When Porsche asked if we wanted to drive the Porsche Cayman GT4 road car back to back with the two GT4 Clubsport race track versions you can imagine what our answer was! So here I am at the Lausitzring race track 90 minutes South of Berlin behind the wheel of a sparkling blue Cayman GT4.
The Porsche Cayman GT4 and GT4 Clubsport surpassed all Porsche’s expectations. In total 5,000 GT4s and 420 GT4 Clubsport race cars have been sold. This makes the GT4 Clubsport the most sold race car and there must be a good reason why. Let’s find out!
At a first glance at the performance specs the Cayman GT4 and GT4 Clubsport don’t seem all that different. Both come with Porsche’s 3.8 litre flat-six engine that produces 385hp and 420Nm of torque and a top speed just shy of 300 km/h. We praised the Porsche Cayman GT4 for it’s handling and purist approach: manual gearbox only and a suspension setup that works both on the road as track.
To create the track-only Clubsport version Porsche took the regular GT4 and stripped it off unnecessary features and weight. But they certainly didn’t stop there. They added the front suspension from the GT3 Cup car along with its braking system. Initially the GT4 Clubsport was planned to offer customers an affordable track day and club racing car, but having seen the potential customers soon asked for a homologated version to race in GT4 race series around the globe.
This is where Manthey Racing comes in to play. Together with Porsche they developed an even more hardcore and racing oriented version of the Clubsport dubbed Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR. It features a 2-way adjustable race suspension kit that allows more versatility over the 30mm lower Clubsport suspension. It also offers a carbon fibre 100 liter FT3 safety fuel tank with quick fill option along with more than a dozen other things.
But before I go down into too much detail it is time to take the Cayman GT4 out on the Lausitzring. This track was initially designed as an oval but the DTM used part of the oval along with the infield frequently in recent years. We will drive the DTM layout today which includes the main straight and part of the back straight with a nice combination of faster and tighter corners on the infield.
The Cayman GT4 comes with bucket seats, manual six speed gearbox and a sports exhausts. Most things like the navigation system and climate control are carried over from the regular last-gen Cayman, although you can have them removed to save some additional weight. Firing up the engine we quickly hit the sports button as well as the exhaust button to get the addictive full bodied six-cylinder sound.
The Cayman GT4 has a lovely short-shift manual which gives lovely throttle blips on downshifts and feels very natural from the second you engage first gear. The Lausitzring has a few lovely long fast corners where you can get a good feel of the grip and cornering capabilities of the car. As I get to know the track better the cornering speeds go up, up to the point where it is hard to comprehend just how fast the Cayman GT4 goes around bends. It feels a bit like a go-kart as I swing from corner to corner.
After a few laps in the GT4 it is time for the real deal. I was already wearing a race suit and helmet but to drive the race car I have to connect a HANS, head and neck support, to my helmet for additional safety. As soon as I open the GT4 Clubsport’s door for the first time I immediately notice this is a different beast entirely. Some parts like the top of the dashboard and the window and climate control switches remain but the rest of the interior is stripped down to bare essentials only.
The GT4 Clubsport comes with a full roll cage as standard and climbing through it requires some practice. The seats are very tight to offer maximum side support and one of the Porsche employees helps to strap me into the 6-point harness.
Noteworthy is the PDK gearbox fitted as standard, and only option, in the race car. The road GT4 is fitted with a manual gearbox by popular demand but for the race track the PDK is simply the preferred and faster option.
The tires have the biggest impact on the track lap times. Fitted with – and setup for – slicks, the Cayman GT4 Clubsport does the Nurburgring Nordschleife 30 seconds faster as the road legal GT4 bringing the overall time down to a very respectable 7 minutes 10 seconds.
The first meters out on the track in the GT4 Clubsport a big smile builds on my face and it lasted for hours. The braking, cornering and especially grip is on a new – almost surreal level. The suspension is 30mm lower which makes the ride a fair bit harder and especially coming up to the straights there are quite a few bumps that unset the car a bit. Luckily the next chapter in our GT4 test drive offers a solution for that problem.
By popular demand the Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport has been homologated for the VLN, SRO GT4 Series, Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA and several other series. Porsche did the development together with Manthey Racing which also offers conversion kits for existing Cayman GT4 Clubsport models. Getting out of the GT4 Clubsport into the Clubsport MR feels like a big leap again.
The brakes in the GT4 Clubsport MR have no brake booster so you have to apply quite a bit of pressure to get the desired braking performance. But that aside the Clubsport MR has by far the most pleasant suspension setup of the three cars we drove today. The cornering capabilities are mind blowing and bumps are absorbed without me noticing them.
If the Cayman GT4 is a go-kart, the GT4 Clubsport MR is a go-kart on steroids! The laps fly by and before I know it the ‘pit-in’ board appears on the main straight. Compared to the Clubsport the Recaro P1300 GT race seats are also a bit wider and therefor more comfortable. It shows that stiffer and lower is not always better and in this case the ‘Nurburgring setting’ also worked its wonders here.
Overall it was a great experience to drive these three road and race cars back to back and see the effort it took to turn a road car into a very capable and fast race car. For those lucky enough to own a GT4 Clubsport I would seriously recommend converting to a Clubsport MR as it adds a lot more than just homologation.
Porsche once again proved it is as well at home on the road as on the race track. The biggest downside of the Cayman GT4 and GT4 Clubsport being that they are all sold out!