As much as I'd like to recount tales of heroic oversteer slides through the corners, I'll leave the drift shenanigans for somebody with better insurance because owner Nick Wong's last words to me as I put it into first and let out the clutch were, "You break it, you buy it!" I did a little math in my head and realized I'd be working for him the rest of my life and probably still wouldn't finish paying it off, so caution became the better part of valor on this day.
In a lesser GT2, it would've been a different story. But Wong's '08 GT2 was fresh from an extensive upgrade program by Le Mans-winning race team, Champion Motorsport at its base in Pompano Beach, FL. Instead of the stock car's 530hp, or the 620hp of the GT2 RS, Wong's car put 620hp to the rear wheels on its pump gas setting, and as much as 845whp on race gas.
The engine was set to the insurance-friendly 620whp as I rolled into the Autobahn Country Club's pitlane behind a Ferrari 458. "This could get interesting..." I thought to myself. A few seconds after the flagman let the 458 go, he waved me through as well.
The clutch was a Champion Motorsport/ERP triple-disc carbon unit that clamps hard but had a narrow window and the lightened flywheel meant revs dropped fast, so I added extra revs to keep it from stalling.
The South Course starts with a right-hand hairpin and a tight right/left combo that unwinds into series of short straights. After the first turn, it's obvious the GT2's lighter front-end (compared to the AWD Turbo) is like the GT3 and beelines towards the apex in slower turns.
With the tighter turns out of the way, I was catapulted onto a short straight, shifting to third before braking for a left-hander. Surprisingly, the 458 wasn't far ahead and, judging by his speed and lines, seemed to know his way around.
As I turned in this time, I expected the same laser-guided bite as the previous corner, but it wasn't there so I backed off to find grip.
Lack of turn-in response was one of Wong's complaints after he first drove the GT2 and was near the top of his list of improvements. Champion attacked the problem by installing its suspension package, consisting of toe arm kits, trailing arms and adjustable solid caster bushings all round plus rear upper control arms. Constructed from aluminum, the parts are lighter and stronger than stock, offer greater adjustability and the trailing arms reduce dive and squat.
The stock shocks were replaced with adjustable Öhlins coilovers. And to put the parts to good use, the car had wider front fenders from the GT2 RS, allowing Champion to fit 265/35 R19 Michelin Super Sports (from 235/40) without rubbing.
The rear tires were 325/25 R19 and mounted to Champion's forged 19x12" RS98 wheels, with slimmer 19x9" up front.
Halfway through the lap I was already on the 458's bumper, being careful not to crowd him. We worked our way through the chicane that leads onto a long back-straight before he gave it full throttle and pulled out a gap. As impressive as the 458's acceleration was, the GT2 hung on and started to reel it in before we braked for another tight chicane.
The engine in this GT2 is pure metallurgical porn. Champion took the stock 3.6 liters to 3.8 with their own Champion/Carrillo rods and Mahle pistons (in iron liners). The crank was also lightened, balanced and "modified". The engine case includes shuffle pins to reduce main bearing fretting, and there's an enlarged center web for better oil flow.
The heads were ported, polished and matched on a flow bench. They were given 2mm larger Ferrea valves, springs and titanium retainers. Cometic head gaskets and Champion's 12x10mm head studs keep it in place.
There's more: Champion could've fitted a pair of big Garrett GT turbos but they would've added lag, while enlarging the stock VTG turbos wouldn't bring the gains they wanted. Instead, the company decided to make its own billet aluminum housings.
As Champion's Tom Pelov told it, "Our 68mm billet turbocahrger is based on the factory units. We replace the entire compressor housing with our own machined piece that allows a 68mm compressor wheel. And the wheel itself is also replaced with a seven-blade billet part, where the stock wheel has six blades. On the turbine side, it's mostly stock, but we modify the turbine wheel to maximize the efficiency."
