31If there was one car which defined sports car racing in the 1990s, it would have to be the McLaren F1 – that is, until Porsche retaliated. The 911 GT2s were hard on tires and had a difficult time hanging with the increasingly dominant F1 in the BPR Global GT Series, and Porsche made a move to improve the format. With a 3.2-liter Mezger engine mounted midship, coupled with two turbos, 640 horsepower, and stunning, swoopy looks, the GT1 was born.
As the BPR series became the FIA GT1 series in 1997, the induction of the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR rendered the Porsche not terribly competitive, but Stuttgart stepped in and refitted the car with aerodynamic changes, and some new body pieces from the then-new 996 generation cars. These tweaks yielded 205 mph down the Mulsanne straight – and helped put the car back in contention.
It was, in many ways, a bridge from the older Porsche 962 to the modern RS Spyders and modern prototypes. The 911 GT1 Evo still used a conventional six-speed gearbox, shifted along an h-pattern, with closely stacked gears. That gave the drivers a considerable task to manage the gearbox, the heel-toe downshifting, and the incredible cornering speeds.
As the GT1 was designed for long-distance racing, the car had to be somewhat forgiving, and, if you’ll allow the term when describing a racing car, “livable.” It was renowned for its progressiveness on the limit, and its willingness to talk to the driver. Perhaps that level of communication had something to do with the car’s success, but it’s more likely it has something to do with the chirping birds in place of the engine’s wastegates. That ought to spur a driver on a little.