Inspiration for this story stems in part from our farewell drive with the lovely Riviera Blue 997 GT3 that Porsche GB will by now have disposed of from its fleet. If you're the lucky buyer I think I left a pen in the glovebox so if you could post it back to me that'd be great.
Anyway, the outgoing 997 GT3 is not an easy car to drive fast. Sure, compared with hairy chested Porsches of old when men were men and anyone without the skills of Rohrl could be found exiting backwards through a hedge on the first bend it's a cinch. But these things are relative and, compared with the latest crop of fast cars, the 997 GT3 is a challenging car in which to make progress.
Assuming you get all that right there's that moment when you turn the wheel in a 911 when, depending on how committed you've been, you'll get that chill of fear up your spine. Nothing's happened. Oh crap. I want to turn but the car doesn't. It's not going to happen. Oh no. That thing on the key ring? Is it a suicide capsule to bite on having made The Phonecall? Oh god.
Still with us?
And then the rush of endorphins as you feed the power back in, the rear hunkers down and as the rev counter passes '4' the cams shift again and that piercing howl once again echoes behind you.
This all happens in the merest of split seconds but I'm sure anyone who's driven a 911 at pace will have gone through it. And that little tap on the shoulder, that little nagging 'what if...' is healthy.
And I'm just afraid that, without that little whiff of fear, newer 911s and their equivalents elsewhere in the fast car world just raise the speed at which you'll eventually have that accident. Which you won't have seen coming because you'll have never felt the onset before.
And that's the problem with this relentless chase to record more and more impressive numbers. Sure, that limit might be significantly higher than the previous model. But if the zone in which you can play in it has narrowed to just one per cent either side and at a point in the performance spectrum few would dare to tread it's ability wasted. What value a 10 per cent performance gain if you'd never actually use it? But what's the alternative - a new GT3 that's slower and has lower limits? That'd be commercial suicide.
I was struck by this dilemma chatting with a Porsche engineer who'd worked on both the Carrera GT and then the 918 Spyder. He was clearly a very clever chap and as passionate and skilled at his job as you could wish for. Which is why he was proudly toasting the 918's sub-seven minute lap of the 'ring with the team who'd made it happen.
I can't take credit it for it myself but the mantra 'it's not how fast you go, it's how you go fast' is one more in the business could do with pinning to the wall above their desks, be they builders of hot hatches or supercars. Just how fast is that? Enough to make you feel alive without actually putting that happy state in peril would be a good marker. But maybe I'm wrong and just being a wuss...