Last summer I was invited to copilot in an orange 997 GT3 RS. The format of the event was Gran Turismo which meant turn by turn directions and pin point accurate distance intervals. My fellow copilot friend was a bit disappointed to be appointed to the red Mercedes C63 AMG, but he did later admit to having had a blast power sliding the brand new Benz through some twisty - and residential - roads.
It was 9 A.M. and we had met up at a local coffee shop to hand out the route instructions and synch our two way radios. In typical cars and coffee fashion, we started off by admiring each other's cars and taking lots of pictures. About a half an hour later I was told to lower myself in to the RS bucket seat, strap myself in to the 4 point seatbelt harnass and read out the first instruction. As I tried hard to keep my eyes focused on the pace notes, I couldn't help letting them wander towards the exterior paint matched orange interior, the impressive and daunting roll cage with optional fire extinguisher mount, and the racing helmet stowed behind the driver’s seat.
The car squeeked and rattled like a stubborn old man getting out of bed on a cold winter morning. The gearbox was jerky, the exhaust was sputtering, mechanical bits were tossed around, and the ride was terrifyingly bumpy. 15 minutes in to the drive the GT3 RS had warmed up to temperature and the engine, gearbox, and tires now began to play off of one another to create what can only be described as magic. The short shifting gearbox was no able to downshift at such back breaking ferocity that I found myself accepting the fact that the engine spectacularly explode in our backsides. I figured at least we'd go out with a bang, in an RS, with a smile on our face. The terrorizing sound which came out of the RS’s backside at high revs put the Ferraris and Aston Martins to shame while the RS continued to put those same cars to shame in just about any other aspect. Cornering ability: check. Supercar looks: check. Sheer drama: check. Performance: well… it’s not the fastest car by any means, but it does an astonishing job of converting it's mere 415 hp to the road quicker than any other car this side of a 997 Turbo. While the more powerfull Fezzas and Astons will eventually catch up on the straightaway, the RS will outbrake and out corner them, and n the end it’ll be anyones race. However regardless of the outcome, I can assure you that the driver in the RS will have the widest smile on his face.
When we arrived at the morning break checkpoint, the Furry Creek Golf Resort, it was my turn to take the wheel. The second I was presented with the GT3's keys, I decided that I didn't like the way it was parked, so I set about going for a bit of ride around the parking lot. I put the keys in the typical left hand side Porsche ignition, I pressed down on the unforgiving and heavy clutch, and I waited for RS to come to life. I slipped the racy Alcantara short shifter in to first gear, and slowly eased off the clutch and let the RS drive itself down the supercar stacked golf club parking lot. Inexperienced at driving lightweight racing cars for the road, I was worried that I’d stall and embarrass myself in front of the onlookers. My worries were quickly turned in to feelings of amusement as I realized that the GT3 RS was not a difficult car to drive at normal speeds. While the Porsche makes you work hard for your enjoyment when barreling down the road at breakneck speeds, you can't help but marvel at the challenge it puts out to the driver. It's difficult to get it right in the RS, but when you do, and you've finally achieved the impossible, you feel like a true racing car driver. You feel like a million bucks.
I'm sure even my grandmother could blip down twice from fourth to third to second in a 458 Italia and then give it the beans upon exiting the turn. With the Manettino switch in Sport any cement footed will be made to feel like a good driver, while the electronics will only allow a bit of fun and come down like an anvil when reaching the limit. But in the GT3 RS it's a different story. It's like the clock has been turned back 20 years and you find yourself in a Group B Audi Quattro S1. Now I wonder if my grandmother could heal toe double clutch downshift from 4th to 2nd while approaching a hairpin at 120km/h. I wonder if she could manage the numerous steering wheel corrections that will need to be made throughout the turn. I suspect if she actually managed to work up the courage to enter the turn at such a high speed, she'd end up lying upside down in the shrubs, still in 4th gear, and wondering how to unbuckle herself from the 4 point harness. The GT3 RS. You've got to love it.
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