Lapland, the northernmost region of Finland, isn't where you'd expect to see a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Reindeer? Sure, but a Renn-Sport 911? Only for extreme cold-weather testing.
Porsche invited journalists to this frigid climate to drive some all-wheel drive cars to celebrate 30 years since the introduction of the first all-wheel drive 911, the 964 Carrera 4. The automaker also took the time to show us the newest RS. It proved to be a fascinating place to meet Porsche's latest, greatest track car.
Problem No. 1 with launching the GT3 RS above the Arctic Circle: Porsche doesn't offer a studded winter tire for the car's massive 21-inch rear wheels. Andreas Preuninger, head of GT cars at Porsche, wanted to show off the car on 21s, so the first GT3 RS revealed to the media wore the proper wheels and, hilariously, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 ultra-high-performance summer tires.
Problem No. 2: I don't remember how cold it was when they took the cover off the GT3 RS, but I do remember feeling the snot freeze in my nose. Many journalists' pens also iced up during Preuninger's presentation. My pen was fine, but it didn't matter, because I couldn't feel my hands after 10 minutes.
Porsche's people, sadly, didn't let us drive the GT3 RS on the ice and snow, but they offered us a great alternative—a ride with racing legend Walter Röhrl. The two-time rally champ turns 71 next month, but it doesn't appear that he's slowing down anytime soon.
"It's still fun for me," Röhrl told me. "I've been doing competition for 50 years, but I still have fun. If I can do things like this on a closed road, it's fantastic."
Rörhl, despite having nothing to prove, still timed himself while whipping journalists around in the GT3 RS on a short, icy course. I noticed him reach over, mid-slide, to start the chronograph on his watch, stopping it around a minute later. After the lap, he told me he was three seconds faster than the previous day.
Watching the video of him driving is remarkable. His eyes are constantly up, seemingly looking at the next three corners at once, and his every input is incredibly precise. It's a master class in calm, but still absurdly fast ice driving.
So what can we tell from the passenger seat of a GT3 RS development car? Well, , mainly that Röhrl "is a far better driver than we are."
You can feel how flat the GT3 RS remains through direction changes, and you can hear the sharp throttle response of the 4.0-liter flat-six. But while the GT3 RS performs admirably here, far away from its natural home, Finland doesn't play to its strengths. Röhrl notes that, on the snow, he couldn't feel all the extra downforce the car makes in comparison with its predecessor, and he barely used the 9000 revs offered.
It's still a tantalizing first glimpse of what the GT3 RS is capable of. And look, I don't need an excuse to hop in a car with Walter Röhrl, even if it was unfathomably cold.