"The general idea was to use a modified OEM turbo rather than swap to a Garrett to get the power of larger GT-series turbos but the benefits of VTG," Pelov elaborated.
The engine also received Champion intercoolers and headers, and the GT2's expansion intake manifold (which loses efficiency at high boost) was replaced by a resonance manifold from the 997TT.
Werks1 provided a carbon fiber Y-pipe that feeds the oversized 82mm throttle body on a Werks1 carbon fiber intake plenum and carbon turbo inlet pipes. To feed more fuel, they upgraded to Champion's 75 lb injectors and used a 3-bar fuel pressure regulator. High capacity coils maintain optimum spark.
Pelov gave recognition to GIAC for its work on the ECUs. Yes, there are two on this car because the six different programs would've overwhelmed the memory of one. Apparently, the hardest part when cloning an ECU is to ensure the new one doesn't trigger the immobilizer. Once overcome, the ECUs can be switched over seamlessly.
The engine sounds unlike most Porsche flat-six turbos. The normal drumbeat is muffled and the exhaust note is both tighter and more high-strung. It moans more than roars.
The car pulls away with the same ease as a regular VTG turbo. Throttle response is immediate, even at low revs. And as the revs rise, you feel the familiar turbo nudge but, with this engine, the power is more linear. It increases with revs, where the stock motor has a pronounced bulge in the middle that tapers away beyond 6000rpm.
Although I drove it with only 620whp at 22psi (max is 28psi), it obliterated the straights. The astronomical power pushes the 3200 lb car so that the engine never felt stressed.
It was at this point that the 458 waved me past. Even before we'd finished the lap I had the luxury of a clear track and the freedom to experiment with the faster turns. Leaving the braking later, relying on the carbon-ceramic brakes, and trail-braking into the turns got the bite I wanted.
Despite riding so low, there was plenty of compliance with the Öhlins suspension. The car would lean a little before settling in and rotating around the corner. Coming out of the slower turns, I did sense the traction control reigning in my enthusiasm, maybe losing some time on the lap.
Having previously owned everything from Skyline GT-Rs to an E46 M3, Honda S2000, Integra Type R and several karts, this was Wong's first 911 and he had to make some adjustments to his driving style. His approach was to brake early, turn in early and steer with the throttle instead of trailing the brakes. Doing this, the traction control has to be off or it will interfere with the throttle.
A stopwatch and telemetry would help decide which technique was faster, but we both agreed the car rewarded smoothness and bravery like no other. It reacted to the slightest pedal and steering wheel movement with an unfiltered purity. It has the 911 GT3's reflexes and Brontosaurus-sized balls of a tuned Turbo. So we found that stringing together a series of laps was as challenging as it was satisfying if you got it right.
Special thanks to Continental Autosports in Hinsdale, IL, and Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, IL for the track time
2008 Porsche 911 GT2
Engine 3.8-liter, flat six-cylinder, DOHC, twin-turbo with Champion Motorsport/Carrillo connecting rods, Mahle pistons, modified crankshaft, ported and polished heads with Ferrea valves, retainers and springs, Champion 68mm billet turbos, Werks1 carbon fiber Y-pipe and intake plenum, 82mm throttle body, 75 lb injectors, 997 Turbo resonance manifold, dual ECUs with GIAC software, Champion intercoolers
Drivetrain six-speed manual with Champion Motorsport/ERK triple-disc clutch, lightened flywheel, Guard GT2 Pro chromoly 60/40 LSD, California Motorsports billet diff cover
Brakes Porsche 15" carbon-ceramic rotors with six-piston calipers f, 13.8" rotors, four-piston calipers r, stainless braided lines
Suspension custom-valved Öhlins coilovers, Champion rear upper control arms, front and rear toe arms, trailing arms and solid adjustable caster bushings
Wheels & Tires 19x9" f, 19x12" r Champion Motorsport RS98 forged wheels, 265/35 R19 f, 325/25 R19 r Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires
Exterior GT2 RS front fenders and splitter