Porsche 911 GT3 RS 991.1

Porsche 911 GT3 RS 991.1

It’s the most populous Porsche Rennsport of all time, and for good reason. Total 911 presents the full dossier on the 991.1 GT3 RS, with technical and market insights from specialists Written by Kieron Fennelly. Photography by Damian Blades.


Porsche Index: 991.1 GT3 RS

Your comprehensive guide to the most populous Porsche Rennsport of all time


The Rennsport moniker was first applied to the 1973 Carrera 2.7 RS, and ‘RS’ would become the epitome of the lightened and simplified competition-oriented 911. After a pause of 18 years, two more RS versions followed, the 964 and 993 RSs, before Porsche switched its 911 racing focus to GT3 competition for the advent of water-cooling. The production 996 GT3 in 1999 was initially a standalone model, but in 2003 an RS version was added. With harder suspension, Cup manifolds (raising power by about 15bhp) and optional Clubsport cabin, the 996 RS was almost too extreme for street use, but it established a template for the three subsequent versions of the 997 GT3 RS. The RS would be a dynamically enhanced GT3, not necessarily much lighter or more powerful, but offering considerably more competition technology and aerodynamics. The final 997 RS 4.0 was a limited edition special with no GT3 equivalent.

Porsche knew that expectations would be high for the 991.1 GT3 RS. The previous 4.0, ‘the last Mezger’, had left fans ecstatic. They would not be disappointed: with pressure release vents in its front wings, a competition-height front spoiler and a spectacular full-width rear wing, the new 991 GT3 RS looked special indeed. Underneath that sensational exterior, topped by a magnesium roof with double-bubble profile, was an equally sensational engine: instead of sharing the GT3’s 3.8, an impressive unit in its own right, Andreas Preuninger’s engineers had increased the bore to 102mm to make a round 4.0 litres.

Historically important because of the final hallowed 997 RS, this bespoke engine bore no relation to the revered ‘Mezger’, which in any case Porsche was no longer equipped to make in volume. Compared with the '9A1' 3.8 from which it was derived, its innards had been reworked with different camshafts, valve springs and pistons, and revised oilways. Above all it used a crankshaft from the same heat-treatable steel alloy as the 919’s.

An exotic brew of remelted steel with elements of vanadium, molybdenum, carbon and chrome, usually supplied by Böhler Edelstahl to jet-engine builders, this material was, as Preuninger put it, “a highly clean metal that is melted and solidified several times to get it as pure as possible and more durable. It makes it a horrendously expensive part, but it works.” Rated at 500PS (493bhp) Preuninger indicated that the real output was nearer 515PS.

The 991.1 GT3 RS’s aerodynamics were a visible advance on those of the 997 GT3 RS 3.8, and they were effective too: intensive wind tunnel testing showed venting the front wings alone contributed massively to frontend downforce, balancing the rear downforce of the big spoiler. This overcame the previous tendency of the steering to lose precision because the spoiler was pressing the rear axle down so hard. At 150kph, the new RS generated half its possible downforce, which was already more than the RS 4.0 achieved at 300kph. A rear steering axle, an option on lesser 991s, was standard.

THE VALUES STORY

The 991.1 GT3’s well-publicised connecting rod problem, graphically demonstrated by the fires that consumed two cars in early 2013, meant the launch of the RS version was delayed by nearly a year and the car was not finally shown until Geneva in March 2015. With the 991.2 range already on the horizon, this meant the 991.1 GT3 RS enjoyed a career of less than two years, but it proved popular: Porsche had intended to make about 2,000 units, but ended up delivering well over 4,500 and outselling the base GT3. An estimated 400 RSs were allocated to the UK with a base price of £131,296, while the Euro price was €181,960. Most UK cars ended up costing nearer £150,000 with common options. Demand for the 911 GT3 RS, absent from the market since the 997 RS 4.0 in 2011, pushed resale prices beyond £200,000, with some touching £300,000 in the height of 2015's flipper-fest madness. The advent of the 991.2 GT3 RS in summer 2018 brought them back down to around £140,000, and prices have held fairly firm in this bracket for the last year or so.

RIGHT Compulsory PDK-sport transmission brought lightning-quick shifts. Pit speed limiter button was a mere gimmick, however.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

Those fortunate correspondents invited to try the new RS at Bilster Berg in summer 2015 anticipated they would need their full repertoire of superlatives. They had not underestimated. The acceleration was reported as “electrifying”, 100mph in 7.7 seconds and 160mph in 23 seconds, Autocar would later record, praising the Porsche’s “fluent, poised, gregarious, multi-faceted track handling.” Veteran Porsche observer Andrew Frankel went into more detail: “Grip levels are withering, the steering as good as anything with electric assistance, and traction from those sticky Michelins is simply superb. This is a car with a level beyond any 911 I have driven, and I don’t mean just grip. A level that lets you drive it in another way and reach an intensity of experience no GT3 has ever imagined let alone approached.” Frankel remarked though that the RS was “not an easy car to drive extremely fast, and if you’re not going to drive extremely fast, then there is little point in having one. The RS will challenge you as a driver and not be shy about punishing your mistakes.”

BUYING ONE

991.1 GT3 RSs are now five-year-old cars. If there are fewer on the market than the later 991.2 version, this is because most of them are in the hands of their third owners, who tend to keep them longer. This is the view of Mark Sumpter of Paragon Porsche who had his own GT3 RS from 2016-18, during which he drove it 6,000 miles. Sumpter points out that with almost 500bhp, which equates to 120bhp/litre, this is extraordinary output for a naturally aspirated production engine. Its highly strung nature requires more consideration than other cars, but many owners fail to recognise this, especially when it comes to running in.

