Well, that’s it. Streaked and splattered in bugs, the GT2 RS is ticking and tonking as hot metal cools and contracts. The fans continue to whirr away residual heat, but the mighty engine is silent.
Unless there’s a dramatic change in the finances of the Taylor household, I’ve just driven my last 991-generation Porsche 911. And what a model on which to go out.
I give the Guards Red 911 a final glance and jump into a Camry Hybrid taxi. On the trip to the airport I recall attending the mid-2011 pre-drive reveal of the 991 in Stuttgart and then, a few months later, the model’s international launch in Santa Barbara, California.
It was a fitting location for the 991’s introduction to the world’s motoring media. In the history of the Porsche 911, a history that began in 1963, 25 per cent of all sales have been to the USA. Half of those sales have been to the state of California. To put those percentages into real numbers, remember that 911 production went beyond one million units back in May 2017, meaning that more than 125,000 911s have been sold new in California.
The first Carrera and Carrera S models of the 991 generation respectively made 257kW and 295kW from their naturally aspirated flat sixes (3.4 litres for the Carrera and 3.8 for the Carrera S). As is about to happen with the 992 generation, the 991 quickly proliferated from basic Carrera coupes through all-wheel-drive models, Cabriolet, Targa, GTS, GT3, GT3 RS and Turbo. There was no GT2 during the first-gen of the 991, top-dog status was reserved for the Turbo S.
The face-lifted 991.2 arrived in 2015 with smaller capacity twin-turbocharged flat sixes usurping the naturally aspirated engines that had served Carreras, Targa and Cabriolets for decades. These ‘little t’ 911 turbo models have left the GT3 and GT3 RS as the only naturally aspirated variants in the range, but brought with them more power and significantly more torque. Yes, some aural character was lost with the addition of the turbochargers, but the engines deliver a level of performance previously reserved for bigger-hitting 911s such as the GT3.
By the time I board the jet for the hop from Melbourne to Sydney, my thoughts have returned to the GT2 RS and the last 24 hours. I first fell under the spell of the current GT2 RS 12 months ago (evo Australia 060), when it showed its savagery and civility in equal measure. Here was a car that nearly melted our Vbox by recording 0-100km/h in 2.8 seconds, 0-200 in 8.1 and 0-300km/h in a fraction under 21 seconds. It also crossed the standing kilometre in 19.6 seconds carrying a terminal speed of 288km/h.
But of all of the wild numbers associated with the 991 GT2 RS, two stick out as my favourites. Firstly, its power-to-weight ratio of 350kW per tonne actually exceeds the total power output of the 340kW 996 GT2 (the 996.2 had 360kW). And the kicker to that number crunch is that the 515kW 991 GT2 RS weighs only 30kg more than the old girl.
However, my absolute favourite GT2 RS number is that its seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox grabs top gear at 322km/h or 200mph in the old money. The first time I top speed tested the 991 GT2 RS, I was a bit busy to notice that little fact, and only learnt of it when interrogating the Vbox data for speeds in gear. The second time I buzzed a GT2 RS to its 340km/h speed limiter, a smirk did flit across my lips as I registered the change in engine note as the PDK slipped into top.
Paranoia causes me to realise that someone smarter than me could probably calculate the velocity of the striking vehicle by the insect streak across the bonnet or up the windscreen. Some of these speed bugs would provide enough evidence to have me locked up for quite some time. But the GT2 RS is that kind of car. It gets under your skin and whispers to you. It cajoles you, flatters you.
During the course of my career, there have been a handful of cars that have deserved a farewell drive, a victory lap if you will. Cars that have meant something to the industry, to the magazine for which I worked or to me personally. It might seem more than a touch indulgent, but I wanted this last drive to be about the GT2 RS with no distractions. I didn’t want the staccato rhythm of a photoshoot to interrupt my final drive of such an iconic car. That’s why the imagery that accompanies my thoughts are my own, taken, badly, on an old iPhone. I apologise for the shots, but I think you’ll understand the emotions behind my decision.
