Over the years, we have attended many motor races and seen first-hand how the performance of the evergreen Porsche 911 has improved. This feature, the first in our four-part mini-series, starts with the 2005 season where the iconic 996 GT3 RSR was a potent force on the GT racing scene, and rolls through to 2008. The story of 911 racing in Europe is like no other, because the 911 is the only single continuously evolving sports car model in the market.
In this mini-series, we will bring you some highlights from this remarkable journey as it unfolded from ’05 right up to the present. In order to share this 911 motorsport heritage with you, our readers, we have dug into our photo archive to produce a selection of racing images that best represents this period.
The 996 GT3 Cup Car, the first racing car to usher in the new era of water-cooled Porsches back in 1999, could be upgraded to 400 bhp at 7300 rpm from its 3.6-litre engine, and had a sub-4 second time for the 0-62 mph sprint.
Introduced in 2004, the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (Type 996) featured a 3598 cc water-cooled flat-six engine developing 445 bhp at 8250 rpm, up from the 2001 model 911 GT3 RS’s 415 bhp at 8200 rpm. Maximum engine speed was reached at 8500 rpm when fitted with twin FIA spec 30.8 mm air restrictors. This model ran for three seasons, 2004 to 2006, and was replaced by the Type 997 in 2007.
Available from 2006-2009, the 911 GT3 Cup Type 997 MK1 was powered by a 3.6 litre flat-six, producing 400 bhp at 7300 rpm. With a revised aero package, the 997 GT3 Cup Car generated 40% more downforce than the 996 GT3 Cup Car, predominantly through its wider and higher rear wing.
All 997 GT3 Cup cars were fitted with the Porsche sequential gearbox. Originally introduced in the 2005 Porsche Supercup, more than 1400 cars were produced during this four-year period making the Porsche 997 GT3 Cup Car the bestselling racing car of all time. For this photo grouping, both the European GT3 Championship and the FIA GT RAC Tourist Trophy, were held on the same bill at Silverstone on 7 May 2006.
In 2007, the weapon of choice was the new Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Powered by a new 3795 cc flat-six, the RSR produced 485 bhp at 8400 rpm when fitted with two 30.0 mm restrictors. The engine boasted 4-valves per cylinder, a compression ratio of 14.5:1, it redlined at 9000 rpm and was driven through a sequential 6-speed ‘box.
For once we had a dry race for the FIA GT Championships at Silverstone on 6 May. When the #74 Ebimotors Porsche 997 GT3 RSR came past with its door missing, it presented a great opportunity to see the driver hard at work behind the wheel. Although the driver would not have enjoyed having his door missing, this is not an uncommon sight at races as the pressure build-up inside the cockpit can be significant, and just hitting a bump can ‘blow’ the door outwards and into the long grass. A missing door will also have a significantly negative impact on the aerodynamics of the car.
The 2007 Le Mans 24-Hour race on 16/17 June was indeed an action-packed race. Just a few hours after the start of the race, the storm clouds that had been steadily building suddenly decided to empty, and the deluge that followed saw all and sundry scattering for whatever cover they could find. Mike Rockenfeller fell victim to the conditions and in the process clobbered the Armco at Tertre Rouge. A lengthy safety car session ensued. Thankfully he was fine, the skies cleared, and the race was green flagged once again. This race was the last outing for the Seikel Porsche team at Le Mans 24-Hour event, having participated eleven times, but this would not be a happy race for them as the car retired after just 68 laps.
Porsche’s 2008 GT3 RSR was aimed at the GT2 class in international long distance racing. A distinguishing feature of the new GT3 RSR was the new front end treatment which carried major improvements to the aerodynamics including additional spoilers on the front apron, called flicks, optimised air ducting with newly-designed side air outlets which generated greater downforce and reduced drag. The rear wing was carried over from the predecessor. The 3.8-litre engine remained unchanged from the previous year apart from slight improvements to some details, and delivered the same 465 bhp at 8000 rpm when fitted with a pair of 29.5 mm restrictors, the rev limiter kicking in at 9400 rpm. Much of the technology in the GT3 RSR’s new sequential six-speed gearbox came from the RS Spyder sports prototype, and was considerably lighter than its predecessor. If you’re tempted, you could have bought a GT3 RSR in 2008 for €349,800 plus VAT.
Thirty-five of these race cars were built at Weissach in 2008 and weighed in at 1225 kg in accordance with the ACO regulations, and 1200 kg for the FIA regs. The 911 GT3 Cup S model however featured a 3.6-litre developing 440 bhp at 8000 rpm. The car’s weight was 1170 kg. The 911 GT3 Cup for 2008 was also powered by a 3.6-litre engine producing 420 bhp at 7500 rpm, but weighing just 1130 kg, the Cup was capable of doing 290 km/h.
Held in late summer, the Autosport 1000 km at Silverstone in September 2008 was a real storming affair. As Audi and Peugeot battled for championship superiority on the track in superb dry weather, the spectators enjoyed a truly gripping race. The #77 Team Felbermayr Porsche of Alex Davison/Marc Lieb finished second in the race and in the championship in 2008.
This mini-series only scratches the surface of our photo archive, VIRTUAL MOTORPIX, our sister website, and serves as an illustration of what we have and where we’ve been. If you feel like leaving a comment at the bottom please do, and you can subscribe to all our free Porsche feature updates on the right-hand side of the home page. If you enjoyed Part 1, be sure to check back for Part 2 which will follow in due course.
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale