasurable experiences list. Sadly I was following Thomas to the glorious picture location, and even this car wasn’t quick enough for that kind of diversion.

Performance

A new air filter, remapped ECU and new exhaust system ramped the power up by 30bhp over the standard RS’s 381bhp, and the torque is now 316 lb/ft at 4890rpm. The original RS engine already propelled the lithe RS to 62mph in 4.4s and then up to 190mph, and while there isn’t a major improvement on those figures in Cargraphic’s example this car is crisper and keener throughout the rev range.

It weighs just 1,360kg full of fuel. Inevitably, the acceleration is blistering, and the noise is like a bin-full of wound-up bees as it roars towards its 8,200rpm redline. It’s the sexiest sounding Porsche on the market, especially from the bucket seat with each rev bouncing round the white gloss bare metalwork on the interior.

Chassis

But this conversion is all about the handling and that starts with some serious work on the suspension. “The standard RS is far too soft and set-up for comfort,” said Thomas. “Then there’s that understeer problem, it’s horrible.”

Previously it was hard to imagine how the roll-caged RS could be improved upon in this area, but now I know after a car built for the glass-smooth surface of Hockenheim went above and beyond the call of duty and coped with every surface, speed and camber on a challenging road through the vineyards just outside Landau.

Cargraphic went in a “completely different direction,” to Porsche on the spring rates and employed Bilstein dampers.

Handling

It’s definitely firmer than the RS, but it’s not uncomfortable and feels instinctively right. Of course it lifted a wheel on occasion on broken roads, but it never snapped away from me and the slides, when they eventually came, were gloriously progressive.

This car drifted through bends once I’d built up enough speed to break the vice-like grip at the front end and, kept nimbly on its toes in the quicker corners, it felt like a big go-kart.

Of course the understeer safety net has been studiously cut away, so push it too far and the back end will swing round, but it’s easily caught with a hefty dose of opposite lock and was ready to hold its attitude all the way through the bends and provide a running commentary regarding the activity of the 9x19” front and 11.5x19” Forged Star rear wheels.

Aerodynamics

Here, the RS has been completely, if subtly, revised. The front cut-outs on the bonnet have been sealed and air now flows in through the spoiler before heading to the brake ducts for extra cooling. This adds to the effect of the ground-scraping chin spoiler to add a dramatic amount of downforce on the front end, which is a good idea in a car with the engine at the back. The rear wing has been repositioned to balance the effects.

This all helps to glue the car to the road at high speed, and one fourth-gear corner on our test run that started out at half-throttle soon became a flat chat bend.

The revised front end cuts into corners like a scalpel, so much so that another journalist almost crashed into an inside kerb on his first run. The car comes close to predicting the movement of the standard Porsche steering wheel, which incidentally is a little big and cumbersome for a machine with racing reflexes.

It takes a skilled pair of hands to fully exploit the information and potential, as it can be adjusted mid-corner with the careful blend of throttle and steering. Basseng found he could keep the FIA-spec Porsche RSR behind him on track, which is a monumental achievement for any road car.

Cargraphic relied on steel GT3 brakes, Thomas does not yet trust the PCCB ceramic units to last the distance but he is constantly monitoring the situation. They are mated to Pagid RS19 pads and six-piston callipers, and the Porsche slows to an emergency stop in a straight line even when pushed to the limits from triple figures.

These brakes help keep the cost down to a little over €15,000, plus labour and, for anyone that can afford the RS in the first place, that is a bargain.

Summary

The brakes and other changes certainly focus the car. No daily driver -- it never really was -- as a track-day special the RSC is now a world beater. Cargraphic has polished the flaw right out of Porsche’s lustrous diamond, for that we salute it.

Author: Nick Hall