’73 Porsche Carrera RS 2.7 meets Porsche 911 GT3 RS

November 22, 2016

It may be more than 50 years old, but Porsche’s RS ‘Rennsport’ division remains among the most respected in the motoring world today. James pits the latest against the greatest.

  • Check out the original post on crankandpiston.com HERE, and a pdf version from evo Middle East HERE

 EnginePowerTorque0-100kphTop speedWeightPrice
Porsche Carrera RS 2.7 (1973)Flat-six, 2,687cc210bhp @ 6300rpm188lb ft @ 5100rpm5.2sec245kph1,093kg$600K to $900K
Porsche 911 GT3 RSFlat-six, 3,996cc493bhp @ 8,250rpm339lb ft @ 6,250rpm3.3sec310kph1,420kg$167,900

We don’t say it aloud, but both editor-in-chief Bassam and I know this is going to be a special day. Several times already, the early morning rays have twanged off the lightweight body panels of the 2015 Porsche 911 GT3 RS and 1973 Porsche Carrera RS 2.7 stands at a tangent to us, facing in the opposite direction as if on a drag strip. In our peripheral vision, photographer Hari is collecting the third of an eventual two dozen ‘money shots’ while the light is working in our favour, and only once that is done can Bassam and I crane in for a closer inspection.

There’s plenty to mull in the meantime, mind you. Between the two RS Porsches sit a 43-year heritage of arguably the most respected performance division in the automotive world (the former is practically a godfather). Collectively, they’re valued just shy of $1 million, $750K of which is courtesy of the ’73 2.7 alone. Combined power is an impressive 705bhp, and neither model – despite one being close to half a century old – are barely out of breath at 230kph. And today, as part of an exclusive regional feature for evo Middle East, we get to drive both of them.

Like I say, it hardly seems necessary voicing aloud the magnitude of this occasion.

I’m struck, as I shift my weight impatiently from one foot to the next, by the sheer difference in size between the Rennsport pair, and the natural progression of development that’s gradually led us from one to the other. Bassam seems to be on my wavelength, motioning towards the sub-1000kg 2.7 and mentioning that he “could probably place it under his arm, and walk away with it.” Whether Assyl Yacine, Head of the Classic Car Division at Tomini Classics and custodian of the 2.7 RS here today, will allow him remains to be seen.

I take his point though, and again, I consider the difference in girth. Like the Turbo, the rear track on the 2015 GT3 RS is wider to improve mid-corner traction, the Michelin Pilot Sport Cups that fit snuggly over the 21in alloys and beneath those flared wheel arches the widest tyres ever to be fitted to a production 911. Intakes cluster around the aggressive diffuser – much as they do around the jutting front splitter at the other end – to draw air to the highest displacement flat-six ever used in the 911. And on top of that, a massive fixed rear spoiler offers 80 per cent of the downforce provided by the GT3 R racer. It’s positively awe-inspiring in its aggression.

By comparison the 2.7 is almost comically unfussy. The rear wheel arches are no more muscular than the front, all the better for highlighting the two-tone Grand Prix White and red Fuchs alloys and 15in all-weather tyres. There’s no penetrating rear diffuser as found on the GT3, nor ‘muscular’ rear bumper. Even the single steel exhaust tip feels understated. Instead, there’s ‘just’ the iconic ducktail, borrowed from Porsche’s race team of the time to improve the 911’s often-tricky high speed cornering characteristics. By modern standards, it’s rudimentary. And yet it’s probably the biggest reason why the 2.7 RS design remains the most replicated in Porsche history.

“The magnitude of pairing the 2.7 RS and the GT3 lies almost tangibly in the air”

By 1972, Porsche’s racing life with the 917 was done, new regulations for the World Sportscar Championship – focusing on smaller engine displacements – ensuring that the 917, Ferrari 330 P4 and others of its volcanic ilk were redundant overnight. Not so the brand new Group 5 Sports Car class, and rather than building a new car from scratch, Porsche instead set about converting its still relatively new 911 for Group 5 competition. Fibre glass and ultra thin gauge steel body panels around the now widened rear wheels dropped weight significantly, while a larger displacement 2.7-litre flat-six – 346cc larger than the 911 S 2.4 Coupe from which it was sourced – was belted down over the rear axle for 210bhp and 202lb ft-worth of grunt. Success arrived quickly, the race-spec 911 RSR taking victory on its debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona, 22 laps ahead of second-placed Ferrari.

