Earlier this year I wrote a post on Porsche’s new 992 GT3. I started off that post talking about how a lot of manufacturers talk about their cars being “race cars for the street” and how very few of those cars actually live up to that billing, Porsche GT3 being the exception. The problem with that post was that it was all a bunch of bullshit.
As much fun as I had taking the GT3 around LA’s canyons, I never actually got a chance to play with it on, you know, an actual race track. You can’t very well drone on about about the GT3 being a race car for the streets when you’ve never really tracked it, can you?
I expressed my disappointment to 911 spokesperson Luke Vandezande, who gave me a sympathetic pat on the back and said, don’t worry we’re working on something that should make you very happy. When his number popped up on my phone a few months later I was very stoked to hear what he had up. He told me. And I was indeed very happy.
Turns out that not only would I get a chance to run the 992 GT3 in anger at one of North Americas best race tracks, Road Atlanta, but I would also get a turn behind the wheel of Porsche’s full blown, motorsports big brother 992 GT3 Cup car. Happy days indeed.
The thing that I was most excited to experience is how the new double wishbone front suspension worked on track. If you’ll remember from that earlier review, I raved about how good that suspension was running up Angels Crest highway. With the upgrade from the traditional strut front suspension being substantial. The new GT3 was amazingly precise through the corners with none of the imprecise feelings while cornering that have plagued 911s to date.
The 992 GT3 was razor sharp, but as we were on public roads there was no way to get an idea for what the car would do at the limit. Now, at Road Atlanta, all my questions would be answered.
One of the advantages of having almost two decades of experience in motorsports is the ability to get a read on a car almost instantly when you head out on track. Especially when it’s a track that you have some degree of familiarity with like I do with Road Atlanta. (Though, it had been almost a decade since I last drove there.)
Leaving pit lane in the street GT3 and heading up through Turn One told me almost everything I needed to know about the car within those first couple hundred yards. My initial impressions on the street we’re going to translate 100 percent to the track. All of the incremental upgrades that the Porsche engineers have done to the GT3 have made it substantially better than the last generation car. My only remaining question is was it better then the last generation GT3 RS?
Helping me remember my way around Road Atlanta was Porsche legend Patrick Long, who led me out in a 992 Turbo S. As my track time in the car was limited to around a half a dozen laps, having a guy like Pat out in front made it easier for me to get the GT3 closer to the limit chasing him around.
With 640 horsepower and a much broader torque band, the 992 Turbo S clearly has the legs on the GT3 with its measly 502 HP. Where the GT3 makes its time is in the corners. It is far lighter and more nimble than the heavier Turbo S. Rven with all-wheel drive giving the advantage off the corners, the Turbo S is no match for the GT3 in the curves.
With its long back straightaway, however, Road Atlanta has a tendency to be somewhat of a power circuit. It tends to favor higher-horsepower cars over ones that handle well. It means something, then, that even with an almost 140 HP advantage over the GT3, the Turbo S had a hard time keeping its sibling behind it. At a handling track like Mid Ohio or Sonoma, the GT3 would leave the Turbo far behind in its mirrors.
Several laps of Road Atlanta’s 2.4-mile circuit was more than enough to convince me that not only is the 992 GT3 the best sports car Porsche currently makes, it’s actually better than the outgoing 991.2 GT3 RS. To this point, that’s been the standard for all 911s.
As much fun as raging around Road Atlanta in the street car was, my mind was already racing ahead (pun fully intended) to what was awaiting me in pit lane: the 992 GT3 Cup car. Now this wasn’t just any 992 GT3 Cup car, it was the 992 GT3 Cup car belonging to 311RS Motorsport. Specifically, the 992 GT3 Cup car driven by Leh Keen to several podium finishes in Porsche’s one-make Carrera Cup Championship.
Both Leh and team owner/driver Ryan Gates were on hand to keep an eye on their baby. Full credit to both, when time came time to strap me in the car neither one of them put up much of a fight, certainly not relative to the fight that I put up when they tried to get me out of the car afterwards.
