When GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series merged ahead of the 2014 season, the new rules structure meant that it was time for a brand new Porsche 911 for the GT racing scene. Based on the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, Porsche Motorsport introduced the 470 hp -"GT America" in August of 2013, well before the IMSA GTD Class ("GT Daytona") rules were finalized!
The interest in the class was immense, with some 29 examples of the GT machines taking the green flag at the 2014 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Magnus Racing brought the GT America its first GTD victory one race later in the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Enter The 911 GT3R
Following the successful move by Pirelli World Challenge in 2015, IMSA made the decision to adapt the GTD class to the globally-recognized GT3 platform in 2016. Enter the 911 GT3R. Once again, GTD was well-subscribed with some seven different manufacturers represented among 22 starters in the 2016 Rolex 24.
With 500 hp on tap, a longer wheelbase, traction control, ABS, and a significant aerodynamic package, the 911 GT3R provided a lot of performance for the drivers in the pro-am class.
The Black Swan 911 GT3R scored second place in the Rolex 24, with the car seeing its first IMSA victory lane at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last weekend as Spain's Alex Riberas and Mario Farnbacher of Germany scored a dominating victory for Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing.
When Patrick Long, who brought the new 911 GT3R its first North American victory with a win in Pirelli World Challenge competition at the Circuit of the Americas in March, was asked what the five biggest differences were between the old, he was quick to outline the key differentiators:
- Traction Control
- Improved safety
- Improved drivability
"The new GT3RS is much more user friendly car (than the GT America) for both pros and for amateurs," said Long. "The predictability is better, the compliance and the damping is better. For the pros, you have to push harder to get it to the edge, as it is more like a GTLM car. For the amateurs, the performance gap between them and the pros is narrower because it is so much more user-friendly of a platform."
Asked the same question, Ian James, who drove a GT America to victory in the 2015 Sebring 12 Hours, had a startlingly similar response.
"The biggest difference, number one, is downforce," said James. "There is a considerable more amount of downforce on the GT3R, probably 50% more than the GT America. Secondly, with the ABS brakes, you can brake a lot later and it is a lot easier to push deep into a braking zone. Traction control helps, and looks after the tire better. The car has a wider track, so it is more stable.
"The general ergonomics inside, is very similar in the GT3R as the GT America, but it is stiffer, and feels more like a real purebred racer, rather than an adapted road car."
When asked which he'd prefer to lap with, James didn't hesitate.
"The GT3R is much more rewarding to drive. The GT America was a good car, but it was really limited by the front tire width," said James. "The GT3R has a wider front tire, so you can really push the front of the car and really attack the corners. With the GT America, you just couldn't attack and it was all about being smooth. As far a pure enjoyment? The driver likes to just get after it, and that's what you can do with the new car!"
James will be doing that next at Watkins Glen International on the track's newly repaved surface for the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen on July 3rd.
About the author: Matt Cleary first saw an IndyCar at speed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a seven year old, and it made an impression that has lasted a lifetime. His motorsport passion grew to endurance sports car racing, and naturally, all things Porsche. Having worked as an instructor at the Skip Barber Racing School, Cleary is better at explaining how best to drive fast than he is at actually doing so.