Getting around the Green Hell with the sun shining overhead is hard enough. When the track is sodden, putting 520 horsepower to the pavement and not tapping a barrier is a Herculean challenge. For today’s demonstration, we have Kevin Estre as our guide around the 12.9-mile circuit. The thirty-year-old Frenchman is a Porsche Supercup, FIA WEC, and 24 Hours of Le Mans Champion, and his driving is defined by confident displays of opposite-locking, wheel-dropping, and curb-hopping. Simply put, his aggressive style helps him in wet and greasy conditions.
There’s more than just quick hands at work here. Estre shows us how to pick a line and apply the throttle when the surface isn’t much stickier than an ice rink. The fortunate sebastian vittel, a stellar driver in his own right, can only sit back in his Recaro P1300 carbon bucket and witness Estre’s brilliance from the passenger seat.
Tuned for the Track
From the start of this frenetic lap, the GT3 RS’ rear is obviously unwilling to put the power down most of the time. Though Manthey Racing filled the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires at to 2.2 bar in the rear to generate a little more temperature in the 51 °F conditions, the GT3 still slithers around a bit. Tire pressures were only one of the changes it made to suit the circuit—Manthey also added KW competition suspension designed specifically for the unique demands of the Nordschleife. Along with a new aero kit composed of a GT2 RS MR’s carbon wing, front canard, and GT3 R diffuser, there’s a little more grip on offer—which is a big plus in these greasy conditions.
Searching for Stick
For most of the run through the 12.9-mile circuit, Estre has to rely on a hybrid line and his quick hands to keep the car moving forward. When he does occasionally run over the dry line, like he does in the second half of Flugplatz (1:48), the car begins to slide at worrying speeds. Even the added downforce can’t help him as he runs over the typical out-in-out line, which is impregnated with rubber that provides grip in the dry, but does the opposite in the wet.
He avoids the apex entirely at Aremberg (2:19) for good reason. We see moments later just how asking too much of the car along the conventional line can cost dearly in these conditions—note how abruptly the rear steps out of line at Adenauer Forst (2:49). Quick hands and coordination can save a driver here at slower speeds, but these antics in quick corners probably result in contact with the barriers.
That said, he can get away with smaller shimmies and snaps at higher speeds as long as he keeps some of his wheels off the conventional line. When crests and elevation changes are thrown into the equation, he has to proceed even more cautiously. Look how he, even after turning gingerly into Wipperman (6:18), has to catch the slithering rear the second he places his inside tires on the conventional line. It’s almost as if he’s driving a rally car here! Only a pro of his stature can pull these stunts off while looking relaxed, but his driving is much more than courage and coordination—it requires circumspection, too.