Porsche 911 GT3 RS – Rewarding ingenuity on the Isle of Man
The archaic “Eubonia Insula”, modern day Isle of Man(n), is located in the Irish Sea, less than 100km NW, off the coast of Liverpool and is almost equidistant from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland (closest) and Wales (farthest). With a length of 52 kilometres (32 mi) and a maximum width of 22 kilometres (14 mi), the island’s area of roughly 572 square kilometres (221 sq mi) is home to one of the most scenic landscapes in the world and one of the most fiercely contested events in the global racing calendar; the International Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. This is the motorcycle event taking place almost every year (with the exception of WWII) since 1907, on the last week of May and first one of June.
The undulating, narrow roads of the island are often “outlined” by stone walls and in some cases the cliff, leading to a 500ft drop to the sea, making the legeandary “handling challenge” lethal, yet rewarding; one the Porsche 911 GT3 RS is willing to take up.
The 520 hp sports car has been engineered without compromise, providing poise and balance over uneven surfaces with varying levels of grip.
The titanic power and torque catapult the GT3 RS up the sweeping mountain roads effortlessly. This is a machine so focused that it is the closest you can get to the bikes tackling the TT, in a road car.
For the event, there is a “polyphony” of Porsche 911 GT3 on the Isle of Man.
One version is the latest 991.2 GT3 RS, fitted with the Weissach Pack. In order to assess the car better and appreciate progress and differentiation, a number of historical models from Porsche have been added to the line-up. The 991.2 presence is joined by the a number of mouth-watering representatives of historic Rennsport Porsche, ranging from the direct predecessor, the 991.1, all the way back to the first RS – the car that started it all – the seminal 2.7 RS.
The “battle” begins with dark clouds shifting at the bottom of an overcast sky.
The thundering noise of the Porsche engines, peaking in anticipation of more tarmac, “awakens” memories to the unaware locals. Unaccustomed to the sight of seven examples of Porsche ingenuity in a row, they are taken by surprise.
They stop in their tracks to offer admiring glances and thumbs-ups, as the convoy makes its way out onto the TT course.
With the team threading their way through famous landmarks, like the Ballaugh Bridge or Parliament Square in Ramsey, the precision of the GT3 RS becomes more obvious, as the demand for power increases on roads that narrow and twist.
On the mountain course, the speed limit no longer applies and the proximity of the grassy verges demands concentration, confidence and respect.
This is not a section of road that forgives misjudgement. The GT3 RS is in its element, with the sort of mid-range punch and grip levels that the RS cars have become famous for.
Experience, on these roads, is crucial. Which is why Mark Higgins and Steve Plater are in control.
Three-time British Rally Champion, Higgins was born on the Isle of Man and in 2016, set a new TT lap record for four wheels, beating his own previous record and averaging 207.171 km/h.
Riding a Ducati Panigale V4 S sportsbike for this event, Plater has won two TT races during his career, including the Blue Riband Senior event. His sector time between Ramsey Hairpin and the Bungalow remains a record nearly a decade after he set it.
Both men know what it takes to be fast at the TT, as well as the importance of the right equipment. The GT3 RS delivers. In adundance.
“The Isle of Man is a motorsporting Mecca,” says Higgins. “I think a lot of people underestimate how good the roads are here. They’re undulating, they’re twisty, they’re flowing and they’re very fast. They’re the most demanding that I’ve ever driven on in my life.
“The balance [of the GT3 RS] is great. The steering feel, for me, is fantastic. It gives a lot of input and feedback to the driver, but the thing that blows me away totally, for a two-wheel drive car, is its traction. It’s so planted and it’s a real pleasure to drive.”
This comes as no surprise. It is something that Andreas Preuninger [pron. Proininger], Director GT Model Line, and his team have been working hard for.
Highlights include a faster PDK shift, modifications to the rear axle steering, new spring rates at the front and rear and 8 per cent more aero downforce.
“The streets are not exactly a race track around here – they’re very bumpy and more like a British B road – but the car is coping very well,” says Preuninger. “It is very precise, it has a lot of traction and it’s a joy to drive it on these roads.”
For Preuninger and his team, the devil is in the detail. In the new GT3 RS there are more rose joints on the suspension compared to the previous model. In fact, only one link (for the rear axle steering) doesn’t have a rose joint now and that’s because it works better without. There are also new forged alloys that are 100g lighter than previously. This, in combination with an additional 20 hp and 10 Nm over the 991.1 GT3 RS makes the 991.2 feel like a previously unimaginable leap from the last generation.
As the Director GT Model Line, there was undoubtedly some satisfaction for Preuninger in the crowd’s reaction, amidst the glare of the Geneva Motor Show lights. But reward comes from the look in the eyes of experts, returning from the GT3 RS experience, on the fast, greasy and legendarily challenging roads of the TT course. That’s when the engineer knows he has created a legend.