The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
By Miles Downard
I grew up in a family that is somewhat besotted with motor vehicles. My grandfather ran one of the bigger Ford dealers in KZN and was involved in various ancillary aspects of the motor industry, like Naamsa.
Accordingly my father grew up in the dealer workshop, watching vehicles being serviced, watching families drive off in a new car and perhaps most importantly for his later life adventures, watching the workshop build various race and rally cars that the dealership sponsored. It’s no massive surprise that he found himself involved in motorsport and various motor clubs as soon as he was legally allowed behind the wheel.
In turn it comes as no surprise that I’ve grown up around motor cars too – and similarly am now involved in motorsport and the motor industry through my journalism. I’ve driven many cars over my 13-year career and count myself rather fortunate to have experienced both the best and worst that motor manufacturers produce. From Mazda to McLaren, Land Rover to Lamborghini, you name it, I’ve likely driven it.
Despite that extensive list, I consider the privilege of being handed the keys to a 911 GT3 RS as one of my career highlights. Let me explain…
In 2003 Porsche decided that it’s road going racer, the 996 911 GT3, wasn’t quite racy enough and so it added two rather special letters to the end of the nameplate. Short for RennSport, the RS was not only lightweight but offered a roll cage, uprated brakes, suspension tweaks from an actual race car and improved airflow through the cylinder heads to make it all-round the most hardcore Porsche on sale.
Fast forward 17 years and I found myself sat in the ultimate evolution of the ultimate evolution of hardcore 911s, now with model code 991.2. Fixed back bucket seats, half a roll cage and straps for door handles. It’s absolutely wild.
The wild theme continues outside. There are more wings, diffuser, grilles and ducts that you can shake a stick at. The additional Weissach package offers even more lightweight bits, like a bare carbon fibre bonnet sporting stickers for badges rather than the normal ceramic pieces.
Well, I thought all of that was wild, until I turned the key and heard six cylinders being fed a dose of life blood right behind my left ear. It’s a spine tingling sensation – even sitting here now writing this on my electronic piece of paper the hairs on the back of my neck are at full attention. What lies at the disposal of your right foot is a 4.0 litre naturally aspirated flat six boasting 368kW and 460 torques. It’ll rev to 9,000rpm.
- Porsche Cayenne GTS: sportier and now in coupe format
- Porsche 911 Turbo S: breathtaking competence
- Porsche Cayman GT4: All that. And more.
You read that right, nine thousand revolutions per minute. The most famous Formula One engine of all time, the Cosworth DFV, wasn’t even capable of this sort of power and revs in its early days. And this Porsche is available in a showroom, with a warranty.
Mated to this incredible engine is an 8-speed dual clutch gearbox. Good thing too because the GT3 RS revs up to red line so quickly that you don’t want to be messing about with a third pedal and a gear lever. The revs just keep coming too in this relentless surge of naturally aspirated goodness. It’s addictive.
The engine isn’t the only trick this pony has, though. A revised bumper and a few other aerodynamic tweaks give this GT3 RS more than 80 per cent of the downforce of a GT3 Cup racing car. Combine that with some of the widest, stickiest tyres that are legally allowed on the road and suspension that is both firm, thanks to things like solid ball joints, and compliant all at once make the GT3 RS able to corner at speeds one wouldn’t expect were possible in a production car.
Steering inputs result in direction change as though you were directly connected, even though it has an electrically assisted steering system. You feel vibrations, undulations and surface changes through your hands and backside as though you were an integral part of this machine. This isn’t the fastest 911 in a game of top trumps but it sure is the ultimate driving experience of any 911.
Frankly one needs a race track to allow one to fully explore it’s limits and uncover the nuances to extracting all of its performance, a feat not possible on public roads of course. No doubt it’ll amaze and challenge the driver in equal measure.
I was amazed, however, by the GT3 RS’s ability to be used on a regular basis. You’d expect something this track-focused to be unbearable at low speed in traffic, or trundling along the highway. But no. Driving away from Porsche Centre in Johannesburg and onto the highway toward my offices near Melrose Arch it felt remarkably civilised. Radio (infotainment of course), air-conditioning, decent visibility despite the huge rear wing, park distance control, cruise control…
Everything you might need in your daily life and everything you might want from a weekend track weapon. It’s an absolute delight.
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.