Jack Wood updates us on his 996 GT3, with a first trackday in the new car.
The first month of ownership of any new car is always very telling and this month was no exception. One of the benefits of purchasing a used car is that they have already been run in. Whether it was done with any kind of mechanical sympathy by the first owner or ragged to the redline from the moment it rolled off the dealer’s forecourt, at least you don't have to endure the thousand miles or so of dawdling that must accompany this exercise if you're doing it yourself. It means that you can get straight to the crux of the car right from the off -conditions permitting, of course.
For the first week the predictable weather of the North West of England conspired to make it very difficult to go out for a decent drive. This is the first car I have owned for many years with absolutely no form of traction or stability control, and with the combination of unique engine placement and the on-tap performance of the wonderful Mezger engine, the sodden, mud-strewn roads of Cheshire were not the place to try and find the limits of the car.
However, the plan for GT03 FAB had always been to use it as its makers had intended, and that meant taking it to the track as often as possible. So after a mere 10 days of ownership and with a fortuitous break in the weather seeing the sun poking out between the clouds and the rain abating for a day, I stuffed my Arai and a jerry can under the bonnet and headed off to my local stomping ground: Oulton Park.
With the briefing, sighting laps and noise test done (no issues at all there, despite internet mutterings to the contrary) it was time to head out for a couple of exploratory laps.
Two hot laps later and I'm back in the pits and scuttling around trying to find my tire pressure measuring device. After only a lap the car had started to feel very slippery, like the tyres had turned to cheese. A quick prod with the pressure tester and my theory was confirmed; even after only a couple of laps, the tyre pressures had rocketed, the rears in particular having shot up to a staggering 50psi! So, taking a bit of advice from a couple of fellow GT3 owners who are regular trackday drivers, I lowered the fronts and rears to a warm 32psi. A couple more laps and the car felt very stable, the rear end producing prodigious levels of grip on corner exit, the diff locking up nicely and all the power from that stunning engine being used to fire the car up the next straight.
The third time out of the pit lane was directly following a red flag and I was first out on circuit. This gave me a clear track for 3 laps, and on reviewing some in-car video footage back at home that evening, I was amazed to see that after just 6 laps in the new car I was already nearly 3 seconds a lap faster than the fastest time I had ever achieved in the Cayman. Given that the GT3 was running standard Michelin PS2s and the Cayman had been shod in the far superior Michelin Super Sports I was very impressed with the car, and rather pleased to say the least.
Unfortunately the day didn't go completely without incident and the video camera also caught what could have been a potentially very depressing ‘off’! Coming into Cascades, a downhill, off-camber corner with a wicked bump just before the apex, the rear of the car stepped out without any apparent provocation and sent me into a skid that I wasn't skilled enough to catch. The result was an eye-wateringly close call with the Armco on the inside of the corner, with the nose of the car j-u-s-t missing the barriers.
Needless to say, that moment has given me a new-found respect for a car that many people have said will take serious time and effort to learn. This car definitely does not have the benign manners of the Cayman!
This column originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of GT Porsche magazine.