Michael McGrath isn’t your typical Porsche hobbyist. The man has experience in a variety of serious machines and knows how to conserve momentum. Though the track in-focus isn’t the most technical out there and favors big horsepower, McGrath has the chops to mix with a modern 997 Cup Car and some punchier Porsches which ought to leave him standing still.
The orange 997 Mark II Cup Car ahead of him sports some 450 horsepower and weighs just 2,646 pounds, whereas the camera car has 280 ponies, and weighs just 1,850 pounds. That weight difference is obvious in the way McGrath so casually brakes and floats a little more entry speed than the modern GT3 Cup, and this momentum conservation can be best seen in the opening laps through Turn Six (3:00). The entry there is semi-blind and it takes guts and a vivid imagination to take the right line and have the car generally straight so that the driver can stomp the throttle when the suspension compresses at the apex.
Despite having a similar power-to-weight ratio, the difference in torque and sequential gearbox allow the GT3 Cup to spread a gap down any lengthy stretch at Laguna Seca. It must be aggravating for McGrath, who does everything in his ability to keep the gap small.
Aided by traffic and the odd spinner, our man keeps in touch with the Cup Car, and fends off attacks from a more powerful 911—#191—with late braking and a pushy-but-polite attitude. Upon getting outrun down the front straight, he brakes hard enough to secure the entry to the Andretti hairpin at 2:17, checks his mirrors casually, and takes the corner. Handled like the boss he is.
However, the Rennsport Reunion races are for pleasure and not prize earnings, and so McGrath courteously lets Mr. Pushy in his powerful Porsche through. The power advantage between these two is noticeable though, and yet McGrath has to keep his 3.0-liter RSR in contention with entry speed, sheer guts, and reading the slower cars well.
Avoiding the fracas is a big part of these events, and getting around traffic cleanly can afford a slower car a chance to sneak ahead. This is what happened at the 19-minute mark, when a strong run and clever positioning allowed our man to get ahead of the #191 car, and despite being beaten to Turn Two/Andretti Hairpin at the bottom of the front straight, McGrath takes the inside, pushes his rival onto the marbles, and catches a bit of oversteer in a dazzling display of skill.
The battle isn’t quite over yet. The two trade positions over the course of the successive two laps, and just as #191 gets away, he gets caught in a melee and ends his race. Either exuberance or a nudge from another car (21:20) sends him spinning off the course at Turn Three, and our man regains his position to take the GT4 class win! You can almost hear McGrath cackling in his helmet.
Clearly, these vintage reunions are far more than processional trots with a bunch of well-heeled amateurs. Some of the drivers here pull of some spectacular moves, and what’s more—they pull them off when splitting traffic made up of million-dollar machinery and some people who seem to be more interested in the scenery! Clearly, this is a gentleman’s sport not for the faint of heart.