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A rendezvous with SA’s fastest 911

2010-05-21 07:33

Lance Branquinho

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Porsche
Model GT2 Racer
Engine 3.6l flat-six turbo
Power 463kW
Torque 890Nm
Transmission Six-speed
Weight 1 250kg
Last week Porsche unveiled the fourth incarnation of its 911 GT2, with an RS affixed for extra effect.

Unsurprisingly this latest GT2 is also the company’s most powerful ever production road car and considering the epic Carrera GT which sits in Zuffenhausen’s museum, that’s some achievement on the part of this new GT2.

Even amongst the 911 range’s alphabet soup diversity (which is at times plainly unfathomable) the GT2 moniker denotes a special status: it’s the apex 911 – both kingmaker for the brand and potential widow-maker.

A very special badge

As any Porsche fan knows, 911 Turbos have been rear-wheel driven from introduction in 1974 until the 993 range’s arrival (ironically) in 1993, when they became all-four drive. Although the viscous-coupled traction made the Turbo a much more principled road car, some lamented the engineering change as tidying up the dynamics a touch too much – removing some of the old Martini-liveried Turbo hooliganism.

For purists, a 911 Turbo with more than one differential was simply sacrilege.

Despite the all-wheel drive Turbos dynamic excellence, Porsche has pandered to bespoke customer demand and released a GT2 derivative with each 911 upgrade since the 993. The latest GT2 RS, with 462kW and a 7:18 ‘Ring lap time to its credit is a staggering achievement – especially if you consider the theoretical "incorrectness" of its rear-engined design architecture…

GT2’s have always been rather low-volume cars. The first 993 GT2 (the only air-cooled one ever built) numbered well under 100 units. The latest GT2, due to go on sale in September, will only see 500 units for global distribution.

If you’re a regular visitor to the Killarney circuit in Cape Town, you’ll have seen probably the most unique Porsche 911 GT2 in all the world, a GT2 track car.

To think - it all started out as a dealer-floor registered 2008 GT2 roadcar...

First impressions

When I first saw the GT2 at a motor show last year, ambling up to it with a Porschephile mate leading the way, I was wholly dismissive.

"It’s a GT3 RSR with a lot of non-factory bits, that’s all," was my terse observation. "There’s a lot of special cooling around the back, this is actually a very trick GT2," the Porschephile inferred in a clipped manner to redress my doubts about this very special GT2 possibly being a tarted-up GT3.

Closer inspection revealed a stunning level of carbon-fibre fabrication that indicated the presence of very many bespoke non-factory bits. We retrieved the owner’s contact details from beaming Porsche staff who had the GT2 racing edition on display and a few months later a track outing was in the offering.

The GT2’s owner is Frenchman Laurent Gross. Fortunately for South African Porsche fans, Laurent also holds a Republic of Hout Bay passport and as such is a regular competitor at Killarney. This enabled me to set-up a morning track test session.

What makes this GT2 so unique is its transformation from road to race car – the only such project known.

Aero kit is extensive. How cool are those headlights with the brake-cooling ducts in the top third of the illumination surface? Handmade by technician Divan Luzmore.

Road to race

Porsche’s product portfolio caters for well-heeled privateer racers like no other company – which is evident when you calculate the sheer volume of 911s in endurance and sportscar racing globally. Laurent wanted to campaign something extraordinarily special and decided to convert his 2008 model GT2 into a racecar.

Technical responsibility for the project was heaped upon the Porsche Centre Cape Town Race Team, and thanks to their mechanical acumen, the GT2’s inherent design integrity and Laurent’s imagination (and laissez-faire budgeting) South Africa can claim to host the world’s most bespoke GT2.

Unpacking the car’s technical details the GT2 mirrors a GT3 RSR in many ways, despite its forced-induction engine and the nearly F1 fetishist level of carbon-fibre fabrication employed.

Laurent’s GT2 produced a generous (in supercar terms) 390kW of power when Porsche Centre Cape Town set about the "R" project. The car’s turbos were swapped out for custom-built units, the stock air-conditioning binned (to facilitate better airflow between the intercoolers) and all the ancillaries (power-steering, water pump mechanism, idlers and the crank pulleys) were connected in as efficient a manner as possible.

Going against conventional wisdom the Porsche Centre Cape Town team replaced the standard GT2 flywheel with a lighter one to ensure hair-trigger responsiveness.

