On the day of Joe Gargano’s last run at the Texas Mile in October 2009, the wind blew from left to right at a blustery 25 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph. This, of course, meant Gargano had to make constant corrections to keep the nose of his 996TT from wandering off line. In his experience with 911s, he said that at 150 mph or so they have a tendency to wander off line even without a crosswind so on that last run, he had to deal with both the car’s natural tendency to wander and a crosswind. But he kept his foot in it, fought through it and felt the car settle in as it climbed into the 180s, 190s and past the 200-mph mark.
And then at 230 mph, just 500 feet short of the finish line, he heard a boom. His first reaction was to pull the parachute. The force of the ’chute yanked the car to the right before it straightened out. The sunroof, which because of some aero-created vacuum anomaly, was the source of the boom he heard seconds before, flew off the car and sent it out of control, off the pavement, onto the grass and into a deadly Tilt-a-whirl spin. As Gargano fought back with countersteer and brakes, the thought of the car flipping was foremost in his mind.
It didn’t flip, but Gargano wouldn’t get another chance to break the record for Porsches he had set at a previous Texas Mile run in March earlier that year (231.459 mph) because his wife gave him an ultimatum, she would divorce him if he went for another run. And in his mind, Gargano probably realized he’d used up all his luck and his nine lives on that last run.
But he was so close, just 500 feet from the finish line and the car wasn’t even at full boost, 26 psi vs. 30 psi, which meant the engine was roughly 125 awhp short of its max (975 awhp versus 1,100 awhp). That last run was actually a test run before John Bray, senior engine builder at Evolution Motorsports (EVOMS), was going to turn it up to 30 psi to reset the record.
Gargano’s record for Porsches was eventually beaten in 2010 by Eddie Bello in a highly modified 964-bodied Turbo (236.6 mph). But Gargano’s car still holds the record for 996s in the standing mile and the record for any Porsche from 0-300 kph (186.4 mph) in 14.3 seconds. Equally impressive are the other times pulled from his last run: 60-130 mph in 4.8 seconds and 130-190 mph in 6.1 seconds. Just let that soak in for a few seconds. In the time it takes a respectable car to go from 0-60, Gargano’s car will go from 130-190 mph.
Gargano didn’t start modifying his 996 with the intention of setting records. Running the car at the Texas Mile was simply one of the few places where he could see just how fast it would go, legally and relatively safely. What he really wanted was a car that could hold its own against the twin-turbo Vipers and 1,000-hp Supras that were dominating a scene (in the late ’90s and early ’00s) where Porsches were perceived as weaklings.
His instructions were fairly straightforward when he dropped his car off at Evolution Motorsports in Scottsdale, Ariz. He said, “Build me something that scares me.” More than happy to oblige, they fitted his car with their 800-hp package. He was impressed but it still wasn’t the kind of power that had him questioning his mortality or sanity. Then they turned it up to 1,000 hp, but Gargano sent the car back and asked for even more.
He said, “Build me something that scares me.” More than happy to oblige, they fitted his car with their 800-hp package.
After applying every trick in the book to make 1,350 hp, engine builder John Bray told Gargano, “If you aren’t afraid of this, there’s something wrong with you.” After Gargano drove it, he called Bray and said, “OK, I’m scared now.”
The engine is based on EVOMS’ 3.8L GT 1200 Power Package. The package uses a GT3 crank, JE/EVOMS 102.6mm custom pistons and Carrillo/EVOMS H11 rods to bring displacement up from 3.6 to 3.8 liters. Darton/EVOMS custom ductile iron sleeves and Total Seal rings finish off the internals. The heads have been CNC ported and polished, with EVOMS race-spec cams nudge titanium valves and springs inside. Head studs and the main studs are upgraded EVOMS H11 pieces and Cometic .040-inch head gaskets keep them sealed. Fuel is delivered via their twin 044 fuel system that features billet machined fuel rails, larger braided stainless lines and a rising-rate fuel-pressure regulator.
A custom EVOMS Y-pipe feeds intake air into a GT3 intake manifold with an 83mm throttle body. The turbos are Tial GT3582 HTA and Tial 44mm wastegates and 50mm blow-off valves help keep boost at their proper levels. The intercoolers are EVOMS’ Club Sport units with custom inlet and outlet locations. On hot days, they’re kept cool by EVOMS’ 044 intercooler halo spray system. EVOMS’ 47mm headers flow into a custom 70mm exhaust system. Gargano’s engine makes more than the 1,200 hp the kit is designed to make thanks to even more aggressive tuning.