With the simple notion of a farewell drive guiding me, I slipped behind the steering wheel of the Guards Red GT2 RS. Immediately I was struck by the simplicity and perfection of the steering wheel, and how it encapsulates the singular focus of the entire car. Free of buttons and perfectly round, the 360mm Alcantara wheel is tasked with only pointing the front wheels. You can’t adjust the drive settings, you can’t access Apple CarPlay, you can’t fiddle around the edges. The RS’s steering wheel is for steering only (and maybe correcting the occasional slide).
The focus of the GT2 RS is undeniable, but its duality is also truly impressive. The first task is to slip the peak-hour bonds of Melbourne and find suitably empty and writhing roads to honour such a car. To do so, the GT2 RS must master the mundane and become mere transport. That a 515kW road racer can mooch through heavy traffic with such ease is almost as astonishing as what it can do at the other end of its performance envelope. Almost.
Dusk is still an hour away and the 911’s nose and windscreen is starting to splatter with bug strikes, and the roads are beginning to wind and wend up and over the Victorian Alps. It’s late summer and the ski fields are deserted. Up above the tree line, visibility is superb, aided also by the stomach-churning topography.
The dampers remain in their softest setting (I can’t imagine a road in Australia where the stiffest setting would be warranted) but the drivetrain is set to kill. The windscreen is filled with a ribbon of tarmac that plunges downhill as it slips to the left, before transitioning uphill, climbing through a sweeping right hander as it does. With the sun starting its journey towards the horizon over my shoulder, visibility extends for kilometres. The temptation of the road and the car overwhelms my thin resolve and the GT2 RS snaps forward.
The first time a GT2 RS thunders through its rev range and chomps through a couple of gears is a real test of strength for your right foot. Can you keep the throttle pinned while the world drops from beneath you? If you can, the crazy free-fall acceleration and violent shove in the back is accompanied by a ripping and tearing of air as the twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre flat six ingests oxygen and fuel at a dizzying rate. For gear after gear, the speedo and tacho needles sweep through their arc at a pace that is difficult to comprehend. Find the right stretch of test track or autobahn and after 24 seconds you might notice the seven-speed PDK grab top gear at 322km/h. Or perhaps you’ll be too focused to pick up on that little detail.
When the idea of a farewell to the GT2 RS first came to mind, I was reminded of my drive of the 997 GT3 RS 4.0 back in 2010. The 911 unicorn came right at the end of the 997 generation and I was lucky enough to score a drive of it in Europe. Photographer Tom Salt and I departed Stuttgart in Germany one June Saturday afternoon at the same time a race was getting under way in a town in Southern France. Our plan was simple; drive from Stuttgart to Le Mans, where we’d arrive at midnight and watch a few laps, before heading to Paris for breakfast and then the return trip to Stuttgart, hopefully arriving as the chequered flag was falling on Sunday afternoon in France. For one of the few times in my career, the crazy 24-hour plan worked a treat and it remains a highlight.
After strafing all of the best roads in the Victorian Alps, it’s gone dark, but the excellent headlights pierce the inky blackness with confidence. As the road snakes its way to lower plains, the odds of animal encounters increase, so the pace is sadly tempered. A bit.
Though the clock has ticked beyond 8pm, the temperature remains in the high 30s but the massively turbocharged engine takes it in its stride and there’s no doubt that each of the claimed 515kW is willing to work up a sweat.
Though I thought I’d drive through the night like the RS 4.0 trip, age has sadly wearied me and I seek the refuge of a cheap motel at midnight. Disappointed with my lack of match fitness, I set the alarm for stupid o’clock and I’m back behind the RS’s Alcantara steering wheel just after 4am. It’s the best I can do to farewell a true legend. L
STORY & Photography by JESSE TAYLOR