How to drive the fastest 911 in history – with Mark Higgins
When Porsche unveiled the 911 GT2 RS at last year's Goodwood Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard, there was naturally one question on everyone's mind: just how fast could Porsche's most powerful 911 ever do the hill climb?
Sadly, Porsche understandably didn't put the brand-new car through it paces, only tackling a few demonstration runs. It proved its performance potential just a couple of months later when Porsche visited the Nürburgring.
There, the 690hp biturbo GT2 RS became the fastest production road car ever recorded on a lap of the Nordschleife, with a 6:47.3 lap time.
This year, the 911 GT2 RS returned to West Sussex, with the road car record at the hillclimb firmly in its sights as the brand celebrated its 70th anniversary at the event's silver jubilee.
The £207,000 GT2 RS is more than just a spruced up 911. The power comes from a revamped version of the Turbo S's 3.8-litre flat-six. There's new turbochargers, a titanium exhaust and a cooling system for the charged air using a water spray. That's good for 118hp more than the Turbo S, and nearly 80hp more than the previous generation GT2 RS. Torque is up to, at 750Nm (553 lb ft).
Power arrives at the rear wheels through a seven-speed PDK auto gearbox – making the GT2 RS the most powerful two-wheel drive Porsche road car ever. Unusually, the rear wheels also do some of the steering – at low speeds the rear wheels turn in opposition to the fronts, but they turn in the same direction at higher speeds.
This makes the car more nimble around town, or tight corners, but more stable when changing lanes at pace. Still, that requires some serious rubber, and the GT2 RS uses Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.
Taking driving duties is Mark Higgins. Higgins is no stranger to driving fast in tight confines like the Goodwood hill. He's three times a British Rally champion, and set the fastest ever four-wheeled lap of the Isle of Man TT Snaefell Mountain Course, at 126.9mph, before throwing a specially-tuned WRX up the hill in 2017.
When Porsche launched the 911 GT3 RS on the island earlier this year, it chose Higgins as a guide. It seems only appropriate that Higgins has the reins of the GT2 RS for the challenge of Molecomb and the Flint Wall.
We caught up with Higgins and the GT2 RS in the Michelin Supercar Paddock, and asked about a potential record run.
"It's a great event," he said. "It's great fun and it's nice to win it, but you don't know what other manufacturers can actually claim.
"I know for a fact that Porsche has given me a set of keys and a road car. I drove a production car last week and they're identical."
Higgins' car is a standard 911 GT2 RS, with the optional, £21,000 Weissach package which shaves another 30kg from the car's kerb weight. This comes through a carbon-fibre roof and bonnet, with magnesium wheels saving vital pounds in unsprung mass.
There's no team of engineers to set it up, and the car wears its standard, showroom tyres. He could drive it up the hill – possibly in record time for a production road car – and continue out towards Chichester without having to stop.
"Driving it round the paddock it feels like a normal road car," he adds. "Then you wind it up and you're trying to hang on for dear life. It's an amazing car that can be used every day. You change the oil every 20,000 miles! It really is the every day supercar."
Despite all the power, carbonfibre and racecar derived suspension, the GT2 RS is essentially still just a Porsche 911. You can drive it to the shops, if you like, without much of a difference from any other 911. You'll only be able to take one passenger, as the GT2 RS does without the rather tight rear accommodation in favour of a roll cage, but otherwise it's a 911.
With 690bhp going to the rear wheels alone, the GT2 RS is well suited to a flying lap of the fast, flowing and long Nürburgring, but might not be an ideal match to the hillclimb.
While the hill's fastest ever run is just over 100mph, the Porsche's 'Ring lap stands at more than 113mph. The whole hill is shorter – it takes less time than the 'Ring's long, flat-out Dottinger Hohe straight – where the GT2 RS can hit its 211mph top speed. Goodwood is not a place where the GT2 RS can truly stretch its legs. We put this question to Higgins.
"It's not really about the handling so much here. It's more about point and squirt and getting the grip out. Once you're in third gear it's absolutely fine.
"The car feels great – for a car that you can take shopping and do everything else in it, it's just an amazing car to do what it can do on the hill."