A racecar for the road – it’s one of the most clichéed punchlines in the history of automotive punchlines. Rarely though, I come across a car and think, ‘Hang on, this is street legal in Germany? Really?’
This machine, the Autoaktiv Biest Porsche 996 GT3 RSR, is one such case.
Some of you might remember a story we ran last year on the Lightspeed Classic. At the time I collected it from Autoaktiv, I saw the GT3 RSR parked up in a corner with license plates on it, and it instantly had my attention.
Built by Ralf Skatulla – the same guy who built the Lightspeed – it oozed so much menace that I just had to get behind the wheel of it. Being the kind soul that he is, Ralf checked with the owner of the car, Jörg, who obliged to part with the car for a couple of days of Speedhunting.
At this point, I must say, Jörg is no ordinary customer – something that becomes immediately apparent the second you get in the car. Strapped onto the rollcage are three flat-rate season tickets for the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Jörg is a bonafide Ringer.
This particular car started its life in the form of a post-facelift 996 GT3 that Jörg picked up in Zuffenhausen back in the day as a brand new car. Eventually, when the 997 came out, Jörg drove a few of them and decided that the newer models weren’t exactly to his taste.
He told me how he liked the gritty analog feeling of the 996 – a trait that has somehow been lost in the later electronic aid ridden models. The more trackdays Jörg took part in with the GT3, the more he wanted something sharper, so he approached Ralf from Autoaktiv and asked him to get to work on transforming his ‘tame’ 996 GT3 into a Green Hell warrior spec Biest RSR.
Ralf took the entire car apart and started work on the chassis, replacing the stock panels with RSR items finished in carbon fibre. The paint on these panels is so thin that if you look closely you can see the weave of the carbon fibre underneath.
It looks like it was designed with the sole purpose of housing the wider rear axle.
I think it looks amazing, though. You’ll note that these aren’t just overfenders, but properly integrated body panels, as you can see from the front bumper.
Being a track toy, a fixed tow hook was a no-brainer. It peeks out through a little slat in the front bumper and also at the back. I love the little plastic wrap around it, which I’m guessing was some deliberate detail that Jörg insisted on.
For many, the 996 has always been the ugly duckling among 911s. While the 996 GT3 RS has grown into a collector’s item due to its rarity, the rest of the range barely gets any love. Even on the streets, somehow I barely see any 996s, while there are plenty of other models out and about.
The Biest sits on custom aluminum BBS Motorsport wheels with magnesium alloy centers measuring 18×9.5-inch and 18×12-inch front and back respectively.
Tucked behind them is a braking setup that features 6-piston callipers up front and 4-piston units at the back, with 355mm steel discs. Ralf has opted for Pagid high-friction race pads to cope with heavy abuse on the Nordschleife.
The Porsche sits low on KW Variant 3 coilovers, which have been fine-tuned for lapping the mother of all racetracks as perfectly as possible.
Despite the engine being at the back, the 911 has an array of radiators up front. The front bumper has vents that channel air towards the brakes as well as integrated mounts for the cooling cores.
The fuel tank sits up front, but the filler has been relocated to the middle of the trunk, just like on the 911 racecars.
The heavily reworked 3.6L boxer engine makes 408 horsepower at the wheels and has been set up for Jörg’s precise racetrack demands using a piggyback engine management unit from Alpha N. Thanks to the addition of a selection of parts lifted off the sister Cup car, the Biest has racecar-like throttle sensitivity and an incredibly balanced power band.
This is the final model before Porsche opted for a centre-exit exhaust on the 911s. Ralf has fitted this car with a custom exhaust manifold and sport catalytic converter from M&M Germany, giving it a raspy version of that familiar six cylinder soundtrack.
As the engine has been heavily uprated, Ralf had to work out ways to get the heat out of the bay. For this, there are special slats built into the rear bumper and additional fans to draw air in.
The enormous rear wing was lifted off a 996 RSR racecar that acted as a donor car for many of the parts on this car. It’s almost infinitely adjustable depending on just how much downforce you need at the back, but as I had no way of judging the amount I needed, I stuck to the trusted and very effective method used in Germany called ‘don’t touch, don’t touch, only look’.
Jumping in the car, an OMP seat sourced from a 997 Porsche Cup car wraps around you. It’s a proper bucket that goes around your hips, and you sink into it rather than sit on it. The stock belts have been left intact for ease of use during Jörg’s grocery runs.
A spare Recaro seat is bolted in place whenever there are passengers that Jörg wants to take on the Nordschleife and scare the bejeezus out of.
I wish I could tell you how much I love this snap-off, Alcantara-clad Momo racing wheel, but I am struggling to find superlatives right now.
As Ralf handed the car over, there wasn’t much in the way of a briefing. As I backed out of his lot, he just walked up to me and said, “I’m curious to know what you think about the handling – this one has the full Porsche Cup steering rack.”
It became immediately apparent that the steering was so incredibly direct, with an amazing amount of feedback from the wheel. There is also next to no steering angle – what you see above is the car at full lock. Now, that’s some proper racecar-spec steering.
