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Porsche 911 GT3 vs The Track

New GT3 too high tech to be scary? Um, no, as it turns out...

By Dan Trent / Monday, January 26, 2015

Driving a 911 with scaffolding in the back and a big wing used to come with certain qualifications, like accepting it could make you look like a complete idiot if you didn't master basic things like balancing a hair-trigger throttle against a quad-straining clutch. But, going by the automotive fellatio dished out by cars like the Ferrari 458, the modern supercar buyer doesn't want to be made to look like an idiot.

Squeeze 'em tight and hope for the best

Squeeze 'em tight and hope for the best

Hence the fears

and four-wheel steering would dumb down the

and sanitise a model line born to track day paddocks and the car parks of Eifel hostelries. Not the supercar rat runs of Knightsbridge.

Frankly it's a relief to report that this is utter bollocks. Driving a 991 GT3 at pace remains a proper challenge. And like its predecessors it'll readily shatter the egos of those who think outright speed is something you buy rather than earn.

All of this becomes abundantly clear within just a few laps of a sodden Silverstone GP. As one of the more vocal anti-PDK commentators I will now conclude that particular discussion by saying I stick by the emotional argument for a three-pedal GT3. But completely buy the functional, paddle shifted reality.

Great tyres. Just not on a day like this.

Great tyres. Just not on a day like this.

Now, more on how the GT3 made me look like a fool.

Slip sliding away
The Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres are very good and a big step up from the originals. They also have a much wider operating window, one that conceivably includes wet tarmac.

Silverstone GP in the midst of a winter downpour is, however, not wet tarmac. It's basically a lake. As I discover at the Vale chicane, PSM angrily intervening to curtail an ambitious turn-in speed of... less than 30mph. Not exactly the dream I had in mind having secured - in writing, dammit - blessing from Porsche, PH management and the insurance company to be here. A dream rapidly unravelling into a sweaty-palmed nightmare.

In the dry I've no doubt the GT3 would inspire a very different story. But the rain doesn't abate and this is the one you're getting.

This is the least of the concerns, it turns out

This is the least of the concerns, it turns out

Am I to smear this car over the pit wall Porsche GB will have to source a replacement on the open market, 991 GT3s now sold out. And have required our insurers be good for a total loss value of Β£160,000. For a car with a sticker price of Β£115,796. Remember all those buyers demanding compensation when their cars were impounded to have new engines fitted?

Run-off means I'm not so scared of going off a corner at Silverstone. No, it's the straights. The ones with pit walls, large amounts of standing water and committed entries and exits. The number nine at the sharp end of the rev counter looks appealing. But even short shifting to half that unleashes savage spits of oversteer and flicked half-turns of correction, even with the PSM fully on. It feels crossing a tightrope over a pond full of hungry piranha fish. While wearing stilettos.

Confidence trick
The last 991 I drove here was a Turbo S. In similar conditions it made the track feel as if it was bone dry. The GT3 couldn't be more different.

Swallow brave pill, MTFU, etc...

Swallow brave pill, MTFU, etc...

Even smooth applications of the brakes have the back end weaving around as the front end skates on. Back off and it threatens a sudden rotation - heads left, tails right. Settle it, finally get it turned in, feed in the power and just as you think you've caught a neat four-wheel slide the rear wheels hit a puddle, the revs flare and the correction you thought was adequate proves anything but. PSM is relaxed enough to open a delightful window between turn-in understeer and power oversteer but it's devilishly narrow and hard to pinpoint in these conditions.

With stability control, four-wheel steering and a fully active locking diff there's a lot of technology supposedly geared towards making the GT3 more exploitable. But the team of GT cars boss Andreas Preuninger hasn't used it that way. Rather they've gone the opposite direction, rear-axle steering able to effectively shorten the wheelbase to make the 991 feel more pointy and aggressive than before, the diff assertively distributing drive torque across the rear axle. Far from being dumbed down it's instead a more complex and demanding car to drive quickly because you have to understand the technology and how to exploit it rather than depend on it as a face-saving safety net. Details matter too - the sports exhaust button improves torque delivery between 3,000-4,000rpm rather than deploy contrived bangs and pops for high street showboating.

Maybe we'll just sit it out for a bit, eh?

Maybe we'll just sit it out for a bit, eh?

