Sitting in my office yesterday lunchtime, considering food, watching the snowflakes swirling past the window, I hear the bark of a flat-six starting up. A mini-crescendo that tails off quickly to a fast idle as a Porsche race-car warms up.
Then another one. And another. And another….
Now that’s not too unusual when your office is next to the Nürburgring Nordschleife, but this is February, remember? We’re nearly two months away from the first race. Like a nosey old woman, I poke my head out of the window to see what’s going on.
Half-a-dozen plain white Cayman GT4 Clubsports are spewing clouds of condensation into the otherwise still Eifel air. Flashing orange lights bounce off the whirling snow. They’re getting ready to leave the Meuspath industry park, probably on their way to the cold and wet Nürburgring GP circuit. What’s going on?
It’s Manthey, of course, the new Cayman Clubsports are getting shakedown tests at the Mullenbachschleife, it’d be rude not to follow them, right?
The Müllenbachschleife is what we call the bottom loop of the GP track, and it’s a very short lap; down through the Ford Kehre, around the huge Dunlop loop and back up the Schumacher Esses, then a little single-track link road back to Ford. What it lacks in length, it makes up for in pace.
It’s most commonly used for training courses and the Nürburgring Drift Cup. The snow that was falling earlier has melted, but the circuit is still bitterly, freezing cold. And wet through.
In the middle of the hairpin are nearly 20 Cayman GT4 Clubsports and a lot of Manthey jackets looking very busy indeed. It’s another shakedown day, where Raeder boss, and Manthey VLN driver, Christoph Breuer will check each car with 12 laps of the track.
Every single GT4 Clubsport delivered goes through this process. The cars arrive from Porsche Motorsport in Osnabrück with rollcages, axles and bodywork finished. Then Manthey Racing hand-finish each car.
All cars get their seats, suspension and final details installed and checked. Then the 20-or-so GT4s destined for the Cayman GT4 Trophy in VLN get a special longer-travel KW Competition suspension, a big 100ltr tank and a myriad of other small mods. You can easily spot the VLN cars here by looking for the quick filler on the bonnet (hood).
Christoph’s already on the track when I arrive, repeating the same process with each and every car. Warming-up, jinking left and right not just to heat the tyres, but to listen for any bush, bearing or component that’s not quite 100% Manthey perfect.
It’s important that these cars arrive with their customers ready to race. Manthey are part of a Porsche delivery process here, with all the responsibility that carries.
The machines hand-finished here will be in action all over the world. Not just at the VLN and N24, but in the Pirelli and Continental challenges in the USA, and Porsche Sports Cups around the globe. Not to mention club meetings and local races. The intention is that these are race cars, not collectors items.
In the corners the Cayman looks like serious fun. When everything’s warm Christoph deliberately pushes the car to the limits of cornering, listening for anything out of the ordinary.
Even from outside, I can see the balance of the car appears to be perfect. At the extremes of the handling envelope, he can induce understeer or oversteer on demand.
The crack of the PDK shifting is pure racecar. The noise of the 3.8ltr motor is old-school GT3. Unfortunately, as the cars are still brand new, the rev-limiters are still quite safe. Upshifts are early.
Christoph’s only got three hours of track time to get all of these cars checked and signed off. The bad weather means there’s a big backlog of built cars to work through.
Hot swaps, car to car, in a minute or less. Christoph gives notes on each machine to one of his co-workers.
Just as my fingers lose all feeling, I notice a complete silence. With 10 minutes to spare it appears that today’s test is done. Another batch of Cayman GT4 Clubsports are ready for customers around the world. Everybody’s smiling at a job well done. But nobody here will be smiling as much as the new owners of these cars, I’m sure.