Bonkers – A few days with an 800hp Porsche 911 GT2
[Editor’s Note: Spoiler Alert! This is one “hell-of-a-ride” but I had to remind readers that our sister discussion forum Luxe178 [CLICK] is the place to go to for apres-read discussions…]
It’s tough to quantify the number of hours of my youth spent grasping a video game controller, meticulously customizing, tuning, and racing all manner of road cars in games like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport. This obsession undoubtedly laid the foundation for my understanding of vehicle dynamics near the limit, as there was one rule I religiously adhered to in pursuit of digital racing glory: “all systems off”. That’s right – no traction control, no stability control, not even ABS.
It’s tough to pinpoint my particular reasoning for doing so. There was no real provocation – no prize to be had, no friends to impress over Xbox Live (it didn’t yet exist). Something just felt wrong about allowing the computer to mask the inadequacies in my car control. Thus, I forced myself to develop a finely-tuned trigger finger, and an acute awareness of the limits of mechanical grip within the confines of the game. Perhaps this is why, as a 29-year-old big kid, I stand a small chance of taming what many have dubbed “the widow-maker”.
Original Porsche 911 GT2
For the uninitiated, the Porsche 911 GT2 sits near the top of the Porsche food chain – an unholy marriage of the track-bred chassis, suspension and brake componentry of the GT3, with a twin-turbocharged 3.6L flat six, delivering 476hp from the factory (Yes, that was impressive in 2004). Oh…and all that grunt is delivered exclusively through the rear wheels, sans safety nets and nannies, hence its propensity for murder.
So, what’s a car enthusiast to do with this finely-tuned, perfectly-balanced piece of engineering mastery from Stuttgart? Quite obviously, double the power output, and embark upon a ground-up redesign of the suspension!
“Sleeper” Porsche 911 GT2
This particular example is, thus, one of few GT2 in history that may qualify for the “sleeper” moniker. A future AlphaLuxe article will feature a deep-dive into the technical details of this incredible build, so I’ll spare you the nerdy bits, for now. But, most importantly – this car manages a rock-solid reliable 800 horsepower at the rear wheels via up-rated turbochargers, some creative re-routing of the air induction path, and masterful fuel management, all spear-headed by Akram Haus engine-builders out of Houston, TX.
Though, you’d be forgiven for overlooking the relatively modest engine bay in favor of this car’s party trick – a fully-bespoke inboard pushrod suspension setup, courtesy of Scarbo Performance. This arrangement allows fitment of fat, 335-section rear tires, giving this monster a sliver of hope in delivering its astronomical power to the pavement. Braking power is also enhanced, courtesy of GT3 Cup rotors and calipers, capable of eye-popping deceleration befitting a thoroughbred race car.
“Riding Around in My Automobile…”
“So,” I’m sure you’re thinking, “the car has been ruined.” I don’t blame you for the assumption, as cars in this extreme state of tune tend to be compromised and utterly unforgiving. But, after two full days of living with the car, I can confidently say that it’s an absolute darling to drive in real-world conditions.
While it’s constantly apparent that a snarling beast lurks beneath the rear decklid, a buttery-smooth idle and linear power delivery at sub-boost throttle application mean the car will never surprise you around town.
Minimal unsprung weight due to the inboard suspension means instantaneous reaction to rough road surfaces, resulting in ride quality significantly less jarring than you’d expect from such a hardcore machine. While heavier than a typical road-going ride, the clutch pedal isn’t punishing, and smooth take-offs are a breeze.
An apparent total lack of sound insulation in the cabin means the driver is treated to a masterful symphony of mechanical clatter, whether the fingers of the pressure plate decompressing as the clutch pedal is depressed, the horizontally-mounted springs and dampers squeaking as they soak up road imperfections, or the wastegates dumping excess pressure from the turbos on throttle lift, a process dubbed the “wastegate kazoo”, which NEVER gets old.
Two days with this car, watching the pushrod suspension work its magic through the rear-view mirror, delighting in the mechanical symphony, and performing an occasional full-throttle blast through second and third gear is enough to ruin just about any car enthusiast. What other car can even come close to the visual, auditory, and overall sensual experience that this thing offers? I’ll let you know, if I ever find the answer.
Track Day with 800hp
Alas, an AlphaLuxer’s work is never done – I had to bring the beast out to the track for a high-speed shakedown. Our chosen venue? The Orange County Festival of Speed at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA [please note: video footage near end of article]. I cut my teeth as a track-rat here, with probably twenty track days under my belt – mostly of the two-wheeled variety. With a riotously-fun technical infield section, and a “straight” comprised of two-thirds of a NASCAR oval, this track is a formidable test of a car’s low and high-speed dynamics, as well as its driver’s cojones.
Cool January weather and overcast skies provided nearly perfect conditions for the heavily-boosted GT2 to shine. Its Toyo R888 tires bled down to track pressure, fenders and lights taped up, and fuel tank topped with 98-octane, I warily made my way on-track, unsure of what to expect from the brutal powerplant, which felt eager to be unleashed.
My apprehension didn’t last long, as boundless mechanical grip and flawless body control meant the car felt rock-solid stable under heavy braking on corner entry. Perfectly-spaced pedals made heel-toe a breeze, permitting full concentration on dialing braking points and slicing past the apex under trail braking.
And, good God, the power! With such copious boost on tap, there was no choice but to tip-toe through the corners, ensuring the car was almost fully straight before even dreaming of unleashing the Kraken.
