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The life of the Porsche 911 GT2, Stuttgart’s most hair-raising rear-engine boxer, started 10 years before it came to the U.S. In 1992, Porsche showed a car at the Geneva auto show on the 964 chassis, named the 911 Turbo S lightweight — a rear-wheel-drive version of the 911 Turbo with more power. More power, less weight and less traction. Everyone saw that recipe and said “yes!”
The 1992 Porsche 911 Turbo S Lightweight in all its 964 chassis, yellow glory
In 1995, Porsche built the first official GT2 on the 993 chassis and sold it in Europe. That car took the rear-wheel-drive/lower-weight template from the S Lightweight and bolted on a 3.6-liter, 430-hp boxer monster. That output came at the time the 911 Turbo mustered only 400 hp. In 1998, Porsche found a way to bump horsepower to 450 and eventually set a lap time around the Green Hell, Nordschleife, of 7 minutes, 56 seconds.
2002 Porsche 911 GT2 in front
But it wasn’t until the 996 generation that America joined the fun. In 2002, 456 hp became available, which at the time was a big number from any kind of six, let alone one with just 3.6 liters of displacement. That also beat the contemporary 911 Turbo’s peak horsepower by 41. But, again, it’s the weight savings that showed the serious intentions of the GT2.
Porsche removed some 220 pounds from the Turbo S in making the GT2. Removing the front drive axle of course contributed the single biggest reduction. But the GT2 also ditched the rear seats, which shaved off 17.6 pounds. Porsche took away the option for a sunroof. The spare tire was replaced with a reinflate kit, saving 29 pounds. And, serving a dual purpose, the brake system was carbon ceramic instead of steel. That saved 36.6 pounds and vastly improved the braking capability when hot. Curb weight: 3,175 pounds.
Weight loss helps handling, but so does a suspension system that drops the car 0.8 inch closer to the ground. The springs were stiffer, as were the shocks. Antiroll bars got bigger and stronger. In back, a wider rear track, borrowed from the GT3 (only available in Europe at the time) gave the rear more stability, as did bigger wheels and tires all around. They added an incredible 2.6 inches of width in back, compared to a standard 911.
2002 Porsche 911 GT2
There’s more aero too. A larger fixed rear wing was installed, it’s higher and extends further rearward for both of which aid downforce. The wing angle is also adjustable between 1-6 degrees; making that adjustment really count would require hiring a pro to drive the car.
But it’s hard to ignore power. And the GT2 always topped the Porsche power tree. The engine is a 3.6-liter from the 911 Turbo, which is derived from the GT1 racecar that won LeMans in 1998 (that engine was 3.2-liters and produced over 600hp). The GT2 version of the motor had a 9.4:1 compression ratio and was way oversquare, a 100 millimeter bore, travels just 76.4 mm’s after combusting hearty mix of fuel and 14.5 psi worth of turbocharged air.
That 456 hp peak came at 5700 rpm, 457 lbft of torque was available between 3500-4500 rpm. To withstand all the brutal energy, Porsche used forged pistons and a special nickel and silicone alloy creatively named nikasil for cylinder linears. Those linears provide a special combination of strength and low friction. It goes almost without saying that the GT2 used a variable timing and lift valvetrain for maximum flexibility and a dry-sump oil-system to keep center of gravity low and plenty of oil squirting and all critical components, even under high-g loads. Considering all the fancy bits, a trip to the Nurburgring seemed in order and Porsche indeed improved their GT2 time with a 7 minute 47 second time.
2004 Porsche 911 GT2 in front
Porsche carried this handling, aero and engine philosophy on all future models. In 2004, the German brand managed to squeeze a little more out of the GT2 engine and bump it up 21 hp to 477 and add 15 lb-ft of torque to 472. The mid-aughts was also the period when powertrain engineers gained a fuller grasp of computing power and how it could help with ignition timing and fuel delivery.
2004 Porsche 911 GT2 rear
Then, three years later, the 997 generation GT2 came out with a whopping 530 hp — a leap of 53 horses — and evidence we still had a few stairs to climb before reaching the power penthouse. At this point, the Nordschleife lap time became an industry-required data point. And, yes, the 997 chassis delivered a lap time of 7 minutes, 32 seconds.
2007 Porsche 911 GT2 front
When Porsche unveiled the midcycle update 997.2 chassis, advancing technologies allowed engineers to reduce the need for safety nets in engine design to protect against things like detonation (pre-ignition). Instead of retarded timing or lower compression, computer-controlled, high-pressure fuel-injectors and variable valvetrain managed combustion variances and irregularities.
2007 Porsche 911 GT2 rear
The result was the 2010 911 GT2 RS and a stratospheric 620 hp. From the factory and with a warranty, the GT2 RS possessed more power than the aforementioned GT1 road car, based on the one that won Le Mans. It wasn’t just power that improved, of course. Platforms continued to stiffen and strengthen, which allowed for more track-friendly suspension settings. Adjustable shocks didn’t hurt, either. But one component that never gets enough attention for its improvement is tires. Since 1992, tire technology has made similar leaps as engine power but in the form of ultimate grip, durability and usable temperature range.
2010 Porsche 911 GT2 RS front
Tires likely play a big role in the capability of the 911 GT2 RS Porsche built on the 991.2 chassis today. Compared to the gigantic jump in power we saw from 2007 to 2010, the additional 80 gained, while grand, doesn’t carry the same gravitas. And a 13 percent improvement in power does little to explain the incredible 31-second drop in lap time around the Ring, from 7 minutes, 18 seconds to the current production car record of 6 minutes, 47 seconds.
2010 Porsche 911 GT2 RS rear
In the Porsche 911 GT2’s brief time in U.S. automotive history, it started strong and continues to spend as much time in the gym as Dwayne Johnson. During 15 years sold here, power has jumped 54 percent and Ring lap times have dropped by a minute. At the same time, the car has become easier to control and exploit. Is today the true zenith of its capability or are we just inches off the ground floor with a long way to go? Either way, a look back at this mega-car’s roots show why Porsche’s top-dog 911 proves an excellent metric to follow.