Cement tycoons from Liechtenstein aren't quite a dime a dozen. And such a car buyer generally wants something that, at the very least, announces to the rest of Liechtenstein: "Thank you, fellow loyal subjects of Liechtenstein, for coming to me for all your cement needs." After such niceties, the black flash that just smoked you is Wolfgang Gerster in his SPR1 T80, commissioned from Swiss tuner, Sportec.
The fool. He let me have my way with the car all day and night in southern Spain. We did it there because southern Spain is always dry and warm, right? Not this year. We played 'dodge the water-retaining clouds' all over the high hills inland of Malaga, in search of several sunlit sections to explore the outer limits of the car and my vocabulary.
The SPR1 T80 is based on a 997 911 Carrera. This was chosen because it came out first in 2004 and Sportec needed to get going on the project. After that cheap start, costs ballooned deliriously as everything was removed from the frame and replaced with lighter weight and more rigid carbon fiber and Kevlar panels. I'd put torsional rigidity at 30,000 Nm/d. Doors are aluminum, pulled from the 997 Turbo or GT3, and the plan is to have the front lid in carbon fiber (now aluminum) once it can be kept from warping like a bed sheet at high speeds. Front track widens by 3.1 inches, two inches in back. The car weighs 2965 pounds, or 110 pounds less than the 997 Carrera. The same guy who builds the cockpits for BMW Sauber F1 cars oversees all this exquisite pre-preg carbon fiber artistry.
So far, the car has hit and held 230 mph at Nardo, the high-speed track in southeast Italy, but Sportec is confident of 240 mph, once the Porsche Variocam sensors get with the program up in the nosebleed range. Acceleration from zero to 62 mph is three seconds flat.
Besides the composite panels and aero bits all around, created by Sportec in collaboration with the autoclaves at the nearby EMPA Institute-plus the Porsche aluminum doors and front lid-there is a long list of mixing-and-matching. That big 57-inch-wide (at the leading edge) rear two-tier wing is modeled after the unit on the 996 Porsche GT2. Any bi-turbo rear-engine rager from Stuttgart needs copious air literally rammed down into it through the airbox, and I dig the integration of the two ram openings into the actual stanchions of the wing itself. The two side intakes forward of the haunches each carries air directly to its own big air-to-air intercooler located either side of the rear bumper.
The engine block is pulled from a 996 Turbo. A much harder and smaller-diameter heat-treated crankshaft sits in re-machined bearing seats, eliminating all high-rev vibration. Both halves of the flat block are made decidedly stiffer too, with added bolt-holes drilled. Piston rods are now titanium and the water-cooling path throughout has been optimized. Lubrication is by dry sump, borrowed from the 996 Turbo, since this design sits further forward to create more room for the intake manifold. There are also two Bosch injectors per cylinder, so the first injector tapers off a bit as the second injector chimes in near that juicy 4500-rpm mark. From then on, both inject equally. Using one fatter injector would create homologation problems. Bypass valves on the four-barrel Sportec exhaust open at 4600 rpm, adding to the speed cocktail.
Driving this Alpine fire-sled isn't really scary, just touchy like an Italian woman. Our Prince of Pre-stressed Concrete normally likes to run 20-inch sticky Michelin Cup tires, but for this drive we're running slightly-less-sticky standard Michelin Pilot Sports. Between the mountain of power and torque (649 lb-ft), the 110 pounds less weight than a Carrera, and the occasional rain in Spain, some circumspection is required. Even on dry tarmac, any shot of juice with the steering wheel just slightly off-center can cause an immediate forward view of what was behind just a second ago.
