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Whizzing About Southern Portugal In The Porsche 911 GT2 RS

Andre Lam Gives The 911 GT2 RS The Beans In Portimao

It is an understatement to say Porsche has an obsession with the Nurburgring. The German brand loves reminding the world that it is the king of The Green Hell, which is why the masters of the flat-engine will go to extreme lengths to reclaim the crown. That's why it is not an exaggeration to say Porsche was very upset by Nissan when the GT-R took the title in 2008 and they worked feverishly to reclaim that accolade with the previous generation 997 GT2 RS in 2010, a sportscar that set a time of 7 minutes 18 seconds.

In 2013, Porsche set another high-water mark with their hypercar, the iconic 918 Spyder with a time that was 3 seconds below the seven minute barrier. They were feeling pretty smug about that until late 2016 when Lamborghini took the title with their Huracan Performante. Lamborghini's R&D director Reggiani made a friendly call to Frank Wallister, the new Vice President of the Porsche Motorsport department and was responsible for the entire 918 project to gloat about their 6 minute 52 second lap time. Wallister told Reggiani, "Not for long!" knowing Porsche was already preparing the new 911 GT2 RS for launch.

In September last year, armed with a 700 hp twin-turbo 3.8-litre flat six in a rear wheel drive 991 widebody chassis, the GT2 RS trashed all previous records with an amazing time of 6 minutes and 47 seconds. The modest underpinnings of two-wheel drive and a turbocharged six-cylinder engine has humbled the high-tech 918 with its hybrid petrol V8 engine and carbon fibre chassis. The GT2 RS is more like a GT3 RS with a turbocharged motor rather than a hyped-up 911 Turbo S with its AWD reduced to just RWD. There is no denying that before the GT2 RS, the best handling Porsche one could buy is the GT3 RS thanks to its superb combination of motorsport chassis, aerodynamics and a phenomenal normal aspirated 500 hp 4.0-litre flat six which ranks among the best natural aspirated engines today.

​However 500 hp was not enough to retake the title, they needed 700 hp and more aerodynamic downforce (416 kg vs 345 kg) to produce a killer lap time. They chose to use the body of the GT3 RS because it was already developed as a trackday car and had all the necessary lightening, strengthening and suspension parts ready to go.

The PASM suspension has new springs that have been uprated to 100 Nm/mm fronts and 160 Nm/mm rear making them the stiffest springs Porsche has ever used in a road-going car. With just a little more help from technology partner Michelin who tweaked their Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyre compounds specifically for the GT2 RS Porsche went gunning for the title. These changes along with the 700 hp motor cuts an amazing 33 seconds from the GT3 RS lap time.

They did not turbocharge the 4.0-litre GT3 engine but rather they took the 3.8-litre Turbo S engine with 580 hp and boosted it with larger turbos and a pair of water-mist intercoolers to reach a reliable 700 hp. There is a five litre tank for distilled water sufficient for a full tank of gas. As the motor does not need to rev past 7000 rpm to get more power, there was little need for the special crankshaft of the GT3 RS. Improved oil and water cooling is all that was necessary for the additional power it generates.

There are more carbon fibre parts like the roof, bonnet lid and wheel vents all in an effort to keep weight down. At 1470 kg it is heavier than the GT3 RS by about 50 kg and that is largely offset by the 700 hp motor . Of course Porsche has put together what is called the Weissach Package to remove a further 27 kg and from the body and the equivalent of 1 kg of gold from your bank account.

Porsche arranged a track session at the Portimao race circuit for a select group of journalists to sample their fastest road-going supercar under the best possible conditions. To give you an idea of the potential of the GT2 RS Porsche decided that our pace cars needed to be a pair of 918 Spyders. Though we had guided laps these were one-on-one sessions with one instructor in the 918 taking just one of us in the following GT2 RS.

The lap speeds were raised lap after lap and it became clear that the 918 could pull away after exiting the corner but GT2 RS could more than hold its own in the corners and is surprising just how much cornering force the GT2 RS can generate in the high speed corners. By just following the 918 closely really gives us a good impression just how capable the GT2 RS is without having to experience a steep learning curve.

Being on similar sized tyres the lighter GT2 RS with its superior aerodynamic downforce really excels at high speed corners allowing higher entry speeds and maintaining that speed on the exit thereby maintaining the momentum and keeping average speeds high. ​The more powerful 918 can pull away defying its heftier kerb weight but in the corners this weight is detrimental to the cornering power resulting in the slight sliding of the leading 918 that is not experienced in the chasing GT2 RS. While we were excited at the prospect of driving the GT2 RS on the wonderful Portimao Race circuit we were also very interested as to how this all-conquering track biased machine would fare on normal roads because most of its owners would spend considerable time on the street.

The GT2 RS might be billed as a uber trackday car but surprisingly it manages just as well on the mountain roads around Portimao. One would think a car with RWD, 700 hp, a 0-100 km/h time of 2.8 seconds and the ability to reach 200 km/h in 8.3 seconds is going to be beast to handle on the public roads. On the contrary it is very well sorted, harnessing all the 700 hp very capably without much drama which is amazing unlike the original widow maker (996 GT2) with just 462 hp which really deserved its nickname. Driving it in manual mode using the paddles one can feel the turbo-lag at low revs when caught napping below 3000 rpm but beyond that there is hardly any lag and the GT2 RS does into warp-drive. The g-force of acceleration is sustained and really pins you against the seat back.

With this turbo motor it is best if left in auto mode because the superbly engineered PDK also predicts the kickdown response by the rate of change in throttle application rather than wait for it to hit the kickdown switch. This has the effect of bypassing any turbo lag and by kicking down a few gears it lands right in the best part of the turbo boost where response is quick and devastating. Sport-Auto is even better as it tends to stay in a lower gear longer but not unnecessarily hanging on too long. It also downshifts perfectly for the approaching corners as one slows. This RS spec PDK has a set of seven close ratio gears that stacks evenly into 340 km/h thanks to the low 3.96 final drive such that only seventh gear reaches maximum speed.

The PDK is so good that one hardly misses the manual version altogether. The sad news is that if you are a hardcore manual gear junkie, from now on anything with a RS suffix will only come with a PDK relegating the manual box to models which are slower. Scything through the mountain roads is a surprisingly enjoyable endeavour and not just because the suspension does not hammer the occupants into submission like a race car. One can confidently carry a lot more pace through the bends without feeling intimidated as the steering is so accurate and the chassis so well sorted.

Driven at a sane speed one can simply savour the superbly judged driving dynamics and intimate interaction between machine and driver. Despite having electric power steering it is probably the best of its kind providing some feel to go with the extremely accurate chassis.

There are just two caveats. First the exhaust drone while cruising with the muffler bypass wide open is annoying but there is a (nearly) penalty free solution- just drive with the bypass valve closed. Penalty free because a turbo exhaust note is nothing to rave about anyway and there is only a tiny loss of power from the lightweight titanium muffler because most of the restriction is already created by the two turbos lying directly in the path of the exhaust gasses unlike a natural aspirated engine where low backpressure is everything.

Second caveat is the price. Undoubtedly this GT2 RS is a brutally fast car but it does not seem to be brutal anywhere else except on one's bank account. This is the most expensive Porsche currently available. Is beating all the supercars at Nurburgring enough to sway buyers away from a Ferrari, Lamborghini or McLaren? Or is this meant purely for hardcore Porsche aficionados? Well it is now a moot point as dealers around the world are unable to secure enough allocation to fulfil demand. If you are just thinking of buying one now it may already be too late.

 Photos by Daniel Wollstein