Today I am at Portimao again on a similarly sunny but much colder November day with another GT2 RS, the track-only GT2 RS Clubsport, as well as the new 935 that Porsche created as a 70th Anniversary present to itself. Just 77 of these will be made and they were sold out in days, with deliveries taking place at a series of exclusive events that began in July 2019.
While these two Porsche supercars are visually as different as chalk and cheese they are really sisters under the skin, the 935 sharing the GT2 RS Clubsport’s metal inner structure and mechanical underpinnings.
In the supercar world there is always a race for more horsepower, sometimes just for sheer bragging rights. But ultimately the real world speed capability of any car is also a function of its weight, traction and aerodynamics.
On that score the 700hp at 7,000rpm and 750Nm of torque from 2,500 to 4,500rpm that rockets the 1,470kg street legal GT2 RS to 100km/h in 2.7 seconds, to 160km/h in 5.8 seconds, to 200km/h in 8.3 seconds, and on to a 340km/h top speed is all anyone needs in a road car. Of course the hard-core driver can opt for the Manthey MR package that hones this rapier to an even finer point. Would we shell out the not inconsiderable extra for this? Hell yes!
Thanks to some carbon-fibre body panels, the removal of all carpets, soundproofing, passenger seat, and some other components superfluous to a track machine. Thus, the GT2 RS Clubsport, and the 935 on which it is based distil the basic formula into even more hard-core driving machines with many racing components, such as a three-leg air jack system.
Apart from the full roll cage and fire extinguisher system the two cars also share a 115-litre FT3 safety fuel cell with the option of fast fill coupling, and the FIA mandated escape hatch in the roof panel.
Despite retaining air-conditioning the Clubsport tips the scales at 1,390kg, a full 80kg saving over the road-going GT2 RS, while the 935 is a further 10kg lighter. The structure is stiffened by over 30% by the welded-in steel roll cage, track biased fully adjustable suspension and slick tyres, while the more aggressive aerodynamic packages add significant downforce. Because the Clubsport and 935 are not street legal, and at the same time do not have to conform to a particular set of race regulations Porsche can turn up the dial on these cars to 11.
Comparing the adjustable suspension, big brakes and many other components on these cars to the equivalent parts on the 911 RSR racecar in the neighbouring pit lane box underlines the fact that as track ready as the Clubsport and 935 are they are still a far cry from a full blown racecar. But for the serious trackday enthusiast who wants a near factory racecar experience, this is as good as it gets.
Compared to the steel/aluminium door of a normal GT2 RS the carbon-fibre doors on the Clubsport and 935 seem to weigh almost nothing. Getting in over the stout side impact bar is much easier if you remove the steering wheel, but also being lithe and flexible helps.
I have been driving racing cars since the early 1980s and am happy to say that the level of driver protection today is at an all-time high. During a trip to the US in 1999 I met the doctor who invented the Hans Device in an effort to prevent deaths through broken necks in NASCAR accidents. I bought one on the spot and was happy to see it adopted by the FIA shortly afterwards.
While the Hans Device protects your head from being flung forwards in a head-on accident the current Recaro race seat has the extended ‘wings’ that prevent your head from snapping sideways. These wings restrict your peripheral vision to some extent, but on track where everyone is going in one direction that is of minimal concern.
Another safety device is the detachable Safecraft net system that anchors to the roll cage and dashboard on either side of the seat to prevent your arms flailing about in a big crash. In short the driver is well strapped in by the six-point hardness and cocooned by the steel roll cage and various other safety devices. You’d have to be very unlucky indeed to be badly injured in a current racecar.
In all respects the cabins of the 935 and GT2 RS Clubsport are identical, and once you are strapped in, with the steering wheel with the paddle shifter replaced, you see that the controls are pure racecar. The carbon-fibre steering wheel has its own set of buttons including the all important pit lane speed limiter.
The Cosworth ICD instrument pack with integrated data logger is placed dead ahead of the driver, this digital information hub flanked by the Sport Chrono clock and boost gauges from the road car. The panel on the centre console houses switches that control the ignition cut-off and buttons for ABS, Traction Control and Wet mode.
In fact the only familiar elements from the road car that stand out are the ignition key to the left of the steering wheel and the PDK lever whose stylised alloy form stands out like a sore thumb in this pure competition car environment.
Flick the battery cut-out switch to ‘On’, turn the key in the ignition and the 935’s 3,800cc twin-turbocharged flat-six motor fires up just as like on the GT2 RS. But thanks to the stripped out cabin the sound of air and fuel exploding into violent life is that much louder. That said, the muffling effect of the race helmet means your eardrums are not taxed that much.
Pulling the gearshift lever to the D position followed by tugging the right-hand paddle shifter selects first. I have done dozens of laps in various high performance road cars at Portimao over the last decade, so moving off down the pit lane in the 935 and Clubsport differs only in these being full blown track cars.
