Take 2: How the 911 GT2 RS conquered the BIC

23rd May 2019 8:00 am

We witness Narain Karthikeyan chase the existing production car lap record at the Buddh International Circuit in a Porsche 911 GT2 RS.

Standing in the BIC pit lane on a pleasantly cool March morning, I’m enveloped by a sense of déjà vu. Haven’t I already been here, with the same team, waiting for the same driver to try and break the production car lap record?

I have, actually. In November 2018, we were right here to watch Narain Karthikeyan, India’s first
F1 star, push the limits in his very own Porsche 911 GT3 and set a lap time nobody has ever notched up in a road-going car. And today, just four months later, we are back at the Buddh to have a crack at our own record.

‘Why break a record set only a few months ago,’ you may ask. First, because records are made to be broken; and second, if you had a Porsche 911 GT2 RS at your disposal, would you want to wait? You know what they say about making hay…

And the sun is shining. It’s just past 8am, and Narain has just walked into the garage, having flown in from Super GT tests in Japan the previous night and having barely managed to sneak in a precious few hours of sleep. He hasn’t yet had a chance to drive the GT2 RS in anger, but is confident about breaking the record; and why shouldn’t he be? This time around, what he’s driving is a real weapon.

GT2 RS weighed to check if it matches the homologated specs.

The GT2 RS is the most powerful road-going 911 ever made. Its 3.8-litre, twin-turbo, flat-six engine makes a colossal 700hp (200hp up on the GT3 Narain drove last time) and 750Nm of torque. All that power goes to the rear wheels via a 7-speed PDK automatic gearbox. 0-100kph takes a scant 2.8sec, and its top speed is rated at 340kph. All that extra oomph would come in handy to try and beat the GT3’s impressive lap time. And what makes this particular example even more special is that it is specced with the optional Weissach package, which shaves off a further 30kg from the GT2 RS’ weight.

Such impressive numbers, paired with Narain’s ability to harness the maximum out of any car, means breaking the record is a certainty. However, the challenge really is to better the record by a big margin, and Narain agrees. “The GT2 will be faster than the GT3 for sure, but I think it’s going to be significantly faster. It has 200hp more, weighs 40kg less and has a larger track, so handling could be a factor here,” he says, while adding that on a simulated run, he could achieve a lap time of 2min 02sec.

Higher ambient temperature meant the window for the record run was small.

Like last time, the garage is abuzz with activity, but there’s a heightened sense of urgency, this time. You see, it’s March, and summer is almost here. Ambient and ground temperatures are already slightly higher, and will rise further quickly with every passing minute. If the timing of the record run was crucial in November, this time, it will make an even bigger difference as the higher temperatures will have a telling effect on the car’s on-track behaviour.

Driving a 700hp, rear-wheel-drive 911 on the limit is a challenge for even the most seasoned of drivers. Narain, however, is in the zone, fresh from testing the Honda NSX-GT race car, and only needs a few minutes to nail down the car setup (including getting the tyre pressures just right), find his ideal driving position, suit up and drive out of the garage. But as the clock ticks by and the mercury rises, Narain’s patience wears thin, and he has no time to wait for cameras. He must get a move on, and at a minute past 9am, he fires up the GT2’s flat-six (which, compared to the GT3’s mellow tone, sounds louder and more purposeful) and sets off for his first run.

On the back straight, the GT2 RS touched 285kph!

The GT2 RS absolutely flies down the start/finish straight, the wail of its twin-turbo flat-six revving to 7,000rpm bouncing off of the empty grandstand. On the first hot lap itself, Narain clocks a lap time of 2min 02.83sec. The record has been smashed straight away, but today isn’t the day to settle. Narain returns to the pits, still getting to grips with the GT2’s nuances, and with a few small setup changes (largely limited to tinkering with the tyre pressures), heads back on track to hammer-out a few more laps.

Narain was in the zone for the record run.

With every subsequent run, the lap time comes down by a considerable margin. The 2 minute 02 seconds laps turn into early 2:01s, and the early 2:01s turn into late 2:00s. The warmer tarmac has started to take a toll on the GT2’s tyres, with the tread on the brand-new Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 Rs (developed specifically for the GT2 RS and GT3 RS) starting to disappear quickly. But Narain heads out for one more run, in search of the lap that’ll get him as close as possible to the 2min mark.

With the sun beaming down, Narain fires the GT2 into C1, braking as late as possible, tucking the nose in to counter understeer and pins the accelerator on the exit. The Miami Blue GT2 is being driven like it was meant to be: hard and on the limit. On the back straight, it crests 285kph before Narain stands on the carbon-ceramic brakes and pilots the GT2 expertly around the rest of the track.

I hear Narain downshift before I see him as he approaches the final turn, and when he does appear, coming out of the final turn, all I see is a flash of blue fly by. The figure on the timing board reads 2:00:266s. That’s an incredible lap time by any measure, beating the GT3’s time by nearly 7.5sec; the closest anyone has ever gotten to ducking the 2min mark in a production car at India’s premier race circuit.

Narain says the GT2 RS demands more focus and commitment than any other Porsche.

Back in the garage, Narain explains how the GT2 RS is a completely different animal compared to his GT3, and is all praise for the most powerful road-going 911 ever made. “The driving styles are completely different. This needs more of a stop-go driving style. On the back straight, it’s almost 25kph faster. It’s very unique from a handling perspective. It has a lot of understeer built in and you need to judge it to perfection, because it can turn into very snappy oversteer on the exit, which you need to get used to. But all said and done, the GT3 is a phenomenally fast car, and to go nearly 7.5sec quicker than that says so much about the GT2 RS. I think there are very few road cars that can go faster than the GT2 RS. It may just be the fastest-ever production car on a racetrack.”

And while we’re still in awe of the record lap, Narain goes on to say that had the run with the GT2 RS been attempted in November with the ambient temperature being significantly lower, we could’ve easily snuck under the 2min barrier, possibly even notching up an early 1min 59sec lap.

This is a lap time that won’t be beaten any time soon.

With this, Narain has not only broken the existing record, but pushed it out of reach for most. This record is unlikely to be bettered anytime soon – even if somebody does find the right car, finding the right driver won’t be easy. But since Narain mentioned the possibility of clocking a 1min 59sec lap, November is only about six months or so away – and I’m just about getting used to this déjà vu thing…

Also see:

2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS review, test drive

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