The front-drive section of the all-wheel-drive system has been removed to shave weight, and the transmission features a Guard Transmission GT2 80/80 limited-slip differential designed to handle what is more than two times the amount of power a stock transmission endures. The axles are also stronger EVOMS 300mm units, and a Tilton carbon-carbon triple-disc clutch and 8-pound flywheel have to manage clutch duties. Future reinforcements will include Guard’s forged main shift rod, gears and steel syncros and a billet diff cover.
Being that it was, and still is, the most powerful car I had ever driven, you can understand my apprehension as I dropped into the GT3 carbon bucket and secured myself into the five-point harness. We’re talking about a better power-to-weight ratio than a Veyron. I imagined Gargano having second thoughts as well considering that it was the first time he would be in the passenger seat while someone else drove.
“Don’t worry, I’m not a maniac,” I told him. Gargano chuckled nervously. And then as I feathered the revs and slowly let out the clutch, the engine died. The Tilton carbon triple-plate clutch and lightened flywheel wouldn’t let this interloper off the line so easily. More revs and a slower clutch release got us rolling onto a deserted stretch of a Long Island highway that ran along the beach.
One thousand-plus horsepower is something you want to work up to instead of letting rip on the first go, but I didn’t have much choice because Gargano said that there was a good chance the locals would call the police. We’d get two runs, maybe three before we’d have to tone it down and pretend like we’re driving to the store for ice cream.
As expected, the big turbos took some time to wind up before they did their best work. From low revs there was a wall of torque pushing the car forward, the tach making lazy progress and the monster still snoozing. To prod the monster from its slumber, I dropped it into Third to the get the revs up, checked the mirrors and scanned as far down the road as possible.
I saw Gargano being thrown into the back of his seat, arms and legs flailing as if he had been blown back by a multi-megaton bomb.
When I pulled the trigger, I saw Gargano, who was leaning forward at the time, being thrown into the back of his seat, arms and legs flailing as if he had been blown back by a multi-megaton bomb. And that was with the revs just past 3000 rpm, when the turbos were just getting warmed up. But they came on quickly and with a ferocity that defied description. You can feel the spike in the power curve just after 3500 rpm, and on a dyno chart it would look like one of those stages in the Tour de France where the ascent is so steep it defies categorization.
The tach needle spun as if the car was running on slicks in the snow. While Gargano sat silently impaled to the back of his seat, I looked down just in time to catch the needle at 7000 rpm and make the shift up to Fourth. Gargano takes it up to 8000, but I didn’t want to risk anything to an $80K engine.
Into Fourth and it was another fast-forward surge of violence multiplied by brutality and sprinkled with absurdity. Then into Fifth, foot to the floor and the surge is just as demonic, as if wind resistance wasn’t an actual physical phenomenon. And then the road imperfections, which I couldn’t feel at cruising speeds, started to make the car jiggle and shake. I backed off the throttle, looked down and we were at 150 mph. That all happened so quickly there wasn’t even enough time for my life to flash before my eyes. So I did it again. And a third time just so it would burn into my mental hard-drive, just to somehow remember it. Then we went for some ice cream.
People use that tired cliché about “taking it to another level” so often that it’s lost its meaning and been thrown into the bin with “pushing the envelope.” More often than not, all that talk about the next level is really just a slight improvement instead of a noticeable shift or a new standard. Until people start building them to post the types of numbers that this EVOMS 996 can produce, there should be a moratorium on that phrase or else those claims will ring hollow.
2003 Porsche 996 Twin Turbo
Longitudinal rear engine, rear-wheel drive (front-drive delete)
Evolution Motorsports 3.8L GT 1200 Power Package: GT3 crank, JE/EVOMS 102.6mm custom pistons, Carrillo/EVOMS H11 rods, Darton/EVOMS custom ductile iron sleeves, Total Seal rings. CNC ported and polished heads, EVOMS race-spec cams, titanium valves and springs. EVOMS H11 head and main studs, Cometic .040-inch head gaskets EVOMS twin 044 fuel system, EVOMS Y-pipe, GT3 intake manifold, 83mm throttle body. Tial GT3582 HTA turbos, Tial 44mm wastegates and 50mm blow-off valves. EVOMS Club Sport intercoolers with EVOMS 044 intercooler halo spray system. EVOMS 47mm headers, 70mm exhaust system
Bilstein PSS10 coilover shocks and springs
Wheels and Tires
BBS Motorsport Porsche Cup 8.5x18 (f), 12x18 (r)
Toyo R888 225/40 (f), 315/30 (r)
GT3 carbon fiber seats