Porsche GT3 Cup S Review

By: Ian Curry, Photography by: torquepix.com

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Porsche’s latest and greatest 911 racer has arrived Down Under and looking dangerous in the Australian GT Championship

Porsche GT3 Cup S Review
Feature: Porsche GT3 Cup S

 

Porsche GT3 Cup S

On a dry, dusty and stinking hot Adelaide street circuit, the parade of exotica competing in this year’s Australian GT Championship is an awesome spectacle.

The sights and sounds of an Aston Martin DBRS9, Ferrari F430 GT3s and Lamborghini Gallardo GT3s rouse the fans at the Clipsal 500 weekend, but this year there are two new automotive faces hogging the front of the GT grid.

The first is a 7.0-litre Mosler MT900 GT3; a sleek, low-slung monster that looks decidedly more like a full-on GT1 car than the rest of the chasing pack. Alongside it, starting from second in its debut race, is the far more familiar sight of a Porsche 911.

Nothing unusual there. After all, Porsche has been racing its iconic model in various guises for five decades now, but this one, even by Porsche’s high standards, is something rather special.

The most common marque in the Australian GT Championship – and most other worldwide GT events – is of course Porsche. The field at Adelaide sees no less than 13 take the start line; mainly the ubiquitous 997 GT3 Cup Car that amateur and professional racers alike put their trust in.

But the new kid on the block up front is even more competent, potent and impressive than the much-loved ‘basic’ Cup. This is the 997 GT3 Cup S – only a single letter added, but the difference between the two cars is literally night and day.

CUP RUNNETH OVER

The Cup S has been entered in the Championship by Sydney Porsche specialist PR Technology, which alongside its general service and repair workshop operates a formidable racing outfit. The company has run and maintained numerous Porsche racers over the years, including the 2008 Australian GT Championship Challenge-winning GT3 Cup driven by Richard Kimber, and this year it’s aiming for overall Championship glory with its new Cup S, piloted by David Wall.

But what is it that makes a Cup S so superior to a standard Cup, and can justify the approximately (gulp!) $750,000 it costs to bring a new one into the country? PR Technology’s workshop manager, Nathan Murray explains: "There is a massive jump between the two. The amount of extra power is one thing, but the aero package and bigger tyres makes a massive difference, while the all-solid suspension makes the Cup S far more predictable and stable."

Porsche has created an initial batch of just 15 Cup S cars for use in international FIA GT3 championships. Some of the others have so far popped up racing in the Belcar/Belgian GT Championship, European GT3 Championship and Asia GT3 Challenge, as well as the 24 Hours of Spa and 24 Hours of Dubai

The Cup S is based on Porsche’s pumped-up GT3 RS road car (as opposed to the relatively narrow-bodied Cup being based on the ‘normal’ GT3); this primarily to accommodate wider wheels and allow fatter, grippier tyres. The muscled wide-arch front fenders feature air extractors just before the doors, and beneath them sit 10.5-inch wide tyres. These are eclipsed only by the giant 12-inch width of the rears wrapping BBS light-alloy three-piece wheels.

The Cup S’s aero package has also been radically reworked. The carbon fibre front bar is markedly different to the standard Cup’s with its array of aerodynamic intakes, while the fully adjustable front splitter helps generate more downforce at the front axle. "It’s a work of art to be honest," Nathan comments.

As for rear axle downforce; the far from subtle rear wing is wider and positioned higher than the Cup version, ensuring the car’s butt stays firmly planted.

For the most part, the Cup S’s 3.6-litre boxer engine is identical to that found in the GT3 Cup, but power output has been increased by 15kW thanks to reworked engine electronics and a modified exhaust system. The naturally-aspirated motors now pumps out 324kW at 8000rpm alongside 430Nm (up 10Nm from the Cup) at 7250rpm. In addition, the camshafts have been reworked to suit the higher revs available, while the six-speed sequential gearbox has revised ratios to suit the peakier engine.

Arguably Porsche’s greatest strength in the GT3 class is its legendary chassis, and the boys at PR Technology are quick to sing the praises of the Cup S’s improvements.

"The normal Cup Car’s suspension is quite limited in its level of adjustability," Nathan says. "It has all-rubber mounting, but the Cup S is rose jointed so is fully adjustable for height, cast and camber front and rear. It also benefits from blade-type sway bars, so in all is basically the same suspension you’d find on Porsche’s (more powerful 3.8-litre GT2 Class) GT3 RSR."

To cope with the extra performance, the Cup’s inner-vented 380mm front discs with six-piston calipers are retained, but the rear now has larger 355mm discs with four-pot clamps.

Other goodies include a 100-litre FIA foam-filled endurance fuel tank with a five-figure price tag; full Motec display with integrated data recording and flame-resistant bucket seat, six-point harness and welded-in safety cage. Unlike the Cup, the Cup S sees the battery relocated to the passenger footwell to improve weight distribution.

BOGGED DOWN!

