The opportunity to drive any Porsche on a track brings with it a solid degree of excitement and anticipation. The chance to drive the 2022 Porsche 911 GT3 and all-new 2021 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car at Road Atlanta sent my anticipation pretty much off the charts.
I am quite familiar with the Road Atlanta race track, but Porsche had factory race driver Patrick Long — driving a 911 Turbo S — to lead me around. I’ve known Pat for many years, even as a teammate driving the Black Swan Porsche 911 GT3-R in 2016. Having recently tested the new 911 Turbo S, I was genuinely looking forward to the challenge of staying with Pat around one of the fastest and highest-pucker-factor-per-minute tracks in the US.
The new GT3 weighs just 11 pounds more than the last version. It took tremendous attention to detail on Porsche’s part to keep the weight down on the new car. Pounds were shaved from the exhaust system, battery, wheels, brakes, interior liner and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic hood, and the new GT3 has a rear seat delete option, less sound deadening, lightweight glass and a lighter rear fascia.
This is, without a doubt, the finest Porsche GT3 to date. I can’t imagine how good the RS is going to be.
Crucially, the GT3 can be optioned with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires at the dealer level. The street-legal Cup 2 R is quite a bit stickier than the regular Cup 2, enough to shave off a couple of seconds per lap at Road Atlanta. This bespoke-for-GT3 Michelin Cup 2 R now uses exactly the same race rubber as the GT3 Cup racing slick tire. I had well-used Michelin Cup 2 R tires for my track runs and they held on exceptionally well, especially in left-to-right transitions, under steady state lateral loads and while negotiating Road Atlanta’s high-speed surface undulations.
As for the GT3 itself, the changes with the most positive effects for me include the 1.9-inch wider front track, the double-wishbone front axle (adapted from the 911 RSR race car), 10-millimeter wider tires, up to 150% more downforce at 124 mph and bigger brakes. The new car has even more steering feel and better overall balance, which allows the driver to use a faster steering rate and create even more cornering speed with less unwanted chassis movement. All of this produces even more confidence, connection and driving enjoyment for the driver. This is, without a doubt, the finest Porsche GT3 to date. I can’t imagine how good the RS is going to be.
On my run in the GT3 Cup race car, I would have an open track, as a leading GT3 or Turbo S street car, even in the hands of Pat Long, is not fast enough to stretch the legs of the GT3 Cup.
Before the event, Porsche informed me there were no media GT3 Cup cars. The car I tested belongs to Ryan Gates and his 311 RS Motorsport race team. The team has two of the new Cups, one raced by Ryan, the other driven by top pro racer Leh Keen. It was Leh’s race car I used for the test — a brave man indeed.
As you enter the GT3 Cup, you’re met with a stripped interior, multifunction yoke-style steering wheel, a 10.3-inch color monitor, a six-point harness system and a full roll cage. The whole scene pretty much screams race car. Once you fire it up, using the red engine start button — which of course sits on the left side of the steering wheel — the 4.0-liter flat-six rumble pretty much screams Porsche. Clutch in, pull the right shift paddle into first and off I go. It’s loud, and gloriously so. The Cup’s engine (510 horsepower) is basically identical to the street-legal GT3 (502 hp). However, when you get on the gas, the Cup car pulls measurably harder, which comes down to an almost 400-pound weight difference between the two cars. The GT3 Cup weighs only 2,772 pounds.
The lighter weight, fabulous gearbox, sweet motor, improved downforce, new-for-2021 antilock brakes and bespoke 18-inch Michelin race tires stand out as the most noticeable changes on the new GT3 Cup. Braking and corner turn-in are impressive and immediate. I’m essentially dynamiting the ABS and barreling into the trail-braking corners like a lunatic, yet the car stays right with me. Challenging the tires, any power-on oversteer during corner exit (GT3 Cup cars have no traction control) is easily controlled with quick steering inputs.
Jumping from GT3 to GT3 Cup does not require me to retune my head.
The suspension improvements really improve communication to the driver through the steering wheel. The Cup lets the driver know exactly what their inputs are doing, easily meeting any surprises with greater control. This GT3 Cup race car is simply the best Cup car I’ve ever driven, and I’ve driven the last four generations. It demands 100% driver involvement and is as lively, fun and challenging as ever. Many thanks to Ryan, Leh and the 311 RS Motorsports team for giving me enough laps to have a solid understanding of the car.
The 2022 Porsche 911 GT3 is not a race car. It is a fabulously capable sports car for the street, with the pedigree and ability to run on a race track all day, producing lap times many GT race cars from just a decade ago would be hard-pressed to match. The 2021 GT3 Cup is certainly a full-on race car and feels like it. However, jumping from one to the other does not require me to retune my head. The comfortably familiar view out both windshields, the scream of the flat-six engine and brilliant steering feel all confirm the common lineage — and plastered a huge smile on my face.
Editors’ note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow’s staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.
Gallery: The greatest cars that went from race track to road (Autocar)