On-track success came at a price though, specifically the 500 road-going homologated models Porsche would have to produce before a lightweight wheel could be turned in anger. The end result – the 2.7 RS – made its debut at the 1972 Paris Motor Show. By week’s end, and with customer interest duly peaked by this legitimate ‘race car for the road’, all 500 models had been sold. A further 500 fell just as quickly, and in total, close to 1600 were manufactured (official figures vary between 1540 and 1580). A follow-up RS would take 18 years to appear, but there was no doubt, Porsche’s RS legacy had leapt from the blocks.

Fast-forward four decades to the 991 GT3 RS – the fifth road-going Rennsport – and developments in both road-car and track technology mean the disparity to Porsche’s race cars is closer than ever. Weight saving was again a priority, with carbon fibre bonnet and wings, a magnesium roof and polycarbonate rear windows fitted as standard and the floor matts and ‘weighty’ door handles also being given the boot (even the Porsche badge on the bonnet has been ditched for a sticker). Power has increased from 470bhp to 495bhp over the performance-focused 911 GT3 base model, torque doing likewise from 325lb ft to 339lb ft. The GT3 may pip the RS’s top speed – 315kph versus 311kph – but Rennsport tinkering to the suspension and chassis, plus the addition of further bracing, makes Porsche’s closest example yet to a road-going race-car considerably more manoeuvrable (it’s Nürburgring lap-time was EIGHT seconds faster than the GT3). Once again, a limited production run didn’t take long to sell out, the RS lineage secured for another generation. Once again, the magnitude of pairing both the forefather and its 21st century equivalent for one day only lies almost tangibly in the air.

In a foolish fit of enormous generosity, Shahid Baloch – Vice President of Porsche Club UAE – has generously left his GT3 RS with evo while he goes to work. No finger waving, no speed or mileage limits, no cursory comments regarding the traction control. “Drive it hard, you’ll be amazed what it can do.” Top bloke.

Mercifully, Hari clicks the shutter on his Canon for the final time, flashing the thumbs up ‘all clear’ and signalling that his work is done for the day.

Game time. This is going to be awesome.

 EnginePowerTorque0-100kphTop speedWeightPrice
Porsche Carrera RS 2.7 (1973)Flat-six, 2,687cc210bhp @ 6300rpm188lb ft @ 5100rpm5.2sec245kph1,093kg$600K to $900K
Porsche 911 GT3 RSFlat-six, 3,996cc493bhp @ 8,250rpm339lb ft @ 6,250rpm3.3sec310kph1,420kg$167,900

Though every sane part of my brain tells me to start with the 2.7, I instead slide into the awaiting – and carbon fibre-backed – bucket seats of the GT3 RS for my first Rennsport drive, Bassam doing likewise with both barely contained relish and Assyl depositing himself in the passenger seat.

Bizarrely, despite the GT3’s imposing aerokit, everything feels familiar to me. The cabin, though heavily track-focused, still boasts that quintessential sense of Porsche build quality and style: I could almost forget that there’s a half-roll cage behind my shoulder blades were it not for its omnipresence in my rear view mirror. The fixed-back bucket seats meanwhile have been plucked directly from Porsche’s 918 Spyder, and there’s only limited fidgeting required to find a bang-on driving position. Our Lava Orange test model boasts a six-point racing harness, but since a conventional seatbelt has also been fitted as an optional extra, I cowardly opt for the latter on the first run. Air conditioning and a radio now come as standard, and there’s even a dual set of cup holders that peel gracefully out of the dashboard in front of the passenger. RS purists will baulk – and I must admit, even I think this is a stretch for Rennsport – but the GT3 still weighs in at less than 1420kg. Any indication that the GT3 RS has gone soft is swept with almost alarming reassurance when the right pedal is given a boot.

There isn’t the titanic bombardment of flat-six brutality I expect when the starter switch is turned, the initial raucous bark quickly sinking into an almost soft purr at idle. Only as the 495bhp flat-six approaches its 8,250rpm peak does it release a spine-tingling howl that’s both intoxicating and visceral. From the off, the naturally aspirated GT3 lingers for half-a-hair around 1000rpm, almost goading you into believing the speed pick-up will be gentle. Suddenly there’s an explosion, the engine hitting its stride quickly and cloying its way with unabated fury in a beautiful burst of progressive anger. Almost savagely quick changes through Porsche’s PDK gearbox ensure no momentum is lost (seriously, they’re close to imperceptible).

