By Bennett Oghifo
The unveiling of the first Porsche 911 GT3 in March 1999 at the Geneva Motor Show signaled the start of a new era for discerning sports car drivers. More than any other Porsche 911, the GT3 embodies the hallmarks of Porsche Motorsport. Developed by two-time World Rally Champion Walter Röhrl, race engineer Roland Kussmaul and the Porsche Motorsport specialists from Weissach, the Porsche 911 GT3 brought race track agility to the road. Since then, this athlete has become faster, more precise and more dynamic with every generation. With a naturally aspirated engine, manual transmission and rear-wheel drive, it remains the most popular Porsche 911 among purists to date. Around 80 per cent of all 911 GT3 ever produced are regularly driven on race tracks across the globe.
The race versions of the Porsche 911 GT3 have written motorsport history. In addition to countless class wins, the GT3 achieved numerous overall victories in major endurance races, including the 24 Hours of Spa, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 24 Hours Nürburgring, which it has won seven times since 2000. One of the main success contributors is the fact that innovations and experience gained from motorsport are incorporated into the development of the road versions.
Successor to the 911 Carrera RS 2.7: the first GT3 made its debut in 1999
Featuring advanced racing technology, the Porsche 911 GT3 continued the tradition that had started in the 1970s with the legendary 911 Carrera RS 2.7. For the first time, the model was not given the designation “RS” for Race Sport, but the name GT3, directly referencing the GT class in which the motorsport versions were to compete. The water-cooled 3.6-litre six-cylinder boxer engine delivered 360 hp (265 kW). As such, it was hardly a surprise that the Porsche 911 GT3 had already earned its first laurels before its debut in Geneva. With Walter Röhrl at the wheel, the new model completed the 20.8 kilometre Nürburgring Nordschleife in less than eight minutes, setting a new benchmark for street-legal sports cars.
Such exceptional performance was made possible not just by the race-proven boxer engine, but also thanks to a precisely tuned overall package: the chassis was lowered by around 30 millimetres and the brakes uprated. The six-speed manual transmission originated from the Porsche 911 GT2. The gearbox ratios, axle geometry, anti-roll bars and springs could be adapted depending on the circuit conditions. Lightweight construction came before comfort. A distinctive sign of its motorsport origins was the fixed rear wing of the 911 GT3. As an option, customers were able to order their 911 GT3 as a Clubsport variant, which also included a built-in roll cage.
The first Porsche 911 GT3 vehicles rolled off the production line in Weissach in May 1999. The new model provided the foundation for the successful race versions 911 GT3 Cup, 911 GT3 R and GT3 RSR.
New generations in quick succession
After the great success of the first 911 GT3, Porsche presented a new evolution stage of the street-legal sports car with racing genes every three to four years. In 2003, the power of the boxer engine increased to 381 hp (280 kW), thanks to the use of the VarioCam, the variable camshaft control system. The GT3 was now also available with ultra-high-performance Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB). The next increase in power to 415 hp (305 kW) followed three years later. For the first time, the Porsche 911 GT3 featured the sporty Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). In 2009, engineers increased the displacement of the six-cylinder boxer engine to 3.8-litres and the power to 435 hp (320 kW). The all-new rear wing and full underbody panelling produced a substantial increase in downforce (almost double in comparison to its predecessor).
On the 50th birthday of the Porsche 911 in 2013, the fifth generation of the 911 GT3 celebrated its world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show, with a completely new engine, transmission, body and chassis. The drivetrain consisted of a 3.8-litre naturally aspirated engine with 475 hp (350 kW), featuring active rear axle steering and a dual-clutch transmission (Porsche Doppelkupplung, PDK), for the first time. The model completed the Nürburgring Nordschleife in just 7:25 minutes —more than half a minute faster than the first ever 911 GT3 back in 1999.
The latest version of the 911 GT3 was launched in 2017. The focus of development had been on the six-cylinder boxer engine: its displacement increased to 4.0 litres and the power output is 500 hp (368 kW). Customers can choose between a manual six-speed transmission and PDK. In addition, a Touring Package is available which replaces the fixed rear wing with an automatically extending spoiler.