'It's quicker than a racing car on slicks' – just one of the many reasons why the new GT3 RS is staggering…
By John Howell / Tuesday, 4 October 2022 / Loading comments
Oh my, what words to use? Not decorous, that’s for sure. Aggressive; striking; bloody naughty? I don’t think even those do it justice. We’ve seen the pictures and we know most of the details already, but there’s nothing like seeing the new 992 GT3 RS in the flesh. It’s got number plates, sure, but how? How can a car that looks this ‘out there’ be fit for the public road? And this isn’t part of the fake vent and phoney flic brigade. It’s all real. All of it. All painstakingly thought through aero trickery on a level hitherto unseen on a series production 911. The GT3 RS is a weapon of mass-air destruction.
Don’t believe me? Well, here’s the proof: the 992 GT3 RS makes 860kg of peak downforce. Okay, that’s at 180mph, but it’s still a crazy number. Over twice what the last GT3 RS made and triple the downforce generated by the current 992 GT3. If you’re still somehow a bit ‘meh’ about it, try this on for size: the 992 GT3 RS’s peak downforce figure dwarfs that of a 911 Cup car. Andreas Preuninger, boss of the GT department, pointed that out to us. And said that his new baby, shod with a set of Cup 2Rs, will match or better the cornering speeds of a Cup car on slicks. I’ll repeat that: it’s quicker than a racing car on slicks.
In fact, to find a racing car in Porsche’s motorsport portfolio that generates similar aero numbers, you end up in the realms of a 911 GTE Le Mans car. And if, like me, you’re thinking, “Could you fit a GT3 RS with slicks and head to La Sarthe?” Maybe. Have they run it on slicks yet, just for kicks and giggles? No. Preuninger said they haven’t found a set of slicks that will fit it.
We’ve run through the GT3 RS’s technical brief already, but for those who didn’t catch it – and to clarify a few of the murkier bits from that original release – I’ll give you a precis. It’s dripping with Porsche’s ‘race to road’ philosophy, and that starts with a key component: the GT3 RS’s centrally mounted radiator. This design is taken from the GT3 R racers and it’s the key to why this car makes so much overall downforce, but it’s not without its problems. A single radiator is less efficient than the usual set of three rads you’ll find behind the nose of any other production 911 – one in the centre and two at the sides. The single rad has less surface area, so it creates cooling problems and, by the way, it does away with the luggage space – there’s now zilch in the front. Still, who cares? It’s a track car after all.
Anyway, they had to make it work and they did. By using a motorsport-grade rad and angling it at 43 degrees for maximum airflow. And with the cooling issues solved, it freed up the ducts at the sides of car’s nose for something else: moveable aerodynamic flaps. These flip up and pass the air over a feature taken from the 918 Spyder – although the original concept started out in F1 during the ‘90s. It’s aero-efficient, teardrop-shaped, front double wishbones. What are those worth in terms of downforce? A few kilograms at best? Oh no. Just the wishbones alone add up to 40kg over the front axle.
Why is that so important? Well, it’s all about aero balance. For a 911 this must be 30:70 front to rear. So whatever you can make at the front dictates how much you can add at the rear and the size of the rear wing. As you can see, the GT3 RS’s is monumental. It’s 40 per cent bigger than the standard GT3’s, with twin-foils and a moveable upper element. So it’s a DRS device down the straights, stalling the rear wing at speed to reduce drag. It also pops up as an airbrake to shorten stopping distances and add stability under extreme braking, and it’s anything in between. There’s no spannering involved; you don’t have to pick one compromise setting with the GT3 RS. The car tweaks its wings automatically all the time (the front and rear wings move together) depending on steering angel, yaw and road speed. And they switch positions in less than 0.35 of a second.
The driver can activate the wings manually, though – either up or down using a toggle switch on the steering wheel. So if you need more downforce it’s available. Or, if you’re a driver with the skill of brand ambassador and GT legend Jörg Bergmeister, you can run less downforce through a curve that you know can be taken flat in low downforce, even when the car thinks you’ll crash. This means precious extra tenths off the lap time, which, as it happens, was one notable figure missing from the launch. Where’s the ‘Ring time, we were all wondering? Well, the weather hasn’t played ball. A window for a full-on Nürburgring assault is hoped for in October. It’s expected to be blistering, too, and we’ll let you know just how blistering the moment it’s published.
Other points to note include the ducts in the rear quarters behind the doors. These aren’t cooling or engine intakes, they’re more aero aids. Preuninger told me that these holes, which come from the Turbo, are getting smaller with each generation of 911. This frustrated him. It made it harder to utilise them. Here, they don’t add downforce. They minimise drag, which is important on a car with this much aero, by accelerating the air through a venturi and venting it out those cut-outs behind the rear wheels.
