There was a time in the United States during the late 2000s to the early 2010s that Porsche didn't run their own factory GT team in the continent's flagship American Le Mans Series.
In fact, during that period Porsche didn't really run any kind of factory GT programme, preferring instead to give some serious factory backing to some of its independent teams. From 2007 through to 2012, covering the 911's "997" period, that trust was put in a small team from Sonoma California with an unusual name and a knack for eye-catching liveries.
While we were visiting our friends at Historic Sportscar Racing at their fabulous Mitty event at Road Atlanta earlier in the year we happened upon one of those stunning Porsches – indeed the very last of its kind. So here we introduce the Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
Always a little bit of a fan favourite, Flying Lizard began racing back in 2004, launching straight into the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and fielding Porsches from the word go. In only the team's second season Johannes van Overbeek and Jon Fogarty propelled the team to third in the GT class championship. Another third place finish the season after (when van Overbeek clinched second in the drivers' championship) caught the eye of Porsche Motorsport North America and Flying Lizard were propelled into the big time.
In came factory drivers like Jorg Bergmeister, Marc Leib, Patrick Pilet, Richard Lietz, Patrick Long and Marco Holzer, in came the very latest 997 911 and in came big expectations – which, at least,to begin with, the Flying Lizard crew had little problem matching. Season one of the partnership secured the prestigious Petit Le Mans title. Season two brought the team's first overall championship. Season three another championship. Season four yet another.
But then the 997 RSR began to age, and in the background Porsche's attention began to turn to a future back in the big time under its own name. Flying Lizard, already scaled back to a two-car team, could still be considered one of the best teams around, but the podium tap began to slowly turn off. A single victory in 2011 followed, and again in 2012 when we meet our car.
The car here never managed to see victory lane, in the hands of Porsche ace Marco Holzer and team owner Seth Neiman the #44 couldn't quite match its team-mate – whose drivers took 5th in the title – placing Neiman 10th and Holzer 11th when the campaign finished. And that would be how the partnership between Flying Lizard and Porsche ended. Porsche had set its sights on a return to full-time GT competition with its own team and would no longer be developing the 997 RSR. Flying Lizard were forced to look elsewhere, continuing with a customer-based 911 Cup assault on the ALMS's GTC category before moving permanently away from the 911.
But today this example still shines in the southern-US sunshine. GTE-spec 911s have always sounded fantastic, with so few flat-sixes left in the world to be their comparison. But bedecked in the silver and red livery of this outfit of small-team success it looks fantastic. Could there be a better livery for a 911?