Up the California Coast with My Dad and a Porsche 911 GT3 Touring

The road to Rennsport is a wonderful place to make memories.

Conner GoldenwriterAndrew Trahanphotographer

More than one attendee at Porsche's Rennsport Reunion VI in late September remarked, "Only Porsche could pull this off." And by the end of the four-day celebration of the marque's motorsports history, we agreed. Rennsport, held for the third time at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, is unlike any other automotive celebration we've encountered.

A large part of the magic is thanks to a steady thrum of solidarity permeating the event. On one end, 918 Spyder owners made a big show, parking in a lot filled with shiny GT2 RSs and Carrera GTs. In the paddock area, 959s had their own reserved parking tent, which at one point attracted 14 examples of the revolutionary mid-1980s supercar. Down at the other end, Porschephiles climbed out of their first-gen Boxsters and raggedy 944s to peer into the cockpit of an eight-figure 718 RSK.

Who would have thought such a concentration of unfathomably valuable cars and ultra-high-net-worth individuals could have evolved into such a massively successful gathering? Perhaps no one aside from racing hero and vintage-racing organizer Brian Redman and Porsche's late public relations maestro Bob Carlson, the men who conceived Rennsport at the turn of the century and launched the first installment at Lime Rock Park in 2001.

More so than perhaps any other major automotive event, Rennsport is deeply personal. There's something intangible about Porsche zealotry—more than 15,000 showed up for that first edition at Lime Rock, and attendance has grown with each outing, peaking at more than 81,000 over the four days this time around.  A common thread among the people we spoke to: They didn't show up just to look at cool cars. Almost universally, it seems, there's a story behind the interest.

My Rennsport experience begins with my father and ends with a road trip up the California coast in a 2018 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring. A longtime mechanical engineer, my dad can't recall when he first caught the bug. He tells me of his standoffish out-of-state grandfather who occasionally picked him up in a 1960s 911, only to have it sold out from under his nose when my great-grandfather died. He tells me of the time he temporarily swapped his Nissan Maxima for his brother's then-new red 944 and of my great-uncle with a 356 in Germany.

I finally convinced him to sell his Nissan Murano for a friend's 1981 911 Targa. Seven years later, I live in California, dad's flying in, and a surprise awaits him. From the minute he purchased the Targa, it was a shared experience, and now it's my turn to pay it forward with a road trip in a new 911 GT3 Touring.

Sure, we could have wormed our way behind the wheel of a GT2 RS, but the new-for-2018 GT3 Touring seemed more apropos as an expression of Porsche's motorsports-for-the-road ethos. It's the same GT3 we know and love, only sans rear wing and Alcantara interior, replaced with a full leather interior kit and a subtle decklid "GT3 Touring" badge. It's a GT3 for grown-ups, for the type of driver who's more inclined to plan a cross-country cruise than a rip down the main straight.

Despite the promise of Rennsport and a road trip up the coast in what I told my dad would be a 718 Boxster S, spirits weren't sharp the morning of departure. The old man was fresh off the plane from a stint in Singapore, and there was no time for coffee or breakfast stops if we wanted to make the check-in time in Monterey.

Bleary eyes cleared the minute the Sapphire Blue Metallic coupe came into sight. Eyes got even wider when the naturally aspirated 4.0-liter kicked over, rattling and thrumming in a way that's uniquely GT3.

We aimed to hit Monterey via coastal roads, primarily Pacific Coast Highway. It's one of those great American stretches, along the same lines as Route 66 and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Stages through Malibu and Santa Barbara are picturesque, but the coastal scenery turns breathtaking in Big Sur, beginning just north of San Simeon.

The grins wouldn't fade. Straight portions of PCH were conquered with a 9,000-rpm wail, tighter sections dispatched with the GT3's uncanny grip and symbiotic steering. When traffic slowed along the way, we developed a habit of waiting 30 seconds for the offending minivans and the like to gather distance before blasting off, the uproarious six-cylinder scream deflecting from the rocky cliff walls.

We pulled over a few times to change drivers and snap photos—some captured on our family Leica M3, inherited from the 356-driving uncle. Out there on the coast, ears ringing from a sprint through a tunnel, was a special moment—one of many Rennsport stories created that week for thousands of people.

This road to Laguna Seca set the stage for the entire trip, a perfect pre-chorus for what was to come. Better yet, we knew that once the event reached its crescendo, we would point the GT3 Touring south and do it all over again.

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