964 RS v 991.2 GT3 Touring: Blood Brothers

Porsche’s 911 GT3 has been on quite a journey of late. Just five years ago, ‘Mr GT3’ himself, Andreas Preuninger, met with journalists to talk through the company’s latest, seemingly indomitable GT3 in 991.1 guise after its public reveal at the Geneva Motor Show. The venue is a long-time happy hunting ground for Porsche to unveil its hottest GT cars.

On paper at least, the car represented something of a technological tour de force: Porsche’s new 991 was its most clinical take on a track-focused GT3 yet. With an active steering rear axle, electrically assisted steering through the wheel inside plus a compulsory seven-speed PDK gearbox, this was the do-it-all GT3, supposedly providing greatness on both road and track. However, despite this influx of tech and the plethora of inevitable Porsche acronyms describing it, journalists had just one question to ask: “Why no manual gearbox?”

Preuninger’s response, championing the merits of a clinical transmission system in a car built for performance driving, was of course perfectly sensical, yet it drew little inspiration among hacks. Surely Porsche, the company famed for its mantra of ‘it’s not how fast you go, but how you get there,’ wasn’t in the process of killing off the manual gearbox? That reaction from the press at Geneva, plus the ensuing wave of outcry from the buying public, forced Porsche to reconsider. From there, the GT3’s story – and inevitably, its future – has drastically altered.

It began with the 2015 Cayman GT4, Porsche GT department’s first foray into fettling the company’s mid-engined, baby sports car. It boasted the usual repertoire for a car blessed with Weissach wizardry, including a tuned engine, a healthy weight reduction and, for the first time in four years, a six-speed manual gearbox.

Needless to say, the Cayman proved a popular acquisition. While there’s little doubt enthusiasts were intrigued by a mid-engined GT car built by Preuninger’s team, Total 911 also witnessed staunch Neunelfer customers ditching the ‘uninvolving’ GT3 in favour of the analogue GT4. Estimated worldwide sales of up to 5,000 units later, Porsche had well and truly got the message.

Though the GT4 proved successful, enthusiasts still coveted a lightweight, manual 911, which was cut from the same cloth. This duly arrived in 2016 with the 991 R. Considered by many to be the 911 of the decade, its only problem was the fact it was largely unobtainable, with 918 Spyder owners offered first dibs on a car with a limited production run of just 991 cars globally.

The debacle sparked widespread anger among long-time buyers of Porsche GT cars who missed out in favour of the super wealthy, many of whom didn’t share that passion for the brand and who consequently flipped the R for obscene sums of money. However, Porsche was clearly getting warmer in its mission to deliver an analogue experience in a modern, blue-chip 911, but it still needed a launch that would really appeal to the masses.

That car came in 2017 with the launch of Porsche’s 991.2 GT3 with Touring Pack which, for the first time since the 997 generation, would come only with a six-speed manual transmission. The Touring’s repertoire is impressive: gone is the fixed wing and PDK gearbox resplendent on that 991.1 car, replaced by a discreet, traditional 911 silhouette and, of course, three pedals in the driver’s footwell.

Sound familiar? It should do, for while the Touring represents new ground for Porsche’s GT3 lineage, there’s evidence to suggest the company may have looked to its past for inspiration when building it. We are talking, of course, about the 964 RS.

To read the full feature of our comprehensive 964 RS v 991.2 GT3 Touring test, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 165, in stores now or available to purchase here

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