The call came directly from Mr. Gary Fong, Porsche's North American fleet manager who is, consequently, one of the most sought-after men on the continent. "Got a yellow GT3 here. You guys wanna take it to the track?" Fong is a guy who understandably likes to keep a low profile, and any day he calls you-rather than the other way around-is a day to remember. Naturally, we answered in the affirmative. Only after the telephone receiver was back in its cradle did we take the time to wonder what we'd just gotten ourselves into.
We already knew the GT3 is a potent track-day weapon, but we really had to wonder about its street manners. In all honesty, we were prepared to have the crap pummeled out of us. In the end, we were pleasantly surprised. It's a little rougher around the edges than your standard 911, sacrificing a modicum of creature comfort for its exceptional performance gains. But by the same token, in view of those gains, the car remains remarkably comfortable and reasonably easy to drive. You really could drive it every day if you wanted to. Or you could let us drive it for you-your call.
What makes a GT3?
The 997 GT3 represents a huge step forward in the evolution of the 911. The 996 GT3 was an incredible track car, but not a great daily driver. The new 997 Carrera is a great choice for a daily driver while still being a fun weekend toy, but falls somewhat short in terms of a true track car. The 997 GT3 combines much of the latter's comfort and usability with all the track prowess of the former.
The most obvious difference between a standard Carrera and a GT3 is the aero package. While most 911s will begin to feel light due to lift, the GT3 not only banishes that lift but also creates up to 22 pounds of downforce at the front axle and 55 pounds at the rear. Porsche employs a lower front spoiler to keep air moving around the car instead of under it, and air flowing through the radiator is directed out and over the body through the vent directly in front of the hood.
At the rear, a lightweight fixed dual-level spoiler is mounted in place of the automatic spoiler of the standard Carrera. The upper level has an adjustable angle of attack to fine-tune the aerodynamic balance of the car. The lower level uses a Gurney flap to increase downforce without significantly increasing drag. Even with all this work reducing lift and creating downforce, Porsche has still been able to keep the GT3's drag coefficient at 0.29, which helps contribute to the car's 192-mph top speed.
The other part of that top speed equation is the 3.6-liter, 415-hp engine. The 997 GT3 flat-six is an evolution of the same powerplant in the 996 GT3, based on the dry-sump GT1 unit Porsche has been using in its racecars for several years. Porsche focused on optimizing this unit for the 997 through reduced frictional losses and less mass. To reduce side loading, titanium connecting rods have been lengthened to 131.5mm. The pistons have been redesigned to be shorter and lighter while maintaining the same strength. And by increasing the dome, the compression ratio goes up from 11.7:1 to a staggering 12:1.
Rotating mass has also been reduced through the use of hollow cams. Counterweights on the crankshaft were lightened and re-profiled. Using a true dry sump system means the crankshaft isn't constantly splashing through oil, thereby decreasing resistance and freeing up extra power. The engine breathes through a larger throttle body that hangs off a three-stage VarioRam set-up, as opposed to the two-stage system in other Carreras. Stepless VarioCam provides continual adjustment of valve timing based on revs and load. Spent exhaust gases are then exhaled through a GT3-specific twin catalyst exhaust system that's 22 pounds lighter than the unit found on the Carrera.