Flat-six, flat out under the rain: Porsche GT3 at Mugello
It's 7 am and I'm driving. Although when I say driving what I mean is I'm sailing because it's raining like hell. The shock of the lightning cuts through the clouds and hits Earth somewhere in sight, but far away. The light slashes the gunmetal sky at a cool 670 million mph and the sound of thunder can't keep up with that speed, following up at a yawning 340 m/s.
I'm driving through a thunderstorm and I'm cool with that. Except I'm also a bit wary because I'm supposed to drive a RWD track specialist around Mugello 45 minutes from now.
I'm one mile from the racetrack and there's a guy on the side of the road, his clothes are drenched and he's waving at me. I slow down and lower the window, rain is coming in.
"Hello! I'm looking for the Autodromo. I was on the bus and the bus driver said it was here, 500 yards". His English is good but his accent is thick, somewhere in Eastern Europe. Romania, maybe, or Poland or Hungary. I tell him that's where I'm going and I offer him a ride. Ten minutes later we're in the paddock and I've learnt a few things about him. He told me he lives in Bucharest and he flew to Italy just to drive a Ferrari around Mugello racetrack.
We arrive at the racetrack and he goes looking for his Ferrari while I only have eyes for the Porsche I came here for.
Mugello is much more than a circuit. Mugello is like Silverstone in the UK or Montmeló in Spain or Paul Ricard in France. It's not just the racetrack, it's the experience of a racetrack in a certain country, on a certain day driving a certain car. Even more so for him, because he's driving the Ferrari, but hey, I never claimed to be good at matching things. 'Cause I'm driving the Porsche today.
Now I'll admit that the Porsche 911 line up is a bit complicated but we can try and break it down real quick. Let's start with the model, because this is the 911 991, which is the one after the 997 and before the 992 which was introduced at last year's LA Auto Show.
The GT3 is the pumped up version of the "standard" 911, with some track enhancing details here and there to make it go faster and harder. The engine, a 4.0 L flat-6, is based on the unit you find in the 991 Carrera S but each component, with few exceptions, has been adapted and developed for this car especially. I'm talking about the the crankshaft and valve train for example and, crucially, the titanium connecting rods attached to the piston that the GT3 uses so it can rev up to 9,000 rpm.
The GT3 has 500 ps / 492 hp and 460 torques and that means that, coupled with the DPK (dual clutch) gearbox, it can do 0-60 in 3.4 seconds and it can keep on going all the way to 198 mph.
PDK stands for Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe, built by ZF Friedrichshafen, it literally means "double-clutch-gearbox" and it is a great transmission for driving fast cars because you get seamless gear changes. In fact, this GT3 accelerates 0.4 faster the manual GT3.
The great thing about the GT3 is that it is just as fast on a track as it is usable on the road. Obviously you can't expect it to be as comfortable as a Carrera or a Carrera S but it's still good enough to go from A to B without necessarily shattering your spine in the process. There's an infotainment system you can use to play music and there are seats which, albeit a bin thin, are covered in leather and Alcantara.
In an ideal world, I'd simply urge anyone to go out there and buy a Carrera for the road, a GT3 for the track and a GT3 RS for when you're feeling like a hooligan but this isn't an ideal world so I'll stick with the GT3.
A 55-minute drive from Central Florence, Mugello Circuit is over 5 km in length (3.259 miles) and it has 14 corners. Some of the corners have self-explanatory names like "Arrabbiata", which is Italian for "the angry one". There's a long straight, 1.141 km.
Former F1 driver Mark Webber once tweeted, "I 10 dry laps today around Mugello, which is the same as doing 1000 laps around Abu Dhabi."
Track day goers under controlled circumstances take two or three minutes to do a lap, depending on what they're driving, how good they are and what they're allowed to do. You can be a lot quicker than that with cars like these but Mugello is demanding so you usually err to the side of caution. In 2018, Valentino Rossi set a record-breaking lap time for MOTO GP of 1:46.208 during quali with his Yamaha YZR-M1. In 2014, during the BOSS GP series, Gary Hauser set a record of 1:34.316.
The 911 GT3 is just one of many cars you can drive with Puresport, and Mugello is just one of many racetracks available. Personally, I'd take Mugello any day of the week, simply because it's near where I live.
I'll be honest, given a choice, I'd always want to drive on the road. It's what I love. I love blasting across countries driving from A to B with cars that have been designed with apex and corners and checkered flags in mind and that's because it is fun. A bit like showing up at the MET Gala wearing a watch made of Lego. But the fact of the matter is that supercars are powerful and can be demanding to drive because there's a lot you have to keep in mind while driving, even potholes can be a cause for concern.
This is why so many people love driving on a track. It's you, the tarmac, the car and not much else. You saddle up, settle up, fire up the engine and you just go for it.