The brand-new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, developed around the 992-generation 911, made its 24H SERIES debut at the 2021 Hankook 12H CIRCUIT PAUL RICARD. CREVENTIC speaks with Speed Lover’s Jean-Pierre Verhoeven about the new model’s endurance racing maiden outing, how updates to the car could affect gentlemen drivers, and how one of the best handling track cars in the world will be affected by its new steering system.
Last December, and following a period of ‘concrete development’ that began in early 2019, Porsche pulled the wraps from its newest GT3 Cup racer, built atop the 992-generation 911.
Claimed by the company to be the “the best Cup car that Porsche has ever built,” the new 992 GT3 Cup was designed to be more aerodynamically efficient, more powerful, and easier to maintain than its predecessor. And with almost 5000 examples of Porsche’s most prolific track-going sports car built since 1990, there was no question that the new 992 GT3 Cup would be in high demand by customers.
One of which was 24H SERIES stalwart, and former SPX-class champion, Speed Lover, the Belgian team making its maiden race outing with the new 992 at last month’s Hankook 12H CIRCUIT PAUL RICARD.
Once the action was underway, CREVENTIC caught up with Speed Lover driver Jean-Pierre Verhoeven to discuss whether the newboy’s high praise was warranted.
“Quite a bit. I’ve done a number of different series, from Belcar [Endurance Championship] to the Porsche Carrera Cup Benelux with my son, [Jaxon]. But this is the first time I’ve an endurance race for several years. This is the first time I’m in the 992 and this is my first time at Paul Ricard! So, yeah, quite a bit to learn this weekend.”
“For me, it feels a little bit heavier but it’s got a lot more grip so it gives me a lot more confidence in terms of the steering and the handling compared to the 991. They’re both fun cars to drive but this feels more like a proper race car, the way it’s set up with the suspension, the steering, the dashboard, where everything sits in the cockpit, etc. For me, this feels like a real, proper race car.”
“I think it helps a lot. With the new electro-mechanical steering, and also, the way the suspension has been put together, everything handles with a bit more precision than the previous car. You still have the same sort of feeling, I would say, but the 992 just feels better. In the previous experiences I’ve had, where sometimes we had no power steering at all, you become quite tired, easily, depending on the type of track. And [Circuit] Paul Ricard is quite a technical track for me. So the new steering makes a big difference.”
“It’s amazing to see how Porsche does it every time with each generation. I started out with the 964, and every time, with each model, it’s a better car. That’s quite an achievement.”
“Personally I would say it’s the same. I’ve always felt very comfortable in a Porsche Cup cars. The track record for the cars is very good, and I’ve seen some major crashes with these cars – not for myself, but for others – and it’s always amazing to see how well the inside is protected. It can be a lot of outward damage, but the cockpit and the cell are always intact. So for me, I’ve never worried about how safe the car is.”
“I think it is. When you think about it, the car is manufactured mainly for the Carrera Cups worldwide, and the Supercup. But when you look at the new panel, I think Porsche, in the back of their minds, has manufactured a car they know their customers will use for endurance racing. Because otherwise, you wouldn’t need any of that in a car that just does sprint races.”
“The previous dashboard was already quite good, but this is better. And it’s a little bit easier for endurance races, because now you can add in modules for instance like ABS or traction control, which was very difficult with the previous car to get that setup installed. I think it’s going to help. Has it helped us so far? That’s a bit too early to tell I think.”*
*When we spoke with Jean-Pierre, only half of the Hankook 12H CIRCUIT PAUL RICARD had elapsed.
“So far, the only real problem we’ve had is two punctures on the left rear, so we’re swapping them out at every driver change. We don’t know if that’s been caused by using the kerbs too much or because of the way the car has been setup, so for us, it’s a lot of trial and error. We also had a small leak in the left front brake system but that was repaired quite quickly. If we don’t have any mechanical failures, we should be in good shape. A podium would be nice!”
After a clean run with only a few issues to overcome, Jean-Pierre Verhoeven, together with son Jaxon and Speed Lover teammate Gilles Smits, brought the #979 Porsche 992 GT3 Cup home 2nd in the GTX class and 8th overall at the Hankook 12H CIRCUIT PAUL RICARD.