At the 1999 Geneva Motor Show, Porsche unveiled the first-ever 911 GT3. Developed with assistance from two-time WRC champion Walter Rohrl and race engineer Roland Kussmaul, the GT3 came in as one of the 911’s many iterations but the only one which offered race car feel in the road going car. The naturally aspirated motor, manual transmission, rear-wheel drive and focused aerodynamics defined the GT3 through its three generations. One thing that we think that would have made this 20th anniversary even more special was if Porsche unveiled the 992-generation GT3 on this commemoration.
Nonetheless, the 911 GT3 is one of the few cars which can boast of a rich motorsport pedigree. The race version of the 911 GT3 has garnered many victories in major endurance races across the world including 24 Hours of Spa, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 24 Hours Nurburgring. No wonder that around 80 per cent of all 911 GT3 ever produced are regularly driven on the race track, boasts Porsche. As a homologation basis for motorsport, the GT3 also spawned many more race cars like the 911 GT3 R, GT3 Cup, GT3 Hybrid and GT3 RSR, to name a few.
The first-ever 996-generation GT3 was a successor to the iconic Carrera RS 2.7. Instead of adopting another RS moniker – which stood for Race Sport – Porsche went for GT3, playing reference to FIA’s GT3 class in which the race versions of the 911 were competing. The water-cooled 3.6-litre six-cylinder boxer engine in the first GT3 delivered 360bhp and was able to clock Nurburgring in less than eight minutes with Walter Rohrl at the wheel. Apart from the competitive engine, the GT3 had a lowered chassis, uprated brakes, manual transmission from GT2 racecar and adaptive hardware like gearbox ratios, axle geometry, anti-roll bars and springs. The fixed-wing at the back also became a characteristic feature of the GT3.
The second GT3 came around in 2003. The naturally-aspirated boxer engine now used continuously variable camshaft control and made 381bhp. Also on offer were ceramic composite brakes for the first time. Updating it three years later with 997-gen GT3, Porsche bumped the power to 415bhp while adding active suspension and the special Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). In 2009, the engineers increased the displacement of the six-cylinder boxer engine to 3.8-litres and the power to 435bhp. Increasing the power means there was a new rear wing introduced with full underbody panels to increase downforce.
On the 50th anniversary of the 911 in 2013, the new 991-generation GT3 was introduced at the same Geneva stage. The engine, transmission, body and chassis were completely new. It was powered by a newer 3.8-litre naturally-aspirated engine punching out 475bhp and for the first time, it was mated to a Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) dual-clutch automatic transmission. Also for the first time, there was active rear-axle steering introduced in the 911. This time around, the new GT3 went around the Nordschleife in just 7:25 minutes.
The latest version of the 911 GT3 was launched in 2017 as 991.2-gen. It still has a naturally aspirated six-cylinder boxer engine but the displacement has increased to 4.0-litres and the power output is now an earth-shattering 500bhp. Also, Porsche made the purists happy by reintroducing a six-speed manual transmission as an alternative to the PDK. Apart from the hardcore GT3, Porsche also offers a discreet Touring Package in which the imposing rear wing is replaced by an automatically extending spoiler. The Porsche 911 GT3 is truly a race car which you can drive on the road.