There’s no big overarching theme to talk about this month; just some updates on how I feel about the car and the car itself.
After nearly nine months of ownership, I’m finally getting the sense the GT3 is shrinking around me in the driver seat. It’s a sought-after sensation that denotes a bonding with a car, that the driver is enabled to exploit the limits daringly, and to carry the confidence that any surprises can be handled with ease. A car’s fun-to-drive factor receives a boost as well, and within the past month, I’ve really gotten a liking to how awesome the GT3 is to drive, and precisely why the motoring press raves about it.
Obviously, you’d expect a 911 from the Porsche GT department to be nothing less than fantastic, though I guess for a wholly unskilled driver like myself, it takes a bit of time to personally validate the claims made by that lofty reputation. Because the GT3 is not my daily driver but rather a weekend machine for the mountain roads, the lack of continuity and relative seat-time hampered how quickly I got acquainted it. My previous cars took less than a month each to achieve the same “wrapped around me” feel because those cars were used for commuting as well.
Honestly, there’s a factor of fear. The 911’s peculiar drivetrain layout – with the engine sat behind the rear-axle – is ever present on my mind; I’ve read too many stories of 911 owners experiencing the sudden unwelcome advance of the car’s rear-end, leading to many spins and accidents. Even with all the traction and stability mechanisms left on, I’m always keenly aware of the GT3’s potent potential to swap ends, at best making me look like an utter idiot, or worst, pirouette right onto another car. The 911 is definitely way more car than what I’m ever used to, so I approached my GT3 with reverence and huge trepidation; a book to be read very slowly.
Something incredibly simple also slowed down the time to acclimatization: I was in the wrong seating position. I understand the superb irony it was only some months back I wrote on these updates how awesome the GT3’s driving position is, and how important it is for a sports car provide the proper ergonomics. Through no fault of the car, I recently realized I was sat too far away from the steering wheel: I had erroneously acquiesced too much for thigh support, hoping to avoid the dreaded butt pain on long stints. Because my particular GT3 has the base seats with only the three basic adjustments (front-back, up-down, and incline), that meant moving the seat rearwards until my thighs hit the front cushion.
I can’t believe I drove around like that for over half the year. It was on a drive earlier in the month that for whatever reason I felt frustrated I wasn’t getting the necessary sensation in return from the GT3, and that something was missing. Knowing to check the fundamentals first, I stopped the car to readjust the seating position, and it turns out I was slightly too far back from the ideal setup in relationship to the steering wheel. Therefore, sacrificing some thigh support had to be done.
The effect was immediate, as if a switch has been flicked on. The GT3 came alive in my hands, and for the first time I can directly feel through my body the twist and motions of the car as I maneuvered through corners. Because I can fully feel exactly what’s going on, I now have the confidence to muscle the car into a turn, and actually use the brakes to manipulate the chassis. The GT3 truly dances, the more winding the road, the more it rewards the senses. The change of direction is immense, and the car settles down from any sudden imperfections or inputs with rapid ease. It reaffirms how truly capable the GT3 is, and that me the driver is the lone weak link on the chain.
Few months back I had written how I wish the GT3’s steering rack was just a tad quicker, and that it’s not as darty as the one I was used to on the Mazda MX-5. After the seating adjustment, I’ve come to realize the slightly slow ratio on the 911 is engineering as such for a purpose: it’s perfectly matched to the brilliant chassis. On a twisty mountain road when everything is in harmony, the steering is precise and turns exactly where I want the car to go; a faster rack would only upset that sweet balance. Besides, should a corner require more angle than predicted, mid-corner adjustments don’t disturb the 911 into understeer.
I think the genesis of my complaint about the slightly slow steering ratio is because I was still framed from the perspective of my old Miata; even with the rear-axle steering system shortening the turning radius considerably, I guess a 911 simply can’t defeat the base physics of a diminutive MX-5.
And rear-axle steering isn’t only for making U-turns in less space than an Audi A3: on a winding road, the system is effectively magic. For me, rear-axle steering has gone from a necessary gimmick (one cannot spec a GT3 without it) to a total revelation in the ability to nip the GT3 through tight turns. You can’t really feel in on corner-entry during the braking phase; rear-axle steering comes into the play on throttle, and you can sense the backend come into play in almost uncanny fashion. It doesn’t rotate the car per se; rather it’s as if the rear-end speed up faster than the front for a split-second, giving a sudden burst of energy to punch the car out on corner exit. I can see why almost all the expensive new sports cars on the market has a rear-wheel steer feature.
The GT3 is, again, needless to say, a fantastic car; any perceived shortcomings are probably on the fault of me not yet calibrated to its capabilities.