Savage acceleration then, and it’s mere minutes before the confidence to lean on the front end starts oozing through the lightweight dashboard. The carbon ceramic brake discs offer massive stopping power, meaning speed is scrubbed quickly heading into each of the low to high-speed corners that make up our desert test route. But it’s the traction and monstrous amounts of grip from the performance tyres and widened rear track that impresses most. Even despite the razor sharp steering, the GT3 RS doesn’t ever feel like it’s on a knife-edge. The nose positively leaps to the apex under turn-in with incredible predictability, courtesy of both the communicative chassis working away beneath the seat of your pants and the detailed messages returned via the steering. Admittedly very firm ride comfort is an offshoot of that superbly damped suspension, but the whole experience is so visceral, so perfectly balanced, so intoxicatingly exciting, you won’t care. My talent window barely creaks open.

“Despite the razor sharp steering, the GT3 RS doesn’t ever feel like it’s on a knife-edge”

It is, as you can probably surmise for yourself, a lofty benchmark against which the 2.7 – now pealing towards me through the settling dust on the road – is to be measured. Well, not according to Bassam at least, who eventually clambers out of the driver’s seat, still deep in conversation with Tomini’s Assyl.

“It’s incredible! You can almost feel the front end twitching through the steering wheel in the tips of your fingers,” he mentions, barely pausing for breath. “It feels so raw, so organic to control that it makes more modern Porsches feel almost numb. I hadn’t really thought about it much either until this morning, but the sounds of naturally aspirated flat-six against a turbocharger really does add so much more to the experience. This thing is just amazing.”

With GT3 RS’s benchmark ratcheted down a few notches, it’s now my turn to join Assyl in the classic cabin, having gently swung open the almost impossibly lightweight door. The familiarity of the GT3 all but disappears as I do so.

The steering wheel in the 2.7 is noticeably thinner, the four-spokes pinched closer together. It’s also, for the size of the cabin at least, enormous, making the 360mm-diameter example in the GT3 RS feel quite diminutive by comparison. It’s locked in position, aimed – rather unfortunately – at my midriff rather than my chest. This wouldn’t be an issue were the leather-clad sports seats fully adjustable, but like those 2015 carbon fibre buckets, they’re fixed-back. They’re also incredibly stiff and offer little in the way of thigh support. I end up rolling the seat along the runners as far as I can just so my feet can use the floor-mounted, almost perversely small pedals. And I still have to drive bow-legged.

Our ’73 test model features a rare rear-seat delete option, the original owner having opted for more rear luggage space instead. And unlike the Lightweight 2.7 – which rarely make their way to auction with less than a million dollars premium – our test model is equipped with ‘Komfort’ leather steering wheel, sport seats and two-tone black and red leather upholstery, following a full restoration by noted specialist Jack Molinier. Like the outside there’s very little fuss or commotion, the dials – canted so that you can see the readout through the steering wheel spokes – about the only thing equipped on the dashboard. It strikes me as quirky and wonderfully charming as I turn the key in the ignition with my left hand for my first drive in the $750K Carrera R.S.

 EnginePowerTorque0-100kphTop speedWeightPrice
Porsche Carrera RS 2.7 (1973)Flat-six, 2,687cc210bhp @ 6300rpm188lb ft @ 5100rpm5.2sec245kph1,093kg$600K to $900K
Porsche 911 GT3 RSFlat-six, 3,996cc493bhp @ 8,250rpm339lb ft @ 6,250rpm3.3sec310kph1,420kg$167,900

The engine note, like the GT3 erupts with a deep, sonorous roar, but unlike the GT3, the note doesn’t dissipate. Instead, it continues its faintly mechanical whir, raising every so often as Assyl uses the hand throttle by my right leg to keep the revs up (“if you stall, I WILL laugh”). And again, unlike the GT3, there’s a more natural six-cylinder ‘chatter’ compared with the more synthesized bark of the GT3 RS.

Good God this engine is sweet. From the off, it feels so magnificently urgent as 210bhp is delivered to the rear axle. There’s a genuine thrill of winding the engine right out to within spitting distance of the 7200rpm redline, impressive enough for a modern sports car, and confirmation that the RS 2.7 has lost none of its punch, despite nosing its 43rd birthday. It’s incredible, the sense of immediacy through the throttle from this ultra-keen engine. Ironically the five-speed manual gearbox needs to be worked a bit harder. The shifts themselves though are pin-sharp, each shift being slotted into place with a hearty ‘kerchunk’. And then, there’s the handling.

