Performance Cars

Porsche 911 GT3 and GT2 RS: A tale of two track-day demons

Two of the world's greatest track-focused weapons head out for a day at one of America's most demanding circuits, creating a recipe for record-breaking delights.

Porsche

The world is not lacking for track-day toys right now and, as far as I'm concerned, that is a wonderful thing. On the (relatively) affordable side, you have machines like Mazda's MX-5 Cup car, which can be had for $58,000, ready to race. On the high end? Cars like the $1.2-million McLaren Senna GTR or the $2.3-million Aston Martin Vulcan will do a very effective job of dominating your next local open track session while simultaneously depriving your heirs of their inheritance.

Somewhere in the middle of those extremes lie a pair of offerings from Porsche, two cars capable of doing very impressive things on the race track while offering the added convenience of being road-legal. The cars are the Porsche GT3 RS and the GT2 RS. In name, they're separated by just one digit, but when it comes time to put the pedal down, there's a lot more than that between them.

Porsche 911 GT3 RS

The Porsche 911 GT3 RS on its record-breaking run around Road Atlanta.

Porsche

Porsche 911 GT3 RS

We'll start with the numbers: The 911 GT3 RS is an up-rated, track-focused version of the 911 that delivers 520 horsepower and can sprint from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just 3 seconds. Its engine, a 4.0-liter flat-six, does its thing without turbochargers, meaning its power delivery is as pure and sweet as the song it sings on the way up to the 9,000-rpm redline.

The GT3 RS weighs in at 3,153 pounds, more than 200 pounds lighter than a base 911. That's again thanks to that lack of turbocharging, plus numerous lightweight bits like carbon-fiber bodywork, a magnesium roof and a titanium exhaust. You can even opt for magnesium wheels if your pockets are as deep as your hate for unsprung mass.

All these changes, plus a track-focused suspension and bare-bones interior, conspire to create a machine that feels immensely comfortable when pushed to the limit. Sure, it's a better-than-serviceable on-road car, but only on the track can you really begin to see what it can do.

That track on this day was Road Atlanta, one of the most challenging road courses we have in the US of A. It's not so much tight and twisty as it is sinuous and unrelenting, a place where even the longest "straight" is far from straight. Just as you're approaching v-max along the straightest portion of track, the asphalt swings right (Turn 9) and begins a steep descent, just the sort of off-camber profile that makes a car loose and a driver nervous when the speedometer is pushing 160 mph.

But, far and away the most pucker-inducing moment of a given lap around Road Atlanta comes in the dramatic downhill sweep through Turns 11 and 12. Twelve takes you onto the short front straight, which is bordered by a concrete wall immediately to the left. It's that wall that dominates your entire field of view as you scream downhill into Turn 12, and it's that wall that will abruptly end your day should you make the smallest of mistakes.

Thankfully, the GT3 RS made quick work of those corners and more, proving eminently planted and reassuring despite the many bumps and imperfections that just add to the character of Road Atlanta. The car is frighteningly quick at times, but the nose never feels anything but light and responsive, swimming in grip and willing to do anything you want.

Indeed, it's the rear you need to be careful of, as a lot of the car's mass is hanging out back. That means if you have to make a correction you'd better do it quickly. Thankfully, a raft of safety systems are always alert and ready to save your bacon -- without ruining your fun.

Chasing three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Hurley Haywood through The Esses at Road Atlanta and down the back straight was an awesome experience in the true sense of the word, but the GT3 was meant to be just the appetizer.

Porsche 911 GT2 RS Road America

The GT2 RS may be one lower in number, but it's more bonkers in every way.

Porsche

Porsche 911 GT2 RS

You can think of the 911 GT2 RS as a GT3 with more. More power, specifically -- a whopping 690 horses worth, bringing the 0-to-60 time down to 2.7 seconds and the top speed up to 211. All that comes at a penalty of less than 100 pounds (3,241 vs. 3,153), and of course an extra $100,000. At $293,200 (plus $1,050 destination) the GT2 RS is not cheap, but the kind of performance it offers is absolutely on-par with supercars costing far more.

First impression of the GT2 RS at speed on the track? Sheer brutality. This car is a monster, and it's more than happy to let you know who's boss. Though the GT2 feels every bit as planted as the GT3, when trying to put the power down I've never been more thankful for a comprehensive traction and stability-control system.

Even upshifts on the GT2 RS feel more brutal than on the GT3, and they come quicker, too. The maximum rpm here is 7,200. That's plenty high in the grand scheme of things, but compared to the GT3 RS's screaming redline, I did feel like I was short-shifting a bit.

Despite the extra weight, the nose on the GT2 RS felt just as responsive as that on the GT3, though this car seemed to react even more positively to trailbraking. A light drag of the brakes into the apex really making it feel like a rock on a string. And then, when I got back on the straight and put my right foot down -- hot damn, did it fly.

Which is the right choice?

OK, so let's say you're in the delightfully privileged position to be choosing between these two. Which do you go for? Well, the good news is that you can't go wrong. Beyond that, it's a question of priorities.

If you want the fastest, then clearly that's the 911 GT2 RS. The day before my own sessions at Road Atlanta, Randy Pobst set a blistering new production lap record of 1 minute, 24.88 seconds in the GT2.

The GT3, however, wasn't far behind, at 1:26.24. In fact, both cars broke the previous record of 1:26.45, also set by Pobst but in a 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 -- a car with 755 horsepower, 235 more than the GT3 and 65 more than the GT2.

Neither, then, will be lacking for speed. The GT3 is the more manageable one on the track, a bit more nimble and responsive and welcoming to drivers who perhaps need a little encouragement to get up to speed. The GT2 RS, meanwhile, is borderline terrifying at times, which is quite thrilling but in a different sort of way.

Me? I'd take the GT3 RS in Lava Orange, then would put the $100,000 savings toward all the Michelin Cup 2 R tires I'd need to make beautiful, 9,000-rpm music around all my favorite tracks.


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