Speaking of weight, it isn’t hard to notice the huge amount of ballast also strapped to the PR Technology car’s passenger side.

This is due to the GT Championship’s strict handicaps for cars and seeded drivers to ensure parity among its competitors.

The Cup S’s driver, David Wall, is recognised as a seeded driver (alongside Jim Richards and Craig Baird for the Adelaide round), and that means a minimum weight of 1350kg (the Cup S without a handicap could go under 1200kg) and a ride height 10mm higher than the Weissach manufacturer intended.

"10mm higher front and rear doesn’t sound much," Nathan says, "but it makes a big difference and can make the car very scary."

Spending a weekend with any race team is bound to involve a rollercoaster of emotions, and the Cup S’ debut at the Clipsal 500 is no exception. There are naturally high expectations given the car’s phenomenal potential, but also the unknowns associated with the strength of competition and teething problems so commonplace when running a new car for the first time.

As the racing starts, it becomes clear that just like in qualifying, the Mosler and the Cup S are the dominant duo in the field. Baird takes victory in Race 1 but Wall follows closely behind for a second place on debut. An excellent start for the team, and for the Porsche brand as well with second through to sixth all occupied by the German manufacturer. But to show the step-up from a Cup to a Cup S, the third-place GT3 Cup of Klark Quinn had a fastest lap time nearly two seconds slower than the Cup S. A lifetime in any race series.

The remaining two races of the weekend see the same results pan out: Mosler first and Cup S second, even with increasing restrictions for the cars after each strong showing. The PR Technology team has full telemetry data on hand in its garage, analysing each turn of the circuit; where the Cup S is gaining and losing time and what can possibly be done to catch the flying 7.0-litre Mosler. General consensus is the thing is just too damn quick on the straights.

Nonetheless, there is obvious joy at the car’s hat-trick of second places.

"The Cup S isn’t really designed to run on a slow circuit like Adelaide," says Nathan. "It proved excellent under braking and rode the bumps and big rumble strips really well, but we were struggling with mid-corner push in the slower turns. We’re still not 100 percent happy with the handling, so know there’s so much more to come from this car."

Driver David Wall also heaped praise on his new racer. Having spent three years piloting a normal Cup car, he’s ideally placed to highlight the differences between the two.

"The mechanical side of things sees big changes with the adjustable shocks, bigger tyres and greater power, and I find the Cup S more forgiving, easier and faster to drive thanks to it being softer sprung. But being a seeded driver I don’t get to drive the Cup S at its best: I have weight, ride height and air restrictions as well as having 500rpm taken off the top."

Even with such handicaps, this Cup S is clearly fathoms away from the normal Porsche Cups that race in the same Australian GT Championship. It is a very special car indeed, a real boon to have one competing here in Australia, and it came as little surprise when the PR Technology Cup S with David Wall at the wheel took out its maiden GT Championship victory and followed it up with three more at Melbourne’s Albert Park the week following the Clipsal round.

Another year, another championship round win for the ever-evolving and improving racing Porsche 911s.

EXTRAS...

DREAM RACERS

They are the machines us mere mortals can only dream about: GT3 racing versions of exotics such as the Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Gallardo and Aston Martin DB9 all highly tuned and competing in the multi-million-dollar Australian GT Championship.

Here is a race series that understandably attracts a loyal following, as these lightweight exotics dressed up with big wings and colourful racing livery do battle as feature races for the V8 Supercars rounds. Australian GT is designed for non-professional drivers (with deep pockets of course) and the organisers make a point of trying to level the field with restrictions and weight handicaps to the cars to ensure parity and close, exciting races.

There are three ‘seeded’ drivers permitted in any one round of the Championship (allowing professional drivers like Craig Baird, Jim Richards and David Wall to compete), but the rest of the field features well-heeled businessmen and enthusiast racers (including Eric Bana when he’s free) living out their dreams in supercar racers.

To make things fair, the specification of each car determines which division it runs in: Championship, Challenge or Production.

See australiangt.com.au for more.

HARD TO CATCH

"I raced hard all weekend and was able to catch him through the corners, but I had nothing on the Mosler on the straights." This was Cup S driver David Wall’s conclusion after coming second to the Mosler MT900 GT3 on three occasions in Adelaide, but exactly what is this new instant race winner in our midst?

The MT900 road car is built by Mosler in the USA and Great Britain in very small numbers, and counts George Lucas amongst it owners. Rear-engined and rear wheel drive, it goes as quickly as it looks, and is now creating a stir in worldwide GT3 categories with the MT900 GT3 race car.

While not universally accepted by all GT3 championships due to the lack of homologation road cars built, the Mosler has raced in the International GT Open, Belcar and British GT Championships. Its 7.0-litre LS7 Chevrolet V8 (mated to a six-speed Hewland sequential ’box) is good for 388kW and 684Nm of torque, while its full carbon composite monocoque and carbon Kevlar composite body panels keep its dry weight to 1200kg.

 

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