“The whole experience is visceral, so perfectly balanced, so intoxicatingly exciting, my talent window barely creaks open”

It may feel almost unnervingly light when we’re up to speed, but the steering positively inundates my fingers with feedback, there nothing in the way of power assistance to dilute the undercurrent of jinking and jiggling as those 15in Fuchs glide over the rutted road surface. Instant communication ebbs and flows back and forth, the connection between senses and mechanics stronger than perhaps anything I’ve ever driven. Of course that might have something to do with the compact dimensions of the 2.7, which threads the needle where the GT3 RS – by comparison at least – feels positively enormous.

There’s no sense in fighting the wheel as it dances between my hands. The front end is not going to snap into unforgiving understeer. Quite the contrary. Hard turn-in truly brings out the depth of grip in those performance tyres, the RS body settling under load. I’m conscious of the potentially snap-happy back end in this rear-driven classic, a half maniacal laugh escaping my lips when an unwise lift-off mid-corner tweaks the rear axle sideways. Squeeze the power in gently though and the front end begins to squat, yawing slightly before shooting forward away from the apex, the engine note rising in its semi-aggressive nuance once again.

It feels so stable, so agile, so alive, and yet at the same time, not overly mechanical either. The sensations rifling their way through the steering wheel, the manner in which the nose seems to dance over the road rather than flow over it, and the urgency of the acceleration under full chat. There’s a raw connection that reminds me, moment by moment, that I’m in control. I’m keeping this RS on the island. I AM the limit. It’s a sense of engagement that’s almost dizzying.

“There’s no sense in fighting the wheel as it dances between my fingers”

I’ve lost sight of Bassam in the GT3 RS, but that’s okay. I hadn’t in all honesty expected to keep pace with a former Radical Middle East champion in, perhaps, the finest handling road-legal Porsche 911 in the world. Indeed, the latest generation RS is razor-sharp in its precision, utterly merciless in its power delivery, and so spectacularly capable through the turns thanks to perfect weight distribution and levels of grip that genuinely boggle the mind. Both the performance potential and its limit are beyond terrifying to consider.

But, surprise surprise, I care very little as I tuck the 2.7 nose into another sequence of mid-speed corners, the steering wheel jostling between my fingertips though never threatening to snap away. Another hearty gearshift drops that eardrum-pummelling soundtrack into the lower keys for the briefest of moments, before it returns at full falsetto, a bastion of that remarkable, four decade old flat-six. It’s a charisma and almost organic connection to the road sluicing by beneath us that makes the 2.7 RS experience so much more electrifying, so much more engaging than the more stratospheric potential offered by the GT3 RS.

Yes, the GT3 RS is a phenomenon, and a testament to 50 years of Rennsport evolution. Yes, it’s faster, more manoeuvrable, and considerably cheaper than its illustrious genesis. But I don’t care. At $750,000, the Carrera RS 2.7 is worth every penny.

*Thanks to Harisanker.S and Awesome Group for the images

Porsche Carrera RS 2.7 ‘Komfort’ (tech specs)

Engine: Flat-six, 2,687cc

Power: 210bhp @ 6300rpm

Torque: 188lb ft @ 5100rpm

Transmission: Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Front suspension: Transverse control arms w/ torsion bars, anti-roll bar, Bilstein shock absorbers

Rear suspension: Trailing arms w/ torsion bars, anti-roll bar, Bilstein shock absorbers

Brakes: Radially ventilated, axially drilled (front and rear)

Wheels: 15in (front and rear)

Tyres: 215/60 VR 15 (front), 235/60 VR 15 (rear)

Weight: 1,093kg

Power-to-weight: 192.13bhp/ton

0-100kph: 5.2sec

Top speed: 245kph

Price: $600K to $900K

Porsche 991 GT3 RS (tech specs)

Engine: Flat-six, 3,996cc

Power: 493bhp @ 8,250rpm

Torque: 339lb ft @ 6,250rpm

Transmission: Seven-speed PDK automatic, rear-wheel drive

Front suspension: MacPherson strut

Rear suspension:Multi-link independent

Brakes: 380 x 34mm (front), 380 x 30mm (rear)

Wheels: 9.5 J x 20 (front), 12.5 J x 21 (rear)

Tyres: 265/35 ZR 20 (front), 325/30 ZR 21 (rear)

Weight: 1,420kg

Power-to-weight: 347bhp/ton

0-100kph: 3.3sec

Top speed: 310kph

Price: $167,900