A new Porsche race car is hardly news when it goes to the track. They have to do absurd things like break 35-year-old Nürburgring records to get our attention. Now, when a Porsche is built for off the track—that’s special. The rally Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport was the true highlight of Rallye Deutschland, and it wasn’t technically even racing.
Porsche ran a lightly modified Cayman GT4 Clubsport race car as a course opening car this weekend to test the waters for a possible R-GT rally car to sell to customers. Porsche Head of Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser explained to Jalopnik that Porsches now sell in places where there aren’t a lot of race tracks and thus, rally is a bigger deal than circuit racing. So, they were interested in building a Porsche race car to sell to there, for rallying.
That’s fine and all, but the real reason why this needs to happen is because it rules. The herd of rally geeks who showed up from Porsche itself who were visibly giddy about this thing as I was poking around their tent this weekend will probably back me up on this. It’s a loud flat-six mid-engine Porsche built to go sideways, hydraulic handbrake and all. Build more for our collective enjoyment as automotive enthusiasts or we all suffer.
Current overall Pikes Peak record holder, Porsche factory driver, and hoon we all wish we could be, Romain Dumas, totally stole the show away from hyper-advanced, brutally fast World Rally Championship cars by sliding that little Porsche around every corner before each stage opened for competitors all weekend.
While Porsche’s pre-event VIP entry wasn’t timed, it was ludicrously fast on the wide-open, faster stages of this rally. Its aerodynamics weren’t changed much from GT4 specs (aside from one huge scoop on the roof), and even the regular GT4 Clubsport’s aero bits aren’t too much of a departure from the road car it’s based on. (I love the regular WRC cars, but all of those wonderful aerodynamic additions produce drag that hinders their top speeds.)
The Cayman’s PDK gearbox was also unchanged from track spec, where gears are longer to reach higher speeds. This is something Walliser and Dumas both expect to optimize better for tight rally stages if Porsche decides to get serious and put the rally Cayman into production. The Cayman is already on its next generation after this last GT4 Clubsport race car came out, so Dumas noted that it didn’t make sense to tweak this transmission too heavily if it’s likely to use the next-generation GT4 Clubsport race car’s engine and gearbox as its base instead.
That’s the true beauty of this thing, though: It’s not too far off from a regular road Cayman, albeit one where the heavy interior bits were completely left out and a roll cage was welded in instead. It’s still powered by a 3.8-liter flat six that makes 385 horsepower. A mechanical rear differential and a front axle shared with the 911 GT3 Cup car are the most significant changes made to the GT4 Clubsport to make it ready to race.
To make this “concept car” for Rallye Deutschland, Porsche turned to Dumas, as he had a ton of prior experience in rally events that would help. This one is a tarmac rally, but the concrete on the Panzerplatte stages is notoriously rough, so the suspension had to be beefed up with stronger components, especially the dampers. More side-impact protection was added as well, especially on the passenger side.
The interior had to make room for the things you’d need to go rallying as well: a seat and harnesses for the passenger, a hammock-like basket to put helmets on transits between rally stages, a spare tire, basic tools, Braid rally wheels, some modifications to the roll cage to make it legal, and extra lighting for evening and night stages. The exhaust was also tweaked to be just a little bit louder, too. The brakes and ABS system were altered for the lower-grip world of rally as well.
My favorite addition was definitely the giant hydraulic handbrake, which interrupted the otherwise tame Porsche interior with a large oversized stick that proclaimed to the world, “I am here to party.” Even the stage-rally-prepped 944 I drove in the Lemons Rally a couple years ago didn’t have a fun-stick this massive.
Sadly, neither Walliser nor Dumas would answer my question about how much air the rally Cayman could get before breaking.
“I don’t want to jump, I don’t want to damage it,” said Dumas, who definitely sent it through the air anyway, as you can see.
They’re mainly aiming to have this car available for tarmac rallies, but I still believe that Porsche needs to enter it in Rally Finland next year (home of many ludicrous jumps) and jump it as high as possible on principle.
There would likely be a few more changes needed to get it to a gravel rally, Walliser noted. Ride height and underbody protection would have to be beefed up a bit more, and naturally, the two-wheel-drive Cayman wouldn’t be as fast as the all-wheel-drive cars. As someone just watching, though, that last part is exactly why I’d love to see it hit the dirt and gravel stages, too. Tail-happy two-wheel-drive cars are often the most fun to watch.
“If we sell it to customers, I’m sure someone will try it,” Walliser told Jalopnik. Yes, please.
Walliser expects the Cayman GT4 Clubsport-based rally car to cost about the same as an R5 rally car (the ones racing in the second-tier WRC2 series, which cost roughly in the $200,000 range), with run time costs kept down by the number of street car parts on the car.
Here’s hoping that rich dudes with money also enjoy getting sideways in the rowdiest, most entertaining way possible. A Porsche built to slide around and drop wheels in the dirt is the ultimate antidote to the stereotypical Porsche owner who only drives his 911 to Cars and Coffee, refuses to track it because it’ll hurt the resale value and abrasively corrects anyone who dare pronounce “Porsche” as a one-syllable word. The rally Cayman exists for fun, which is what you should be having with your Porsche.