When the time came to put down the power, the boost came on like a literal sledgehammer blow to the rear. In a word: bonkers.
The trick suspension and fat contact patches ensured every foot-pound of torque translated to tear-inducing acceleration (the car genuinely kept pace with a Koenigsegg Regera attempting to pass into Turn 5!). Redline approached with such rapidity, that my pitiful human appendages struggled to keep pace, highlighting my status as the weak-link in this incredibly capable chain. On the front straight, the car effortlessly propelled itself to nearly 170mph, limited only by my unwillingness to enter the banking at speeds more befitting of a professional stock-car racer.
Over the course of three track sessions, my braking points ever-deeper, downshifts ever-smoother, the brutality of the car started to slowly vanish. Smooth, calculated inputs allowed the shouting beast at the rear to be wrangled, and the brilliant suspension allowed for predictable, progressive behavior near the limits of grip. Never would I have expected that the “widow-maker” could be so effectively tamed. As the flag dropped on my final session, I was met with an instant rush of frustration, knowing I had just begun to tap into the car’s massive potential.
Anyone can make a car fast – the real magic of this car is in its flawless reliability, ingenious packaging, and balanced performance. Akram’s brutal motor and Scarbo’s slick suspension work in such perfect harmony with Porsche’s storied 996 GT2 platform, one can scarcely tell that this car wasn’t developed at the hands of Porsche’s racing department in Weissach.
That a minimally-talented guy like myself can extract so much performance from the car isn’t a happy accident- it’s the result of countless hours of careful consideration and masterful engineering. I’d venture a guess that despite its raucous power output, this GT2 is actually easier to manage near the limit than its bone-stock brethren.
So, I think the car is in dire need of a re-brand.
Clearly, it’s not the “widow-maker” – I lived to tell the tale!
(Video footage of Kevin driving Bonkers at The Orange County Festival of Speed at Auto Club Speedway.)
Counterpoint by ThomasM
I am always a little hesitant to mention ginormous horsepower output: “…800whp”.
- “Straight line speed is so juvenile…”
- “What are you compensating for?”
- “Where are you going to drive it?”
- “Who needs that much horsepower?”
I was never a horsepower junkie, not a burnouts and donuts kind of driver, preferring my personal holy grail of balance – powertrain, chassis, suspension…horses for courses. But having lived with a 1000hp AMG CL65 and now Bonkers – an 800+hp 996 GT2 (which means no stability control, two wheel rear wheel drive with rear engined dynamics) for more than an around the block, I have reached a few unapologetic conclusions:
- It’s intoxicating.
- It’s addicting.
- It’s hella fun.
When coupled with a chassis and suspension that is actually able to lay it down, and a disciplined throttle foot so you don’t accelerate straight to your open grave, it gives the right driver options that he/she wouldn’t otherwise have, including a plastered ear-to-ear grin that needs to be surgically removed.
Bonkers (this GT2) has as balanced a chassis and suspension, and as much mechanical grip, as any car I’ve driven. It is just so confidence-inspiring, and seat-of-the-pants feel so communicative, that you know when you are coming up against the limits and can adjust accordingly and appropriately.
Unlike the hallowed Carrera GT, which grips and grips and grips – until it doesn’t – and then you’re dead.
Many car people, including me, frequently talk about wanting cars that want to kill you. The truth is, we want a car that CAN kill you WHEN YOU ARE DISTRACTED, DISRESPECTFUL AND ARROGANT. Knife-edge cars like the Carrera GT scare any sane person, including truly great drivers like Walter Rohrl.
Bonkers will kill you too; if you forget humility and respect, any car will. But mere mortal drivers like me can have a shitload of fun and still feel reasonably confident of being able to catch it when physics, rubber and mass, inertia and friction, finally assert their ultimate power.
Why? What’s the difference?
Communication and feel up to the limit:
- The 335 rear rubber because of under fender space cleared out by the inboard pushrod suspension.
- Some have said all along, and more and more people are coming around to the realization (including me, a previous 996 hater) that the 996 chassis is a very communicative, driver-oriented one. More so than later Gen 911 (which can be a bit numbed) and similarly communicative, but different, from earlier air cooled cars’ chassis.
I love Bonkers. Call me crazy but I love Bonkers as much or more than the Carrera GT.
Both are batshit crazy, but Bonkers is like the wild plains Mustang that you managed to connect with; rider and horse are one…
The Carrera GT is an involuntary ally that wants to drive a Sykes-Fairburn dagger through your heart the first second that you let your guard down.
I want a car that “wants to kill you” but I also want to live long enough to enjoy it…
Go to our sister Luxe178 Forum [CLICK] for Discussions about BONKERS…
Author’s Biography: KevinB
KevinB is a 29-year-old auto enthusiast – a Mechanical Design Engineer by day, and serial side-hustler by night. By age 4, he could spout the make and model of any passing vehicle, and by 12 he was an expert in the inner-workings of the internal combustion engine. His love for all things motoring expanded into the two-wheeled world at age 17. He currently owns a 2014 Porsche 911 GT3, and a 2018 Ducati Panigale V4, and has somehow managed to retain his driver’s license.
When he’s not daydreaming about cars or motorcycles, you’ll find him at the gym or yoga studio, on a backpacking trip, or walking shirtless on the beach to maximize Vitamin D, whilst listening to the latest book or podcast on nutrition and healthy living. He currently resides in Santa Monica, CA with his girlfriend of 8 years, and the world’s cutest Dachshund-Yorkie mix: Vincent.