NURBURGRING, Germany – The 911 GT3 RS cars sit in the pits of the Nurburgring Formula One track, bright coloured wild beasts waiting under an overcast sky. I get in to one of them and start adjusting the seat, steering wheel and mirrors before I buckle up. Everything is right where it should be and, if you are familiar with 911 Carreras, the view up front is the same, save for the ducting on the front fenders and the coloured stripe at the 12 o’clock position on the steering wheel.
However, when you fire up the 4.0-litre, normally aspirated, race-derived flat-six that is shared with every 911 racing car developed by Porsche’s motorsport division, you are instantly reminded that this is no run-of-the-mill 911, but a rather special beast indeed. The engine comes to life with a level of noise that immediately focuses your attention on the task ahead, which for today means keeping the shiny side up and the rubber side down as I run laps on the Formula One Grand Prix track at the Nurburgring. Yes, it will be a fun day…
At Porsche, the track-focused GT series 911s are a breed apart, and the new GT3 RS is no exception. A few days before, Porsche factory driver Kevin Estre, who is currently racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship, set a new lap record of 6 minutes 56 seconds and four tenths of a second on the Nurburgring’s famed Nordschleife, a 73-corner, 20.8-kilometre track known as the “Green Hell.” This is a significant achievement, as the new GT3 RS is the first road-approved sports car to break the seven-minute barrier at the Nordschleife. To go this fast on such a daunting track, both car and driver have to be razor-sharp.
What sets the GT3 RS apart is an almost obsessive level of attention to detail that permeates the entire car. The engine is a screamer. Peak output, 513 horsepower (SAE) arrives at 8250 rpm and the cut-off is set at a mind-bending 9000 rpm, while maximum torque is delivered at 6000 rpm. The sound at mid-range is quite deep, but it’s the scream between 8000 and 9000 rpm that quickly becomes addictive and the throttle control is incredibly sharp.
The seven-speed, double-clutch PDK is the only gearbox available on the 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS, and it is absolutely spectacular with short gaps between ratios and lightning-quick shifts, which keep the engine revving in that sweet spot that is so satisfying on every level. Mad brilliance is what this drivetrain is all about. Running at full power exiting the Bilstein corner and through the Advan arch, before going uphill on the way to the Veedol chicane, will make you a believer.
The chassis of the 911 GT3 RS has been tuned like the chassis on the Porsche Cup racing car in that the spring rates have been increased by 50%, while the anti-roll bars are more compliant, enabling more independent control of each wheel. Also, the 911 GT3 RS gets uniball bearing ball joints on all suspension arms as opposed to conventional elastokinematic bearings, and the car tips the scales at only 1430 kilograms, thanks to its magnesium roof and carbon-fibre reinforced plastic body parts. On the track, the front end of the GT3 RS does not move up and down while at speed, and the car remains unflappable even while riding high on the apex curb of the Ravenol Corner. Just brilliant.
Also brilliant is the steering of the GT3 RS, which is razor-sharp and massively communicative. The GT3 RS is equipped with an active rear-wheel steering system that ensures greater agility in tight corners and makes the car more stable in high-speed transitions. Also part of the standard equipment is a torque vectoring system that has been tailored to the GT3 RS and features an electronically controlled, fully-variable rear differential lock. There is a level of immediacy and directness to this car that is simply amazing. It just feels so much more like a racing car than any other 911, and it is perfectly at home on the Nurburgring’s Grand Prix track.
The GT3 RS also looks the part with its myriad of aerodynamic elements. The massive rear wing, adjustable on three settings, is hard to miss, but even smaller details like the NACA ducts cut into the front hood contribute by directing cooling to the front brakes, reducing the coefficient of drag and increasing downforce on the front axle. The air intakes in the rear fenders channel air to the engine and generate a ram-air effect at high speeds, which increases the flow rate, while the Sport exhaust made of titanium reduces backpressure and increases performance. According to Porsche engineers, the 911 GT3 RS will generate 144 kilograms of downforce at 200 km/h and close to 500 kilos of downforce at a top speed of 312 kilometers per hour.
The 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS will make its way to Canada in the third quarter of 2018 with a base price set at CAD$213,400, and is sure to become a collectible as it will most probably be the last normally aspirated GT3 RS. I just hope that the buyers of this exceptional car will not garage them to keep mileage low and values up, but will rather use them to their full potential on track days and appreciate the intense level of engagement that the GT3 RS delivers.