A “race car for the road” is the sports car industry’s longest-running paradox. Road cars must abide by ever-stricter regulations of sound, emissions, safety and just general civility in order to comply with accepted automotive standards. It’s disingenuous to acknowledge these compromises and still draw parallels to purpose-built race cars that are only limited by a sanctioning body’s rulebook–and sometimes not even that.
But the phrase is used liberally by automotive marketing teams to influence public perception toward their products in a fiercely competitive space. Among performance cars where bragging rights are a selling point above anything else, it proves imperative to elevate that reality in order to separate from their rivals.
The discourse around high-performance sports cars revolves around their ultimate capabilities in an environment in which they can be reached. This leads to many manufacturers jockeying for track supremacy with lap records that cycle through like model years.
Porsche is one of many that is guilty of this practice; but for a brand so involved in performance motoring and the highest levels of sports car racing, that pedigree offers legitimacy in the absence of raw data. But Porsche never settles on just that, and is committed to proving it where it matters.
The 992-generation of Porsche’s heralded GT3 RS is more radical than any iteration before it and truly translates motorsports engineering to a road-going package. Porsche Active Aerodynamics and a brand-first drag reduction system generate nearly a ton of downforce at 177 mph, delivering equal parts grip and speed around the circuit. With its 4.0-liter flat-six borrowed from the GT3 Cup car, the uninitiated may find it difficult to distinguish the two.
On track, it turns out they’re just as close as they seem to be on paper and in the paddock.
With the blessing of Porsche Motorsport North America, Motor Trend enlisted SOUL Performance customer Dimitri Dimakos to initiate a track test that would validate everything Porsche’s been saying about the new GT3 RS, or expose it as fluff. On a cold May morning at the newly-repaved Road America, expectations varied wildly from possible lap records to an inability to gather meaningful insights due to suboptimal conditions. Everything was truly on the table.
The morning sessions shed light on the track state and the behaviors of the GT3 RS relative to its racing stablemate. Shod with Michelin’s barely-legal Cup 2 R tires, the RS matched the Cup’s braking points and nearly matched minimum corner speed and lateral acceleration from corner to corner. On the longest straight sections (into Turn 1, Turn 5 and Canada Corner), the Cup eked out advantages of just 3 mph on average–again, in relation to a fully-legal street car.
As ambient temperatures continued to rise and the track wore in, ambitions clearly refocused toward that lap record again. Porsche held that with another pro driver in a GT car, with David Donohue setting a 2:15.17 in a 700-hp GT2 RS four years prior. A narrow window of seasonable temperatures, sunlight and new tires meant there was a shot at the record in the afternoon.
The team prepped the car, and just as importantly the data recorders, and Dimitri set out with a single goal. His team clambered to the pit wall with stopwatches in hand as unofficial witnesses. The initial out lap commenced, and as Dimitri exited Turn 14 and climbed up the hill to start-finish, the stopwatches clicked for the first time. The all-black Porsche streaked by and hit its braking marker into Turn 1, with the active rear wing flipping forward from its horizontal setting to rein the RS in from its 160-mph climax, and the left-side Michelins dug into the fresh asphalt and pulled the RS through at nearly 1.5 g. For the remainder of the lap, the team only had the distant howl of a flat-six to indicate how much of the lap had been completed. At this point, everyone had a rough idea of the lap time that was theoretically possible, but this was the chance to prove it.
A couple minutes later, that familiar howl returned ever louder as the RS crested the hill and blasted by the start-finish stand. Another click of the stopwatch–and a round of applause.
Dimitri had clocked an official time of 2:13.8, shattering the existing record by well more than a second. Even with a deficit of nearly 200 horsepower, the GT3 RS’ clever engineering inspired confidence to wring out every bit of performance throughout the lap, providing predictable grip and stability in both low- and high-speed sectors.
“The biggest thing is not necessarily the lap time, it is the ease at which the car can achieve that lap time and the confidence it inspires in the driver,” Dimitri said. “The car can be driven by someone who is a novice or intermediate-level driver and still be very fast and comfortable to drive. The braking is nearly identical to what we run in the 911 GT3 Cup car. I was braking at exactly the same spot. No wiggling at all. The car stopped exactly straight, turned in great.”
Maybe a “race car for the road” is a real thing after all.