BRANDENBURG, Germany—When Porsche gets rolling with its new-car unveils, it tends to really roll. Right on the back of driving the new Porsche Cayman GT4 and 718 Spyder in Scotland, we headed back across the Atlantic to Germany to try three of the company’s newest customer race/track cars: The new Porsche 935—which you can read about here—the 911 GT2 RS Clubsport, and the Cayman GT4 Clubsport.
The Lausitzring track sits about 100 miles south of Berlin, Germany, well inside the old German Democratic Republic (DDR). It’s probably best known around the racing world as the fateful setting of Alex Zanardi’s horrifying Indy-car crash in 2001. The series used the two-mile tri-oval back then, but Porsche for this test reserved the 2.7-mile Grand Prix road-course layout. This is the same configuration used by Germany’s famed DTM racing series during its annual visit.
There is no doubt that a track is the best place to see if a new performance car cuts the mustard. Totally stock street cars usually don’t make the best track-day rides, at least not without significant and expensive modification in most cases. We’ve all heard plenty of stories about, “My off the showroom floor ‘track-ready’ rocket ship goes from zero-to-limp-home-mode in a shade under three laps.” Lovely.
Porsche, though, arguably has the most track-ready production cars available today with its GT and GT RS models. However, it also fills a different, small, loud, and relevant enthusiast niche with the new 935 and Clubsport offerings.
The Lausitzring is very flat and without any seriously quick corners. It has several slow technical areas and it sports a large number of heaves and bumps. We would get about 11 laps (approximately 25 minutes) in each of the three cars: one flying lap, then into pit lane for a chat, followed by six more timed laps. There was only one example of each new model on hand for track work, a sign Porsche was not worried about vehicle reliability.
Driving the Cayman GT4 Clubsport
The Cayman GT4 Clubsport “Trackday” model is designed—surprise—specifically for the serious track-day addict. That means someone who doesn’t want to race but dearly loves lapping at speed. For the even more serious drivers out there, Porsche Motorsport offers the GT4 Clubsport Competition and MR versions. Those cars look almost identical to the GT4 Clubsport but are each specifically homologated for club and pro racing, whereas the GT4 Clubsport Trackday is not.
Climbing into the GT4, the racing seat and belts were very comfortable and nicely positioned. The steering wheel and seat are manually adjustable, and the car also comes standard with a full roll cage. The look and feel inside is proper race car.
The Lausitzring is fairly easy to learn, as it’s pretty much four straights with autocross bits at the ends, so I was cranking pretty good after just a couple laps. I felt how nimble and well balanced the Cayman was as soon as I hit the first left-to-right transition. The more the Michelin racing tires warmed up, the more a goofy grin spread across my face. I’m familiar with GT4 race cars (Audi, Camaro, first-gen 2016 Porsche Cayman GT4), having raced in them during the last three years. The performance parameters of the new Clubsport felt immediately comfortable and I was able to push the car’s limits right out the gate.
A set of slick tires can hide a lot of handling woes because they grip so well, but the Cayman GT4 Clubsport handles and runs lap times like little else you can buy for the money ($165,000, with deliveries commencing in October). The Cayman GT4 street car has a brilliant chassis, and this track version feels even better, with the race tires only sharpening the performance.
Frankly, I felt like I could get away with almost anything. I entered corners at stupid speeds on purpose, just to see how the car would react to my clumsy provocations. Enter too fast, the front would telegraph a little slide. If I transitioned mid-corner with the finesse of a gorilla or stomped on the gas pedal way too hard on corner exit, the rear would let me know by sliding predictably but not snapping. It was impressive indeed.
The Clubsport doesn’t have a lot of aerodynamic downforce—no GT4 car does—due to homologation guidelines. So, along with a relatively light weight (2,910 pounds), the sticky rubber, and a manageable 425 horsepower, the engineers ended up using relatively soft springs. Consequently, the chassis has excellent compliance, roll control, and damping, despite the shocks being nonadjustable. The GT4 basically laughed at the Lausitzring’s bumps.
The brakes are very strong, the feel being similar to a street car. The setup is well-boosted and doesn’t require big pedal pressure to achieve maximum braking potential. Press the brake pedal too hard or aggressively, and there is easily enough power to quickly wake up the ABS. Running at a serious pace, I felt the brakes worked fine, and the good stopping power without the need for brutal amounts of force should be very comfortable and manageable for buyers.
The new 425-hp, 3.8-liter six-cylinder engine pulls strongly and sounds superb like only a flat-six can. The GT4 Clubsport only comes with a PDK twin-clutch gearbox; I let the transmission shift itself most of the time, but using the paddles to shift manually works well, too. The entire package inspires so much confidence and delivers so much fun, my time in it was a total blast and sadly over much too quickly.
Driving the 911 GT2 RS Clubsport
Sitting next to the GT4 Clubsport, the 911 GT2 RS Clubsport certainly has a more menacing look. As with the new 935, the underpinnings of the GT2 RS Clubsport race car come from the apex-melting, multiple lap-record holding, and 2019 Automobile All-Star production 911 GT2 RS. There are several differences between the GT2 RS Clubsport and the 935, however.