And those flics on the roof aren’t downforce inducing, either. They steer the hot air that’s blasting out of the central radiator in the nose to the sides of the car, leaving just cold, dense, oxygen-rich air feeding the central engine intake that sits just below the rear screen. This is important. If the induction air temperature is, say, 40 degrees rather than 20, you lose around 18hp.
There so much else to talk about, including are bigger brakes, wider tyres, wider tracks, altered geometry and stiffer springs all-round – the spring rates are 50 per cent higher than the GT3’s. And lighter CFRP panels. That includes the doors, which is unusual on a road car. Doors are normally always steel to get through the side impact tests, but Porsche has managed to engineer the required strength using CFRP, which means they could create the complex shape of the doors that guides air along the car’s sides. The GT3 RS is still heavier than the GT3, but by just 15kg – not bad, if you consider how many bits have been added.
There’s some additional power, but not much. As Preuninger said, “around 500hp is enough”. Finding an extra 15hp was Thomas Mader’s job, project manager for the powertrain. Poor Mader. He joked that he didn’t have much to play with because “they gave all the money to the aero department”. Really? You’d never know would you? So what he did was some good old-fashioned engine tuning: new fuel and ignition maps, high-lift cams and making the valve overlap longer. There are tiny changes, too, which show the levels of attention to detail. Like the shaft that operates the each of the three throttle bodies per bank, for instance; it’s been aerodynamically profiled to speed up the flow of intake air at high revs. As a result, the GT3 RS has slightly less peak torque than the GT3, but along with the power boost, a peakier power curve between 6,000-9,000rpm – right where you want it on a track car. Incidentally, they contemplated pushing the MA1 engine to 4.2 litres, but if they had it wouldn’t have met today’s tough emissions regs.
In short, this is a very serious car. Even more so because you can change so much from the cockpit. Along with the aero levels, the driver can alter the settings for the traction control, drivetrain and suspension from the steering wheel. And not just the usual simple changes – a flick of a switch from Sport to Track, or a button to shift all the dampers from soft to firm. No, we’re talking about a wide spectrum of adjustments covering many elements. You can change the locking of the e-diff, for example, but for corner entry then separately for corner exit. Then there’s the compression and rebound damping. Those are split up, too, and adjustable separately front and rear.
It’s a lot to get your head around, and perhaps why I was mildly (read very) perturbed about driving it. You see, we were at Silverstone for the GT3 RS’s launch. Not on the National Circuit; the full Grand Prix layout. The cathedral of speed. All 3.66 miles of high-speed curves, like Copse and Becketts. Silverstone was chosen to show off the GT3 RS’s aero performance, which no doubt it would’ve done in the dry. But this is Silverstone in late September. So of course it was wet and relatively cold.
During the press conference the night before, Bergmeister was talking very excitedly about having all those cockpit adjustments available to him in a road car. I shared his excitement. It’s fantastic to be able to play about with so many facets of a car live, while you’re driving it. But on the day, looking at the glistening black track, I was worried about keeping the thing out the gravel or the barriers, so fiddling with the diff settings and all the other bits seemed like too much of a distraction. This wasn’t just me being a nervous nelly; it was after seeing the glum-faced Porsche guys. They were fretting about the lack of grip, too. Silverstone’s surface wasn’t giving up as much as the tracks Porsche usually tests on in the wet, so the Cup 2 tyres were struggling to generate much bite. I’ll be honest: I was bricking it. So as I was strapped into the car, I decided to go with some suggested settings for suspension, diff, etc, and just leave it at that.
The warnings turned out to be true. There really wasn’t much grip. It had stopped raining by the time I got out and the track was drying, but slowly, and we only had four laps following one of Porsche’s pro-peddlers in a lead car. And all the GT3 RS wanted to do was push on in the low and medium speed stuff, like Luffield and Woodcote, and the minute I tried to exercise the throttle on the way out the rear would go – and quickly, too. Fair play, there may have been some ham-fistedness on my part – maybe getting on the throttle a bit aggressively while learning the car – but the line between grip and slip was sliced-ham thin.
Then something struck me. While I was teetering on my own tightrope of adhesion, my yardstick in the car ahead was having issues as well. Proper wobbles, actually. To the point I thought he was going to fall off a couple of times. He was clearly trying and at times getting very crossed up. As I watched him have yet another a mid-corner snap, it struck me: I wasn’t fighting the wheel nearly half as much, yet I was keeping up pretty easily – particularly through the high-speed stuff like Copse and Becketts. “Jesus, I’m good,” I thought. Really good.
