What’s your favorite brand of car? It seems a simple enough question, but for the petrol head the answer is anything but. While my particular response will probably vary from day to day, the brand most likely to be named would be Porsche. Although I cannot afford to own one (yet), Porsche is a brand that speaks to my ideals; one that places passion in front of making a buck. So what do you get when the winningest racing car maker in the world throws everything they’ve got into a modern GT monster? Well, the 911 GT3 RSR of course.
It seems as if it was only yesterday that Porsche had announced a major update to its iconic ALMS racer, and with the 2012 model year came a whole slew of alterations; many of which are quite obvious visually, which is quite uncharacteristic for Porsche. Yet as I sit here typing this, the 2012 season has come and gone, and with it the Falken Tire Porsche has a full competition year in the books, a year of racing that I was lucky enough to witness some of.
I can still recall the first time I laid eyes on this car, after months of mouth watering anticipation. Strangely it wasn’t at a racing circuit that I first met the car I would inevitable become very familiar with this year. Sadly it wasn’t at Sebring, but rather inside a Porsche dealer in Orange County as part of the pre-race fan festivities ahead of the Long Beach Grand Prix.
Fortunately since that day, which now seems as thought it occurred in another lifetime, I’ve been able to get up close and personal with this beastly nine-eleven. I even somehow managed to beat the odds and fought through some extreme jet lag in order to rise before the sun at Mid Ohio for a very quick photo session. Armed with a camera, a cup of coffee and forty-five minutes of available track time, I set off to do the impossible.
Try as I may, no matter how badly my aching and tired body wishes to loathe the morning, I can’t deny the magic of the day’s first golden hour. With no time to spare I began shooting in the dark, desperately trying to anticipate when and where the sun might come up. Eventually it made its way through the trees, beautifully tracing out the shape of the car; at which time I could fully appreciate how much different this car was compared to the previous year’s model.
It wasn’t just the additional two inches of width that was flabbergasting, it was all the new curves and ducts that they brought with them. The front of the car now featured an uncharacteristically hard-edged-high-shouldered fender with a very abrupt cut towards the bottom, allowing air to escape from the fender well freely.
With the revised aero package came a new front bumper, with multiple levels of dive planes affixed to it, along with a new front splitter design. However, as intimidating as those bits are, it’s actually the stuff going on behind the facade that you cannot see which is doing a lot of the work.
In fact the amount of engineering that has been put into the ducting system on the RSR is pretty crazy. The car is, in essence, one giant factory from which many vortices are made. While it certainly doesn’t look a far cry away from a road going GT3 on the outside, there is a world of difference beneath the skin.
At first glance, the full-length flat floor board may appear to be carried over from other variations of the GT3 – like the Cup Car which I featured earlier in the year – but aside from sharing a roof line, pretty much everything below it, all the way down to this plank, is on an entirely different level.
Around the back of the car is where things get really interesting. While I can’t speak to the performance benefits of the new rear tray and its scalloped louvers, they certainly are a stark addition to the rear of the car. The introduction of this component alone was a little shocking when first announced, and I immediately began to conjure images of a DTM / GT500 styled 911…
Once off the car, you can really see what a serious piece of kit this rear diffuser is. Made almost entirely from dry carbon, it has a very complex structure containing ducts for both the brakes and gearbox cooling. With side-pods literally built-in to the top of the diffuser’s edge, this is downforce generation for the twenty-first century.
In hindsight, with the way motorsport technology is developing at a blistering pace, the concept of a single-element rear spoiler seems like quite an antiquated way of deriving downforce, doesn’t it?
Inside the cockpit there are even more space age technologies waiting to be pushed to their limits. Porsche has applied a copious amount of carbon fiber, both inside and out, on the RSR that you’d think it’s going out of style. In 2012 it’s pretty much a given that any race car, even at a privateer level, is going to have some pretty high tech on-board gadgetry, but the ALMS GT field is bursting at the seams with the stuff.
In addition to the typical data logging and computing functions of a race car, these endurance racers have all sorts of additional gizmos like live telemetry, radio, GPS and on-board cameras for the television broadcast of the races. Yet even with all that at hand, the best method for learning your way around a racetrack remains a sicker smack-dab in the middle of the wheel with numbered corners.
Immediately adjacent to the MoTec digital dash are just a few of the driver’s available switches, clearly labeled in plain English of course. Note the plastic gears on the edge of the steering boss which I can only presume are used to record steering input for telemetry… pretty slick.
