Over the weekend of 28-30 March, on the WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca, the EBM team’s Porsche 911 GT3 R will be going all out to repeat its success in the Bathurst 12 hour race, the opening round of the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge held at the Australian Mount Panorama circuit. With this latest victory the Stuttgart car maker wrote a new chapter in its multiple award-winning sporting history, with its 911 GT3 on Pirelli P Zero tyres. Pirelli has been main sponsor of the GT Challenge since its inception in 2016 as well as the exclusive supplier of tyres to the cars taking part, and the company will continue this important mission into the future.
The 911 GT3 R, designed for the private racing stables competing in this year’s various GT3 championships, was unveiled last May. A derivative of the on-road GT3 RS, the R - the race version - has brought in new technical and aerodynamic solutions specifically developed for the racetrack and conceived to limit its impact on operating costs.
Compared to the version that preceded it, a large part of the bodywork has been updated. New air intakes are now combined with an array of details that have been redesigned to increase aerodynamic load and therefore ensure better performance through bends. Examples of this are the front bumper and bonnet, the rear spoiler - nearly two meters wide - the rear diffuser and the mirrors, all modified to improve airflow efficiency at high speed. The bodywork is almost entirely in carbon fibre: the bonnet, sides, bumpers, wheel arches, doors and roof. The windows, on the other hand, are in polycarbonate.
The pulsating heart of the car is unquestionably the six-cylinder boxer engine, which is the same as the road version but with additional loving care heaped on it by the engineers in Stuttgart. Thanks to a number of modifications to the injection and distribution systems, combined with a new butterfly valve unit, the engine packs 550 horsepower, thirty more than on the mass-production 911.
The drive, naturally, is rear-wheel: the power is discharged to the ground by means of an electronically controlled six-speed sequential gearbox and an electro-hydraulic clutch. The adjustable suspension has a McPherson strut at the front and multi-link at the rear. The completely updated braking system now has 390 mm front discs and 370 mm rear discs, with six and four-piston callipers respectively. The diameter of the tyres is 680 mm, 30 more than on the previous model. The 120-litre fuel tank now has two filler inlets, one on each side of the car. The interior equipment is enhanced by adjustable pedals and a racing seat with six-point safety belts.
And air conditioning? Even that is included, for the first time in the history of this type of car.
The 911 GT3 R competing in this year’s 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge is the German car maker’s nineteenth GT3-branded model. The genesis of this model dates back twenty years to the 1998 launch of the 996 GT3 Cup, a car that raced in the Porsche Supercup until 2001. For a comparison with the car described just now, the Cup delivered 360 horsepower and had a fuel tank with only about half the capacity of that fitted in the current GT3 R.
In the years since then the car has never ceased to evolve, going from the 400 horsepower of the 997 GT3 Cup (2005), through 450 horsepower in the 997 GT3 Cup 3.8 (2009) and reaching 500 horsepower in the 2010 GT3 R. This has been followed by updates to the GT3 based on the 991, a model introduced in 2013 and racing today in its most recent competition version.
In addition to the recent Bathurst 12 Hour, the list of triumphs for the race-version Porsche GT3 includes seven victories in the Nürburgring 24 Hours (2000, from 2006 to 2009, 2011 and 2018), two chequered flags in the Spa 24 Hours (2003 and 2010), one victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona (2003), one at the Petit Le Mans (2015) as well as a huge number of class victories.