Paul, We’re Taking The Racecar Out Tonight!

Growing up, I never understood the fuss around Porsche and the 911. Engine in the wrong place, conservative styling, as silent as anything… mind you, I was probably biased by living in Paris and seeing the 996 generation at every junction, always in insipid colors and it’s disgraceful proportions.  (The same one every time: grey, black leather, no stance, big arse…)

Paul, We’re Taking The Racecar Out Tonight!

As every young petrolhead, I remember every car that stroke my attention on the road.

To the “Avio Metalic” 430 Scuderia in front of Notre Dame de Paris, the AC Cobra that used to be parked in my neighborhood, and of course the old lady in the “Racing Yellow” C6 Corvette on the Boulevard Périphérique: I will never forget you!

Paul, We’re Taking The Racecar Out Tonight!

But every rule must have an exception, and in this case, it was the very orange 997.1 GT3 RS. A car that my Grandpa, who transmitted me the love of cars, got to drive for a few laps around a racetrack when I was 10!

This day marks the first time in my life where, with my childish mind, I acknowledged a 911 could be “cool”, and also the first time I borrowed my father’s camera to shoot cars!

A real awakening day for me, right?

Fast forward 12 years and my friend Silvano called me:

Paul, we’re taking the racecar out tonight!”

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He already told me he had this car sitting in a garage and wanted to use it someday.

As he said that, I immediately understood the assignment. Black car, dark night, orange accents… all it lacked was a background that suited the mood! Something serious.

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We set the meeting point and as we arrived, there she came out of the underground parking. Orange wheels, narrow front axle, big hips, central exhausts, wing… you don’t see these often now, and it was a real shock to see one in familiar surroundings.

As I lowered myself into the passenger seat, I immediately sensed something I have never felt before. Something that normally should not have been such a surprise, considering the car it is. It’s the indescribable feeling to have entered a leather trimmed, beautifully designed, high quality, racing car!

It sounds silly writing this about a GT3 RS, for which the sole purpose is exactly this, but how often do you see an orange roll cage and a full Nappa leather dashboard, in the same car?!

Experiencing this kind of paradox in a production car is mad!

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As soon as the engine started, I immediately understood that the beauty of this car wasn’t in the obvious, but in the details!

Hard ride, but the padding on the bucket seats makes it feel like it could be a daily driver. (more on that later)

The styling of the interior is, as in every 911, not very original. But everything you touch is a delight.

And then, my favorite part: the engine.

At first, when it starts, you feel it juddering in your back, almost like my friends’ old bimmers forgetting to ignite one or two of their cylinders before firing on all 6. But the feeling goes on. You worry for a few seconds before it finally strikes you.

“Of course! It’s the single mass flywheel!”

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As you can probably tell, race engines aren’t made like the ones form road cars. One of the main differences, among a freer flowing exhaust and more aggressive cams, is a lightened single mass flywheel. The idea is that, in reducing its weight, you automatically lessen the amount of energy necessary to make your engine spin, giving it better responsiveness on throttle and allowing it to be way more efficient as the revs go up!

The downside? Less torque at the bottom end of the rev counter and a harsh idle caused by the single mass of the flywheel being thrown around from side to side at a low frequency.

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Ok, done for the technical stuff. What does it feel like?

As Silvano would say: “It’s a car that turns you into a moron!”

As the entire purpose of this machine is to make you the fastest around Spa-Francorchamps, you can imagine it’s not the best car to cruise around in Paris. The juddering from the engine, the very low driving position, the manual gearbox, the engine that only gets going over 6000 rpm… even in this beautifully trimmed cockpit, it’s not a relaxing ride. And with Silvano as a driver, I wasn’t expecting much. Having lost his driving license 3 times for speeding, he took the decision long ago to stop attacking roads like he used to  and so became the most boring driver ever, keeping his driving abilities for the track.

But then, at a red light, out of the sudden, he selects first and floors the throttle! The wheels spin even with the weight of the engine pressing on them. Buried in my seat, I laugh at what I am seeing: Silvano is counter-steering in a straight line, bouncing on the rev limiter of the first Porsche I ever liked!

Boy you got to trust me about how excited I was to see that!

And as he eased on the right pedal, he turns his head to me and repeats himself: “You see? It’s a car that turns you into a moron!”

Thanks Silvano!

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