Could the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Have Gone Even Faster Around the Nürburgring?
It beat the previous 911 GT3's time, but at least one local believes it could be capable of lapping the track even faster—perhaps under 7 minutes.
The Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS looks and sounds like the hot version the Cayman's always deserved, with Porsche's beloved midship rocket getting a hardcore track-focused RS model for the first time ever. Cayman fans have long suspected that Porsche doesn't want its less-expensive sports car to beat its flagship 911, though, and rumblings around the new GT4 RS's official Nürburgring Nordschleife lap time of 7:04.511 and video have only fanned those flames. Could it have gone even faster?
Nürburgring local and racer Misha Charoudin compiled an interesting list of things that may have held the GT4 RS back from setting an even faster lap, from the way Jörg Bergmeister drove the lap to talk of braking issues overheard from the record lap paddock.
Charoudin—who has dissected other 'Ring laps and record runs in the past—hung out near Porsche's paddock space to watch the record lap. The GT4 RS came back into the paddock after its second lap and took a while before heading out for another try. Sometimes this can be to fix an issue or tweak the car's setup, but the only clue Charoudin had as to what Porsche might have been doing with the car was overheard from the film crew getting in place for Bergmeister's next lap. One film crew member asked something to the point of, "Have the brake issues been solved?"
Charoudin admits that it was impossible to know for sure from his vantage point whether the GT4 RS was really suffering from brake issues, but there were other things about the lap that didn't quite add up to him.
The 7:04 lap time Porsche published for the shorter 12.8-mile length used in Sport Auto's tests and by most manufacturers prior to 2019 is legit, as Charoudin also timed it as it was run. However, Bergmeister's lap wasn't as clean or smooth as comparable timed Porsche sports car laps from a 718 Cayman GT4 MR, a 911 GT3 RS MR and a Manthey Performance-kitted 911 GT2 RS. While some of the rougher inputs may appear timid, Charoudin says that some of Bergmeister's choppy throttle inputs could be intentional to induce lift-off oversteer as a way to compensate for potential braking issues at the track's turns.
Porsche representatives did not comment on the GT4 RS's brakes when asked about these observations by The Drive, but instead noted that the car was there to shake down in its final spec.
"As part of the reason for the run was not just to verify the performance of the car, but also test the final production status, there will be no further changes to the car, nor will there be another run," explained Porsche Manager of Product Communications Frank Wiesmann via email.
Charoudin also questioned the choice of Bergmeister behind the wheel for the lap, noting that Lars Kern—Porsche's test driver with multiple timed and record laps at the 'Ring to his name—is one of several others on Porsche's roster who knows the Nordschleife very well. That being said, Bergmeister is one of Porsche's longest-serving factory drivers, having recently moved on from a multiple-championship-winning racing career to a development role with the company, per Sportscar365. Furthermore, Porsche noted in its press release on the lap time that Bergmeister has spent over 500 hours testing and tuning the GT4 RS during its development. If anyone knows the car it's him, so on that level, it makes sense to give him this spotlight. Perhaps a more frequent 'Ring lapper would know the track better even though Bergmeister has raced there as well, but it's all what-ifs.
There was also one notable item on the car that made Charoudin wonder if this truly counted as a stock GT4 RS lap. There was a panel taped over the spot in the fender where several of the newer 911 RS models have a vent. This vent releases air generated by the spinning wheel to reduce lift at speed and keep the nose of the car planted. However, many owners of RS cars with those had trouble with their wheels scraping on a grate underneath these vents when wheels are under high compression at the Nordschleife. Some remove the inner fender liners with this grate entirely as a result. If the GT4 RS comes with a similar grate and also scraped in the same sections, covering this vent might solve that problem.
According to Wiesmann, these fender panels were merely part of the GT4 RS's camouflage as the car hasn't been officially released to the public yet, and this camo would not have had a significant effect on the car's lap time. Wiesmann explained:
"The 718 Cayman GT4 RS that we used to set the lap time at the Nürburgring was a camouflaged car, as we have not unveiled the full production look yet, which will happen next month. This is also why the areas on the fender you are indicating are covered, as we don’t want to show unique (new) details of the car until the premiere happens. This is common practice as part of our final test runs, which I’m sure you know if you’ve followed other lap time runs such as with the 992 GT3 or Cayenne Turbo GT. The affect of the camouflaging on the car’s performance in this case is negligible."
Wiesmann also reiterated that the car was verified by an on-site notary as a production-spec example, right down to the weight, tires used and engine specs.
Yet the piece that would matter for this discussion is, would having an exposed fender vent have let the GT4 RS set a faster lap time, or not?
How much faster could it go, though? Charoudin told The Drive that he believes the GT4 RS could be capable of a sub-7-minute lap time on the old-school 12.8-mile Sport Auto test length of the Nordschleife, and plans on releasing a more technical follow-up video on the GT4 RS lap next week. A sub-7-minute time on the Sport Auto length puts a "humble" 718 Cayman into truly ludicrous territory, beating out previous lap times set in the Ferrari 488 Pista and Dodge Viper ACR, according to the list up on FastestLaps. Just don't expect Porsche's official published time for that distance of 7:04.511 to drop, as they don't plan on doing an official re-run.
Now, I don't think Porsche would sandbag this lap to protect the sacred name of the 911, either. Rather, I think they were playing it safe—certainly not chickening out, but erring just on the side of caution. The lap-setting GT4 RS is still a lightly camo'd test car, after all, and the goal of any test session is to push it, but ultimately bring the car you're evaluating home in one piece.
"There is a difference in a test driver and a race driver," explained Motor Trend of Lars Kern's role as a Porsche test driver. "'As a test driver, I don't like to take chances,' [Kern] says. If he wads up a test car, Porsche has likely lost a great deal of data."
So, we may have to wait for Sport Auto or some other person with a timer to get their hands on the new GT4 RS to find out if it can really go faster. As a Cayman fan, I'm pretty excited about it either way.
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