To the right of the driver is the main switch panel which contains levers responsible for tasks ranging from starting the car to powering the cool suit pump. Sitting directly atop the series of switches is the most vital component inside the car for the driver – the air conditioning vents!
Opposite the driver is a massive carbon fiber coffin which occupies the space typically reserved for a passenger seat. Inside this box lays a complicated series of wire harnesses and electronic boxes, resting in a manner that is anything but peaceful. After getting a good look at the complexity of the wiring scheme it’s no wonder they cover it up with a smooth sheet of carbon!
This weaving sea of wire continues behind the driver, past the fire shield, and into the rear of the car where it connects to even more modules and boxes before finally arriving at the engine and gearbox which they control.
It’s kind of ironic how the staggering amount of technology elsewhere in the car has made the part which is, in most traditional vehicles, normally the most interesting quite boring in comparison – the engine. I suppose it’s partially the fault of the governing bodies as well, since these days the power output is restricted (in this case to 450whp) the engine is simply a tool for racing, like a brake pad or a seat.
That’s not to say, however, that a brake pad or a seat aren’t important items, they’re all part of a team that has to play well together. When it comes to endurance racing it’s all about speed and reliability and under these types of conditions the weakest link in the chain reveals itself quickly. Leaving nothing to chance, the footwork must form the strong foundation which everything else then rests upon.
Like almost everything on the car, the brake package has been scrutinized by the ACO in order to complete what they refer to as “the balance of performance” which ensures fair play across a wide range of competing vehicles. Enormous Brembo calipers and floating rotors in sizes that comply with the rule book are used on each corner, as supplied by Porsche from the factory.
The shock absorbers are ultra-high tech items from ZF Sachs and feature four-way adjustable internal valving. And no, four-way doesn’t mean they have four adjustment “clicks”, it means that there is separate independent high- and low-speed adjustment for both compression and rebound. Perched atop the the bodies is a main spring and a “helper” spring, which ensures that the main spring fully engages its perch under full droop.
Incredibly, every joint on the car uses a precision spherical bearing or a heim joint to ensure minimal slop. While this sort of hardcore setup probably wouldn’t last more than a few months on the street, it’s essential to competing in the highest forms of motorsport like the ALMS GT category.
However there’s unquestionably much more to racing than a part, or even a car. Without the talented people that support and pilot a vehicle, it’s essentially a very large (not to mention expensive) paperweight. After spending several weekends scattered across racing circuits all over the US with the Falken Tire team, I can attest to their commitment to making this car competitive.
When you consider some of the factory involvement from teams like BMW, SRT or the 2012 championship winning Corvette Racing, it’s pretty amazing that a small tire company can buy a 911 and managed to do so much in such a short time. Some of this credit must no doubt also go to the countless men who spent their lives improving the 911 for the last fifty years. I suppose that’s the power of passion and hence, the power of Porsche.
2012 Falken Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
4.0L naturally aspirated aluminum flat-six boxer engine; 28.6mm air restrictors (x2); Porsche Motorsport intake and exhaust systems
G97/70 six-speed gearbox with sequential jaw-type shift; triple-plate carbon-fiber clutch; limited-slip differential 45/65 %; adjustable racing traction control
SUSPENSION / CHASSIS
FIA / IMSA certified roll cage; McPherson spring strut axle front suspension, multi-link axle rear suspension; Sachs 4-way adjustable shock absorbers; Eibach springs; adjustable front axle arms (camber); adjustable sword-type sway bars (front/rear); infinitely adjustable rear suspension (height / camber / track)
AP Racing dual master cylinders w/ brake force balance adjustable by bias bar system, floor mounted pedals; Brembo fixed calipers 6 / 4 piston (F/R), two-piece rotors 380mm/355mm (F/R)
WHEELS / TIRES
18X12j/13j (F/R) center-locking mono-block BBS light alloy wheels; 18″ Falken Azenis RT slick racing tires
OMP steering wheel, kevlar FIA racing seat;
2012 RSR carbon/Kevlar aero package including front bumper w/ dive planes, hood, front fenders, rocker panels, rear fenders, carbon ducting, rear spoiler, full flat underbody paneling (front splitter / middle section / rear diffuser), doors, polycarbonate windows, lightweight headlights
450bhp @ 7900rpm / 317lb-ft @ 7250rpm (limited by ALMS)
Thanks for beautiful photography without played out filters or 1000 layers. Pure art and some of the best auto photography I have seen in a while :)
Hi Sean, this is amazing. One question: the red ducts at the back of the brake rotors are for cooling them, right? if so, are those ducts just connected to the front of the car,? l mean the other duct end. Cheers
Adrian Senna I think the image you are referring to is the first of the brake shots, if so that is the driver's side front brake - and yes the duct is connected to an opening in the front of the car where it channels air from towards the brakes.
awesome!!! love your pictures sean!! makes the car look so much more beautiful!!
and these pictures came just at the right time! can i use them in my log book research?!
