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Friday 23rd July 2010


DRIVEN: PORSCHE 911 GT2 RS

Just 500 people will own it, and most of us can only dream. Adam Towler drives it for PH


Time for some names and numbers. First there was 'Lighty' - that's what the 'GTX' department (the division of Porsche Motorsport responsible for all GT3 and GT2 models) christened the car as their fanatical obsession with saving grams took hold. Next came 'The Beast' - self-explanatory that one. Then there was 'Project 7m27', which was fine, briefly, and even made it onto some design sketches until that particular 'Ring target was obliterated. You get the feeling that there might be some other, perhaps more colourful nicknames, but Andreas Preuninger - head of GTX - simply smiles.


Then there are the numbers: 0-62mph in 3.5sec - unquestionably rapid in the extreme, but far more telling for any powerful, rear-drive car is the 0-100mph time: 6.8sec, and with 0-124mph in 9.8sec. Or there's the 0-186mph time of 28.9sec, that's before topping out at 205mph.

It weighs 1370kg to DIN standard (70kg lighter than the already pared-down GT2), and just 1280kg 'dry' - only 80kg more than the naturally aspirated GT3 Cup competition car. That DIN figure includes 30kg of coolant alone. It has 453hp per ton, and 377lb ft per ton, the peak of the latter is available from just 2250rpm all the way to 5500rpm. It's interesting to do the same maths with some rivals...


Onto the Nurburgring Nordschleife then, which it laps in 7m18sec, some 14sec faster than a GT2, during which it's hitting 180mph approaching Schwedenkreuz, around 170mph in the Foxhole compression and 192mph at the Döttinger Höhe.

So, extraordinary numbers, and they certainly make entertaining reading, but they don't fully relate the human story of this project, or tell the complete picture of how the car actually drives. The latter, in some respects, is something of a surprise.


The GT2 RS started out as an unofficial 'hobby' project within Motorsport to create a GT2 'Lightweight'. The idea germinated at the final test session of the gen1 997 GT2 at Estoril back in December 2006. Both Preuninger and Karsten Schebsdat (development of performance manager at GTX) felt the gen1 GT2 had more still to offer and set about proving it. They created a test mule and, with brutal weight saving measures, shaved 100kg off the kerb weight, while the engine guys found another 30hp, taking the total to 560hp. A new car was born, which very quickly received the RS label from anyone who sampled it.

When Rohrl recorded a 7m32 at the 'Ring in the GT2 during the spring of 2007, there was another car tucked away in the garage which the engineers suggested he might like to try for himself. Typically, Rohrl jumped at the chance and clocked 7m29 on his first lap in 'Lighty': all the ammo Preuninger needed to approach the board with his proposal.


It's a shame, because there isn't the space here to go into every weight-saving detail of the GT2 RS but to be walked around the car by the engineers is a fascinating insight into their attention to detail. Forget the previous GT2, and imagine instead the latest gen2 GT3 RS as the starting point, complete with all its trick carbon fibre bits, the polycarbonate rear 'screen, the 'lightweight' interior with its fixed-back carbon bucket seats and the centre-lock alloy wheels.

But this car then saves further weight in the body through polycarbonate rear side glass, a beautifully made carbon fibre bonnet (a 2.5kg saving over the aluminium one), and front wings made from carbon fibre, with the wheel arch extensions now part of the mould (unlike with the GT3 RS). In fact there are carbon fibre parts all over the car now, especially inside the cooling apertures.


There's also less soundproofing that saves 4kg, and each of the 500 lighter carpet sets had to be shaped by hand; a lithium ion battery saves 14kg; there's the usual monstrous carbon ceramic brakes, and the deletion of the roof rack channels saves 500g.

Continuing through the car, 10kg was shed from the suspension components, with a number of bits now being manufactured from aluminium. The GT2 RS has 'linear' rate springs on the rear axle in conjunction with small helper springs that combined weigh less than the usual 'progressive rate' items.

One of the key objectives during the development process was moving up to a 245-section front tyre (from 235 on the GT3 RS), which caused all sorts to packaging problems for a while including wheel-well rubbing at the Foxhole on the 'Ring. But the gain has been a 10 per cent increase in the side force generated, and while it was impossible to go any larger than the already massive 325-section rears, the rear suspension now uses various rose joints to more precisely locate elements of the rear suspension.


