Motorsport is core to Porsche’s identity as a sporting brand and much of the technology used by its road cars over the years has originated from competition, including turbocharged engines, slick-shifting PDK automatic gearboxes and, more recently, the hybrid and electric know-how in everything from Cayennes to Taycans. It has always sold ‘customer racing cars’ alongside its road models as well, while also running championships in which to race them held all over the world. Indeed, you can order one through Porsche GB just as you would any other of its products. Here we drive its entry-level racing car, the 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport. And if you think it looks pretty similar to the roadgoing Cayman GT4 that’s because it is, the overlap between Porsche’s motorsport business and its street cars perhaps as close as it’s ever been here. If you’ve ever dreamed of racing in Porsche overalls this is your first rung on that ladder. Click here to read our review of the regular 718 Cayman.
Running costs for a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport
“Porsche also provides a championship in which rookie racers can compete against identical Caymans and hone their skills on a level playing field”
Motorsport is an unbelievably expensive hobby, and buying your own Porsche racing car is a huge indulgence. But if you’re lucky enough to have six figures to burn on a fast car there’s no escaping the fact you really need to take it to a track to really test its abilities. And, if you’re going to do that, why not go the whole hog and buy a proper racing car? For similar money to the roadgoing Cayman GT4 RS this GT4 Clubsport delivers exactly that, while Porsche also provides a dedicated championship in which racers can compete against identical Caymans and hone their skills on a level playing field. This helps fix the costs in comparison to other championships, where those with bigger budgets leave the rest of the grid behind, just as happens in F1. It’s still going to cost you a lot of money to compete but, all things relative, the fact you’re doing it in a factory Porsche racing car with all the company’s huge experience and infrastructure supporting you makes it more palatable. Assuming you don’t prang it you can always sell it on as well, while if you buy it through a business you don’t have to pay VAT. True, it’s not road legal so you won’t be able to park it on your driveway. But that’s why you have a regular Porsche as well, right?
Expert rating: 1/5
Reliability of a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport
“The components are all tried, tested and race proven and it’s built to the same high standards as any other car wearing the badge”
Many racing cars are converted from regular road cars, with varying degrees of expertise and success. This often means stripping out wiring and interiors, changing engines and suspension and any number of other things that could potentially go wrong. But the Cayman GT4 Clubsport is built from the ground-up as a pure racing car, with all Porsche’s long motorsport expertise supporting it. As such the components are all tried, tested and race proven and it’s built to the same high standards as any other car wearing the badge. The fact you can just turn the key and go racing has huge appeal in reliability terms.
Expert rating: 4/5
Safety for a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport
“Because the Clubsport is built from the start as a racing car it’s therefore safer than others that have been converted at a later date”
In road cars modern safety systems are designed to stop you having a crash in the first place, but in racing the technology is more about accepting that accidents do happen and, when they do, they will often be at higher speeds than your average parking ding. Because the Clubsport is built from the start as a racing car it’s therefore safer than others that have been converted at a later date, with a sturdy roll cage welded rather than bolted into the structure, an FIA-approved safety seat, six-point harness and the plumbed in fire extinguisher and electrical cut-offs demanded by competition regulations. There’s no escaping motorsport can be a dangerous activity but the Cayman is a safe place to go racing, and even has the road car’s traction control and a variable anti-lock brake system you can tune according to the conditions and track you’re competing on.
Expert rating: 5/5
How comfortable is the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport
“Once you’re in, the Cayman GT4 Clubsport is surprisingly civilised and confidence inspiring”
Clambering across a roll cage and strapping yourself tightly into a racing harness within a car totally stripped of its usual interior trimmings doesn’t sound like a recipe for comfort. But, once you’re in, the Cayman GT4 Clubsport is surprisingly civilised and confidence inspiring. This is important, because for many customers this will be their first taste of a serious racing car and Porsche wants to reassure you that you’re looked after just as well as you are in its regular products, even if the operating environment is rather different.
With a modified version of the road car’s PDK automatic gearbox, power steering and the aforementioned anti-lock brakes it’s actually just as easy to drive as the street version of the GT4 as well. It’s even got air-conditioning to help you keep your cool in the heat of battle on track, which is actually an important performance consideration for endurance racing or customers competing in warmer climates. It’s obviously a lot noisier inside than a regular Cayman (though the GT4 RS runs it close!) but that’s all part of the fun and the track-honed suspension flattens corners and serrated apex kerbing alike.
Expert rating: 3/5
Features of the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport
“While there’s less interior than a regular Porsche, what remains is built to the same standard”
Remnants of the standard 718 Cayman dashboard hang disconcertingly from the interior of the Clubsport and it’s a little odd to see the regular air-con controls and gear selector stripped of their surrounding trim. But also strangely comforting. Because these cars race in a Porsche controlled championship they are effectively all identical as well, meaning you can’t ‘buy’ advantage through adding flasher bits. Behind the yoke-style wheel is a specific racing display, with important stats like lap times alongside revs and the selected gear. Warning lights flash if you’re on the cusp of locking the brakes or need to change gear, helping you drive to the limit in total confidence. In place of the infotainment screen are your controls for things like fire extinguishers and a handy chart to help you select the right setting for the brakes and traction control according to the tyres you’re running and the conditions. Fit and finish is also way better than the rough and ready look of most racing cars and, while there’s less interior than a regular Porsche, what remains is built to the same standard. Literally all you need to do before hitting the grid is get changed into your racing overalls, put your helmet on and go.
Expert rating: 5/5
Power for a Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport
“You quickly come to appreciate the differences between cars that think they’re racing machines and the real thing”
It may be surprising to learn but racing versions of road cars often run less power than their street equivalents in order to meet what’s known as ‘balance of performance’ regulations. And while the Clubsport is no slouch in top speed and 0-62 times and its 425 horsepower is a fraction more than the 420 of the ‘street’ version (they use slightly different engines) that GT4 RS is probably faster than both. Lap times are the only metric racers care about, though, and here the Clubsport’s talents really show. Strangely it’s not the acceleration that strikes you – we were actually out-dragged on the straights by a 60s era racing E-Type Jaguar in our test – but rather the braking, and the speed you can carry through the corners. When you realise quite how hard and late you can hit the pedal, and the grip you can then carry through the turns on the slick tyres, you quickly come to appreciate the differences between cars that think they’re racing machines and the real thing. Saying that, the shared bloodline between this and the GT4 you can drive on the road still feels very close indeed, the natural balance that makes Caymans such fun in everyday situations carrying over just as effectively to the track. Many manufacturers will claim racing is in their DNA but a few laps in the Clubsport reveals Porsche is among the few who can honestly stand by that.