While the sweet spot in the 3.6-liter twin-turbo's launch cycle doesn't come until around 4500 rpm, the design of the two 14.5-psi (starting at 3500 rpm) 'hybrid' turbochargers-with fat, cold side by KKK Borg Warner; quick-spinning, tight, hot side by Sportec-nips the huge lag that could easily happen before that sweet spot, preventing psychedelic flashbacks of the 930 3.0 Turbo. It works in getting the car rolling around town, but honestly, this car is like a frothing rat in a cage on city streets. The six-speed Getrag manual (cogs one through five pulled from 993 GT2 racing blueprints, sixth gear taken from the 959 catalog) is understandably yippy at low revs with its sturdy twin-plate Sachs competition clutch. Just get macho on the thing and be the boss. Once it rolls over and lets you gum its neck, you are the alpha male.
In its element on the Spanish autovia, at a casual 85 mph in fifth gear, my host encourages me to stop being so civic-minded and pop it. With twin Audi S3 throttle bodies fully open, the sensation is a bit like the entire car acting as the turbocharger body-with me as the turbine. I am heaved ahead in a series of tidal waves dwarfing anything ever seen at Waimea Bay in January. The sound really is like big surf crashing on all sides as I grip the padded TVR steerer, making sure my ass is planted in the Recaro. At 205 mph and 8600 rpm in sixth, I let up only because the Earth has started spinning backwards. Normally, Sportec opens the blow-off valves at deceleration to minimize the popping sound, but Gerster wants this noise because it reminds him of the Ferrari F40. I like this guy.
The car's explosiveness is corralled nicely by the added rigidity of a steel roll cage. Herr Gerster also opted for the cross brace under the rear window, as well as motorsport-inspired side braces outboard of each seat. The version of Porsche Stability Management (PSM) used here is from the current GT3 RS and it can be switched off completely. Sportec admits that all-wheel traction would significantly improve controllability and is engineering a version that sends 12 to 20 percent of torque to the front axle. Ceramic discs for stop-on-a-dime braking include the same optional 15-inch units in front offered on the new Audi S8 and Lamborghini Gallardo. It wears light-alloy Brembo calipers at every corner.
New electro-hydraulic steering from TVR is a tremendous upgrade for the handling package. For this drive, the harder springs from H&R (they supply all Bilstein springs) and adjustable Bilstein dampers used at the Nardo test are still mounted. All rubber joints at both axles are now uniball, so camber adjustments remain perfect at any race circuit, even more so with connecting arms pulled from the latest GT3 RS bin. Camber with road tires in front and added shims can reach three degrees, or 3.5 degrees with Cup treads, while the rear axle permits a maximum of 2.5 degrees. Today, on public roads with the default 1.8 degrees front and two degrees rear, responsiveness to every steering whim is right on the money.
Starting price is roughly $450,000 and only 10 SPR1 cars will be built. North Americans cannot purchase this complete car for road use yet, but never say never. For penny-pinching shoppers, Sportec also offers a 700-hp T70, but don't make me howl in your face, you cement mogul wannabe.
Sportec Spr1 T80
Longitudinal rear engine, rear-wheel drive
3.6-liter flat-six, dohc, 24-valve, custom air intakes, Sportec exhaust, dual Bosch injectors, modified software
Getrag six-speed manual
H&R springs, electro-adjustable Bilstein dampers, uniball joints for strut linkage, multi-link rear
F: Eight-piston light alloy Brembo calipers, 15.2-inch drilled ceramic rotors, braided stainless steel linesR: Four-piston light alloy Brembo calipers, 13.8-inch drilled ceramic rotors, braided stainless steel lines
*Wheels and Tires
SPR1 alloys, 9x20 (f), 12.5x20 (r)Michelin Pilot Sport, 255/30 (f), 345/25 (r)
Sportec/EMPA carbon fiber and Kevlar body panels, Sportec aero pieces, 996 GT2 rear wing, front hood and doors in aluminum
Recaro carbon fiber sport seats, Sportec dials and gear shifter, TVR steering wheel, competition pedal set, steel roll cage
Peak Power: 802 hp @ 8200 rpm
Peak Torque: 649 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
0-62 mph: 3.0 sec.
Top Speed: 240 mph (claimed)