What is it?
If the theory holds true, what you’re looking at is the greatest version of the greatest sports car there has ever been and, almost by right, therefore, one of the finest street machines ever conceived.
Here, the operative word is ‘street’. The new Porsche 911 R was conceived because there was a sense in Porsche’s legendary Motorsport department that the idea of adding ever more grip via the use of additional downforce, stiffened suspension and wider tyres was not indefinitely extendable.
Few such concepts are. In the GT3 RS, the department had developed an extraordinary track day machine, a car designed to ripple your cheeks under the massive lateral acceleration. It is able to develop and be set up in such as way as to extract not only optimal lap times, but also seriously challenge its driver. A pussycat it is not. The 911 R is its alter ego.
Even so and though you will doubtless read it elsewhere, it is far too simplistic to call them Jekyll and Hyde cars, they are instead identical twins, dressed in different clothes brought up to excel at different things, and while the RS’s métier is the circuit, the R’s is the road.
The differences are crucial, and every one of them designed to trade fast for fun. The biggest is the gearbox where six manually selected gears replace seven selected by paddles. Why not seven manual gears? Not for the first time the Motorsport department is going its own way, as it did by insisting you should push a sequential shifter forward and not back to change down (a change subsequently adopted by Porsche) and as it is by staying faithful to atmospheric aspiration.
The Weissach mob considers seven gears needlessly complex to change by hand and, besides, losing the top gear saves an entire kilo of weight. Instead the gearbox retains the original first four ratios, but uses a longer fifth and sixth. The engine is the same 4.0-litre, 493bhp flat-six masterpiece, but because of lower frictional losses in the gearbox, a little more of it finds it way to the rear wheels.
The body is based on that of a standard 911 and while it retains carbonfibre front wings and a plastic rear screen, it entirely lacks the dramatic aero structures of the RS or even the standard GT3. There’s just a normal Carrera rear wing whose only modification is to extend a little further to offer touch more downforce at the far higher speeds the 911 R can reach.
Its lack of rag means it’s the only 911 on sale that’s a genuine 200mph machine. Underneath, however, there is a largely flat floor and rear diffuser, not to mention a titanium exhaust. Overall it’s 50kg lighter than a GT3 RS with a kerb weight of just 1370kg.
On the chassis side, GT3 RS settings have been abandoned entirely: without RS downforce, there’s no need for the suspension to be super stiff to support the body, so the springs come from the GT3 instead, supported by a bespoke damper iteration, reprogrammed rear-wheel steer and a new steering map too.
Tyre sizes drop two sections front and rear relative to the GT3 RS to a 245mm front and a 305mm rear, but Porsche’s carbon ceramic brakes are standard; normally you need to pay extra for those, even on a GT3 RS.