The term “racing car with a license plate” is one of those journalistic-noxious terms that is so overly used in the reviews of today. God forbid every bit of paper and ink that has been wasted (and yes I’ll also include mine as well) defining cars like the GT3 as road-legal racers: while being an accurate description of many cars, this description could easily be mistaken for something vague and not precise enough. Great handling and impressive acceleration don’t always make cars actual street-legal racers. With this being said, the slight problem with this article is that this lovely 996 GT3 Cup is an actual racing car for the road, for real. With a real competition pedigree, this 996 Cup has been converted some years ago into a track-day weapon which doesn’t require any trailers at all. In the best tradition of proper enthusiast’s cars, this is the sort of 911 you can drive to and back the race-track, without any problems at all.
See, while regular GT3’s are developed straight from the Cup cars, this is the most honest way of having the ultimate Porsche racer in your garage, complete with a license plate strapped to it. For real.
The list of changes includes a silenced exhaust, rear glass window with defroster (instead of the plexiglass one), passenger seat and a rather funny horn. However, it is still 70% a true cup car, with its specific gearbox, engine, dashboard, tank, pneumatic lift system and the instrument cluster, complete with a 9.000 rpm redline tachometer. This also car retains its racing ABS system, single hub wheels, and original BBS wheels and carbon-fiber doors and bonnets.
Technically, with a few minor tweaks, it could run to Le Mans, do the race and then come back again on its wheels. Sadly, there was no chance for us to do that: instead, we took it to the Franciacorta circuit, and also to a bar, just to grab some coffee after our sessions.
Originally a car racing in the French Carrera Cup championship, this 996 was raced extensively at major international events, like the 24 hours of Le Mans and Spa. Since many not-so-old Cup cars are now sitting unused due to the fact that they’re “suspended” in this limbo between being a full historic car and still a relatively modern machine, some are getting converted to road use. Perhaps this might upset some collectors, but it is a great way to keep this sort of car running and in good mechanical condition.
Driving through traffic is easier than you might think, as the car retains the regular 911’s great visibility out front and user-friendly nature. The ride is obviously very harsh and very busy, but you can’t really criticise this fact, after all. This is indeed a racing car and therefore not developed for road use at all. What is remarkable though, is the simplicity of the bespoke Cup gearbox fitted to this car. It is still a piece of racing equipment, a proper 6-speed manual transmission with its own oil cooler, but it is great to use on both road and track. With an effortless mechanism, shifting gears on this Cup is a pure joy. The feeling is very mechanical, but with none of the heavy rifle-bolt mechanism of the road going models. Each gearshift can be done very quickly and the car never rattles around. Smoothness is key to be fast, and this Cup helps a lot in this: the light and precise steering rack, the easy gearbox and effortless acceleration are all great qualities in any car, let alone a track focused 911. Sure, it is not easy by any means: like all Porsches, it is friendly when all is well, but it becomes one hell of a bitch when driven fast. Its feminine looks and user-friendly attitude lure you into a sense of false security: if you do not get the tires up to temperature properly she’ll reward you with an unpredictable and very violent oversteer, which, in strict 911 language, this means either “grow a brain in your right foot” or simply “maybe warm up the tires a little more”.
In this car, all the classic Porsche driving “tricks” are emphasized: brake late, shift the weight up front, turn in late clipping the apex at a very narrow-angle and then use all the traction you have in order to slingshot out of the corner. When done right, the reward is immense as you feel the car gluing itself on the ground. These are the sort of moments we car enthusiasts live for: old school mechanical grip, a fiery engine screaming behind your back, heel-and-toeing and a car true to itself. It is in these moments that all that nonsense about that “Porsche purity” that made 993 and 964 prices skyrocket falls into the ground. I dare you saying that a 996, let alone the excellent Cup version, is not a proper 911. When I’m smiling and having a great time behind the wheel, I don’t give a damn about the cooling system or the fact that I have BBS instead of Fuchs wheels. A great car is a great car, end of the story. Those who buy these sort of cars are either collectors or die-hard fanatics, not boy racers, who seem to love the latest generation of GT3’s. Besides, what’s cooler than a racing car that you can drive to a bar to grab an Espresso on your way home? No front splitters were hurt during this escape, I can assure you this. Parking the Cup is easy and avoiding any theft attempt too: take the specific Momo steering wheel with you everywhere and there won’t be any problems.
So there you have it: a review of a proper race-car-with-a-license-plate. In this case, competition history came as a standard, no-cost option, just like the comprehensive Clubsport equipment and unique features. If joy would be an automobile, it would look like a Porsche 911 racing car.