Just five marks, then, out of a possible 200, separated first place from second, with two judges placing the McLaren first and two of us placing the Porsche first. Handily – given I’m the judge writing this bit – I’m one of the ones who placed it first.
In my eyes, there’s still nothing that can quite touch the 911, and this 911 in particular, for sheer entertainment on both road and circuit. That a 720S is faster isn’t in doubt. That it steers magically, rides brilliantly and is ergonomically set up ideally for fast road and circuit driving is beyond question.
But that the Porsche is better than it as a driver’s car by all useful yardsticks is also, to my eyes, ears, hands and feet, obvious. While the 720S is busy trying to be the supercar with hypercar pace that you can use on a bumpy circuit and road, the 911 is unencumbered by trying to (a) create and (b) deploy the 217bhp that separates them, and I suspect that helps make it better.
For a start, short of two cylinders and two turbos, the engine stays where it has always been. In the totally wrong, but absolutely right, place, in the rear, where it allows superb visibility, compact packaging and minimal weight. Don’t underestimate these qualities in a road car. The roads around the mid-south are tight and twisting and have cambers and gradients gifted to them by ancient hedgerows, but they’re true to the kinds of roads you’ll find anywhere in the UK and throughout much of the rest of the world. To drive them at middling speeds, speeds at which bystanders might note you’re having a nice time but don’t think you’re being an idiot, is a joy in the 911.\
Our Castle Combe lap times were recorded over two days in changeable conditions, with the GT R and i30 N saddled with the most slippery track. The difference wasn’t massive: a few greasy apices and braking areas versus almost bone-dry tarmac. Nevertheless, it was present, so we’ve attempted to compensate in a ‘corrected’ times column that reflects how the cars might have compared in like-for-like conditions.