Aerodynamics next, and the adoption of a GT3 RS-style front splitter and a larger rear wing equates to 60 per cent more downforce than the GT2. An emergency lane-change at 186mph generates 1.2g and leaves thick rubber marks on the road. Allegedly.

Meanwhile, Preuninger and his team had been cajoling the engine department to find even more power and the output kept on rising. The new engine features larger, more efficient intercoolers, a new lightweight plastic intake system and stronger conrods so it can cope with 1.6 Bar of boost pressure, passing the full range of temperature and durability tests like any new Porsche as it does so.

What I'm about to say might sound incredibly tedious, but what initially strikes you about the GT2 RS is just how easy and pleasant it is to drive. After all the talk of numbers, it's a shock to discover that it rides so well - better than a Carrera blighted by the Sport suspension 'upgrade' - and that the controls, thanks to their lightness of touch and precision, are so easy to work with in normal driving. The car feels so alert and biddable, you find yourself wishing all 911 Turbos would drive like this.


But of course, sooner or later, it's time to give it the lot and when you do you end up frantically trying to scrape your eyebrows off the inside of the rear 'screen. It's the sort of car where a cheeky blast up to 180mph on a country road is often entirely feasible; where a 140mph stroll is perfectly ordinary (at which cruising speed Preuninger reckons you'll see 28mpg!). It is insanely fast.

Fourth gear is particularly amusing: because the peak torque is so low you can be trundling along in traffic and just stretch your big toe to get past vehicles in a superbike fashion. And then you can just leave it in that gear until you're at silly three-figure numbers. It's like a bizarre automatic 'box. One speed.


But the more you drive the car, the more the speed 'thing' becomes a secondary feature. It's so far from being point and squirt: it's engaging and cohesive to drive in a manner turbocharged 911s normally can't quite reach. The steering is just sublime, and the amount of front-end grip it generates is colossal. The more you drive it hard, the better the understanding you have with it, the more you smile. You end up almost taking the performance for granted because you just know there's always going to be enough acceleration for the next straight bit of road, although that's not to say you get used to it. Even if you owned it, there'd always be a narrow, or bumpy or wet piece of road, or perhaps a shocking overtake that'd instantly remind you of its nuclear lunacy.

At £167,915 the GT2 RS looks like something of a performance bargain relative to its peers, but of those with that kind of money to spend some will quite legitimately baulk at the lack of a charismatic 8, 10 or 12 pot wail, a low, supercar silhouette that stops pedestrians in their tracks and a beautiful interior. And although it's entirely academic, I suspect there'll be plenty of people who might recoil in horror at spending the price of a new Carrera over that of the awesome GT3 RS: they'd miss that car's manic raw aggression too, its immediate throttle response, lofty rev limit and heavenly soundtrack.


But those seeking the ultimate 911 shouldn't and won't care, because they've found it. For those lucky, lucky 500, this awe-inspiring device is a reality. A machine of enormous speed and capabilities, it's an unforgettable drive: a split personality of light and dark, of cheek-splitting enjoyment and unabated terror. A beast.

On that last point Walter Rohrl has the last word in response to a question, from me (delivered with stupid grin and suitable reverence): "Is it a bit interesting in the wet then, Walter?"

The answer, from Walter (with a similarly exaggerated face of fear to the one he used moments earlier when we were chatting about the 1981 Silverstone 1000kms: driving a monster of a 935 with an experimental 800bhp motor, in the rain, he won, while going mostly sideways): "Ja...you can be sure..."

Specification:

3,600cc, twin turbocharged (VTG) flat six,
620hp at 6,500rpm
516lb ft from 2,250-5,500rpm
6-speed manual
Weight (DIN/wet) 1,370kg
245/35 ZR19 (front)
325/30 ZR19 (rear)
Top speed: 205mph
0-62mph: 3.5sec
0-100mph: 6.8sec
0-124mph: 9.8sec
0-186mph: 28.9sec
Combined fuel figure: 23.7mpg
CO2: 284 g/km

Author: Adam Towler