DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – There are conflicting forces at work as the 2008 Porsche 911 GT2 I’m driving climbs high on the steep banks of Daytona International Speedway. There is a question of life or death. The wire fences built on top of the sturdy walls – meant to keep cars or parts of them from flying out of the track – aren’t exactly reassuring.
Then there is a seeming contradiction in physics. The steepest banked turns are 31 degrees. Speed must be maintained or a car will drift down the banks. It feels as though you might fall out of the driver’s window and roll onto the infield below. At the highest speeds, however, G-forces pushing to the outside make it feel as though your right cheek wants to leave your face. Fortunately, my face was kept in place by a helmet.
And yet, as we continued to navigate the banks, straight stretches of the speedway, and the road course that twists through the infield, the most insistent advice I received from my instructor, world-class racer David Murry, was: “Full throttle, full throttle, full throttle!”
I don’t know how fast we actually traveled because I couldn’t take my eyes off the track as it seemed to vaporize in front of me. But I do know this: The Porsche 911 GT2 is a monster car. And a safe one, too. It’s the third generation of the GT2 – the first version was introduced in 1995 – and it is the first 911 to have a top speed of more than 200 miles per hour. It takes it just 3.6 seconds to go from standing to 60 miles per hour, thanks to a launch assist system that lets you hold the gas pedal to the floor for full power, then pop the clutch.
The car weighs just over 3,000 pounds, owing to the liberal use of aluminum, carbon fiber (which saves 20 pounds in each of the two seats), and ceramic brakes, which are 40 pounds lighter than regular brakes.
To those who have watched it fly down the Daytona straightaway, the GT2 resonates like a jet. The overwhelming sound comes from a 3.6-liter, horizontally opposed engine. The muscle it produces is sent through a six-speed manual transmission whose first three gears get eaten up immediately by its ferocious power.
The car comes equipped with Porsche’s renowned VarioCam Plus system, which allows valves to open to different apertures, depending on demand, providing what seem like gears between gears when speed is the goal. There is also a twin-turbocharger system that features variable vanes for air input, depending on demand.
In addition, this model features a new intake manifold. In simplest terms, it is a variable system that pumps cooler air to the engine, leading to more explosive chamber bursts.
Ram air ducts beneath and on the outer edges of the rear wing serve to funnel cool air to the engine compartment, and massive air intakes on the nose and behind the doors help cool multiple radiators and the brakes. Active stability, suspension, and traction controls make this a safe drive even for nonprofessionals.
Since this is virtually a race-ready car (the roll bar mounts are included), the interior is relatively Spartan. There are only two seats. (Our tester had hard cups, but softer versions are available.)
Still, with a gripping material called Alcantra on the seats and steering wheel, fine leather touches, and typical Porsche fit and finish, this race car could also serve as a daily driver. But it is so much fun on the racetrack, where a driver can accelerate with each lap as he learns the course and learns to trust the car.
If you’re interested in the GT2, be forewarned: Porsche will build just 1,500 2008 models and only 200 of them for North America.
And the price? Around $200,000. But hey, that’s only about $1,000 for every mile per hour.
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