Can a stock Porsche 997 handle track abuse? | Project Porsche 997

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Update by Tim Suddard to the Porsche 911 Carrera project car
Mar 25, 2022

After fitting our fresh Bridgestones and putting a few miles on our new-to-us Porsche 997, we did what most new owners probably wouldn’t do: We immediately took it to a race track in order to set some baselines.

The FIRM, located near Keystone Heights, Florida, serves as our official test track, and most Fridays you can find one or all of us there testing cars–new cars, project cars, whatever is on the docket.

Armed with our new Intercomp 99.99 PSI Digital Air Pressure Gauge, a toque wrench fitted with 19 mm socket, and a helmet, we pointed our 911 northwest for the lovely back road, 1.5-hour drive to the FIRM.

Registration is quick and easy, and the staff is super friendly. The FIRM uses novice, intermediate and experienced groups for their open track days, and we were put in the experienced group. While weekends fill up, Fridays are pretty light with about a dozen cars on track during each run group.

Having never driven this car on track, we started gently. We were looking for vices that might put us into the weeds.

We quickly realized there were none. The car has plenty of power as we were hitting about 100 mph at the end of the short back straight. The handling was spot on with no evil snap oversteer so infamous in early Porsches. And the brakes never faded, despite being equipped with what we expect are the factory pads.

Huh, who would have thought, even when 15 years old, Porsche makes an excellent, reliable dual-purpose street/track car. We have read the hyperbole, but now we were experiencing it for ourselves.

While not the ultimate track tires, the 300tw Bridgestone Potenza Sport tires held up well and performed nicely, offering plenty of grip and minimal tire wear in a couple of 20-to-30-minute sessions.

For ultimate performance, we could move to a 200tw or even an R-compound tire. At that point, if we get serious about tracking this car, we will get second set of tires and wheels and probably a set of track-only brake pads.

Our own J.G. Pasterjak does most of our official testing at the FIRM and turned a 123.15, which puts our 911 at the pointy end of the list of cars we have tested–not quite as fast as a C8 Corvette, but also giving up about 200 horsepower.

[2022 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 2LT w/ Z51 Performance Package new car review]

It’s so good that there is no way to do anything to make it better without ruining it,” he says. “You might want to put a slightly larger or wider front tire on the car and/or a bit more negative camber in the front.” That’s really it for required chassis work, he notes.

It understeers, but feels more like mid-engine than a rear-engine car,” he continues. “It has none of the snap oversteer I was expecting in a rear-engine car.”

The brakes performed quite well. “You get a little bit of pad fade,” he says, “but if you go to more aggressive pads, you are going to get some squealing and excessive rotor wear. You can trail brake it really easily. You just put a bit of weight down on the nose and the front brakes dig in very well.”

Then there’s the steering: fantastic, he notes. “Perhaps a little light and vague, which is typical of rear or mid-engine cars since you don’t have all the weight on the front wheels.”

His conclusion: “It is a hugely satisfying car to drive on track. It is also very, very easy to drive fast. I would have no qualms putting a novice in one of these. It is that easy to drive.”

So, with that, we packed up and headed home. And yes, we were very happy with our new toy and its first day at the track. 

Want to dive deeper into the Porsche 997’s track manners? Keep reading for more of J.G.’s debrief:

This is maybe one of the most “sophisticated” feeling cars I’ve ever driven. It just seems to do everything well, and–more impressively–effortlessly. It never seems to be working very hard, and when you try and make it work harder it doesn’t seem to go much faster.

The engine is fairly unobtrusive, almost to a fault. It produces such steady thrust and intrudes so little into the cabin that you really have to watch the tach on track to know where to shift. It feels like it could easily rev another 500-1000 rpm without working too hard.

It produces good power, but the chassis is so good that it really feels underpowered at the limit. You can balance it with the throttle a little, but it just has so much traction and such neutral handling that there ultimately isn’t much you can do to force the issue on chassis balance using the throttle.

Surprisingly, actual throttle-on oversteer isn’t that easy to come by, even in slow stuff. In slow, second-gear exits, even clumsy smashing the gas to the floor mat tightens the rear after the front bites, but it never seems like it wants to step out much.

The front tires feel like they could stand to be a bit wider. They’re the first to lose traction on corner entry, although the car responds well to aggressive trail braking.

I was a little nervous at first about entering corners with aggressive trail braking because of the reputation of 911s for off-throttle oversteer, but it just isn’t there with this car. It’s just so, so neutral, with a little bias toward benign understeer.

The steering is a bit numb, which is not unusual for a lot of non-Lotus mid- or rear-engine cars. There’s just not a lot of weight putting load on the tires on corner entry. But the lack of steering feel is made up for by excellent chassis feel, and the driver feels as though they’re right in the center of mass of the car, giving really amazing feedback and knowledge of where the car is and what it’s doing.

Overall, it makes anyone driving it feel like a better driver, and I think it even gives novice drivers a graduate level course in proper vehicle dynamics because it telegraphs so well what it’s doing at all times, without ever being harsh or edgy.

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View comments on the GRM forums
Javelin GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/21/22 7:47 p.m.

I've been saying it for years! The best track car is a stock Porsche.

JS154 New Reader
3/21/22 7:55 p.m.

Spot on review. 997s are so sublimely good they are easy to drive quick on track, forgiving of mistakes and no real shortcomings. 

Argo1 GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
3/22/22 11:28 p.m.

We went from a 997 S to a 991 S and the little quibble about front turn in is totally gone.  The wider front track and longer wheelbase of the 991 adds the last detail of perfection.  Epic!  People who haven't driven a Carrera in anger simply can't understand how truly exceptional these cars are.



David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/23/22 9:45 a.m.

I went to a Porsche get-together this past Monday. I had one of the few air-cooled cars. Those with the later cars seem quite happy. 

Automobilist New Reader
3/23/22 9:39 p.m.

My 997 was a superb sports car, my current 991: even better... 

One of the best tools for this sort of thing is not so much a fancy digital tire pressure gauge, but an infrared thermometer. 

Many racers rely on this far more than a pressure gauge. You shoot three readings; inner, middle & outer tread of tires immediately after leaving the track. You adjust pressure to achieve fairly even temps across the tire.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/24/22 11:01 a.m.

In reply to Automobilist :

Related to that, in the May issue–currently at the printer–you’ll find an article detailing how to properly set tire pressures using a skid pad and a probe-type pyrometer. 

And more here, too:


DaleCarter GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/30/22 1:11 a.m.

In reply to Automobilist :

You are 100% correct about setting PSI with temps. An infrared is fine, but a probe type is better. Most importantly, be consistent, measure as soon as possible and write it down. Last week I learned that Circle track guys use temp to set cross-weight preload (aka diagonal) and they record brake rotor temps. Those guys use an IR so they can shoot three tread spots and then the rotor.

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