Warming up the tyres is a must with any car let alone one with 700hp and 750Nm of twist. Both wear massive race rubber compared to the normal GT2 RS, which sits on centre lock BBS forged wheels, 9.5J x 20-inch in front and 12.5J x 21-inch at the rear, shod with 265/35ZR20 and 325/30ZR21 Michelin Cup 2 tyres.
The GT2 RS Clubsport fills out its arches with 10.5J x 18-inch ET28 and 12.5J x 18-inch one-piece forged wheels shod with 27/65-R18 and 31/71-R18 Michelin race slicks. The wider bespoke carbon-fibre bodywork of the 935 can take even larger footwear, in this case single-piece forged wheels in 11.5J x 18-inch ET15.3 in front and 13.0J x 18-inch ET-10 at the rear wrapped in 29/65-R18 and 31/71-R18 Michelins. This gives the 935 a wider front track and rubber footprint so its turn-in under braking is slightly better.
I take it easy on the first lap feeling this wild machine talking to me through the steering wheel and seat of my pants. The steering feedback is direct and incisive and I try to remember how the normal GT2 RS felt here a year and a half ago.
Yet maybe the comparison is invalid since the smaller diameter carbon-fibre race steering wheel makes the helm feel faster, and the lack of ‘squidgy’ street legal tread movement compared to the slick tyres conspire to send more direct messages to my gloved fingertips.
The brakes are another issue since their hard race pads require some heat to work properly and so need to be warmed up along with the tyres. Here the PCCB ceramic discs of the road car give way to Brembo steel brakes on the 935 and Clubsport, their front-to-rear bias adjustable via a brake balance bar. These competition brakes consist of 380mm vented and slotted steel discs clamped by six-pot racing callipers in front, with 355mm vented and slotted steel discs clamped by four-pot race callipers at the rear.
I spent the first lap familiarising myself with the feel of the car and trying to get heat into the tyres and brakes. The mechanics set the traction control and brakes in their middle positions, a decent hedge against the feral power of the twin-turbo motor waiting to be unleashed.
Even using just two-thirds throttle exiting the tighter corners shows up the wisdom of the warm up strategy. Exiting Turn 3, a tight near 180-degree right hander the cold rubber relinquishes its grip in a smidgen of power oversteer. This is followed by the nose running slightly wide as I crest the brow at the top of the opening left hander onto the back straight.
The loose tail in Turn 3 is expected, and the understeer I encounter in Turn 4 is symptomatic of cold tyres, rearward weight transfer, push from the locking differential, and the fact that until the rubber is hot and sticky my speed out of this uphill bend is insufficient for the big front splitter to have much effect.
Even with the stiffer shell, race suspension and slick tyres the ability of the engine’s sheer torque to move the tail around is always lurking in the background ready to pounce. As turbo lag is minimal you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being patient with the throttle as you exit a bend. The upside, as I found with the GT2 RS here in 2018, is that the characteristic velocity of the chassis set-up is very linear so when the tail does let go it is neither sudden death nor difficult to retrieve.
The soundtrack is another part of the mechanical charm offensive, and when you open the throttle fully on the straight bits, revving the motor out it delivers the authentic turbocharged Le Mans Porsche racecar aural experience in full measure.
Once the brakes have heat in them they produce phenomenal stopping power allied to excellent pedal feel, shaving off big speeds with confidence inspiring consistency. That pedal sensitivity in trail braking into the bends makes it feel natural to lean on the front end right up to the apex, utilising the grip of the wider slicks, stiffer coil-over track biased suspension and the aerodynamic helping hand from the bigger spoilers.
Thanks to the wind tunnel honed aero package of each car the enhanced downforce means that the 280km/h terminal speed at the end of the pit straight feels like a walk in the park in stability terms. Not that there was an issue with the stock GT2 RS here anyway as I recall.
With heat in their tyres and brakes the 935 and Clubsport begin to show their true mettle. In reality they are only a shade faster than the street GT2 RS in a straight line, but what is clear is how rapidly these cars are able to circulate thanks to their upgraded suspension, tyres and aero. That said, they require a particular technique to drive quickly, which in turn delivers a particular reward. This is as much a mental attitude as driver skill along with the understanding that they respond best to a tidy and committed driver.
Knowing Portimao well allowed me to concentrate on getting a fair impression of this pair within the handful of laps I had, and the GT2 RS Clubsport fully lived up to the expectations I had when I pondered at the GT2 RS launch on how much extra grip the car would gain on slick tyres.
Having the 935 in play at the same time was the icing on an already very rich cake. It is just a crying shame that most of the 77 cars will be tucked away in heated garages as investments.