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2011 Porsche 997 911 GT2 RS: Speed At Any Cost

You know, for a car show that features all manner of exotics, Top Gear has only shown the 911 GT2 once. Originally aired in 2008, Jeremy Clarkson's film with the limited edition coupe was a mere ten seconds long. Eight seconds of which involved Clarkson shouting his lungs out, flailing around in circles, creating massive clouds of smoke on the track. He called it "terrifying". And for the millions of viewers of Top Gear, that would be their first and last impression of the GT2. They wouldn't know Porsche built only 500 units. They wouldn't know it had a 523 horsepower twin-turbocharged flat six. And they certainly wouldn't know it was faster to 60 mph than the Carrera GT. If Clarkson didn't handle the GT2 in such a ham-fisted manner, he'd find it to be more enjoyable than the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 he chose to review instead.

His use of the GT2 as the butt of a joke was a symptom of the car not meshing well with his taste or personality. The GT2 is too serious and straight-laced of a machine to be used as a toy, and its racing heuristics require a level of involvement from the driver not typically seen in cars of this caliber. In fact, one of the first figures Porsche mentions regarding the 997 GT2 is its 7:32 lap time around the Nürburgring. An impressive time requiring an equally impressive driver. That's why to men like Walter Röhrl, he wouldn't bother calling it a Widowmaker. Really, he'd be too busy driving to pass out nicknames in the first place. He's German. There is no humor in setting lap times. Not when there are seconds to shave and apexes to hit. Speed is the top priority.

So you can imagine when Porsche went back to the GT2 drawing board for the RS in 2010, it would have to be as fast and severe as an unladen swallow, diving around corners with deadly ferocity. Porsche's new goal was 7:27 at the Nürburgring, and its target car to beat was the Japanese titan itself: Godzilla - The Nissan GTR. So Porsche assigned a group of dedicated engineers to follow the classic formula for speed. Add more power and drop the weight. This was no laughing matter.

The result: Astounding. Porsche replaced the heads, cams, and turbos with units from the GT1 racing car design. Then they upped the boost by 2.9 psi. This in turn allowed the 3.6-liter engine to lay down 610 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque to its rear wheels. In the flab-slicing department, Porsche utilized center-locking wheels, thinner carpets, aluminum replacements for steel parts, carbon fiber front bonnet, and a single-mass flywheel for its 6-speed manual transmission. This dropped the portly GT2 from 3,174 lbs down to 3,020 lbs (1,370 kg) for the GT2 RS. A difference of 154 lbs. A miracle considering how it still retains its climate control, speakers, and navigation system.

Lateral-g performance enhancements come in the shape of a retuned suspension, new anti-roll bars, tuned engine mounts, recalibrated stability management system, redesigned front splitter, adjusted active damper settings, and a taller rear wing. Its 245/35 ZR19 and 325/30 ZR19 rubbers are of the slightly aged Michelin Pilot Sport Cup form, but they're capable enough for a 0-60 mph time of 3.4 seconds while holding up well past its 205 mph top speed. Carbon composite brake discs lay inwards for maximum eyeball gouging potential. Speed tests of the GT2 RS after its launch has shown these figures to be underestimating its capabilities.

The response to the GT2 RS is not as simple as Clarkson's view on the GT2. Many of the top motoring journalists like Jethro Bovingdon, Jason Plato, and Chris Harris have driven the GT2 RS and compared it to the Ferrari 458, Ferrari 599 GTO, Porsche 997 GT3 RS, and Mercedes AMG SLS Black. And they all concur that while it is an incredibly fast car - faster than all of the ones listed - it doesn't feel very special to drive. Yes, its 7:18 Nürburgring lap time beat the Nissan GTR (including Porsche's own goal), but you can't shake the feeling the GT2 RS isn't as exciting to drive as you'd expect.

Its front end grip, for instance, is relentless. As Chris says, the faster you go the more it sticks. Its rear end, while still a little wild mid-corner, is much easier to keep in line than the 993 GT2 as a result of its clever stability control system. And those variable vane turbos won't drop any surprise bouts of boost if you happen to punch the throttle. Perhaps the most grisly detail of all is its lack of volume from its exhaust system. It's an onerous sensation seeing a car so visually loud and yet so audibly quiet. 

One could argue the 911 GT2 RS lost a part of its soul chasing the Nordschleife leaderboard, spoiled as an engineer's wet dream. And the car is irrelevant now that the non-limited 991.2 GT3 is six seconds quicker while costing $100,000 less to purchase. However, one could also say if given a chance with modern tires the GT2 RS could best the GT3 still. But all would agree the 911 GT2 RS is already a future classic. Nobody can fault Porsche for just wanting to go faster.

Initial MSRP of the 997 911 GT2 RS was $245,000. Example shown auctioned in 2017 for $450,000.

All photos by Darin Schnabel courtesy of RM Sotheby's