Porsche launched the latest 911 GT3 RS about a month ago at the Geneva Motor Show, where we also had a chance to talk to “Mr. GT” himself, Andreas Preuninger, who leads Porsche’s department for GT cars. And just this week, the GT3RS also took to the Nurburgring Nordschleife to set its official lap time and it appears to have gone round very quickly indeed.
The very latest Porsche GT3 RS represents the swan song for the 991 generation of cars. Certainly, there may still come some smaller launches of very limited collector’s cars like a 911 Speedster later on, but as far as important 911s go, the 991.2 GT3 RS is the end for the 991 cycle. By the time we write about the Paris Motor Show later this year, Porsche will have pulled the covers off the 992 generation 911 Carrera cars. In the here and now, though, the GT3 RS is the most track focused car which Porsche makes. Powered by a howling 4.0 liter naturally aspirated flat six engine that will rev all the way to nine thousand RPM, it is pretty much the epitome of a race car for the road. With a wing of that size on the back of it, though, you won’t be fooling anyone into thinking that the RS anything else but that.
On paper, the changes don’t look huge over the 991.1 GT3 RS, but as usual with Porsche there is a lot going on under the skin that isn’t entirely quantifiable using black numbers on white paper. The new car gets an extra 20 horsepower over the old car, for a total of five hundred and twenty, but the engine’s capacity is unchanged at 4 liters. Even so, this is a very different motor than the one found in the previous generation. It has solid valve lifters and a raft of other changes that are meant to make it bullet proof for use on or off the racetrack. It also revs a little higher now up to the full 9000, whereas the previous one came with a rev limit of 8800.
Earlier this week, Porsche had booked some time on the Nurburgring Nordschleife for a “record attempt” with the new car and they were blessed by blue skies and sunshine. We’ll have to wait for an official video to come out, but thanks to some local enthusiasts and the powers of modern technology we already know that the new car set a lap time of well under seven minutes. The most accurate approximations indicate a time no worse than 6:55 to 6:56 which means that the only cars that have ever lapped faster are the Lamborghini Huracan Performante and of course the Porsche GT2 RS which currently holds the crown with its 6 minutes 47 second lap. Considering that the GT2 RS has 700 turbocharged horses compared to only 520 freely breathing ones in the GT3 RS, to be a mere handful of seconds behind the fastest ever lap is an incredible achievement. Sure enough, the cornering speeds of the 991.2 GT3 RS on the newest “N2” Porsche spec Michelin Cup 2 tires look to be absolutely off the charts. I imagine that it took a while for the driver’s face to get back into its usual shape after these timed laps.
Talking to an industry legend like Andreas Preuninger is always exciting but at the same time mildly frustrating because you know for a fact that the most burning questions on your mind are those he cannot answer. I’d certainly love to know more about what the GT department has cooking and how they will get around some of the obstacles that emission regulations are throwing up, but if he wants to keep his job he can’t talk about anything that hasn’t been officially released. Even so, I tried to make the best of it.
Jan Coomans: Well, the new RS is here, finally, and I suppose that in most ways it’s exactly what we thought it would be like. A bit more power, and a bit more aero perhaps, but are there any significant improvements that aren’t immediately visible to us?
Andreas Preuninger: Unlike how it may seem, there are several big changes on the new car. The engine, for example, is now based on the one we introduced with the 991.2 GT3, which is almost a completely new engine. Either way, the GT3 line is never about pure horsepower, that is the GT2 RS’ job. A lot of invisible work has also gone into the suspension. Compared to the previous car, spring rates have doubled because we have changed the way we set up the car. We have gone more in the direction of how we set up the Cup cars (race cars) , if you look at the relative stiffness rate of the anti roll bars and the springs. And of course the shock absorbers settings have also been changed to accommodate the extra stiffness.
Even though we really don’t feel under pressure from any competition, we like to improve the cars whenever we have the opportunity. If you look at the previous GT3 RS for example, it had an amazing driving precision. But this new car is on a completely different level, and it is something which you feel immediately if you drive a gen. 1 RS and then the gen. 2. The new car is like a scalpel. If you could be precise to within 5 or 6 centimeters with the old car, the 991.2 GT3 RS allows you to halve that. It’s simply the result of the new suspension strategy together with recalibrations of the traction control system and limited slip differential.
The aero, you’re wrong about that actually, we did not need to add any more downforce because the old car had so much already. It was simply not necessary. But the aerodynamic efficiency is better, which means that we now have aerodynamic less drag on the car for the same amount of downforce as before. The cooling ducts for the front brakes for example are smaller on the new car, we redesigned them because they were actually reducing downforce and adding a lot of drag. With the new design we have much better aerodynamics but at the same time the cooling of the brakes improved, leading to considerably lower brake temperatures on track.
Andreas Preuninger, director of Porsche’s GT product line
Has the extra stiffness and more racecar-like setup strategy made the car any more difficult to drive on the limit than before?
Actually no, on the contrary. The footprint of the RS, with the wide body, is very large and gives a lot of confidence. The increased precision also makes it easier to place the car where you want to and go faster. There’s also a new specification for the tires, which are a very important part of the equation. The result is a car that communicates very well and is very predictable, so I would say that probably the GT3 RS is now even a bit easier to drive than before. People think that race cars are difficult to drive but actually they are not. To go fast, they must be easy for the driver and give a lot of confidence.
There are some new emissions regulations coming into force in the EU later this year, which will mean that every direct injection petrol engine will also need a separate filter in the exhaust for particulate matter. Is this a technical obstacle that you expect you can get around fairly easily or is it a real problem when you want to create the desired power and sound with naturally aspirated engines?
Well, it’s definitely a challenge. But it’s the kind of challenge that we expect to answer with clever technical solutions. These new regulations will come into force on September 1st of this year, so with the GT3 RS we don’t have a problem at the moment because it does not need to comply with them yet. We will produce all the cars for the European market first, and then from September onwards we will build the cars that will be sold in the rest of the world and so do not need to comply with this new European regulation. That will give us more time, but we are making good progress with developing the necessary technologies.
That’s great to hear, I hope we get to speak again the next time your department launches a car!