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Friday 27th October 2006


PORSCHE 911 GT3 RS

Ian Kuah wrings the neck of Stuttgart's road-going racer

Porsche 911 GT3RS
Porsche 911 GT3RS

Only a few miles from Porsche’s Zuffenhausen HQ, there is a road that once wound its way up and down the countryside, its bumpy and sometimes off-cambered surface a true test of a cars handling and stability.

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No wonder then that Porsche factory test drivers used this road to benchmark the handling of their new models. And whenever a new model launch was based out of Zuffenhausen, I made it a point to take the test car to one of the roads on which it was developed.

Sadly, four years ago, the local government found some money in their coffers and completely renewed and realigned that road to the point where it is no longer a challenge for any car. Such is the march of progress.

As always, progress has also been relentless at Weissach, and barely six months after Porsche whetted my appetite with the most finely honed 997 model yet at the Adria Raceway in Italy, the company invited me to Stuttgart to sample an even more concentrated version of the GT3.

New test road

In the meantime I found another test road nearby, and although not bumpy and off-cambered as the other one, it's tight and twisty enough to be a good test for the new Porsche GT3 RS, a car aimed at hard-core enthusiasts who crave their track time.

This road is like a miniature Alpine pass with fast straights and gentle curves linking a couple of hairpins and 90-degree bends that require good brakes and crisp turn-in to enter properly, and great traction and low end torque to leave convincingly. The GT3 RS quickly proved to have all these qualities and more.

The PCCB brakes with their carbon discs and massive yellow-painted alloy callipers wash speed off like water off a duck’s back and even though we are carrying huge speed downhill, straightening a kink as we arc towards a slow right hand hairpin, there is never any cause for concern, never a question that the RS cannot get down from 80mph to the 15mph required to negotiate the hairpin bend.

The GT3 RS is shod with the same Michelin Pilot Sport Cup trackday rubber that we tried in Italy. Although these tyres have a reputation for flinging BMW M3 CSL pilots off wet roads, Porsche say that they use a different compound, which works better when conditions are less than dry.

Keyed to the tarmac

It is dry and sunny today and we have been pressing on, so our warmed up Michelin Cups are keyed to the tarmac like the proverbial groundhog. The 415bhp, 3.6 litre RS motor shared with the normal GT3 has plenty of low-end grunt. Despite the sticky tyres and the classic 911 advantage of the heavy flat-six motor over the rear wheels I can feel the rear suspension working hard to contain the massive twisting force trying to break traction at the driven wheels.

The GT3 RS has every advantage in terms of traction because it also has a wider track than its standard GT3 sibling that comes about from starting with the 44mm wider Carrera 4 bodyshell. Under those arches, 235/35ZR19 and 305/30ZR19 rubber is wrapped around black-painted 8.5J and 12J x 19-inch lightweight alloys.

Tipping the scales at 1,375kg means that 20 kg has been pared from the normal GT3's kerb weight through deletion of the air-conditioning and replacement of the dual-mass flywheel with a single-mass unit. In fact, air-conditioning is a no-cost option, and was fitted to our test car.

You always know an RS by the chatter from the single-mass flywheel at idle, and this car makes that distinctive racecar noise whenever you are stationary with the clutch out.

Stationary is not what the RS does best however, and once I got past the initial shock of the Viper Green hue of the test car, I dropped into the lightweight Recaro racing seats, did up my seat belt and took to the hills.

Serious stuff

The short shift gearchange is fast and precise and the clutch a tad heavier than the GT3s. While both cars are meant to be used on the track, the RS comes across as being just that bit more serious in that role.

Where the bolted-in half roll cage is an option in the GT3 and comes only with the Clubsport package, it is part and parcel of the RS package. The six-point race harness and fire extinguisher are not fitted at the factory but are delivered with the car. The Alcantara covered headlining, steering wheel rim and gearshift are also RS features.

The other track biased equipment you get as part of the deal is the complete suspension from the GT3 RSR race car, but with its fully adjustable suspension backed off for road use. Even the track control arms are modular so that your mechanic can quickly swap bits around to suit different tracks.

Visually, apart from its slightly wider rear arches, the RS has a new lip spoiler with a central extension for a tad more downforce at speed. This is arguably more than matched at the rear by a huge carbon-fibre wing that Porsche say is the same size and shape as the one on their GT3 Cup racecar. This wing sits on a carbon-fibre lid, which together with a Perspex rear window helps to remove a few kilos from the heavy end of the car.

Twenty kilogrammes is not a lot in the overall scheme of things, but the GT3 RS does just pip its GT3 brother to 100km/h by 0.1 sec. That may be splitting hairs but the 4.2 sec time is as impressive as the 8.5 sec sprint to 100mph (160km/h) and 192mph (310km/h) top speed.

Aggression

These numbers alone do not give a real indication of what it is like to buzz the flat six to its 8,400rpm limiter however. With less inertia in its flywheel, the revs rise and fall even faster, and under full throttle, this big capacity motor charges round to the redline with an aggression and screaming soundtrack that I have only otherwise experienced in a 996 GT3 Cup car.

And that, in a nutshell is what the GT3 RS is – a racecar for the road. But with its reasonably good ride quality, this car is actually civilised enough to drive everyday. In that respect the new GT3 RS is truly a car for both road and track.