“That can’t be right.” I probably said it out loud. Heading for turn 11 at Road Atlanta in a Porsche 911 GT3 RS has a way of instantly clarifying what’s true and what’s not true. Then again, it seemed to confuse me all the more. In all fairness, it was my first time on the track and my first time in a long time in a 911 GT3, both are very humbling.
It’s worth noting that Porsche provided the cars, the track time and an on-track guide so we could safely get the most out of these cars. The lead car in a group of three is driven by Hurley Haywood, a winner multiple times in legendary races and race series like 24 Hours at Daytona, 24 Hours of LeMans, 12 Hours of Sebring, Trans-Am, IMSA GT and so on. Before we start, Haywood walks back to my car as I’m adjusting my helmet and seatbelt. “Ever driven on this track before?” he asks. “No, never.” I said. “OK, we’ll take it slow for the first few laps. Just stay in my tracks and you’ll be fine.” Let’s just say when Hurley Haywood says “take it slow” it means something much different than how I would use the phrase “take it slow.”
Road Atlanta’s elevation changes are exhilarating and a serious reality check at the same time. As I head for the top of the hill at turn 11 where the track ahead just isn’t visible, I try to recall what I had for breakfast – believe me, it suddenly seemed relevant. That Jimmy Dean Sausage Scramble Breakfast Bowl may have been a tactical error on my part. Thankfully, I got to keep my breakfast and my wits because what I was seeing is exactly right, that’s how the track is designed. It’s terrifying. Professional race car drivers just call it “good clean fun.”
I am not a professional race car driver and you could argue have no business on a world-class track like Road Atlanta. Then again, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS made me feel like I have some hidden driving talent that just happened to materialize midlife (candidly, I am a fairly accomplished Mario Kart driver). Still, the acceleration, braking and gut-sloshing handling add up to a car that really is best sampled on a closed course with lots twists and turns. If you’re buying a GT3 RS, make plans to join your local club track.
Here are a few details that make the updated 911 GT3 RS so special. The 4.0-liter flat-six engine is based on the previous year’s 911 GT3 but with 20 more horsepower and 7 more lb-ft of torque (520 hp/346 lb-ft), it’s lightweight with much of the inner bodywork up front made of carbon fiber. The roof is magnesium, side windows are lightweight and there are vents in the front fenders to increase downforce at speed and help provide ventilation for the front radiator. The big wing out back also pushes the car down at speed. This results in a very powerful Porsche that’s easy to handle, even at 140 mph. The updated 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS is also wider. For 2019, 0-to-60 mph comes up in 3 seconds. The last Porsche 911 GT3 I drove was the 997 version launched in the mid 2000s. I drove it on the Santa Monica Freeway. That experience was a combination of frustrating and a little scary. Yes, you can comfortably drive the 2019 GT3 on public roads, but that’s not the way to best experience the car. This new version of the GT3 is both more intense and capable, but docile and predictable at the same time. The 997 GT3 wasn’t either of those things.
If you want to discover your hidden driving talent that just happened to grow at the same rate as your income, the 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS is a no-compromises car that rewards finesse and puts “insane mode” in its proper perspective. The GT3 RS costs just over $187,000. Unlike some luxury cars, the GT3 RS makes it blatantly obvious what you’re getting for your money — power and engineering.
For context, Porsche also rolled out a 911 GT2. You want to feel a real-world “insane mode” fueled by air and gasoline? It’s brilliantly quick and recently set the production car lap record at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. Porsche says the lap time was 1:24:88 making the ” … 911 GT2 the quickest production car to ever lap the iconic track.”
Personally, I prefer the GT3 RS. It’s a car you could drive around on public roads and enjoy. It’s a very useful performance car. Not useful in the typical, day-to-day sense but useful in that you can use the bulk of its performance without getting into too much trouble. And that’s exactly why Porsche invited us to a race track, it’s really the only way you can experience all the GT3 RS has to offer. This is one of the most predictable and precise high-performance cars I’ve ever driven. In terms of power, it’s the most accessible Porsche I’ve ever driven. The raw power is obvious, but not off-putting. That being said, it doesn’t respond well to man-handling. Stomp the gas or the brakes and it can feel a little twitchy. However, gradually roll the power on coming out of, say turn eight at Road Atlanta, and the car feels powerful and nimble, almost like it’s saying “Maybe you should be a race car driver … ” Don’t listen, it’s a lie. That feeling is 90% the car, 7% self-preservation and 3% actual talent. Still, it’s fun to pretend. Find a Porsche 911 for sale