The original Widowmaker- 911 GT2 (996)

What do you get when Porsche crosses a GT3 and the Turbo? Yeah, the GT2. Porsche's GT cars are names after the FIA homologation classes they have been planning to participate in. However for enthusiasts the GT cars are among the most sought after. See 996 GT2 Press Release HERE.

In the true blue Porschephilles bible, it is clearly stated that the real 911 should be RWD and only RWD. The 911 Turbo is without a doubt the supreme trans-continent cruise missile thanks to its 4WD configuration. It never put a foot wrong even when the driver’s inputs were hardly up to the mark. Yes it is more forgiving and far more stable. Though I have not driven the GT1 but for many reasons the GT3 is still one of my all time favorites. True it may wear you out on a long journey but what a rush whereas in the Turbo you are master of cool.

So what then is the GT2? For those of you old enough to remember, once upon a time the mighty 911 Turbo was only RWD. It was thought that with power exceeding 400 bhp it would be far safer to have the power distributed over all four wheels. The 996 Turbo went up to 420 bhp and thus came with 4WD. Defying the logic, the 462 bhp GT2 drops the 4WD mechanism and puts all the power back to the rears. Just about the only feature added to cope with this are the new 315/30 ZR 18 rear tyres, up from the 295/30 ZR 18s of the Turbo. Moreover, there is no traction control device of any kind, just your right foot.

While the GT3 is the “renn”(sport) version of the 911 Carerra, the GT2 is the “renn” version of the Turbo. Here’s how they stack up. The base 911 has 320 bhp, weighs 1345 kg, hits 100 km/h in 5.0 seconds and tops out at 285 km/h, while the wilder GT3 has 360 bhp, weighs 1350 kg, does 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds and tops out at 302 km/h. The mighty Turbo has 420 bhp, weighs 1540 kg, hits 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds and reaches 305 km/h. The “king of the hill” GT2 has a whopping 462 bhp, weighs 100 kg less than the Turbo flashes to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds and doesn’t stop until 315 km/h is seen on the dial.

Now any competitor that neatly drops into the performance bracket between the normal cooking 911 and the maniac GT2 is mince meat, unless it does so for less than half the asking price. That is now proclaimed  Porsche territory.

When we were at the Turbo launch, Walter Rohl quietly told me the engineers were working on an even faster RS version and he had been sorting out the handling of the new beast. When we saw the Carerra GT we thought that was what he meant but what he really meant was the GT2 RS. He even kept telling me that he could lap Nurburgring a little faster in the 2WD GT3 than the 4WD 911 Turbo. Sounds strange? Had I said that, maybe but this is Walter Rohl we are talking about here and he generally knows a thing or two about cars.

I did not really understand how a 360 bhp machine could be faster than a one with 4WD 420 bhp around the lengthy Nurburgring track. But after having driven all these cars, one trait emerges. The GT3 and even more so the GT2 are “set-up” for the track. That is to say they run a little “loose”. In racing parlance this means the initial understeer that most street cars have to enhance stability and provide driver confidence is sacrificed. The super steady Turbo is of this school with more stabilizing understeer built-in, providing outstanding confidence during high speed driving.

The GT3 feels sharp and a little nervous at the same time but with the limited power if one can call it that, the handling of the chassis of the 996 is allowed to reach its full bloom. The GT3 feels keenly balanced in the corners and has an adjustable attitude and a penchant for oversteer. Fast forward to 2001 and the GT2 arrives. Power jumps by more than 100 bhp. Now the chassis is really taxed. Power effects all aspects of the car’s handling and character. Yes, one can cruise with the thing at high speed afterall it has the capability to top 315 km/h for goodness sake. But it feels nervous, responding to every twitch at the wheel because the initial understeer has been dialed out. This is not a bad thing, merely an acquired taste, and one which keen enthusiasts and race drivers yearn for.

During acceleration one must learn to keep both hands steady at the wheel. The unfamiliar g-force of acceleration manages to tip the right hand just slightly while the left is shifting. It’s that sensitive and demands your absolute attention. In this way it is tiring after a long high speed blast but it really gives the adrenals a good workout. This behavior is intimidating to those not looking for this sort of fun but the thrill seekers will be enamored by this facet. And if one just bides his time, the GT2 will justly reward the cognizant with seemingly boundless pleasure, limited only by one’s skill and courage. Having said that, to wrest the most out of the GT2 or for that matter the GT3, one should really attend a Porsche High Performance driving school.

Having already experienced the early turn-in response of the GT3 I was already prepared for the GT2. Corners taken at a polite gait did not feel all that special, in fact the Turbo felt better. But really turn up the wick and with the GT2 things really get interesting while the Turbo begins to run out of attitude if one can use that statement. The Turbo will always stay on a stable course doing nothing really wrong but nothing exciting in a perverse sort of way. In contrast the GT2 gets into the rhythm and goads you on, making all the right moves to allow further excursions into the nether reaches of its performance boundary. It goes neutral and edging into oversteer but in a very predictable manner, scary but plain brilliant.

Problem is the elastic nature of the turbo power. It comes on a bit then a lot more. Backing off in mid corner results in a big oversteer of one must have nerves of steel and stay committed to the course. The numbers to brandish are no doubt big but the GT2 is so intimidation that one feels afraid while riding the beast in contrast to controlling it in the case of the GT3. Its ability to shrink long straightaways by its sheer accelerative power also means entry speeds often is too high. No wonder PCCB has to be standard.  

FAST FACTS

Engine
Capacity   : 3600cc
Cylinder layout  : Flat Six
Valves   : 24 valves, VarioCam Plus
Redline   : 6750 rpm
Maximum power  : 462 bhp at 5700 rpm
Maximum torque  : 620 Nm at 3500-4500 rpm

Transmission
Type   : Six Speed manual only
Driven wheels  : Rear

Performance
Top speed  : 315 km/h
0-100km/h  : 4.1 seconds

Suspension
Front   : MacPherson Struts
Rear   : Multi-Link Spring-struts

Steering
Type   : Assisted Rack and Pinion
Turning circle  : 10.6m

Brakes
Front   : Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes 330mm, 6-pot calipers
Rear   : Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes 330mm, 4-pot calipers

Tyres
Type   : Michelin Pilot Sport
Size   : f: 235/40 ZR 18, r: 315/30 ZR 18

Safety
ABS   : Yes
Airbags    : 2
Traction control  : No

Measurements
Length   : 4446mm
Width   : 1830mm
Height   : 1275mm
Wheelbase  : 2355mm
Kerb weight  : 1440kg

Summary
It is what I said earlier, the GT2 is set up for a purpose and that is to make it a time to distance, all-out-lap track car. It is of course not quite that uncompromising but there are very few cars perched that far out into the performance map that one can live with on a day to day basis. Like sushi and sashimi, it is an acquired but once you master just how to ingest the thing, the sheer pleasure one gets is quite an experience and quite often is one that one cannot do without. The GT2 is entertaining, just that it occurs where it matters most to track drivers and die-hard enthusiasts and not while trundling about town. The Turbo is stable all the way but sacrifices the outright pleasure that can be achieved at true ten-tenths driving. Admittedly that to most drivers occurs less than 1% of the time but if like us you know how to appreciate this delicacy, that 1-% of the time gives us 99% of the pleasure.
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