When I was a child, I was a massive fan of Hot Wheels. It fueled my car obsession before I had discovered Top Gear. I collected them for many years, but one car always stood out to me. It didn’t look like any other car I had seen before. The aggressive low cut front end, the vented hood and wheel arches, the roof scoop, the extended wheelbase, the massive ducktail and high rising wing kept me wondering what car it could have been. All I could recognize were the 2 “fried egg” headlights from the 996 911. But as I peered underneath the car to discover the plastic under tray with the make and model I discovered that, yes, it was in fact, a 996 911. But the three characters in front of 996 911 were the ones that confused me. What could GT1 possibly mean? Why did the car look completely different just because GT1 was added to its name?
GT1 was a form of FIA Championships in the 1990s. Porsche made 3 GT1 based cars during this era of legendary racing. The first GT1 car was based on the 993, the second was based on the first one with minor revisions, and the third was based on the 996. These 911s would have to race against some of the most important names in Le Mans history, such as the McLaren F1 GTR, the Mercedes CLK GTR, and the Toyota GT-One. These cars were the pinnacle of the automobile, the absolute extreme of what the manufacturers could achieve. The reason behind these three new GT1 cars being produced was the disappointing season for the 962. It was too outdated and could not keep up with the competition. The F1 GTRs were dominating in the Le Mans endurance race and Porsche could not endure being on the losing side. The 993 911 GT1 was born.
The 993 911 GT1 was introduced in 1996. Nobert Singer, who had been responsible for every Porsche that had competed in Le Mans, was given the 993 911 and the objective to make it a Le Mans monster. He took the front end of a 993, attached it to a custom built tubular frame and a monocoque chassis. Then he attached it to the rear of a 962 to produce this Frankenstein of the car world. It had a watercooled twin turbo 3.2 liter flat six that made 590 horsepower and 479 pound feet of torque. The flat six was mounted longitudinally and was connected to a 6 speed manual transmission. It reached 100 kph (62 mph) in 3.7 seconds and hit a top speed of 307 kph (191 mph), however during Le Mans the car achieved 320 kph (205 mph) on the La Sarthe straight. To help achieve this, all of the body panels on this car were changed; the only parts shared with the original car were the headlights and taillights.
Even the staple of the 911-its rear mounted engine-was moved to become mid engined in order to aid weight distribution and aerodynamics. The 993 911 GT1 was revealed to the public at the 4 Hours of Brands Hatch endurance race and took a 1-2 finish. It finished 5th overall, and third in its class.
During this era of FIA regulations, manufacturers were forced produce at least one production car for the race car to be based on. Instead of Porsche wasting their time producing the next generation of 911 and not focusing enough on the GT1 car, they decided to produce a “Homologation Special” called the 911 GT1 Straßenversion (which translates to street version).
The Straßenversion had the same twin turbo 3.2 liter flat six, however it was detuned to 532 horsepower , mainly because of emissions regulations in Europe at the time. The ground clearance was increased, the suspension was softened and the car was given a more comfortable interior. The difference in the 0-100 kph (62 mph) time was 0.2 seconds; from 3.7 seconds to 3.9 seconds. Even though regulations called for 25 cars, Porsche produced 23 units of the Straßenversion; all were sold to the public with one being delivered to the German government. As for the price, a clean $912,000 out of your bank account.
The new GT1 car was mechanically identical to the previous GT1 car. Minor revisions led to the name 911 GT1 Evo (Evolution). The biggest difference between the old GT1 and the GT1 Evo were the new headlights and taillights, which previewed the next generation 911 lights, also referred to as the “fried egg headlights.” The aerodynamics were revised in order to increase downforce and reduce drag. The wing was adjustable based on top speed or handling preferences and it weighed only 1,050 kg (2,310 lb).
Unfortunately, the car was plagued with reliability problems and did not cover the full race distance. This motivated Porsche to work harder and smarter for the next season of the FIA World Endurance Championship and boy, did they deliver with the successor of the GT1 Evo, the 996 based GT1-98. Make sure to come back next week to hear the exhilarating story behind it, including nearly fatal crashes and increasing competitiveness between the manufacturers participating.
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