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Home / Technology / Chris Harris and a garage full of Porsche 911 GT cars

Chris Harris and a garage full of Porsche 911 GT cars

Andreas Preuninger is head of Porsche’s GT car division, responsible for stripping the weight and using wings (and stickers) in the 911s for over two decades. No one knows more about hardcore sports cars than Preuninger. Except maybe Chris Harris. Before the new 911 GT3 was unveiled, Harris took a trip to Germany to see each generation of the Porsche 911 GT …

Andreas Preuninger: Chris, welcome to Noah’s Ark. One of every type of GT series Porsche 911 ever.

Chris Harris: You know that normal people dream of either beautiful women or beautiful men? I dream of a room full of Porsche GT3s. Where do we start?

AP: Without me, actually. Gen-two 996 was the first GT3 I worked with. I missed the very first issue.

CH: So because you did not develop the original, I can say a few things, OK? I remember coming to Weissach and assembling the first GT3 ever to the UK in July 1

999. It was very cool, but it was not perfect. We took it to a track – it was not as fast as I expected, and it ran out of brakes. Genes two you developed claimed another 20 horsepower, but it felt like it had 50 more for me and the brakes worked. Your magic had begun … How did it develop into the first GT3 RS?

AP: It was my dream project because I always had a Carrera RS 2.7 poster over my bed when I was 10 years old. It happened because we needed to homologate new wheel carriers for the race car 996 RS, but I wanted to pay tribute to the 2.7 RS. So we added a carbon armor, and what was currently a huge wing.

CH: It looks small now.

AP: Did you know that this was the first Porsche street car ever padded with Alcantara? Only on the steering wheel, gearshift and door handle. It was the first time we had a polycarbonate window.

CH: It’s nerdy. The steering in this car is incredible, right? It is completely alive.

AP: BMW had just made the M3 CSL, which I loved: it was a good competitor. We had Pirellis, they had Michelin’s and that affects the sense of control a lot.

CH: To the right of 997. This car is a bit forgotten, because everyone wants generation two, but in fact this engine is spectacular, right?

AP: It was a very special car, very successful, it had Michelin tires with high performance for the first time. We offered it with ceramic brakes and only a manual transmission. It’s all the sports car you’ll ever need.

CH: How many times did you go out in these things to remind yourself of the DNA of what you make?

AP: I think it is very important to touch the base with the old cars, to reset the internal button, because in your memory you tend to glorify the past and forget the new one. My entire team drives these cars to ensure that the new car will fit its ancestral line properly, so the GT3 values, virtues and DNA remain.

BMW had just made the M3 CSL, which I loved: it was a good competitor

CH: Aha, 997 gen to. I probably did more miles in these than any other GT3. This to me felt like your GT division had really established itself. Everyone wanted one.

AP: Because we knew we would sell enough cars to pay back the investment, we went to town. New brakes, center lock wheels, a 3.8-liter engine, different cameras, more speeds, more horsepower.

CH: You once told me about a new coating on these grills that allowed more air to flow through. I remember thinking, “Come on, really?” But you were determined. And the people who buy these cars care about the details.

AP: We like to concentrate on details because the sum of the little things makes it all the more desirable.

CH: Poetic. Now this is what everyone is still talking about: GT3 RS 4.0. I remember you had an ascetic face that explained how much it costs to make a wider indicator amplifier to fit the flared arcs. How much was that plastic piece left?

AP: I think it was € 250,000 before we even made a part. These were our first carbon traps. Inside, the car is stripped. The whole package is still in some respects benchmarked for today’s cars. I have driven this a lot because of the new GT3.

CH: Which is under that cover. Can I…?

AP: It’s too early to show it. You must be happy to look at it with a veil on top, like a bride.

CH: You flew me out to Germany not to see a car. Are you sure you are not Ferrari? Not true, let’s take a look at the 991 GT3. I seem to remember the first time I drove this was in Barcelona. It quickly became clear that the Spanish police were not very happy that we were there.

AP: They chased us by helicopter, Chris.

CH: That’s right. It was like a bad episode of The A-team, and they landed a helicopter on the road, and they just said, “You have to go now.”

AP: We were worried about the camera that stood by the roadside with all the pictures of us driving there.

CH: I put the SD cards in the sock. Anyway, the car. This was your most controversial move. Rear steering, electric power steering, and it was just PDK. All internet forums caught fire.

AP: The expression I attached to this car was “shut up and just drive it”.

CH: So, what you have is a bunch of journalists like me saying, “Oh, it does not have a manual transmission.” What do you do in response?

AP: 911R. I have to be honest, the 991 GT3 was such a big project we had to keep the manual transmission for later, and introduce it on the 911R. A star was born, and we had the gearbox on the shelf for the next generation GT3.

CH: I know I’m an old man, but I love them only without a wing and a hundred interiors. I’m not going to stand here for long because I can get wobbly knees. Can we remove the cover from the new one now?

AP: I told you, I’m not allowed to do that. If I lose my job, I can not build more of these cars.

It’s like a car James Bond would drive if there were no Aston Martins in the world

CH: I have to hide. Ooof, I just saw a 991 GT3 RS.

AP: This was a game changer in terms of track ability. We never had such an extreme car. We had class-leading downforce. There were other companies that claimed that their cars generated the same amount, so we put them in the wind tunnel. It was not even close. Our RS really makes 350 kg downforce at top speed.

CH: I’m going to ignore the GT3 RS gen two for a minute because of what’s next to it: GT2 RS. From what weird part of your brain did this 700 horsepower monster come?

AP: I wanted an engine that sounded like a Nineties 911 Turbo without layers. If I could just keep three cars I’ve helped make, the GT2 RS would always be one of them. The list changes with the mood I’m in, but it’s always a GT2 RS.

CH: Tell me about some details about this 992 GT3. The power step is not great during the last car, but 500 is enough on the road, right?

AP: A car the size and weight of 500 horsepower is enough to put you in jail in minutes. We concentrated on driveability and self-confidence. The car runs much faster on the ‘Ring, so it pays off despite the fact that it only has 10 horsepower upgraded.

CH: The noise is good. I was afraid that with the new regs it would sound a bit boring. It really does not.

AP: It may sound a little mature, a little more mature, but inside it is even higher than the old one. But it’s not just about the engine. For the first time we have a double support axle at the front, brand new for a 911.

CH: There are a whole lot of Porsche racing drivers out there at the moment like “thank God, we’ve been waiting for that for 20 years”.

AP: It really helps the car. The car has become a little bigger, but it has advantages. It has wider tracks, brand new front suspension, and it is much better on the track now.

CH: So, the 992 GT3 is available with a manual and a PDK?

AP: You have both options because I’m tired of telling people what the right combination is.

CH: Will it be a tournament?

AP: A little later after we put this on the market, yes. You can go to the opera with it. It’s like a car James Bond would drive if there were no Aston Martins in the world.

CH: How cool would that be? James Bond drives a GT3 Touring. Now we’re talking. Will it be a convertible?

AP: No.

CH: Will it be diesel?

AP: Pffft. Yes, Chris.

CH: Will it be an electric one?

AP: Oh, absolutely.

CH: Joke apart, when I see all of these together, I feel a little old.

AP: Do you feel old? The orange 997 GT3 RS is the car I took my son from the hospital in when he was born.

CH: It’s a wonderful legacy, and it’s taken a few years, but it’s 20 years of good equipment now, right?

AP: And yet we still have some ideas for what comes next …

Take a look at the brand new Porsche 911 GT3 this way. Want to know Harris’ top five GT Porsches? Get a copy of Top Gear magazine today

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