A set of custom machined headers and accompanying exhaust plumbing rounded off the GT2’s 3.6l flat-six’s transformation from road compliant to track certified. To give you an idea of how perfectly conceived the stock GT2’s 3.6l engine is, Laurent’s GT2 runs stock internals which, under race conditions, perform effortlessly…

With all the modifications harmonised, the GT2 bests Porsche’s new GT2 RS roadcar by a single unit of output, tallying figures of 463kW and 890Nm.

The view most other racers gets to see of the GT2 - rear diffuser is real carbon-fibre unit and works a treat.

Lots of trick bits

As you can glean from the images and moving footage, Laurent's GT2 looks epic - especially in its predominantly black surfacing embellished with faux Martini stripes, reminiscent of the second generation 911 Turbo.

A stripped-out cabin (retaining the roadcar’s instrumentation binnacle no less) and rampant carbon-fibre resurfacing helped melt down mass to 1 250kg. Although the air-flow management details look quite outlandish, purists will be heartened to know the GT2 roadcar’s bodywork was not cut to facilitate the aerodynamic modifications.

The front fenders and "bonnet" were sourced from a German supplier, whilst the massive rear wing is off a Le Mans Corvette. A flush belly and special front splitter were all produced locally in Cape Town by PRODUX. The detailing is watchmaker perfect all-over. Especially neat are the front lights (hand made by Porsche Centre Cape Town) which illuminate and facilitate airflow routing to cool the front brakes.

Hiding behind the carbon-fibre 18-inch wheels (yes, those are real carbon-fibre wheels, not alloys, saving 20kg at a price you’re too poor to enquire about) are the only items on the GT2 track car which shun the ostensible advantage of carbon construction  - its brakes. Laurent found carbon brakes to lack the durability he required and opted instead for a set of Brembo steel rotors off a GT3 RSR.

To shore up the GT2’s  directionally stability and agility Laurent’s GT2 features adjustable Bilstein dampers at all four wheel corners, with the car currently riding around 60mm lower than in road trim.

Stock GT2 dials and ignition barrel. Cabin aiflow management routing (they've binned the A/C). Oakley transmission converts the GT2 six-speed h-gate (still operational underneath) into sequential set-up. Genius.

Fast? Very...

Inarguably special in configuration, ingeniously built (locally) and purposeful looking – the question remains, just how fast is it? Well, Laurent’s a properly skilled driver (with Le Mans experience) and he chases low 1:13s around Killarney on Michelin racing tyres – which is unwittingly quick.

I strapped in as a passenger for four laps, which quintessentially reaffirmed everything that is exceptional about the world’s most enduring performance car range – the 911…

The GT2, especially with Laurent’s deft inputs at the helm, navigates around the Killarney circuit with the alacrity of a Megawatt scalectrix car. Traction out of the two slowest corners (turns 2 and 6) is so prodigious it severely tested the padding of my helmet as the outer shell pressured against my seat’s headrest.

In third gear, as the avalanche of rotational force spins the flywheel to the tune of 890Nm, acceleration is of the extreme peripheral blurring variety. When you happen upon a corner the GT2’s ability to convert linear acceleration into lateral g is an affront to Newtonian physics.

Perhaps the neatest dynamic driving feature is the Oakley transmission, which mounts an inverse shifter mechanism on the roadcar GT2’s h-gate pattern, enabling sequential shifting.

The brakes are phenomenal – as you’d expect from Porsche racing rotors – enabling Laurent to carry momentum treacherously deep into corners. In cabin, the turbos announce their presence with turbine acoustics, from the outside it’s a stupefying flat-six racetrack bark amplified to the extreme.

All too soon an outbreak of Cape showers curtails the track outing and we return to the pits.

Laurent relates details surrounding the car, he banters about racing – brimming with enthusiasm, dropping some colourfully-acquired Afrikaans words here and there to describe things. I follow his entertaining anecdotes by ear, but find myself turning three-quarters left a dozen of so times to take in this unique GT2 parked next to us.

It’s a very special car, yet Laurent now wants to build something similar on the all-wheel drive Turbo platform. So yes, the GT2 "racing special" is for sale and it’s completely convertible back to road car specification too – if you wish. Not that any sane new owner would actually do such a thing…


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