“Ralph has had many modified Porsches over the years, and says that this is his favorite—and last,” said Alex. “He is a big-capacity, naturally aspirated motor junkie, and when he met us in late 2006, he made it his mission to wean us off the crazy turbo scene! No question that he has succeeded there!”
“He was one of our first customers for the GT3 street exhaust system and has number 4 of the 467 sold so far. His car has been a testbed for many of our new parts, and the good news is that five years down the line, his faith in our work is undiminished.”
Halfway to the observatory, we spot a pulloff and I switch to Ralph’s silver 3.9-liter bullet. As expected of a U.S.-spec GT3, this car has the conventional sports seats rather than the lightweight race seats fitted to the ROW version. No matter, Ralph decided not to change them for practical reasons.
One thing I am less happy with is the steering wheel, whose leather rim has become shiny and slippery after four years of hard use. After the grippy Alcantara covered wheel in the RS 3.8, I initially feel less in control. Ralph however, grew up on a diet of Porsches with thin, shiny plastic steering wheels, and it does not bother him.
Compared to the 415 hp and 298 lb-ft of torque from the first-generation 997 GT3 3.6-liter motor on which it is based, the 3.9-liter conversion is a sensational improvement that actually jumps over both the second-generation 3.8 and the RS 3.8 to make 502 hp at 7700 rpm and 355 lb-ft of torque at 5250 rpm.
With forged lightweight pistons weighing just 496 grams each including the wristpin (stock 3.6 pistons: 519 g, stock 3.8 pistons: 539 g), running in steel liners, and a single-mass flywheel, it also revs like a race motor with a screaming 8800-rpm rev limit. Peak power arrives just under 8000 rpm, and amazingly only drops 5 hp from that point to the limiter.
Thanks to the other mods like the EVOMS intake and exhaust camshafts and their bespoke ECU mapping, there are also gobs of torque along the way. In fact, the big numbers made by the Shark Werks 3.9 compare very favorably to the 450 hp and 318 lb-ft of torque generated by the factory RS 3.8, and even the 500 hp and 340 lb-ft of the RS 4.0.
All this extra power and torque is fed through an uprated clutch and pressure plate from the Carrera Cup car, and you can feel the resistance of the stronger springs when you depress the left pedal.
From the very first gearshift, I just know that I am sitting on a flat-six bombshell. The 3.9-liter motor has power and torque coming out of its ears, and whether I am driving conservatively as I get to know the car, or hanging it out later on, I realize that I am instinctively using one gear higher in most places than I would be even in the RS 3.8.
It is the same kind of feeling I had with the RS 4.0, and tells me that not only can you go faster when you are pushing on, when you are not in a hurry you can almost treat the big motor like it is coupled to an automatic transmission.
I dropped down to just over 1000 rpm in Third for my tractability test, and when I began to feed in throttle, the car simply pulled away smoothly from there, enthusiastically from 1500 rpm, and then took off like a dingbat after that.
When the original dampers in Ralph’s car gave up the ghost, he fitted a set of fully adjustable Bilstein B16 Damptronic coilovers. They were set up to drop the ride height another 15 mm over stock and are compatible with PASM, but reduce the 10 selectable settings to two in that configuration. The springs are also firmer than factory issue.
When I later read off the long list of suspension mods around the Bilsteins, I was not surprised one bit. RSS/Shark Werks bump steer correction and toe steer kits, RSS inner rose joints and adjustable thrust arm bushings all round, rear adjustable links.
This car came with steel brakes, and Ralph replaced these with the Brembo GT upgrade, which uses 380-mm vented, cross-drilled discs all round, and six- and four-pot calipers front and rear.
This uprated brake system takes 18 pounds off the car’s unsprung weight, while the HRE Competition C93 three-piece wheels, shod with 225/35-19 and 305/30-19 Michelin Super Sport System tires, remove a further 25 pounds.
On this undulating road with its broken surface, the ride was borderline uncomfortable. It felt like the suspension was wound up tight and did not “breathe” like the PASM system in the RS 3.8. If anything, the ride reminded me of a 996 GT3, which illustrates how far the suspension technology in the current-generation car has advanced.
However, for all that firmness the car also felt very well planted on the hard deck. So although my spine was taking a good pounding over some of the more uncompromising bumps, there was no loss of traction front or rear, and the car’s nose dived for apexes like it was an Olympic event, the back end following through without hesitation. It may not exactly glide over the broken surfaces of this mountain road, but this is one car I would love to try on a smooth racetrack.
It is time to get into a blue car again, but one without a lick of orange paint in sight. The ’10 997 GT3 3.8’s owner Larry Cable is a fellow Scot, so we were off to a good start.
This Mexico Blue car is Larry’s third GT3, and you will get an idea of his commitment by his reputation on Rennlist, and the fact that he was chosen for the Michelin Pilot Super Sport R&D program, going to Dubai and other places for testing.
Larry’s GT3 is a work in progress, and when I drove it, it had the Shark Werks Stage One engine and suspension conversion. Thus, it is close to being the GT3 3.8 version of Shark Werks GT3 RS 3.8 demo car.
The motor benefits from an EVOMS remap for an extra 12 horses and 10 lb-ft of torque on 91 octane pump fuel. The e-gas throttle has also been dialed right up and left-foot braking enabled.
A small handful of those extra horses come from the Shark Werks exhaust, whose main mission in life is to carve 16 pounds from the extreme end of the car and give it a more enticing soundtrack.
As a keen track junkie, Larry knows the difference between a road- and a race car, aiming to keep his ride civilized on the street while taking out most of the slack in the rear suspension for greater precision on track.
That happy medium was achieved using RSS/Shark Werks rear adjustable link kit, bump steer correction kit and 997 GT2 antiroll bars. The wheels are one of the first sets of HRE’s 19-inch centerlock wheels for the GT3 Mk 2. Larry chose the satin black finish on the P40 wheel design that saves 21 pounds over a set over the standard wheels. When I drove the car, it was wearing stock sized Pirelli Corsa tires.
Despite its power and torque deficit compared to the other two, this GT3 felt very together and balanced. If longer straights had been involved, the other two might have pulled out some distance, but on this twisty road, the blue GT3 had no trouble keeping up.
I was not surprised that the one area where the GT3 was lacking was its ability to rev as hard and high as its running mates. Naturally, the dual-mass flywheel is the culprit here, and Larry plans to fit a single-mass flywheel and a Guard limited-slip differential as part of his Stage 2 upgrade. As with the factory RS, the single-mass flywheel will also allow the ignition timing to be made more aggressive at lower revs, further enhancing the car’s pickup.
Driving these modified GT3s and GT3 RS 3.8 all in one day was quite an adventure. Weeks later, my Fun Meter is still tingling from that awesome drive over Mt. Hamilton, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
While there is no doubt that the wider front track of the GT3 RS 3.8 and its more advanced suspension gave it the ultimate edge in the ride and handling stakes, on a public road where you cannot go all out, there was simply not much in it.
Ralph’s car in particular, with its well run-in 3.9-liter motor, is breathtakingly fast, with torque and high revving ability that push the similarly powerful factory RS 4.0 very hard indeed.
Given that all the 4.0-liters are sold, and that they were a lot more money even if you were lucky enough to get your name down in time, GT3 and RS 3.8 owners now have an alternative.
In fact, they will soon have two alternatives as Alex is talking about a Shark Werks 4.0-liter GT3 conversion. With the new GT3 two years away and plenty of good used 997 GT3s on the market, it looks like this is a story that could run for quite a while.
My grateful thanks to Ralph Jackson and Larry Cable for kindly volunteering their cars, and riding shotgun on the day.