Ralf fitted the car with a little lift system to get over speed bumps, but at full chat this is a proper street sweeper. I wonder how the bottom of the front splitter would look like after a day of heavy abuse at the Nordschleife, dipping in and out of the Karusssel?
Working my way up through the extremely short-ratio 6-speed gearbox via the milled open gated CAE shifter, I was reminded of how much I miss the feel of cold metal.
This the same sort of shifter that we saw in the Lightspeed Classic. It’s not a sequential unit, but the lever travel is so minimal and so incredibly precise, that rowing the gears is a joy in itself.
I wanted to take this car someplace special, so I got off the Autobahn at Leonberg near Stuttgart, and looked for an instantly recognisable landmark.Solitude Racetrack
It didn’t take me long to find it – that unmistakeable tower that during its heyday witnessed several Grand Prix motorcycle races and between 1961 and 1964 even some non-championship Formula 1 races.
Owing its name to the nearby Castle Solitude, the Solituderennen had this building as the start/finish tower – the only standing artefact from the period. Many illustrious names have screamed past this tower, with speed-demons, Dan Gurney, Jim Clark and Jack Brabham among the Solitude Grand Prix title holders.
Because of its narrowness, the circuit was originally used by motorcycles only, but in 1957 the track and the pits were considerably extended and this facilitated the inclusion of sports car racing to the roster. With the help of a friend, I roughly retraced the old circuit, and then it was time to get going.
I arrived early enough so that I would catch a time when there was the least amount of traffic. The entire place was deserted, so I lined the Biest RSR up to where the start line would have been with the empty stretch of tarmac behind and ahead of me, brought the engine singing to 4,500rpm and let go of the clutch. The car lunged forward, with the shift indicator light instantly glowing red. Into second with two thick black lines on the asphalt, because apart from ABS, there are no electronic aids on the Biest.
Running counter-clockwise, the track follows an immediate sharp left that took me into the forest section; the sound of the screaming flat six unit echoing through the trees. I wish you were there with me to hear it.
I now understood exactly what Ralf’s smile meant when he handed me the keys to the car. This is not a mass-produced product – it’s the vision of a racer who knew exactly what he wanted. This car simply sweats personality and attitude.
There are two sets of esses on the circuit where I could get my feelers out and see how the car felt on turn-in. With a limited slip differential at the back, it was surprising how predictably and smoothly the rear end stepped out on power. Despite the wide rear axle and fat tires, there is no snap-oversteer here.
This is a very popular stretch of road for motorcyclists, and occassionally there are a few people on bicycles out and about too. I always had to keep them in mind, and not be too much of a nuisance to them.
It is unbelievable just how much presence this car has in person – especially with that massive race wing at the back. There isn’t much sound deadening left inside the cabin, but from the outside you could hear that familiar Porsche howl even more clearly.
Dipping in and out of the tree cover with the warm evening sun in my face, this was a moment that I let myself sink into.
I spent the whole day lapping the old circuit by myself, eventually reaching out to my friend Robert who works for Porsche Motorsport in Stuttgart to come by and help me with driving while I captured the tracking shots you see here.
Like all good things, this day too had to eventually come to an end, so we pulled over at the start/finish tower to swap cars once again.
As the sun went down we headed home with a card full of images and a smile on the inside.
This was about the point where the story was supposed to end, except this time it isn’t. There is something else I want to share with all of you…Speedhunter Meets Rev Limiter
Rewinding to the time when I was picking the car up, I distinctly remember how Ralf waxed lyrical about the incredibly stable suspension setup that meant the car would track straight and true as if it were on rails.
So on my drive back from Heilbronn where I live, to Munich in order to return the car, I thought I might as well try and figure out what he was on about. I know the stretch of Autobahn between Augsburg and Munich quite well, so this was the perfect place to see what the Biest could throw at me in terms of flat-out bahnstorming. I didn’t look at the speedometer, but eventually the acceleration slowed down at around 280km/h. One quick glance and I noticed I still had revs left to go on the gauge and asphalt in front of me. My right foot wasn’t going anywhere.
Because of the uprated engine management, Ralf had bypassed the default Porsche shift lamp and installed a second auxiliary LED indicating the new rev limit at 8,000rpm. It felt like an eternity, but then I noticed a bright red glow in the corner of my eye. I had hit the rev limiter, albeit with a short ratio gearbox, in top gear. The speedometer clocked a clean 300km/h.
There was nothing more the car could give, so I slowly eased off the throttle and rolled into the next rest stop a few kilometres down the route. As it ticked itself cool, I pulled myself out and spent a good long moment in silence with the black Biest, drenched in sweat, with my arms shaking and my lips tingling from adrenaline overload. I put the camera away and drove on towards Munich.
We all have things we do and experience that leave a strong mark behind. Some life changing, others less so. But to each of us these moments are an invaluable part of life, even if no one else will ever ‘get it’.
And this is why one day, when I am old and weak in an old age home, this will be one such experience I’ll be looking back to and smiling to myself about.