What better way to test out the track-focused 2018 Porsche 911 GT RS than on a grand prix circuit? Chris ‘Atko’ Atkinson takes the reins of the ‘widowmaker’.
“You realise I’m not a writer, don’t you mate?” In typical Atko fashion, the response was both deadpan and funny. In contrast, there’s nothing funny about the new GT2 RS – at the Albert Park F1 circuit, no less…
And, while plenty on the CarAdvice team are handy steerers, we’re no better at driving fast than Atko is at writing Shakespearean drama. Strap yourself in, then, and go along for the ride with our expert wheelman.
It took me all of two seconds to agree to the request, from CarAdvice editor Trent Nikolic, that I tackle this task. And then apprehension set in.
The opportunity? Unleashing the all-new and fearsome 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS around Melbourne’s Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit just days before the Australian Formula One Grand Prix.
Why the apprehension? Look at it this way. Driving the fastest-ever road-going Porsche, with its frightening reputation as the ‘widowmaker’, around the concrete-lined canyons that is the Albert Park street circuit gave me good reason.
But as soon as you slip into the seats and tighten the five-point racing harness, any concerns go away and you become more focused. Everything fits, and fits really well. You feel comfortable but ready to drive.
That for me is a big part of the Porsche experience: giving the driver what they need to be comfortable and relaxed. That leaves you with just one important focus – the road in front of you!
As I squeeze the throttle I brace myself for the shock, via the inevitable turbo lag, but the GT2 RS gets moving and just keeps going. No step, no lag, nothing but massive amounts of smooth linear power and a giant smile on my face.
The work Porsche’s engineers have done with this engine is impressive. They have created a power curve peaking at 515kW at 7000rpm and then blended it all together using the variable-turbine geometry (VTG) of two turbochargers, which makes it incredibly rapid and driveable – something that is very difficult to achieve.
How rapid? Try o–100km/h in just 2.8 seconds, 0–200km/h in a staggering 8.3sec and 0–300km/h in just 22.1sec. Top speed is limited at 340km/h; a limitation of the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber and not the GT2 itself. It could go faster still.
The ride is firm but not harsh. Those clever Weissach engineers have been able to generate corner speed without resorting to the race car levels of stiffness so often found in high-performance road cars. For precision they have used steel ball joints instead of rubber bushes. They designed custom hubs and geometry specifically designed for the GT2 RS.
You also have active engine mounts that stiffen as you up the pace. Then you have, for me, what makes the car so undeniably fast – the rear-wheel steering, or as I would prefer to call it ‘active toe’. The ability to change the rear toe for high and low speed is massive for this car. Although the movement is only a few millimetres, anyone in racing knows how big an impact these subtle changes can have.
In slow-speed corners, at the point you would expect the car to understeer just a little, the rear-wheel steering slightly adjusts the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the front and helps rotate the car in the middle of the corner, allowing the front tyres a little bit of sympathy.
The fact that the engineers haven’t over-stiffened the car and kept the wheels as independent as possible then comes into play. Energy is not going the wrong way, and you can feed in the throttle and take advantage of that epic driveability followed by the full surge of 750Nm of controlled torque from 2500–4500rpm.
That’s right. The torque is actually limited and could have been even higher. The rear differential locking is actually rated to 1000Nm, but as the Porsche engineers have done so well with the rest of the car, it doesn’t interfere, it just assists in the whole experience.
Now for the high-speed corners, where at Albert Park there is very little room for error. The GT2 RS just consistently builds grip here. The downforce, along with the rear wheels adjusting in the same direction as the fronts, creates a fantastic sense of stability, and the fact that I’m accelerating well beyond 200km/h at a rapid rate around these corners is a mere detail.
Now, if I’m going to get picky, the braking stability was a little lacking, but that could be put down to tyre pressures increasing more on one side over the other due to a track of this nature (clockwise). Also, in quick changes of direction, you do notice the 1470kg weight of a production car, and the fact that you are on street-legal tyres, although they are still mightily impressive for being that.
Remember, this is a car you could easily drive at 30km/h to get some milk. Or, this car can just as easily run out to 340km/h, also to get milk if you wish (just not in Australia!).
The consistency lap after lap is astounding! I was fortunate enough to get some extra laps in the Weissach Pack version, which sheds an extra 27kg. This was straight after Sir Jackie Stewart and Mark Webber had completed several hot laps with the car, so it was definitely warmed up.
Then I got a full 20-minute session to really see what the car can do. You do notice a small drop-off in tyre performance, but you would expect that with any race tyre as well, and the fact that I found myself increasing the air-conditioning a couple of notches after about lap three meant I must have been trying a little.
But I never felt out of control, everything happened with warning. Occasionally if you got a little bit greedy with the throttle, the rear would try and get away from you, but a subtle influence of the PSM would not let you overstep the mark. That being said, I never felt the PSM holding me back from how I would drive this car on a circuit.
Mark Webber, who has played a major part in the development of this car, especially for the on-track performance, explained that it wasn’t a freak lap at the Nürburgring to break the record at 6 minutes 47 seconds. The car consistently lapped under 6 minutes 50 seconds, and you can understand how it can do that.
The rhythm you can build with this car is sublime, rocketing from corner to corner, eating up metre after metre. Often when you take a road car to a racetrack of this size, it can underwhelm, but with the GT2 RS this is simply not the case.
As I come onto the main straight in third gear, I start asking more of the throttle, and apart from a small squirm from the giant 325mm-wide Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, all the energy is transferred forward – fourth, fifth, sixth – you know you are moving at serious speed, your eyes focused on the road ahead. You don’t even notice the walls, you are just fully engaged in the experience.
This car is not just a blend of GT3 RS and the 911 Turbo – this is taking both sides to a whole new level. From chassis details specifically designed for the GT2 RS to the crazy acceleration performance, this car is something special.
EDITOR’S NOTE: As an especially track-focused performance review, we have elected to leave this review unscored. Check out our international launch review for earlier scores. We’ll score our next story, which will be a more comprehensive review.