The GT2 doesn’t have any reskinned bodywork, looking much closer to a production GT2 RS, except for the addition of a gigantic new rear wing which could substitute as a dinner table for six. To add a little size perspective, the GT2 RS Clubsport is 186.3 inches long, almost 4.8 inches shorter than the 935, and 77.9 inches wide, 2.2 inches narrower than the 935. There are also wheel and tire size differences. The GT2 has 10.5-inch-wide front wheels, while the 935’s are 11.5 inchers. Both cars have 12.5-inch rears. Weight for the GT2 Clubsport comes in at 3,064 pounds, 22 pounds heavier than the 935. For reference, a production Porsche GT2 RS weighs 3,241. Porsche will build 200 GT2 RS Clubsports; cost in the U.S. is $478,000, and deliveries to U.S. customers have already begun through Porsche Motorsports NA.
The GT2’s driver compartment feels very familiar, comfortable, and functional. I was staring at a full-on race steering wheel with all the usual buttons as the engine grumbled to life with a low rumble. An orchestra of mechanical noise bounced around the driver compartment as I started my warm-up lap. With the stiff suspension nudging its solid links and ball joints, I felt immediately connected with the car. The steering has excellent feel, and confidence builds with each turn. As is typical of turbocharged cars, not much raw engine noise comes into the cockpit; the GT2 is certainly quieter than the screaming, normally aspirated GT4 Clubsport.
I soon started leaning on the brakes and tires. There is a lot of grip up front, but if I forced corner entry speed, the resulting understeer was controllable, the traction and stability control stepping in nicely. If I asked too much of the tires on corner exit, I felt the TC there as insurance. I used the TC and ABS settings recommended by one of Porsche’s factory race drivers, and at no point did I feel the nannies slowing me down. The GT2’s ability to rip out of corners with 700 horsepower abusing the fat Michelin slicks was totally addictive. The sheer speed the GT2 engine can generate in short order is ridiculous—I hit 163 mph on the front straight, which is a little more than DTM cars manage. Blistering, in other words. (Porsche provided only a horsepower figure of 700, up slightly from the regular GT2 RS’s 690-hp rating due to a different exhaust setup. A torque figure was not made available; the standard GT2 RS makes 553 lb-ft.)
Most impressive was the brake system. The 390mm (15.4-inch) front rotors and 380mm (15.0-inch) rear rotors work brilliantly through the Porsche Stability Management (PSM) system. As an example, one part of Lausitzring has a flat-out-in-third-gear, into fourth-gear right-hander leading immediately into a very bumpy and slow, decreasing-radius second-gear right. Entering the braking zone, I left the throttle pinned a split-second too long—or so I thought. I hit the brake pedal to fully engage the ABS and turned-in hard, just to see if I could actually get to my late apex. I heard the ABS complaining/working, felt the rear of the car try to step out, and immediately heard the ABS sound change as the stability system chimed in and caught the rear. End result: The rear was pulled back in line and there I was, right on my apex. The word “stunning” doesn’t cover it.
The GT2’s suspension is excellent, as well. The Lausitzring is very bumpy and, yes, you do feel it inside the car, but overall stability is phenomenal. You just have to keep your foot in it, let the suspension work, and trust the chassis—and, of course, that monster rear wing. Driving the GT2 feels substantial in all aspects, almost like it has no intention of wearing out or breaking—like, ever. I see some amazing potential for this car. Pros and amateurs alike will love driving the GT2 RS Clubsport.
Indeed, Porsche has produced something very special with these new track-ready cars. The GT4 Clubsport is ideal for the track-day enthusiast, something for them to hone their skills with, go really fast in, and worry all the build-your-own specials out there. The 935 is on a different planet, a rolling work of art most owners may never put on a track, which is a shame but at least sort of understandable. Still, the 935 is, in a big way, so special because of its massive track capability. And then there is the GT2 RS Clubsport, with very similar on-track performance to the 935 at about half the cost. Amateur or full-on race cars, we like the direction GT sports-car competition is headed.
2020 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport Specifications
|ON SALE||Now (deliveries in Oct)|
|ENGINE||3.8L DOHC 24-valve flat-6; 425 hp @7,500 rpm, 313 lb-ft @ 6,600 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 1-passenger, mid-engine, RWD coupe|
|L x W x H||175.4 x 70.0 x 49.0 in|
|0–60 MPH||4.0 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||190 mph (est)|
2020 Porsche GT2 RS Clubsport Specifications
|ENGINE||3.8L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-6; 700 hp @ 7,000 rpm (est), 553 lb-ft @ 2,500–4,500 rpm (est)|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 1-passenger, rear-engine, RWD coupe|
|L x W x H||186.7 x 77.9 x 53.5 in|
|0–60 MPH||2.5 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||211 mph (est)|