On track: Porsche 911 GT3

By daryl, 08 January 2019
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In August 2018, yours truly had his driving skills certified by a team of stern instructors clothed in Porsche-branded apparel from head to toe. I had just undergone a professional driving crash course that is the Media Driving Academy (MDA) organised by Porsche Asia Pacific. And what an experience it was.

On top of providing participants with a safe platform on which to hone their driving skills, the day-long exercise at the Sepang International Circuit also gifted me the chance to sample some of Stuttgart’s finest track machines. And the star of the show was clear: the 911 GT3 in all its flat-six glory.

Unfortunately, a packed schedule meant little time behind the wheel of one of the few remaining naturally-aspirated greats in a catalogue of sports cars featuring more turbochargers than ever. But as luck would have it, I found myself in Sepang’s relatively new South Paddock again just a fortnight later, memories of the car still as fresh as the stacks of new rubbers in the pits. Local distributor Sime Darby Auto Performance really knows how to butter us up from time to time.

But first, a quick review of our hot date.

With 500 naturally-aspirated horses accompanied by 460Nm of twist that kicks in rather late at 6,000rpm, the GT3 was one of the most powerful cars in the MDA fleet, albeit in a somewhat old-school fashion.

It was certainly one of few cars that could make the instructor leading the line sweat into the corners, but it didn’t always feel a league above some of its turbocharged brethren on the exit, such is the aptitude of Porsche’s force-inducted offerings.

Its 3.4-second century sprint is almost half a second off the 911 Turbo’s pace. And with drive limited to the rear, you’ll have to be a bit more careful around the corners as well – it certainly wouldn’t be as forgiving to clumsy-footed drivers as an AWD Porsche in trail-braking exercises.

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But isolate the GT3 from its over-engineered siblings and it’s hard not to appreciate the simplicity underlying its massive potential on the track.

Jumping back into the hot seat of the GT3 outside the MDA syllabus brings about a very different experience when there’s no professional driver leading the way. I can immediately sense the hyper-talented car feeling bogged down from my caution around the bends.

This compels me to take every opportunity to stab the throttle every time the road straightened out, coaxing the four-litre flat-six into a crooning a hair-tingling 9,000rpm power ballad. I don’t care if it’s 750rpm past its power peak because my senses are fully devoted to the acoustic symphony and its by-product: unadulterated performance that reinforces the age-old adage of displacement having no replacement. The bliss is real.

With all 500bhp produced by the rear-mounted engine kept to the back of the car, the 911 GT3 is also more entertaining around the bends. It takes a simple dab of the throttle with the steering cocked to throw the car sideways, but the car is quick to realign its footprint if PSM (Porsche Stability Management) is on.

Be less cheeky behind the wheel and you’ll find the GT3 to be incredibly balanced and planted, with superior levels of grip by 500bhp RWD sports car standards to match its track-spec enthusiasm.

It’s easy to forget how much a 500bhp Porsche can elevate your spirits after being desensitised by the existence of hypercars spewing over 1,000bhp with the help of turbochargers and electric motors. The GT3 cuts through the interwoven web of 21st-century tech to deliver an artful masterclass in driving purity on the same level as some substantially costlier supercars.

Whether a starting price of RM1.7mil is justified for something engineered to the tastes of the wealthy purist is still up for debate. But this is one eye-opening driving experience I will not soon forget.

SPECS

  Engine   3,996cc, flat-six, 500bhp, 460Nm
  Price   RM1.7 million
 Transmission   7-speed PDK, RWD
  Performance   0-100kph in 3.4 secs, 318kph
  Weight   1,430kg