Racers for the Road

2014 Porsche 991 GT3 at NYIAS
2014 Porsche 991 GT3 at NYIAS

After an early wakeup, an unexpected overnight stay,  and a bus trip I’d rather not talk about, I found myself amongst the thousands of others who had also flocked to 2013’s edition of the New York International Auto Show.  Having endured the exhausting trials of the trip to the Big Apple and being dragged to a late-night Broadway show by mom (although seeing Ferris Bueller in person can’t necessarily be complained about), I was ecstatic to finally be standing with the sorts of cars that I had only previously seen in pictures and read about in magazines.

One car in particular stood out among the rest; that controversial Porsche 991 GT3 has been the topic of an immeasurable amount of cooler talk conversations.  Granted, it doesn’t look all that different from the 997 GT3, but the knowledge of all the differences under the body frame was what made seeing the car in person so special.  So, after cramming my cell phone’s memory card full with photos of the car, I took a moment to stand back and examine the car – including a gander into the tinted windows to take a peek at those notorious paddle shifters.

2014 Porsche 991 GT3
2014 Porsche 991 GT3

At that moment, a man in a hoodie, who I had no recollection of hearing or seeing walk up beside me, began a completely different sort of questioning of the new GT3 that I had not afore heard.  “You can’t drive this car anywhere,” he said.  “If you park this car on the side of the street, they [crooks, most likely] will steal it; they’ll just break in and steal it.”

Immediately after he said this, I started mentally convincing myself that this guy wasn’t a true enthusiast.  The typical defensive phrase often associated with adolescence of ‘you just don’t understand,’ began running through my mind.  However, on the outside, a smile-and-nod routine was usually the case, with the occasional tilted head and unsure facial expression thrown in to express my disagreement.

Sitting in the dim, quiet MegaBus hours after the final words of that brief but intriguing conversation had been uttered, however, I began to think about the GT3 and the talk I had had in it’s presence.  Questions began to run through my mind: What do non-car enthusiasts think of performance-oriented sports cars such as the GT3?  What’s the point of building a car designed specifically for storming around racing circuits and why do so many buy them?

To answer these questions, we need to take a step back and look at the genre of car the GT3 is in.  This 991 GT3 has and always will be – as all GT2s, GT3s, and their special RS versions have been – track cars.  These machines were not built to prod around narrow city streets to make a grocery run or take the kids to school, as many often times think, hence the backseats being replaced by a roll-cage.

Porsche 997 GT3 RS 4.0
Porsche 997 GT3 RS 4.0

Instead, these cars were built to sprint around race circuits on those beloved track days faster than anything else on the circuit.  That’s part of the reason why this car was given flappy paddles, the gear changes are miles quicker than any human driver could with a stick-shift, and shifting speed is vital for posting fast lap times.  Porsche calls it a ‘racecar for the road,’ and for good reason; it brings the experience of driving a racecar to the average driving enthusiast.

Look at cars like the Caterham CSR200 (or any Caterham, frankly), the Ariel Atom, and the KTM X-Bow.  Those cars don’t even have a roof, for God’s sake.  The Atom and X-Bow don’t even have windshields!  A crook could easily hop in the car and be on his way.  However, what the man I spoke with failed to realize was that these aren’t cars for parking on the side of the street, because parking tends to be associated with running errand and things; you don’t run errands with these cars.  These cars are built for driving performance instead of eyecandy, tearing up racing circuits instead of intersections, sitting in line waiting to be waved onto the track instead of sitting in traffic.  While they can do all the above, talk to the car’s engineers and they’ll all tell you the same thing: these cars were built to be fun and go fast around the track.

Porsche 997 GT3 in a tow-zone
Porsche 997 GT3 in a tow-zone

After the ranting in my head at 12:30 in the morning on the late-night return trip, I sat back and finally shut my eyes, reminiscing on the other cars on display that stole the audience’s attention.  Seeing a collection of some of the Mansory tuning company’s latest works was extraordinary, and the new Jaguar XK-RS GT looks absolutely stunning in person.  Lamborghinis never cease to amaze, and BMW’s M collection was vast and lavish.  The Rolls-Royce Wraith’s looks perfectly fit it’s personality in my opinion, and the vertical display of the C7 Corvette and the angled display of the Viper TA had me in utter amazement.

However, as mentioned before, the highlight of my visit was the pearly white Porsche sitting in the middle of the german sports car marque’s booth.  And despite all the criticism and controversy, there’s still a part of me that loves that car, that loves what it stands for.  These types of cars aren’t for alleys and avenues, they’re for pit roads and long straights.  It’s cars like these that keeps the culture of performance driving alive, and makes me wish I had a license.  Perhaps if the man in the hoodie had known that, he would’ve seen this car and others like it a bit different.

-Brad

3 thoughts on “Racers for the Road”

  1. A great article. You just have to get yourself a ride in a GT3, you’ll be forever smitten. Maybe you could check out if there are any GT3 owner’s clubs locally where you could blag yourself a ride. You’ll be surprise by how good the ride quality is. An RS would rattle your fillings out, but having driven a GT3 I know I could use it every day. It was certainly more comfortable than a 205 GTI I used to own 10 years ago.
    The grid system which most US cities are based on would make the GT3’s qualities largely redundant though. If was living in the US I’d have a muscle car, American, or if I was very rich an AMG.
    I long for the day’s when I move with my family to settle in Southern Europe, I have worked out the perfect car for a variety of price points. The GT3 is definitely in there. I will then be spoilt for choice for empty mountain roads.
    A great point about the Wraith too.

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