Think of Porsche’s road-going Motorsport models and you’re likely to conjure up an image of something wearing a ‘GT3’ badge. Indeed, the GT3 has become something of a modern legend, winning magazine tests with irritating regularity and generally being the subject of adoration for car bores far and wide. In its shadow, the GT2 has often been forgotten, and even when remembered has been saddled with the infamous ‘Widowmaker’ nickname and folk tales of being undriveable.
Thing is, I quite like the GT2 - any recipe that includes more power, less weight and just two driven wheels should be celebrated, not ignored. Think of this then as a tribute to Porsche’s ‘other’ GT.
In the mid-nineties, Porsche was looking to enter the newly-founded GT2 racing category. With all-wheel drive being banned by most motorsport governing bodies, it couldn't base its new car on the 911 Turbo. The solution? Rip out the front driveshafts from the all-wheel drive Turbo, bump up power, build a handful of road-going cars to homologate the model for racing and christen it with the name of the series it was destined to race in. And so, the 911 GT2 was born.
Using the same 3,6 litre twin turbo flat-six as the Turbo, but with boost pressure bumped up to 0,9 bar, the 993 GT2 was good for 430 hp. Later revisions for the 1998 cars would see that figure rise to 450 hp. Combined with a kerb weight of just 1290 kg – 200 kg less than the Turbo, achieved for the most part by a switch to rear-wheel drive – the GT2’s performance figures are especially punchy, even today. What 0-100 km/h in 3,9 seconds and a 301 km/h top speed must have felt like two decades ago beggars belief. Just 57 road cars were built over three years, making the 993 GT2 somewhat of a unicorn. Maybe that’s why one recently sold for over £1,8 million. Yes, you read that right. Still, those bolt-on arches almost make it worth the cash…
The Noughties saw Porsche switch to the 911 GT3 as its chosen platform for sportscar racing, meaning that when the 996 GT2 was launched in 2001 it carried nothing like the sort of pedigree of its predecessor. Still, the second-gen GT2 would go on to forge an arguably stronger reputation for itself, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Following the same formula as the 993 (and indeed the formula that would come to define all GT2 models), the 996 GT2 was essentially a faster, hairier, two-wheel drive Turbo. Larger turbos meant power increased to 462 hp, whilst further engine mapping revisions introduced in 2004 resulted in 483 hp. Weight was slashed to 1420 kg, thanks in no small part to the standard-fitment of PCCB carbon ceramic brake discs. The 100 km/h sprint was taken care of in 4,0 seconds while top speed was pegged at 319 km/h.
Yet rather than being defined by its rampant performance, the 996 GT2 is more infamously remembered as the car that would don the nickname ‘Widowmaker’. That much power, rear-wheel drive and no traction or stability control in sight was always going to make for a pretty wild ride. Accordingly, Porsche tuned the launch cars adjustable suspensions to produce mild understeer in order to make the car more approachable. The problem was that when that understeer inevitably ran out, 640 Nm’s of turbocharged torque would send the GT2 spiralling into snap oversteer, leaving drivers red in the face (and brown in the pants) in the process. Ironic, no? Yet later reports from owners who’d had the car’s suspension geometry re-aligned suggested that the chassis was far more forgiving than the ‘Widowmaker’ moniker suggests.
Given the 996 GT2’s perhaps unfair reputation, Porsche naturally festooned the 997-generation GT2 with a smorgasbord of electronic driver aids – traction control, stability management, the lot – at its launch in 2007. Far from going soft though, the 997 GT2 was the first of the breed to surpass the 500 hp mark, its variable vane twin-turbo’d flat six making 530 hp. Chucking away the rear seats and installing a titanium exhaust and carbon ceramic brakes, amongst others, lead to a 145 kg weight loss compared to the equivalent 911 Turbo, for a total kerb weight of 1440 kg. All this helped the 997 GT2 become the first GT2 to break the 200 mph barrier, topping out at an indicated 328 km/h, while 100 km/h was clocked in just 3,6 seconds. Over and above the performance figures though, this generation of GT2 was praised by journalists at the time for providing a far more forgiving and immersive driving experience than its predecessors.
And then there was this, my personal favourite…
As a final swan song for the 997 911 range, Porsche decided to produce just 500 steroidal examples of the 997 GT2 and bless them with its most hallowed badge – RS, or RennSport – to create the GT2 RS. Power rose by 90 hp compared to a ‘normal’ GT2 (if you could ever call that car normal) to a heady 620 hp, thanks to an increase in boost pressure for the turbos to 1.6 bar, and a new ECU, exhaust and pistons. Weight dropped by 70 kg to just 1370 kg through lavish use of carbon fibre, most notably for the bonnet and front fenders, the latter being an option at the time of launch.
Want an interesting nugget of behind-the-scenes info? Andreas Preuninger, boss of Porsche’s GT division, later admitted that the bare carbon bonnet that most notably signifies the RS, in fact weighed more than it would have had it been painted in body colour. Nerdy, I know. The chassis was essentially lifted from the 997 GT3 RS, but featured rose jointed control arms for the rear suspension to provide even better body control. And best of, like all GT2’s, the RS mixed all this power and technology with a good ol’ manual transmission. The result was a car that would accelerate to 100 km/h in 3,5 seconds and on to a top speed of 330km/h, and obliterate Ferrari 599’s whilst doing so.
When production of the GT2 RS ceased, many believed it to be the last of hurrah for the GT2 badge, but recent spy shots suggest that a 991-generation GT2 RS is on the cards, rumoured to produce near-700 hp, which would make it the most powerful 911 yet. Fingers crossed…