“I went to the factory to collect mine,” he recounts. “I always enjoy doing that anyway, but bringing it back immediately puts a steady 1,000 miles on the clock. People no longer seem to realise the importance of running in, of increasing engine speeds gradually. You still need to do that – the engine has to bed in properly for long-term reliability. I also take issue with Porsche’s service schedule which leaves the first oil change until 20,000 miles or two years. I’ll drop the oil after the first thousand.” Sumpter also feels some drivers tend to over-rev cold engines, pointing out that Porsche now has a warning light not to exceed 3,000rpm until the oil has warmed up.

The message for potential buyers is that evidence of careful treatment in the car’s early days is very valuable. Then, as many GT3 RSs of this generation have covered relatively few miles, a service record based on time rather than mileage is important, especially if the car has seen track activity, as the majority probably have. Here records of work done on wheel bearings or suspension will give clues as to the extent of any track history. Inspecting any GT3 usually involves looking for signs of damage as the result of a track 'off'. On older GT3s, Paragon does not hesitate to pull up carpets to check the quality of any possible welding. Accident damage to an RS of this vintage may involve its carbon fibre parts, and repairs will not have been cheap, and required considerable precision. Evidence of a Porsche-approved body shop is essential.

A buyer should satisfy him or herself that options such as the front-lift work correctly, that ceramic discs (if fitted) show no sign of distress such as minute cracking; a four-wheel geometry test should be part of the sale. The plexiglass rear screen can deteriorate and windscreens should be examined too.

RIGHT The 991.1 RS was pre- Weissach Pack, but still came with a multi-material body including carbon front boot and magnesium roof. ABOVE Carbon-backed folding bucket seats offer brilliant lateral hold, as do the optional 918 fixed buckets.

DESIRABLE OPTIONS

The complete GT3 RS options list ran to 22 items, in total £26,000. The most important was undoubtedly the front axle lift (£2,700) which saves the imposing but vulnerable spoiler from premature demise. Porsche’s ceramic brakes, at £8,400, were the most expensive add-on and the air conditioning was an optional deletion. Any 911 gets hot inside so ‘aircon-delete’ is certainly worth avoiding.

A roll cage is part of the standard specification, painted black or orange, as are orange seat belts. The ‘Lava orange’ colour scheme which features in many of the factory’s pictures of its new baby set its owners back over £2,000, and the striking leather/Alcantara upholstery for the whole cabin cost an equally striking £2,650. Elegant though they are, owner feedback suggests the orange seats become grubby very quickly. At £1,400, the Sport Chrono Pack is an option worth seeking out for track day users.

INVESTMENT POTENTIAL

The 991.1 GT3 RS has already exhibited significant appreciation from new, with many owners nearly doubling their money when selling their delivery-miles RS in 2015. Those manic months are well behind us now, and many speculators late to the party have ended up ‘taking a bath’ on the 991.1 GT3 RS as values corrected and prices plummeted to sensible levels. Though it has Rennsport in its name, the 991.1 GT3 RS is not considered a true investment piece, save for a delivery-miles car with PTS and a handsome spec, due to the significant numbers produced. Built for driving, instead it is one of the best-value modern GT cars you can hope to buy.

TOTAL 911 VERDICT

Andrew Frankel concluded that there was space at the top for “a crazy car, one that takes you to the edge where you feel most alive. That car is the 991.1 GT3 RS.” Mark Sumpter, who has raced Porsches for 30 years and knows his GT3s, would not demur, but observes that the RS is so resolutely driver-focused, that it is not entirely practical day to day. “Over 18 months, I never minded taking it to a racing circuit as I frequently did, but its dimensions are awkward in town and it can attract rather too much attention, and I don’t think all that aero has any effect at speeds we can drive here. Visibility through the back is compromised by the wing and the cabin is noisy: it’s not a sociable 911.”

Essentially, the buyer has to be certain he or she really wants a Porsche as uncompromised as this. Many owners have tried it and quickly sold it on, which is why so many low-mileage cars – the phenomenon is now more apparent with the 991.2 RS – came on to the market in relatively short order. But if you can drive it extremely fast and bond with it as Frankel obviously could, the 991.1 GT3 RS experience is little short of sensational.

ABOVE Turbo-wide body used its side intakes to feed air directly to the engine for the first time on a 911 Rennsport

THANKS to First Choice Detailing for supplying the stellar example in our pictures. Formore information on FCD's services contact 01202 096096

“Built for driving, it is one of the best-value modern GT cars you can hope to buy”

MARKET RIVALS

At £140,000, the buyer has an intriguing range of other 911 possibilities.

997.1 GT3 RS

£149,950 is Paragon’s asking price for an exceptional 2007 22,000- mile 3.6 from 2007; elsewhere 3.6s and 3.8s are on offer below this. The 997 is a simpler, more analogue RS with the sought-after six-speed manual.

991.2 Turbo S

140k represents the very top price: a tiny-mileage ‘S’ Cabrio is advertised at £139,995, a 12,000- mile Coupé S comes in £15,000 below that: the Turbo S offers the same stupefying performance of the RS, serene where the RS is frenetic, and is the ultimate continent-crossing GT.

996 GT3 RS

Ashgood has a 32,000-mile, full-history car at £139,995: unyielding suspension makes this less attractive than the 997 RS as a road car, but its rarity (682 built in total) make this an attractive price and potential investment.

1971 2.2S

The classic choice at £140k is a Tuthill-fettled, but standard 2.2S Coupé offered by Julien Sumner. Early 911s offer immense driving satisfaction at legal speeds, yet are challenging enough, especially the almost competition-tuned 2.2 S, which develops its maximum torque at a heady 5,300rpm.

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