Yes, it was a brief bout of hubris. We arrived back in the pits, and, as I pulled up three feet from that lead car’s bumper, I noticed there were a couple of letters missing: the R and S. The badge said simply GT3. It was at that point that I realised how special the RS is. It’s not just a little bit quicker than a GT3 driven by someone senior, it’s a lot quicker. It really is. For me to be that much calmer in the cockpit, while watching a pro driver fighting an already accomplished car, was quite sobering. A point proved when, on my second stint, I struggled a lot more.
It was raining again, naturally, and this time the lead car had no missing letters. It was another GT3 RS, and it was driven by David Jahn, who wasn’t hanging about. So while trying to keep up, but also concentrating on commentating for our video, I was getting a bit, well…ragged. I out braked myself at Luffield. Twice. That was fine, though; it’s a slow corner. But then I had a proper moment, carrying a touch too much speed into Woodcote and that’s when I thought I was done for. The nose started drifting towards the gravel, enough that I had that sinking feeling – one that produces a string of expletives beginning with ‘f’ and ‘s’ followed by exclamation marks.
In the end, I didn’t crash. Mainly, I think, because the GT3 RS bombards you with information from everywhere. Everything you need to understand what it’s doing comes flooding through like data in a high-speed network. The main touch points are simply alive with sensations, more like a race car than a road car. Take the steering, for instance. In a GT3 it’s already good, but in the GT3 RS it’s something else. The RS has one of the most communicative racks I’ve ever driven; you know the front tyres are slipping sideways almost before it’s happened. There it is, as clear as day, with a sudden flash of coarseness buzzing the steering wheel.
I asked Preuninger what makes the RS even more communicative than the GT3? “Many things, he said. “We’re always updating the software for a start,” which I took to mean the GT3 RS is running an improved EPAS map. And there are all those detail changes: stiffer spring rates, wider tyres and tracks, lower mounting points for the front wishbones. It all has an effect.
It’s the same at the rear. You feel every moment because you’re grabbed so tightly by the clingy, carbon-backed seat. So as the weight transfers when you come off the throttle and the fat, Cup 2s cry ‘enough’ – or you overwhelm them under power – once again, you feel it immediately through your backside. Same with the brakes. The pedal feel is fantastic, especially with the carbon-ceramics fitted. It’s solid but minutely adjustable.
I haven’t mentioned the engine yet, perhaps only because the chassis is so good. But still, what an engine. It’s a belter, and what’s better than one naturally aspirated, high-revving MA1 flat-six motor? Two, of course. One of my favourite moments on track was picking up the noise of the car in front as the driver was on the throttle fractionally ahead of me out of corners. With both cars playing the same tune, but at different phases, it created this wonderful, flat-six harmony that sounded divine.
And I swear the GT3 RS is louder compared with the last 992 GT3 I drove. I wasn’t wearing a lid on that occasion – I was today – but despite that, the RS seemed more piercing, crisper and visceral; just a bit better. Engine guru, Mader, told me there have been no changes to the exhaust system. So I thought maybe I was imagining, until Jahn said, after our laps, “no, the GT3 RS is 100 per cent louder.”
It feels faster, too. Not because of the additional horsepower necessarily. It’s down to a shorter final drive ratio and because it revs harder than the GT3 at the top end, with those trick cams cramming more air into its lungs. It makes the final few thousand revs even more dizzying as you head towards that magic 9,000rpm peak – something that remains one of the most tantalising experiences in modern motoring.
I’m gutted not to have had a dry day to really get the feel of the aero doing its job. I am gutted not to have had more laps, too, and more time to play with the settings and learn the GT3 RS’s sophisticated ways. But even without that, I can tell you this is a sensational car. It’s right at the “OMG” end of the spectrum. I can barely imagine what it’s like when the tyres are actually working, and when the surface is dry – but I’d very much like to find out.
I did get a few hot laps with Bergmeister at the end, who’s not only a driver of exceptional talent, but one of the nicest, egoless people you could meet. What he was doing with the car in the tricky conditions was beyond my level of comprehension, and, as it happens, I’ll leave the last word to him. When we got back to the pits and he took off his crash helmet I said, “Jesus, Jörg, you’re sweating.” “Of course I am,” he replied, “I’m working hard. But I am also having fun.” That, in a nutshell, was my experience of the GT3 RS.
Specification | Porsche 911 GT3 RS (992)
Engine: 3,996cc, flat-six, naturally aspirated
Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 525 @ 8,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 343 @ 6,300rpm
0-62mph: 3.2 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,450kg (DIN)
MPG: 21.1 (WLTP)
CO2: 305g/km (WLTP)
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