After achieving clear communication with the chassis and melting those sensations into muscle memory, the GT3’s party piece - the atmospheric flat-six that revs to 9,000 RPM - reveals itself that much more. The engine lives most happily above 5,000 RPM – just as most cars are beginning to run out of breath - and it absolutely sings to 9,000. I used to be afraid of staying in high revs in my cars for some inexplicable reason, but now, I gladly keep the 911 in low gears and let the tach needle live and dance within the upper reaches of the circle. The high-pitched wail on that last 1,000 RPM towards 9K is what makes the high cost of entry for the GT3 well worth it.
Some days I’d get into normal cars and wonder where the rest of my 3,000 revs has gone.
Even with the newfound synergy with the car, I’m remain far too much of a wimp to test the GT3’s adhesion limits, especially so after an incident coming out of a car wash. A cold evening as per usual here in San Francisco, I’d forgotten how little grip the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires have in low temperature and soaking wet from the car wash dousing. On a normal right-hander onto a thoroughfare, I accidentally pushed too much throttle, and the rear-end quickly spun around, easily defeating the hapless traction control. I was lucky to not hit anything, thanks to the wide road with no other cars nearby; the only bruise was to the proverbial ego, and my overall comfort level with the GT3.
Ever since then, I’ve been extra careful with the gas pedal, too scared of a repeat, particularly on narrow mountain roads where the cost of a mistake is exponentially greater. To remedy this apprehensiveness, I think a trip down to the Porsche Experience Center in Los Angeles is in order: they offer driving courses, one of which involves the ins and outs of car-controlling a 911 GT3. The problem of course is money, as it costs upwards of a thousand, and the fact that I live 300 miles away means there’s ancillary costs as well.
Perhaps a local autocross event would be better and far less costly. Stay tuned on that.
The Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires may be super tricky when cold and downright worthless for grip in the rain, but when those tires work, the amount of grip is incredibly addictive. Every time I’ve determined to switch to Pilot Sport 4S tires on the next tire service, I’d change my mind after driving the GT3 on a hot day, where the Cup 2 tires can get to their operating sweet-spot. It allows the car to do things that’s difficult for the mind to comprehend, and I worry that by stepping down a grade to the 4S tires, I’d lose this immense, unstoppable feeling.
There’s still quite a few thousand miles of life left on the Cup 2 tires – god willing any undue punctures – so decision time can wait. It’s too bad laws of physics can’t allow a tire with Cup 2 grip combined with 4S wet traction; even Formula One cars have dedicated rain tires, after all.
A fun and quirky part of 911 ownership is giving the wave or thumbs up to fellow Porsche owners I encounter during a drive, though we tend to restrict it to the 911, Cayman, and Boxster (any vintage). There’s way too many Macans and Cayennes on the road, and the typical owners of those sports-utility vehicles aren’t what we would call enthusiasts - it’s Porsche sports cars only. Nevertheless, it’s a gracious feeling to give recognition to other Porsche drivers, and the joy of machine we share together.
It seems I’ve always owned cars with such ownership camaraderie: I’ve performed the friendly thumbs up to other drivers on the road back when I owned the Subaru WRX STI and the Mazda Miata. Both of those cars have a cultist and enthusiastic following much like the 911, so it’s only natural the habit continued on to this day. I wouldn’t want it any other way, because the day I don’t get to do this is the probably the day I’m no longer driving a fun and interesting car.
I promised that I would break 500 miles this month, and as you can see in the stats below, I came close enough that I’m willing to smugly claim a victory. As we head into the colder months on the calendar, the mileage per month will for sure drop: as mentioned earlier, the Cup 2 tires really don’t like inclement weather. Most weeks I’ll probably take the car out long enough to get the mechanicals up to temperature and the battery charged up.
The odometer is close to ticking pass 28,000 total miles as well, which means I’m about 2,000 miles away from the GT3 losing its entire value! Half joking aside, it’s widely accepted in this category of sports cars that once 30,000 miles is reached, it denotes a sort of fiscal cliff, whereby a car is seen as thoroughly used, no matter the actual present condition. For example, the price of an extended warranty goes up dramatically when a car is over 30,000 miles, compared to even just 29,000. That’s simply how things work.
Of course, I couldn’t care less about trivial things as depreciation, and I’ll never agree with or understand people who do (and that’s on me, not them). I’m tremendously proud of every nick and flaw I’ve gathered over these past 4,000 miles, and I’m only sad I don’t have more. Patina is a wonderful thing; none of this lasts forever, so might as well enjoy and use it.
Sometimes people ask me if I ever get nervous about parking the GT3 relatively far away from home; what if someone messes with the car, or an inattentive driver dings the door (or worse). Indeed, the 25-year-old me would’ve been bothered and stressed to bits at such an arrangement, but the present me don’t worry about things I can’t control (try not to, anyways.) I’m glad and somewhat surprised that during the past nine months, nothing negative has happened to the car while parked (knock on wood), though even if that weren’t the case, that’s what insurance is for.
I certainly pay handsomely for it!
Date acquired: January 2019
Total mileage: 27,991
Mileage this month: 479
Costs this month: $392
MPG this month: 15.55 mpg