There are quirks, like the 'paddle neutral' ability to open the clutches by pulling both shifters together. Porsche says this can "neutralise the driving behaviour of the vehicle when oversteering in a wet curve by pulling the paddles, thus redirecting the additional cornering force to the wheels of the rear axle." If anyone can explain the logic of what seems like dipping the clutch mid-oversteer situation I'd love to hear from you; for all the opportunities to try it my hands and head are too full for experimentation.

Scratch and sniff
There's at least a visceral link to the considerable mechanical mayhem behind you in the GT3, be that the sniffs and sneezes of the induction system, the clunks of clutches opening and closing or the thrilling, piercing shriek that erupts in the final 1,000rpm dash to the 9K redline. At maximum attack PDK shifts with the ferocity of a race sequential too. Sadly this soundtrack also includes the very obvious pinches of brake that prevent tense discussions with underwriters about GT3 market values in relation to listed RRP.

Pointing forwards for a brief moment

Pointing forwards for a brief moment

Interventions when they happen - which is to say frequently - are marked with a nasty sounding graunch of pad biting PCCB disc and a violent correction. It's not smooth, it's not flattering and every time it happens it's another hammer blow to your already fragile confidence.

Eventually I feel a degree of trust forming and think I can second guess where these interventions are going to come. Because there is fabulous feel in the GT3. The mush around the dead ahead in standard 991 steering systems has gone, the crisp springiness to the weighting and total lack of hesitation in response feeling near as dammit to the old 997's hydraulic system. Clamped low to the floor in carbon seats the sense of lateral slip comes straight through your hips and palms, making a connection with the car far more intimate.

This happens at all of 20mph in these conditions

This happens at all of 20mph in these conditions

My finger hovers over the ESC off button. Oh what the hell. Tentatively peeling onto the Wellington Straight I immediately have the most gigantic tank slapper, proving conclusively quite how much the electronics have been making up for the talent vacuum. Damn.

I turn it back on and do a couple more laps.

MTFU
After a deep breath I press it again, ignoring the fact a real man would go all the way and press the second button that turns traction control off too. Those walls haven't got any further away though. The low speed corners remain a frustrating muddle of understeered entry but at least the collection on the way out is all my own work and, dare I say it, smoother.

Sneaking 9K in fourth up Hanger Straight I glimpse a very big three-figure number before hitting the brakes, the back end swinging and pitching the car into a sustained slide requiring a quarter turn of corrective lock. Mercifully it's gone the right way and the nose is now pointing into the apex of Stowe and as I tentatively pick up the throttle the lock unwinds and we're skating diagonally towards the exit kerbs, wheel dead straight. Forward motion is restored before tyres meet painted surface and there's a little wriggle to the right as the tail slides back the other way and across the gradient. Golly the wall is close at that point.

And the sun sets on a successful day

And the sun sets on a successful day

And then we're back at the Vale chicane, ABS chattering as speed is brought back to the humiliatingly pedestrian pace required to get it to turn in and tip-toe through.

I decide to re-engage the safety nets and am rewarded with an utterly vicious snap of oversteer on a trailing throttle through Club Corner, PSM once again keeping me out of the wall.

Sanitised? Is it heck.

 


PORSCHE 911 GT3 (991)
Engine:
 3,799cc flat-6
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto (PDK), rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 475@8,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 325@6,250rpm
0-62mph: 3.5sec
Top speed: 196mph
Weight: 1,430kg (DIN)
MPG: 22.8mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 289g/km
Price: £100,540 (£115,796 as tested, comprising Club Sport pack £0, Porsche Composite Brakes £6,248, Bluetooth £558, auto dimming mirrors £372, fixed sports seats £2,258, clear rear lights £344, LED lights with Porsche Dynamic Lighting System £1,926, DAB £324, Porsche Communication Management £2,141 and Sport Chrono pack with 'Track Precision' app £1,085)



With thanks to Silverstone. For information on 'Your Car Our Track' days, including Taster Days from just £45 per session, call 01327 320298, email trackdays@silverstone.co.uk or see the Silverstone website. To celebrate the end to an amazing Grand Prix Season Silverstone is now offering 10 per cent off all three-day, adult-only, grandstand tickets*! To book your 2015 Formula 1 British Grand Prix tickets call 0844 3728 300 or book online.

*Subject to availability; offer open for a limited time only.












Photos: Anthony Fraser

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