Nikhil_P Thank you for the compliment! It's fine with me if you use them, they should be enjoyed (just not sold) lol!
Wowie. I should've been an engineer. Seeing the incredible details of that car makes me wonder what I'm doing with my life. I want to build/drive stuff like that! Kinda funny because I just slapped a "Falken Motorsports" sticker on my toolbox yesterday.
Honestly it's never too late to pursue your dreams. I know it sounds stupid but you only have one life to live, might as well spend it doing something you love.
Thanks for sharing Sean! Great feature.
I heard the 997 chassis got discontinued, and Flying Lizard won't have a RSR for the next season. Any insight on that?
Here are more pics of the Porsche for those of you that care:
@JDMized glad you liked it Alex! I have spoken with PMNA about the future of the 991 race cars but I can't really say much now... But you can be sure that as soon as I can, I'll be out there shooting the newest batch of race 911s!
I was surprised to see a boxer engine powering the car. I wouldn't have expected that.
And bravo, Sean, for waking up in the morning before the sun rose. I mean, come on, who the hell wants to wake up before the sun rises? Extended amounts of beauty sleep is vital to every person's health. I actually heard that waking up before the sun rises can slowly kill you. Yeah, I read it on the internet so it must be true.
@LouisYio lol well when you consider the shoot was at 5:15 that means I woke up at 4:00 and since Ohio is three hours ahead of LA it was more like 1AM lol. But I was so jet lagged from Spa at the time that I was completely delirious.
I saw this car, at the Baltimore GP, and was blown away by how friendly and open everyone at Falken were. They were assembling the rear suspension on tables that faced outwards to the paddock, so anyone could really peek in and see the set up. An interesting tidbit was the suspension mechanic said they sell the control arms and drop spindles to stock owners for their own cars. These guys are class through and through.
@JamesBiddle Yep, it's no wonder Falken had such a large fan base for a relatively small team. They are doing things different and the fans take notice.
Just the level of professionalism that is put into the build of the car, everything is just emaculate. The dash alone looks like the 1980's had a child with an Aventador. It's really quite amazing
sean klingelhoefer And of course, your work is phenomenal! Beautiful photos, congratulations!
"Porsche is a brand that speaks to my ideals; one that places passion in front of making a buck." .. are we talking Porsche? The company that was THAT close to owning VW (!) just by a lot of economic gambling and manipulating? ;) There are quite a lot associations with Porsche to me but putting passion in front of making a buck is not. ;) Greeeaaat pictures and article still! As always Mr. Klingelhoefer!
maxproof Of course the two can probably be interchanged based on how you view it, but when you compare Porsche to almost any other major car maker they do seem to have a very consistent line of cars with one point of view in mind - driving pleasure. Obviously in recent years they have veered off the path of pure sports cars slightly with models like the Cayanne and Panamera, but even those vehicles are in a whole other echelon of performance in their given segments.
I never realized they have the firewall now behind the seats! Little automotive education in the morning is always a good thing, but even better are those beautiful shots! If I could only get this one in a dark blue for one the streets...
Alwyns Ya I never realized it either until getting up close and inside the cabin. I also have to give a HUGE thanks to the whole Falken Tire team for even letting me shoot photos as detailed as these! Most teams won't even let you take a photo of their car with the hood off, let alone crawl around inside and underneath it snapping away!
sean klingelhoefer Alwyns They've been doing that since maximum cockpit temperatures started being enforced. Firewall behind the seats means a smaller area to be cooled, means less work for the AC.
fortytwoeyes Alwyns Ahhh that makes perfect sense, I never even thought about that!
dude's got plenty of inspiration as is if you ask me.
nice shoot sean. i think you have that thing called 'lighting' down pretty good.
Thank you sir, hopefully next year I'll have more time to do some more extremely lit stuff. My background in photography is based around more complex composites and stuff, but with the rate at which things change on Speedhunters there is rarely time for me to go all out - like this shoot in which I only had 45 minutes, there really wasn't enough time to do anything "amazing".