For seven years the 997 GT2 RS has reigned as the fastest and most powerful factory 911 of all time. In the wake of the 991’s big reveal, what does the original turbocharged Rennsport offer today?
I t is precisely 34.5 degrees Celsius at the Porsche Experience Centre, Silverstone. I know this because a small digital screen sitting inside the second-from-right dial in the 911’s dashboard is illuminating the temperature reading in bright white figures. I also know this because the sweat freely flowing from every pore in my body suggests ambient temperature is far and above what us mortals here in the UK are accustomed to.
Both windows down, my hands and arms are clammy and sticky as I wipe another fast-gathering layer of moisture from my soaked face. Short of stripping off entirely (the thought does cross my mind), there’s little else I can do: there’s no air conditioning in here, so I’m at the mercy of our torturous summer sun. But you won’t find me complaining. That’s because I’m sitting at the wheel of a 620bhp 997 GT2 RS, about to hit both handling circuits dotted about the PEC’s lavish outfield expanse. The first of its kind as a bona fide turbocharged Rennsport (not counting the 2.1 Carrera Turbo RSR that finished second at Le Mans in 1974), the 997 GT2 RS well and truly broke the mould for Porsche which, to this point, had savoured the purity of natural aspiration for its lightweight, strictly motorsport-inspired GT cars.
The thesis behind this first GT2 RS was delightfully simple yet inherently mad: put the mighty, twin-turbo flat six from the 997 GT2 into a chassis inspired by the 997.2 GT3 RS. However, Porsche then went further – much further. Boost was upped from the GT2’s 1.4-bar to 1.6-bar, with new turbochargers, better cooling and a revised engine management system thrown into the mix, too. The result is a huge 90bhp increase over the GT2 – such a leap is historically unheard of from one model to another at Porsche. The chassis too has come in for some bespoke tailoring over its naturally aspirated Rennsport sister, Porsche’s GT department deploying rosejointed suspension and new Michelin Cup tyres (with a revised compound) and PCCBs as standard equipment. This is in addition to the customary RS spec of uprated springs, PASM, thicker anti-roll bars and active engine mounts.
And, in true Rennsport tradition, this fire-breather has been on an extreme weight-saving regime, stripping some 70 kilograms from the 997 GT2 and weighing in at an impressive 1,370kg – that’s as light as a 991 R. This is a turbocharged car, don’t forget! The impressive stats continue: boasting 620bhp, the 997 GT2 RS has only just been dethroned by the 991 GT2 RS as the fastest factory 911 of all time. Same too for torque, the 997’s maximum twist of 750Nm not bettered by any other Neunelfer until the 991’s reveal at Goodwood. Top speed here surpasses the magic double-ton mark, powering on to a heady 205mph – aside from the new car, only Porsche’s current 991.2 Turbo S can even match it.
Then there’s the Nürburgring lap time, ever an important performance marker for Porsche, the 997 GT2 RS completing a full loop of the Nordschleife in just seven minutes 18 seconds. That was set in 2010, and the 2017 GT3 is the only 911, aside from the 991 GT2 RS, that can better its time. In fact, the only ‘time’ that isn’t still particularly sensational by today’s standards is the car’s 0-62mph. This takes the GT2 RS 3.5 seconds to achieve, relatively slow for a turbocharged car, though undoubtedly down to the fact the car is manual and rear-drive only. As you can see, the 997 GT2 RS is a breathtaking performance machine: never mind being the fastest and most powerful 911 of all time, it even usurped Porsche’s then halo car, the V10 Carrera GT.
This was reflected in the price as by Porsche factory standards, the turbo Rennsport was expensive from launch, its base price starting at £164,107 – this is especially tall when you consider its naturally aspirated GT3 RS 4.0 stablemate cost £128,466. However, despite all those perversely outlandish performance figures, the GT2 RS is, at first glance, almost ordinary to look at. Sure, there’s an intensive use of carbon fibre (more on that later) all over, but its aerodynamics don’t differ greatly from its earlier GT2 stablemate: that fixed rear wing with gaping inlets either side of the struts is all as per the GT2, while the front bumper, its lower section almost entirely dedicated to letting in cool air, remains unchanged.
Look closely and you’ll find slight revisions to the GT2 Rennsport’s rear bumper around the diffuser, and the front arches have been modified with tacked-on extensions reminiscent of those found on the 993 GT2. This helps accommodate wider front wheels with an extra half-inch of girth. Inside the car there are more RS appendages to the tune of extensive alcantara, red door pull straps, bucket seats (these lifted from the Carrera GT), rollcage, Perspex in place of glass after the B-pillar, and a large removal of sound deadening.
Oh, and there’s no air con, unless otherwise specified. It’s pure Rennsport stuff, and the exuberant lashings of red throughout the cockpit leave you in little doubt that you’re sitting in one of the most celebrated and positively insane 911s ever to leave Porsche’s fabled GT department. Thing is, only a very few will ever enjoy the privilege of experiencing what this pillar of Porsche performance is really like, as just 500 models were produced worldwide on a limited production run – just 19 right-hand-drive cars came to the UK.
This has seen the GT2 RS fall into the hands of serious collectors, and their value today means you’ll likely not see one on the road too often (currently priced from £300,000, we have seen some speculators advertising examples for half a million). And that’s why I’m at Porsche’s Silverstone Experience Centre, where you can actually drive this very car for yourself via the Centre’s three-hour GT Experience course.
A right-hand-drive, preproduction example, the car has 17,000 glorious miles on its odometer and, despite the heat, I’m intent on adding a few more. The car sits ticking over while I pull the driver’s seat forward on its runners before adjusting my mirrors. Meanwhile, my ears are attuned to the low burbling sound emitted from the car’s titanium exhaust. Tonally unlike anything I’ve ever heard from a factory 911 before, its rumble resonates right through the sparse yet baking hot cabin. Time to pull away, then.
Depressing the clutch pedal for the first time, I find it is exquisitely weighted – not overwhelmingly heavy or superfluously light, but just perfect. Next job is to slide the alcantara gearlever into first, which happens almost instantly: there’s barely any travel as the stick slides through the gate and positively into gear. I can’t wait to drive this thing properly! Rolling out onto the older handling circuit (I prefer this one of the two as it’s wider, faster and longer), I ease my way round for a couple of laps while finding my way with the car.
At low speeds it seems incredibly tame and, believe it or not, easy to drive. Is this really the most insane 911 Porsche made for a time? Almost as soon as I put my foot down, I’m given my answer. Rolling in second gear at 1,200rpm I floor the accelerator pedal, though at first nothing really happens. Then, as the tacho shows us passing 2,500rpm, all hell lets loose: the car’s nose lifts and I’m chucked back in my seat as car and driver are both booted vigorously up the road. My eyes widen as the turbocharged flat six pulls relentlessly round to 6,000rpm, at which point I change up to third.
Holy Christ! This is acceleration unlike anything I’ve experienced in a 911 before. With a tight right-hander approaching, there is much to do: I downshift back into second and lean hard on the middle pedal, those ceramic brakes doing their best to scrub what feels like terminal velocity from the 997. The car’s nose lowers as weight is transferred forwards, though I’m trail-braking very deep into the corner to ensure those front wheels are pushed into the floor for maximum possible grip. Feeding in the wheel, the GT2 RS ghosts through the turn and, taking lock back off, I massage in the power as the Rennsport shoots forward again with venomous pace.