With all this talk of the new Porsche 911 doing the rounds this week, I thought it might be momentarily engaging to dole out a few entirely imaginary awards to world’s most important sports car, at least those of which I have first-hand experience.
The ‘I almost died laughing’ award for the most entertaining road-going 911
It has to be the 2017 991 GT2 RS. You don’t need to know much more than that this was made by people who thought putting 691bhp through the rear wheels of a 911 was a good idea. And they were right. It’s brilliant, the kind of car that turns a track day into an obstacle course and is scary enough to ensure you stay focussed, but not so scary as to make you want to leave it in the shed.
The ‘I want my mummy’ award for the most frightening road 911 of all time
A close-run thing here: an honourable mention goes to the 2010 GT2 RS which had 80 fewer horsepower than its later equivalent but none of its manners, but the award goes to the 1995 993 GT2. I can remember sliding it for the camera when it was new and I was a lot braver than I am now, praying every run past the photographer would be the last. If the back went past a certain angle of slip, it tended to stay gone. How I managed to cling onto it and keep it out of the ditch I’m still not sure.
The ‘hang it on the wall’ award for the most beautiful 911 of all time
No contest to me: the 1973 2.7 Carrera RS may not quite deserve its stellar reputation as a driving machine, but as a thing to regard it is unequalled both up and down the 911 generations. White with blue lettering, as you’re asking.
The ‘forget the pit-board, I’m not coming in’ award for the most fun 911 to drive around a track
In my experience, you can’t beat a 1965 short-wheelbase car properly set up to FIA specification, toting a hot but not scorching 2-litre engine with around 180bhp. I raced one at the Le Mans Classic once and ended up having more fun than I have in many purpose-built racers. And, no, it didn’t scare me once. The 911 I most regret not buying.
The ‘what were they thinking of’ award for the worst 911
The 1994 964 Turbo. This was the year Porsche decided a 3.3-litre engine wasn’t quite terrifying enough and installed a 3.6-litre motor instead. With one huge turbo. Lag was ridiculous and it came with such a wide rear track and enormous rear tyres that it understeered massively, until you tried to correct it, got the back loose and instantly regretted it. A rare car and, in my opinion, deservedly so.
I’d like to give it to the 1989 964 Carrera 4 whose additional driveshafts managed to suck the joy out of driving a rather underrated generation of 911, but the 1967 911T cannot be ignored. Detuned to just 110bhp, it was the least powerful 911 ever made, it had iron cylinders, lowered compression, softer cams, only four gears, no anti-roll bar and solid rather than ventilated discs. Why Porsche elected to exhume the name last year eludes me.
The ‘we’re not worthy’ award for the greatest 911
It won’t be everyone’s choice but of the road cars I’ve driven, none has beaten the 2010 GT3 RS for delivering what I want from a 911. An absolute riot to drive thanks to an inexhaustible race-proven engine, a perfect six speed gearbox, flawless handling and monster brakes, yet still sufficiently civilised to take you wherever you want in better than adequate comfort.
And finally, the ‘Alain Prost’ award for the best 911
Not to be mistaken for the greatest: many might argue that Prost was the most technically accomplished F1 driver of all time, rather fewer would suggest he was the greatest. And the award goes to the new 992, a 911 with a greater breadth of abilities than seen before, one that will likely slip into your life more easily than ever, yet which is even sharper and rewarding when driven like all 911s should be driven. Fifty-five years on, all the evidence is that the best is getting better.