To the casual observer the latest RS version of Porsche’s Carrera GT3 is the perfect excuse for cynicism, especially when anyone tries to attach value to the numbers.
The team that developed the car is the same one that created the last three, and such exclusive experience - not to mention continuity - has just created the most extreme RS version of the already extreme GT3 version of the latest 911.
They have designed new inlet and exhaust systems which allow the engine to push out 15bhp more, or three per cent, more than the GT3, the track is half an inch wider to accommodate half-inch wider wheels and wider, specially developed sticky tyres which don’t work below 10 degrees.
There are also a new nose and tail with that boy racer’s rear wing, looking for all the world if it has been borrowed from a real race car. Which, of course, it has.
That’s not to mention the weight reduction programme whose details read like an obsessive’s bible, eliminating a kilo here and a gram there and which shaves a mere 55lb from the standard GT3 - unless you opt for the lithium-ion battery, which saves another 22lb at a cost of £1,268. Maybe better not look at the scales when you’re next down the gym...
The rear window is plastic and doesn’t open, there’s no radio or aircon (unless you ask for it), no electric seats, no soundproofing, no door handles, no wheelbrace... And it costs £104,841, or an extra £19,277 over the “standard” GT3 but reaches a similar top speed because its lower gearing is more suited to racing use. You could ask what use is 192mph on a British A-road anyway.
There’s much more - enough to fill the 116-page hardback book which accompanies the car - but if you are shaking your head in disbelief at any of the aforementioned, you will not be one of the handful of dedicated souls collecting the keys for their new GT3 RS this year, and you will definitely not be heading to a racing circuit, where most will exercise it.
And if, as a working journalist, you were tempted to ask Herr Preuninger, the GT cars project manager, the point of any of the above, best not do that either. His sense of humour failure over a previously polite supper was spectacular.
The RS concept is something of a religion and Andreas Preuninger is a passionate convert, and has been for a decade.
Porsche has been involved in motorsport since its inception in 1948, and because motorsport regulations have always insisted that GT racers must be based on a production car, the lighter and better specified they can make it, the easier it is to turn a road-going car into a competitive racer. Only more recently, however, has RS become a road car brand.
In the early years, the RS badge made only sporadic appearances; the first time on the glorious lightweight 2.7-litre RS of 1973 - which is now worth nearly as much as the new one - then staying for a few years until the mid 1970s before largely disappearing until the last of the aircooled models came out in the 1990s.
Different times maybe, but soon “RS” was the differentiator for all the most extreme versions; in 2003 and the first watercooled 996-series 911 models, followed by a 997 version in 2006.
This year’s RS version of the 2009-model GT3 is the most focused yet and has promptly claimed the lap record for Porsche road models at the Nürburgring.
In the light of the above, and Porsche having carved the niche it has, it’s not surprising that this year’s allocation of less than 40 right-hand drive cars are all spoken for, but looking back, it is interesting to see the problem RS branding has given Porsche’s engineers in today’s marketplace.
The GT3 is already something of an ultimate in a very small market and as project manager Preuninger points out, any GT3 has always been as good as they can make it at the time. Making the engine substantially faster he says, is close to impossible, and he knows it is all too easy to make the suspension too stiff for the bumps of a public road.
It still won’t make sense to the casual observer, but if you research the amount of engineering necessary to set the RS apart from even the GT3, let alone the rest of the range, you can see why it costs more. Then you can marvel that Porsche as a company is still willing to let it happen. For the moment anyway...
The more surprising thing about this year’s RS is not so much its speed - which is the subject of no doubt whatsoever - but its civilised demeanour outside the Nürburgring.
The specially developed computer-controlled suspension allows the wheels some more movement before retraining the body, and an engine filled with expensive racer’s hardware will trickle through traffic without complaint.
And of course there’s the Carrera’s traditionally compact dimensions and quirkily rear-mounted engine which allow a good view over the nose in city traffic.
The new RS is easier to turn into a race car, and it is the fastest ever of its ilk, but it is far more comfortable than the models it has succeeded.
All of which begs the question, how will they make the next one even better? I’ll be careful how I ask the question...
Porsche GT3 RS 2010
Price/availability £104,871/on sale now
Tested Porsche GT3 RS, with rear-mounted, horizontally-opposed, all-aluminium alloy 3,797cc six, with double overhead camshafts, constantly variable timing and four valves per cylinder. Six-speed gearbox in rear mounted transaxle, rear-wheel drive.
Power/torque 450bhp @ 7,900rpm/ 317lb ft @ 6,750rpm.
Top speed 192mph
Acceleration 0-62mph in 4.0sec
Fuel economy (Urban) 14.6mpg
C02 emissions 314g/km
On the stereo Nothing.
Verdict Utterly focused, ultimate refinement of the original rear-engine concept. Blisteringly fast, yet surprisingly civilised – nearly the best of both worlds.