Any time you get into a racecar, especially someone else’s, there is always a bit of worry that you might do something a bit silly and damage (or worse) someone’s pride and joy. It was even a bit more serious driving Leh’s car as he is in the middle of a championship battle. The last thing I want to do is wreck his season. With that in the back of my mind, I headed down pit lane and out on track.
It usually takes a few laps to warm everything up and get up to speed. As Leh already had run a few warm up laps before handing the car over and my time in the car was short, there was no opportunity to muck about. I had to get on the gas right away.
Therein lies the magic of the Porsche’s new Cup car. It transfers the same confidence of its street car sibling to the driver allowing you to start pushing straight out of the gate. It’s an awesome feeling and a really tough one to describe unless you’ve done a ton of track time in various cars. It’s simply one of the most enjoyable racecars I’ve ever driven.
Coming up in to Road Atlanta’s high speed Turn One, I brush the brakes at the end of the pit lane wall. The GT3 Cup transfers weight on to the nose and the new double wishbone suspension absorbs the extra load, with the precise feedback to place the car exactly where I need it to get the best drive out of the corner and up the hill.
The right hand Turn Three is completely blind until I crest the hill and have to get hard on the brakes. It’s a tough corner because I’m braking and turning before I can even see where you’re going. Once again the Cup car’s new handling prowess shows its value — on line I hit the inside apex curbing, which bounces my right side tires in the air.
The Porsche suddenly finding itself with half its usual grip does. Nothing. Its suspension is so compliant that it just gets on with the business of hustling me down the track into the esses, which it makes its way through like a 500 HP, 2,700-pound ballerina. I’m fairly confident I can be full throttle through this section, but the penalty for getting it wrong is too great today. I lift slightly and get the car set up to carry as much speed as possible up the steep rise through Turn Six.
I get to throttle a bit early and the car goes into a mild four wheel slide up the hill. It takes my line wide and over the exit rumble strip. In past years, this was actually the fast way through this corner, but apparently there has been some work done since the last time I was here and the rumble strip has become substantially rougher. The GT3 struggled to get power down and made me fight to get back on line. This is the only “weakness” that I encountered for the whole time behind the wheel. And I put weakness in quotes; every car struggles over that particular section of track now, so I really can’t blame the car.
Turn Eight is the most important corner on the track as it’s the slowest corner and it leads onto the massively long back straightaway. Getting a good exit here its crucial to a good lap time. It’s a late apex corner that wants to trick you in to going faster through it than you should, ruining your exit in the process. The GT3 Cup turns in perfectly on line, but also allows you to be aggressive with the throttle to get the car hustling down the straight sooner than you would think possible.
The long straight gives the driver a chance to check their gauges. On the Cup that’s actually a massive screen that dominates the dash, but it’s supremely easy to see exactly what the car is doing, make sure there are no issues that need addressing. After years of staring a dash screens the size of a small iPhone while doing the best part of 150 mph the GT3's dash should be the standard going forward.
Focus back to the job at hand as the brake zone for Turn 10 A & B is rapidly approaching at a tick over 160 mph. Once again the Porsche is superb on the brakes and quickly flicks through the left-right combo and charges up the hill, over the blind crest and back down aimed squarely at the massively intimidating Turn 11 and the finish line. The GT3 Cup can take this corner full throttle... but I can’t. Once again the stakes are just too high for me to get it wrong, so I do a quick “safety lift” and then immediately regret it, as there is just so much grip available.I had way more in reserve than I realized.
That’s the beauty of the 992 GT3 Cup. It just gives and gives and gives, allowing the driver to keep pushing the limits of performance without ever really feeling that they’re are in over your head. Ironically (or not), that’s the exact same feeling I got from the street car.
Porsche has created one of the best driver’s platforms on the market. Decade after decade of chasing incremental improvements has finally distilled the 991 GT3 into one of the best ever made. Not ever made by Porsche. Ever made, ever.