The 2017 Porsche 911 RSR―one of the nine icons that will come with the Project CARS 2 ‘Porsche Legends’ expansion pack―made headlines when it was first rolled out in March 2016 at Porsche’s test track in Weissach, this after more than a year of intense development. New racing 911s tend to do that to the automotive world.

The 911, after all, is about as sacred a Holy Cow as you’re likely to find, the silhouette one of the most recognizable shapes ever created, and those three numbers―911―rooted all the way back to the ’30s when Dr. Ferdinand Porsche’s new-found company began naming each new project by a consecutive number: 7 for the Wanderer, 22 for the first mid-engined grand prix car created for Auto Union, 60 for the VW Beetle, and the 356, the first-ever Porsche which celebrates its seventieth anniversary this year.

The 911 being the icon that it is, of course, means even its name has a history all of its own. It was not actually the 911th project―it was project number 901, except that another manufacturer had the trademark on ‘901’, so Porsche swapped the 0s on their pre-marketing campaign for 1s, and so began the car that is, for many, the one most associated with the Porsche brand―the Neunelfer.

The 911, from its birth in the early ’60s, went on to spawn some of the greatest, most beautiful and frightening sportscars ever made: the Carrera RSR 2.7 with its ducktail wing and fat rear tyres, the ’75 930 Turbo (aka the ‘Widow Maker’), and the ’04 996 GT3 RS, all absolute classics.

Meanwhile the 911 in motorsport solidified Porsche’s dominance of the racing scene―epic racers such as the 911 Carrera RSR that won the Targa Florio, Daytona, and Sebring. Legendary cars with legendary performance during the golden age of sportscar racing.

Any new 911, then, has a lot to live up to.

Performance versus History

With the 50th anniversary of the 911 coming up in 2014, Porsche were keen to get back into the World Endurance Championship with a new 911. Before committing to the new project, however, the decision was made to take a “lessons-learnt” approach―an honest, analytical assessment of their current 911.

Enter new Porsche motorsport chief Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser who’d been shifted over from his successful stint as supremo on the 918 Spyder hypercar project. “When I took over [Porsche] motorsport in 2014, there had already been some studies for, let me say, optimized weight distribution,” Walliser told Road and Track. “In March 2015, we made the final decision with the board and everything―the concept was there, and we did the studies, then we started with the engineering.”

The new 911 would look back in time for inspiration―to the last time it had conquered Le Mans with a GT car: The 1996 911 GT1 that you can find in Project CARS 2. But it was also looking back through half-a-century of hard-won sporting pedigree that extended to the mid-’60s, to a time before multiple wins at Le Mans, before Porsche’s dominance of the sportscar world, before the 935’s 150 wins, and before the marque’s over 30,000 wins.

The new 911 RSR, then, had to play according to the new rules that govern GT racing, now the world’s most keenly disputed racing series, both real-world and in sim racing. What’s the attraction that sees virtually every automaker of note building GT racers? The rules―or, more specifically, the Balance of Performance rules that oversee GT class racing: rules that have resulted in both power (capped) and weight (capped) no longer playing a defining role in the competitiveness of any given platform. Instead, it’s the handling of the cars that has now become the primary focus of attention for the designers and engineers, and that includes both aerodynamics and the all-important weight-distribution element.

The 2017 Porsche 911 RSR

The 911 RSR was developed from the ground-up to run in the FIA World Endurance Championship, as well as the United IWSC―an endurance series that runs in the US and Canada―and that means it sees action at Daytona, Sebring, and Indianapolis in the US, and Le Mans, Spa, and the ’Ring in Europe. All the crown jewels of international motorsport. Indeed, Porsche, after unveiling the car at the LA Auto Show, chose 2017’s Daytona 24 Hours for the RSR’s debut race; this after spending countless hours at Sebring testing, including two 70-hour long race simulations.

With its mid-ship engine, last seen with the all-conquering 1996 911 GT1, and massive (seriously massive!) rear diffuser, the 911 RSR is very much a machine of its age.

A longer wheelbase than previous 911s, new intake air ducting, 6-piston monobloc fixed brake calipers at the front, 4-piston units at the rear, and fully adjustable shocks and anti-roll bars all make an appearance on the 911 RSR, as do suspension and axle geometry purposefully designed to cure any lingering understeer.

Not only was the RSR built from scratch, so was the engine―a purpose-made 4-litre water-cooled flat-6 horizontally opposed with not a turbocharger in sight, good for around 510hp―limited by a restrictor. The light-weight engine allows the RSR to top the scales at 1,246KGs―precisely the minimum weight specified by FIA World Endurance Championship regulations.

Project leader for Porsche’s GT works motorsport Marco Ujhasi notes that: “A naturally aspirated engine is a highly emotional powerplant for customers of our road-going vehicles, yet it also has the performance potential to meet the high demands of motorsport.”

That means no mean-spirited redlines from a turbo―what you get is a flat-6 wailing all the way to a sublime 9,000RPM.

With the engine pushed ahead of the rear axle, Porsche also introduced that diffuser at the rear, and the result is a more neutral-handling car, and one that is a lot easier on its rear tyres―a core performance benefit for 24- and 12-hour endurance races.

The classic 911 shape also masks a spoiler on the roof taken from their Le Mans prototype 919 Hybrid, and a carbon-fibre body designed to be dismantled in seconds to afford mechanics easy access to the internal guts of the long-distance runner’s bodywork.

“Those who encounter these problems with a private road car,” said Marco Ujhasi, “would have to catch a taxi or a train for the day.”

The RSR went through both computational fluid dynamics simulation and significant time in the wind tunnel at Weissach, where the car was run on a belt that simulates all the stresses of an actual track; with the aid of a simulator, Porsche was then able to accurately predict lap times on their model.

The debut season for the Porsche RSR in 2017 was impressive: plenty of podiums, and third in the LMGTE Pro class for constructors in the FIA World Endurance Championship, and second overall in the Driver’s table.

This season will show the true capability of the new 911, both in the real-world and in sim racing. Are you ready to enter the fray with the new 911?

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