weight distribution

April 14, 2020 /// issue no. 105

What makes the ultimate performance car? If we believe BMW marketing and Miata design engineers we would say 50:50 front:rear weight distribution. I apparently believe them. The cars I have spent the most track time in include a 50:50 f:r E90 M3 and a 50:50 NB Miata. My latest track build comes in at 53:47 but with the rollcage maybe it will land closer to 50:50. So what in the hell is Porsche thinking? The newest 992-generation 911 has a 39:61 ratio and other Carreras have been known to have a 38:62 ratio.

The theoretical benefit of 50:50 is a neutral handling car. Seems fairly logical. Weight is balanced in the middle of the car allowing both front and rear to shift equally. That’s all fine and dandy if the car is simply cornering. Add in deceleration (read: braking) and your car is now shifting weight towards the front of the car ruining that neutrality. Consider acceleration in a rear-wheel drive sports car and you want as much weight on the rear wheels for traction. Jason Fenske of Engineered Explained lays this all down in a video. If Jason hasn’t convinced you that a rear-bias is preferable, F1 cars are in the neighborhood of 45:55.

So having consulted logic and science, ignored aero and chassis dynamics, and already listened to my heart, I have concluded my next track build is a Porsche. If I had more money and bravery than brains I would be going straight to a Cayman GT4 or 911 GT3 as a track car. However, I am still mildly grounded in reality and the budget is $20,000 vehicle cost. Let’s fast forward and peak at the cheat sheet that reveals the choice is between a base-996 911 and a 987 Cayman S.

The 987 Cayman S has been Porsche’s purposely neutered mid-engine rear-wheel drive 2-seater since-2006. 47:53, 3.4L flat-6, shipped in the first model year with 291hp/251ft-lb, 2,954lbs. Released in 1999, the 996 911 is the continuation of Porsche’s flawless execution of a sub-optimal rear-engine rear-wheel drive configuration and flawed headlight design. 38:62, 3.4L flat-6, 296hp/258ft-lb, 2,901lbs. The headlight problem can be slightly improved.

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If you’re reading the stats and realizing your bench racing isn’t getting you anywhere it’s because you’re staring at similar cars. Price, performance, and Porsche. One could argue if you want a more practical car that the 911 has back seats and can be a family hauler. We are building a track car so there will be a roll cage back there. No kids allowed. After reading the prologue you could argue that it comes down to weight distribution. This is probably right. The real advice would probably be to go test drive both and see which speaks to you.

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Unfortunately we aren’t supposed to be going anywhere right now. Let’s dive deeper in to the bench race tomorrow.

Coffee time,
Steven


daily automotive addiction.