Porsche has only made one 911R before and it was almost 50 years ago. Until 1967, people had raced 911s and with Porsche’s support, but the factory had yet to produce its own dedicated competition version, and the R was the very first. Powered by a 220bhp engine from the Carrera 6, the obsession to lose weight bordered on a mania. The lightweight panels and thin glass you might expect, but no sun visors, no wheel centres, aluminium door hinges and a sticker instead of a Porsche badge on its nose?
But it worked. The 911 R’s greatest triumph was to win the insane 84-hour (those numbers are the correct way around) Marathon de la Route at the Nurburgring, our own Vic Elford driving 7.5-hour stints for three consecutive nights. Just four prototypes and 25 production cars were built.
The new 911 R is not quite as mad as that, but the idea of putting the most powerful available engine (the 500bhp unit from the GT3 RS) in the lightest possible 911 (it’s 50kg lighter even than the RS) is the same. What’s different is that while the first 911 R was designed specifically for racing, the second has its eyes only on the road, leaving track work to its stiffly sprung, heavily-bewinged RS sister.
To that end it uses the body shell of the standard Carrera with just a slightly enlarged rear wing to keep it stable at its far higher maximum speed. Suspension and tyres come from the normal GT3 but it has its own damper iteration as well as a bespoke tune for both its front and rear wheel steering systems. Most notably, and in keeping with its brief to provide on road fun, the 911 R is the first of this generation of GT-series 911s to have a manual gearbox. Unlike the manuals you can choose for more normal 911s, this one has six, not seven gears, partly to save weight but mainly because the Porsche Motorsport department that designs the GT3, RS and 911 R considers seven to be too confusing to select manually.
As with the first 911 R, the real focus of the 911R is on shedding weight. So, along with the polycarbonate rear screen, stripped out interior, light wheels and carbon-fibre front wings you’ll find standard ceramic brake discs, a titanium exhaust system and the option of a single mass flywheel. All told, this reduces its weight to 1,370kg, 135kg less than the mass of a standard, entry level Carrera 2.
Because it has the same engine but less weight, lower frictional losses through the gearbox and reduced drag, the 911 R is actually quicker than an RS, reaching 201mph instead of 193mph. That said, the manual gearbox and skinnier rear tyres restricts the 0-62mph time to just 3.8 seconds, a whole half second slower than the RS.
On the road, none of this matters. The gearbox is superb, far more precise and mechanical in its action than Porsche’s seven-speed transmission and a perfect fit for a car who’s only brief is to provide on road driving pleasure. The engine is one of the finest on sale, prising an astonishing 500hp from just four naturally aspirated litres and allied to that titanium exhaust, capable of making a noise at 8,800rpm you’d be happy to have played at your funeral.
Passion is what this car is all about. Forget the dreaded Nürburgring lap time, for Porsche has sworn never to publish one: that is the GT3 RS’s domain. Instead it’s about how the 911 R feels in your hands, how broad a grin it can spread across your face and just how jealous you can make every other road user feel.
It does the job extraordinarily well. For all its high-tech carbon and titanium, at its heart this is an old school car. Driving pleasure derives not from how fast it will go, although it will go very, very fast indeed, but the fun to be had while going fast. The steering, now as ever the primary interface between man and machine, is simply sublime, the best Porsche has yet to devise since it switched to electrically assisted helms. The poise of the car on undulating roads is unquestioned and the ride surprisingly good now that it no longer needs spring rates required to support the body under huge amounts of downforce.
In short and even by its own stellar standards, what Porsche has provided here is a completely immersive driving experience, a car true to the brand’s heritage in general and the spirit if not the purpose of the original 911R in particular.
The only pity is that Porsche committed to making just 991 of them and they all sold to Porsche’s most loyal customers almost as soon as it was announced. Cars or, more likely, orders that have come back onto the market have been for £500,000, or more. Then again, spend a day on wide-open deserted roads in a 911R and you may just convince yourself it’s worth it.
Price tag of our car: £136,901
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