The elevation changes, bumps, blind entries, high-speed corners, and daunting straights make Road Atlanta one of North America’s most challenging circuits. Like the Nurburgring Nordschleife, Road Atlanta puts all aspects of a vehicle through a rigorous test. So will Road Atlanta now become the yardstick for American models where manufacturers set and reset fastest time for their hottest RWD, AWD, and FWD cars and SUVs?
Resetting Corvette’s Fastest Lap
For example, prior to Porsche clocking a new official fastest lap at the 2.54-mile circuit in Braselton, Georgia a little over one week ago, Chevrolet held the fastest time with their latest ZR1: a 1:26.45 (which it captured from a Dodge Viper ACR). We’ll now have to see if Chevrolet returns to try and lower Porsche’s record, and which other manufacturers will choose to challenge the Georgia race circuit to promote their production performance models.
The driver who set the record in the Porsche was Randy Pobst, Motor Trend contributor and American road racing legend, who runs in all sorts of different circles. Interesting that Porsche gave him the chance to try and beat the ZR1 lap record that Pobst himself set. Like most racers, Pobst simply appreciates speed from whatever brand it comes from.
Just sixty miles from Porsche North America’s headquarters, the talented Pobst added to his list of conquests in this car; building off of production car records at Laguna Seca and Willow Springs last year. Soaring on the confidence brought by those accomplishments, he put in a surgically precise lap some two seconds faster than the Corvette could muster. With a scarcely believable lap of 1:24.88, Pobst put the GT2 RS at the top of Road Atlanta’s time sheets.
Randy Pobst and David Donohue Tag Team
Partnering with David Donohue that day, Pobst had another talented driver to compare telemetry and whittle down lap times. Pobst had already logged a very quick lap around Road Atlanta in the 991 GT3 RS on the same rubber—the road-legal Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R N0 tires—so he was already prepared for the challenge. In the turbocharged car, however, Pobst went nearly two seconds quicker.
Part of that improvement came down to an additional 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, which catapulted the GT2 RS down Road Atlanta’s famously lengthy straights at a rate few cars can match. However, as we can see from the footage above, it would be unfair to describe the car as a dragster—its acceleration out of corners is equally impressive, if not more so.
To get the most out of a car which truly straddles the fence between road car and race machine, a frightening and varied circuit is needed.
“Even for a professional driver, huge power can be intimidating. But when I drive the GT2 RS, the massive torque feels completely under my control, so usable, because the car is extremely well-balanced. It is very confidence inspiring; a pleasure,” added Pobst. Watching the footage, the traction is almost unbelievable; the car looks so settled when deploying its voluminous horsepower.
Note its body control over the crest and the curb when heading into Turn 3 (0:56 in the footage just above). That sort of stability gave Pobst the certainty needed to thread the car through the challenging downhill esses afterwards, and over the curbs in the deceptively tight Turn 5.
700 Horsepower Hydrogen Bomb
The outrageous speeds attained down Road Atlanta’s famously long straights demonstrate, if it wasn’t clear before, just what a hydrogen bomb the 700 horsepower 3.8-liter engine is. The top speed of 173 miles per hour before Turn 8 is something few racing cars can achieve.
Donohue remarked, “It was an incredible experience. The traction coming out of a corner, the tireless brakes, the grip generated by the downforce and the tires, and of course the tremendous power made it possible. The 911 GT2 RS is not just very capable, but also very approachable,” said Donohue. Not something you’d expect said of a car boasting those sort of stats, but as we’ve seen from the footage, and as evidenced by the record laps at the world’s most challenging tracks, it is true.
All this success begs the question—what is the best marker of achievement for a car of this caliber? Top speed tests and the typical 0-60 times simply don’t test the breadth of abilities cars like the GT2 RS possess. To get the most out of a car which truly straddles the fence between road car and race machine, a frightening and varied circuit is needed. With crests, cambers, and the constant threat with the walls so close, perhaps Road Atlanta is one of the few North American circuits which challenge cars and drivers like the Nordschleife does—and maybe that makes this record a little more impressive than others.