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Porsche's 911 GT3 celebrates 21 years

Porsche's 911 GT3 celebrates 21 years

Porsche's most purist 911 turns 21 and we fondly look back at its lineage

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We at TopGear Magazine SA are unapologetically stern fans of the Porsche 911 and more so the motorsport derived GT3 variants. So, as the model lineage turns an “independent adult” 21 years old this year, we thought it would be appropriate to look back into our rear view mirror at the history of the 911 GT3. 

As purveyors of one of the most iconic sportscars in the world, Porsche has always laid down the gauntlet, proven its mettle over the past 57 years with its 911 model, which to this day remains the perennial sportscar. The familiar silhouette of the model remains, but under the skin each successive model has become more efficient, more powerful and bristling with the latest technology. In my books, the 911’s success in this regard is in its packaging, where every aspect of the car works in unison to extract the best possible performance. As a result, and in my personal experience, the 911 has always managed to be all things to everyone, punching well above its weight in the metaphorical boxing ring.

Thanks to the company’s racing heritage, plans were afoot to launch a variant of the 911 that had motorsport genes deep tissue massaged into its makeup. So, when the proverbial veils came off the first-generation Porsche 911 (codenamed 996) GT3 at the 1999 Geneva Motor Show, the Stuttgart firm had decidedly created a new breed of sportscar. Inspired by Porsche’s Motorsport arm, the then latest GT3 essentially took the company’s peerless motorsport engineering and know-how and distilled it into a package that was road-legal and yet could be driven to and back from the racetrack on a whim. The brainchild of two-time World Rally Champion Walter Röhrl, race engineer Roland Kussmaul and the Porsche Motorsport specialists from Weissach, the GT3 remains the purist’s choice in the 911 range, thanks to its hallmark DNA such as a normally aspirated engine, rear-wheel drive and manual transmission.  


The precursor to the 911 GT3, the inimitable ‘70s Carrera RS (Race Sport) 2.7 was a lighter and more powerful version of the Carrera variants of the era and pandered to the purist driver. Alas, a two-decade long hiatus followed thereafter before the advent of the GT3 in 1999, which set to rewrite the sportscar rulebooks. Based on the GT race series cars, the first generation GT3 was a marvel to many. Many of its design provisos, which still ring true to this day, are the rear deck spoiler and a hunkered down profile (lower than the standard 911) hinting at its dynamic disposition and racing pedigree. Incremental performance improvements were introduced with every succeeding model, at intervals between three or four years.

Initially delivering 265kW form its 3.6-litre flat-six powerplant, the original model was at the time endowed with some sizeable muscle, but it was its dynamic prowess and lightweight construction that set it apart the most. Since then, the GT3 has remained the most visceral and involving model with the most recent model (991.2) thumping out 350 kW – in standard guise - from a 4-litre flat-six engine that revs to the heavens (read: 9,000 r/min). Having admired the GT3 from the side lines since its inception back in 2000, it was the aforementioned 991.2 variant that I finally managed to get behind the wheel of and, to be frank, it delivered on the promise and then some. 

Driving a 911 GT3 enthusiastically should be classified as the eighth wonder of the world – yes, it really is that good. It offers such tactile driving sensations that few cars in its class can emulate. From the communicative, granular feel of the steering’s feedback, to the prodigious, leechlike grip of those low-profile tyres – it is the sum of these that gives it its dynamic disposition. However, the jewel in the crown remains the GT3’s normally aspirated engine. Like an experienced musician’s voice, it has tiers to the way it delivers its melodic tune. At low revs it has a bass-like soprano note that engulfs the cabin, but as the revs rise and it clears its throat, it shifts into a shrilling crescendo that will have the hairs on your arms and back stand on end. It remains a golden thread weaving through each generation of the GT3 and a fundamental element of the model’s infinite charm.

Personally, I have driven a great number of sportscars in my motoring career, but very few have come close to getting under my skin and turning on the charm to such lofty levels as the GT3 has mustered. It is, simply put, the holy grail of the Porsche 911 scriptures and the one to have if you desire unadulterated, purist driving thrills. Here’s to another 21 years of Flacht's most captivating Porsche 911 series. 

*Be on the lookout for our review of the outgoing Porsche 911 GT3 RS soon.


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