PH Carpool: Porsche 996 GT3

Name: Jack Wood
Car: Porsche 996 GT3 Mk2
Owned since: April 2012
Previously owned: In the past few years I've had a Cayman S, B7 RS4 Avant, Focus RS Mk2, Clio RenaultSport 200 amongst others as well as currently running a Mercedes C63 estate as the family wagon.

Why I bought it:
I'd been lucky enough to own a Porsche Cayman S since its launch back in late 2005. During its time with me I had taken an interest in trackdays and I was attending them with ever-increasing regularity.

The Cayman was the recipient of some fettling, in particular the suspension was rebuilt with Bilstein PSS9's and a Quaife diff fitted in order to make it better suited to track work.

But there was always the underlying doubt about the robustness of the engine to sustain such levels of abuse, and as the miles piled on (the car arrived with zero miles and left me with 72,000 miles on the clock) it was obvious it was going to need an engine rebuild at some point soon.

So of course being completely hooked on Porsches there was only ever one serious contender as a replacement for my daily/trackday needs. A GT3.

I sold the Cayman in April 2011 to my best friend with the intention of replacing it almost immediately with a 997 GT3. However, the wife had different ideas and promptly put down a deposit on a large conservatory for the house.

Wind forward a year and I had to make a decision to either hold out a while longer for a 997 GT3 or plump for a nice 996 GT3 and just go out and enjoy it while I could.

I took the latter course and quickly found myself a lovely example at 911Virgin. A Black (my favourite colour for a car) comfort-spec car with bucket seats, impeccable history, some recent mechanical sprucing, and from a very reputable independent dealer. I couldn't have been happier.

What I wish I'd known:
I'd had such a long time considering GT3s and specifically had a full year from selling the Cayman to picking up the GT3 that there was plenty of time to do research them. Fortunately there is no shortage of information out there and with GT3s it's often quite easy to find one or two of the previous owners online to get a bit of an idea of the history.

My particular car was a two-owner example. The last owner contacted me the same day I picked up the car to say he had known the first owner and that it was as good an example as I would find. It's nice to have that kind of reassurance when picking up a new car.

One of the reasons I liked this particular car so much was that a lot of the remedial work that I knew would need dong on a car this kind of age had already been done. AC condensers, discs, tyres, geo and suspension refresh and full spark plug service and brake fluid change had all been done in the past 12 months. With the exception of possibly the clutch and the diff everything that would need doing for at least the next 12 months had been done, meaning that the first year's running costs should be pretty minimal.

One thing I hadn't realised was just how susceptible the front splitters were from being parted from the front PU.

Things I love:
The engine, the layout, the traction, the steering that follows every divot and trough in the road surface. The way it doesn't really like being driven slowly and gets better the harder you push it. The fact it has no traction or stability control and is more than capable (almost wants to) throw you in a ditch if you're not paying full attention. I also love the heavy control weights of the clutch and gearbox.

The way it looks is brilliant, too (never really liked the 996 but the GT cars look very purposeful), as is the Motorsport heritage, and the fact that most of the car's underpinnings are Motorsport components. I love that everything underneath is adjustable and designed to be adjusted, how it goes round a track, the looks it gets from people who know what it is, the brakes (phenomenal).

In fact, just about every little thing that the GT3 is and stands for. An amazing car.

Things I hate:
That I didn't hold out for a really nice Club Sport spec. In reality, with the track work, the harness and roll cage should have been something that I saw as an essential.

Apart from that, there's very little to complain about. The radio has a habit of losing its sound (bass, treble, etc) settings, and the buckets require you to slide the seats all the way back just to get in and out of them. But that's about it.

I even like the minimalist 90s interior and those headlight clusters...

The car cost £37,500 to buy and after a bit of haggling I managed to get insurance cover for just over £800, based on the car being kept on the drive, business use, and including one free trackday and unlimited trackdays for an additional £50 per event premium. I thought that was pretty reasonable.

Tyre wear has been a bit of a surprise in that even after a few trackdays wear has been minimal. In particular the shoulders of the tyre that used to wear heavily on the Cayman are still in fine fettle on the GT3. They are only Michelin Pilot Sport 2s on there at the moment and I'd like to try some Cups at some point, but that can wait until these are shagged. I also want to get some winter tyres so I can use it right through the year.

The one part that is proving a PITA is the front splitter. I've lost two in 3,500 miles. Both times they've parted at high speed on the motorway, which is a terrifying experience as it sounds and feels like all the wheels just fell off the car as you run over it.
Apart from that some driving in monsoon-like conditions threw up misfires on a couple of cylinders. A quick look at the coil packs confirmed that several of them were shot. A real surprise seeing as how the car had only just had a spark plug service at an Official Porsche Centre....

For all my work I'll be using Mike at Sports and Classic in Knutsford. It's handy as he is only two miles from my house and he also owns a Mk2 996 GT3 that he has been playing with for the past couple of years. Let's just say he knows his way around my car like it was his own. That kind of knowledge is invaluable with these specialist machines. And he's a thoroughly nice bloke to boot. I'd travel to him even if I lived many miles away.

Where I've been:
Road trips have been limited so far, but the 'ring and Spa in October with Destination Nurburgring is on the cards and that will be its first big trip.

Apart from that there have been the obligatory trackdays at Oulton (my local) and Bedford (to try and safely explore the limits after a bit of an off at Oulton) and the plan is to do as many as possible over the coming months.

The car is getting used as a regular daily driver too, so in just over three months it's already racked up 3,500 wonderful miles.

What next?
This feels like one of those cars that I'd like to keep forever. Even though there may be newer and faster variants of the GT3 that I'd really like to own in the future I'm quite enjoying the simplicity of this 996. No traction control to switch off, no damper settings to mess with, no switchable exhaust to fiddle with. A crap stereo. No sat-nav. It really is a bare-bones car in the old school fashion. OK it has air con, and I doubt very much if I could live without that (I'm a sweaty bugger), but all the other things are superfluous to driving enjoyment as far as I'm concerned. I can see myself keeping this car after and sticking it in a garage as the last of a dying breed.

In the meantime what I do need is a harness and cage. So come winter I think a Techquipment rear cage and a set of harnesses are in order, and though the suspension was checked and set by Chris at Centre Gravity last year, the dampers have never been rebuilt. So I'll pull those off and have them rebuilt by Bilstein.

Finally it's recommended that for regular track use the car really needs a Motorsport diff pack fitting. The current diff still locks nicely, but the more aggressive and longer-wearing Motorsport pack is better suited to the track.

But for now I'm going to make the most of the car exactly how it is and just keep filling it up with V-Power.

Read up on Jack's GT3-purchasing adventure on PH here

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Comments (48) Join the discussion on the forum

  • pistolp 06 Aug 2012

    Well driven, you would really benefit from learning to heel and toe though. Heard the rears locking a few times on the down shift. Without traction control etc that could have you off especially in the wet!

    Have you done much circuit stuff? Lines were spot on pretty much. Pretty tidy all round.

  • HeMightBeBanned 06 Aug 2012

    Is that David B's old car?

  • hondansx 06 Aug 2012

    Nice write up!

    Buy a CG Lock, much more convenient than harnesses and, of course, cheaper.

  • sagarich 06 Aug 2012

    Great write up Jack!

  • Porkie 06 Aug 2012

    Great car smile

    I'm on the same Ring and Spa trip. Will come and say hello smile

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