Coffee, lots of talk about Mk3 Golfs, VR6s, ABT manifolds and Schrick intakes. Oh, and six GT3s.
There are some days that I really struggle with an early morning flight out of London’s Heathrow airport, but this isn’t one of them. I’m walking to the check-in desk at British Airways’ ‘T5’ terminal to meet Mark and Ryan. Handshakes and hugs exchanged, we’re en route to the nearest place that serves breakfast, and most importantly, coffee.
We’re flying to Stuttgart to meet Benjamin and Alexander from the Porsche Museum, and despite knowing exactly what’s planned, it’s hard to comprehend that this is real life.
After a tactical nap on the plane, we land in Stuttgart and head to the museum. Yet more coffee, and inevitably, my weak bladder gets the better of me. You know you’re in a fantastic place when you ask where the bathroom is and the response from your host is a simple, “head down to the 930 flat nose and make a right.” Very good Beny, very good.
So why are we here? We’d arranged to interview a retired Porsche engineer. He went tyre testing, so Beny had to find something to pass a few hours. Being a Mk3 Golf nerd, I did wonder what Beny would come up with. Suffice to say, if you guessed that it was something quite good by the photos so far, you’d be right.
In 2019, I got so bored of seeing brands take ‘influencers’ on ritzy trips, only to see the same thoughtless stories plastered over Instagram by the same boring people more interested in themselves, than driving cars. In fact, the inbox on the Speedhunters account gets flooded with these cookie-cutter ‘press trip’ invites every week. While selfishly these trips are brilliant for a swanky hotel and air miles, it’s often difficult to tell a good story.
Thankfully, the Porsche Museum doesn’t mess about when it comes to cars and driving them.
Today there would be no fancy business class flights to Portimão, no race engineer with slicks checking tyre temps, and no ‘bespoke’ hashtag we’d be asked to use. Just a caffeine-fuelled drive to Weissach and back.
“You can drive whatever car you like today, as long as it’s a GT3,” smiles Beny. “We want you to experience the character of each and every GT3 generation, just to make sure that you get a feeling for them and how every gem is different. Take whichever one you like.”
Sounds very hospitable, but how much different would these cars be? There’s only one way to find out.
The team at Porsche are so confident in their GT3 cars that Beny and his colleagues had laid on the bare essentials: a packed lunch and a full tank of fuel.
Beny’s colleague, Alexander E. Klein (pictured above), explains, “The Porsche Museum is not your usual collection; we don’t specifically buy or seek cars that are original ‘first paint’ because we want them to be used and driven, so inevitably they get scratched and that would be a shame.”
These guys speak my language. I’m not into keeping the miles low on a car or worrying about a few stone chips. In fact, I kind of like them. But my love for wear and tear is a much deeper discussion, and one that we’ll save for another time. But by all means let me know if I’m weird in the comments.
Back to this dream-turned-reality and I’m heading towards the 997.2. So is Ryan. I get there first, so he’ll have to wait. And besides, Ryan’s driven loads of GT3s, whereas I don’t think I’ve ever driven one for more than a mile.
I’ve always wanted a 996.2 GT3 Clubsport and nearly bought one back in 2014, but got offered a great deal on a C63 AMG and snapped that up instead. Probably not the smartest financial move, but no regrets – I had loads of fun in that car. And that’s more important to me than speculating or making a profit on a car.
So, if I wanted a 996.2 so badly, why am I heading towards the 997.2. No clue, to be honest. Maybe it’s the coffee. Or perhaps it’s because I’ve stolen everyone’s chocolate bars – straight out of the packed lunches left on the passenger seats of these GT3s – and eaten half of them already. Have I had too much sugar? Who knows. Who cares? Let’s go.
Mark’s inevitably taken a 991.1 since the man’s obsessed with high-revving naturally aspirated motors. He’s a lunatic and goes flying off, no doubt working out how he’s going to get that perfect 9,000rpm shot. You can predictably see said image above this copy.
Ryan’s in the 996.1, which is good news. He’d have hated being in this 997.2 because that would have messed up his OCD for doing things in an orderly fashion.
I love driving cars. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fancy sports car or base-spec rental, I almost always enjoy the experience. Sometimes, though, I find myself looking for reasons to love a car. With the GT3, you don’t need to look for a reason. Each of these machines is logical. They all make sense in their own way.
“There’s a GT3 for every mood, a bit like having a wardrobe full of sharp suits for every occasion. Not that I know what that feels like,” says Ryan. He’s clearly high on his renewed love for the flat-six. I thought it was all about BMW? Clearly not because a few months after this trip and Ry’s just bought a 996 Turbo. Mark’s not as fickle, so let’s see what he thinks…
“There’s probably 1% of people in the world who can extract 90% of performance from a GT3, but 100% of people can enjoy one for the reasons above.
“The 991 cars are so damn quick it feels like 1: the GT3 I’d be able to drive, but 2: the one I feel least connected to because its performance is just so far beyond what I can realistically use. The 996 Gen 1 feels like a modified car; proper skunkworks. And you can 100% see what the engineers were trying to achieve.
“The 997.2 GT3 for me was the pinnacle. It felt properly fast, but mechanical enough to be in control, even though I think it was the 996.2 GT3 that I felt most comfortable driving fast.”
Weirdly, I also felt most comfortable driving the second-gen 996 GT3 quickly. Maybe it’s because of the size. It feels quite compact and is very easy to get on with.
It’s not like Mark to go into great detail about how he feels about something. No wait, I tell a lie.
“Basically, I assumed all GT3s would be much of a muchness and I also looked down on ‘em compared to the RS models. But I’d argue the GT3 has even more character. They have to be road and track cars – the RS gets a bit more of a free pass for being track focused. The GT3 is expected to do everything, and because of that each car’s character shines through. You could easily tick the comfort spec option and drive any of these daily.”
Each version of the GT3 has its own way of making your brain start listing reasons as to why it’s the ‘right car for you’. It doesn’t matter which one you’re driving – all of these Porsches make you feel good.
And you know what? I reckon we can all learn something from this Porsche approach to road testing: a packed lunch and a full tank of fuel. Where are you going?
I’d like to know about the best drive you’ve ever had. Doesn’t matter if it was 10 hours or a 10-minute journey home from work. Let us know in the comments.