New enough, powerful enough, mean enough, and so well rounded that the numbers only tell half the story, the 987 platform is an efficient machine, but also a complex one. It takes a special sort of touch, but there’s not enough of a background to take it to E46-status. Simply put, there’s not a set path for the Cayman-running privateer.
Of course, the GT4 and Clubsport variants are great out of the box, but the other versions are still fantastic performers with a little preparation. Though their power isn’t prodigious, the short wheelbase, robust construction, relatively low weight, and stellar braking performance make a nicely sorted Cayman a force to be reckoned with, as a few drivers have learned.
After a couple seasons of running a trusty 350Z in WERC, Patrick Chio and Gary Yeung recently upgraded to a P-car. The Z had served them well over the previous two seasons, but their second-place finish in the 2021 season left them feeling frustrated. They’d put so much time and money into making the car competitive and, unable to deal with its weight and power limitations, they realized they’d reached the pragmatic end of the road.
Chio found a modified 987 Cayman S in Connecticut and booked a flight without a second thought. The Tequila Patron-liveried Cayman S had already been sorted with some JRZ coilovers and ready for lapping courtesy of DeMan Motorsport, though it wasn’t race-proven. True, the platform was basically unknown to them, but this track-prepped Porsche was on sale at the right price, so they decided to take the leap and do whatever necessary to get it sorted for Super Touring 4.
The first test at Sonoma revealed that the JRZs were blown, so in went a set of MCS coilovers, backed up by a set of GT3 control arms, GT3 Cup brake ducts, taller wing supports, another tire-pressure-monitoring system, AIM MXS, and several sets of springs. After those add-ons, the car was ready for a two-hour race, though the roll support wasn’t quite what they wanted.
“The German engineering takes a lot of things into consideration. All the arms, front and rear, are the same. They’re not cheap, but at least we don’t need as many spares,” Patrick reported.
Fewer spares are a good thing, because the parts for this car are much pricier than the Nissan stuff they could sometimes grab at a junkyard. While a used VQ35 can be found for $1,500, another 9A1 requires you move the decimal point one digit to the right. At least they won’t have to worry about over-revving this motor — the gearbox won’t let him.
The PDK, itself a hundred pounds heavier than the H-pattern, incurs one of two more penalties to fit within the WERC BOP: either 300 additional pounds or 30 fewer horsepower. They knew the shift times and better gearing would more than make up for the extra heft, but because the Cayman weighs 2,850 pounds empty, it’s at a disadvantage against the E46s that can weigh as little as 2,600 pounds.
Another appealing feature of the Cayman is the general interchangeability of various parts. The control arms, front and rear, are interchangeable. The brake calipers are from a 996 GT3, which gives them plenty of pad options.
The brake ducts are connected to the control arms, and the amount of air they can channel has proven to be less than sufficient for racing purposes. Unfortunately, the front end is already cramped with three radiators, so there’s very little room for additional ducting as things currently sit.
That first competitive event for their Cayman, a three-hour race at Auto Club Speedway, gave them a clear indication of where their strengths and weaknesses were. The chassis was, as expected, a massive step up from the 350Z’s. Quicker direction changes, the ability to point the car with a brief lift, remarkable braking performance, and a general efficiency 350Z did not have made it clear to both Patrick and Gary that upgrading had been the right decision.
Efficiency —in tire wear and fuel consumption helped the Porsche find a place at the sharp end of the six-car pack for the first two hours. The PDK made driving it a little simpler, but it came at a price.
Thirty minutes before the checkered flag was set to fly, they were fighting for a class win, the gearbox protested. Too much heat had put the PDK into limp mode, confining Patrick to fourth gear until the transmission cooled several laps later. Thankfully, the cushion behind was big enough to leave them unchallenged during their late-race lull, and they snuck away from that battle with a second-place finish. A class podium after the Cayman’s first outing was an auspicious sign.
Cooling concerned them most — and it’s what they’ll be focusing on in the months to come. True, there are plenty of coolers — six in total for the gearbox, engine, power steering and brakes — but limited space for ducting and a complicated transmission/limited-slip differential cooks the brakes and the drivetrain. Without much information to guide them, Patrick and Gary will have to try a few innovative approaches to invite the right amount of chilly air through the correct parts of the car, but knowing how resourceful these two are, it’s hard to imagine them not finding a way.
On the opposite side of the country, Kyle Hoyer has been running a 987.1 Cayman in GTS2 and Super Touring 4. Over the five years he’s studied this platform, he’s put over 6,000 race miles on it — and he hasn’t suffered from any major issues. Some of this is due to a sturdier composition than its forebear, but he made a few changes to the car regardless.
The bore scoring and IMS issues shared between the 986 and the 987.1 motor are less of an issue with the engines in the 987.1, and the 987.2 engine, this one without the problematic IMS bearing, is better still. Still, a lifelong planner and a person who prizes his time, he knew the engine in his 987.1 needed a little bit of work before he’d turn a competitive lap.
“You really need to install the deep sump and install a Porsche Motorsport Air Oil Separator (AOS) when starting. Some people won’t realize the need for these parts until they get better and/or run slicks, when oil starvation presents itself,” Kyle noted.
Like the oiling system, the factory brakes are sufficient for spirited driving and even low-grip lapping. However, once the grip level increases to a certain point, they’re not really able to manage the added strain of racing. At the start, they can’t really take much stabbing before they begin to get a little numb, he began. “Ice mode is something that frustrates a lot of people that begin with this platform, but it can be rectified pretty easily.”
There are several things to try. First and easiest: a low-torque pad will help minimize the locking/ice-mode problems that the factory system is too eager to enter. Another easy change is to install the bolt-on 997 GT3 master cylinder and booster. These will push the right volume through the system at the desired rate.
There’s more to try. Clever tuners can tweak the PSM to raise the ABS settings/lockup threshold to 997 GT3 PCCB levels. This means that a more aggressive brake pedal, which translates into rapid deceleration instead of a premature activation of the safety systems.
Incidentally, the pure stopping force of the factory brakes is surprisingly strong with the right tires and pads, but they’re not perfect. After a couple years of racing the car, Kyle moved onto bigger brakes — though more for reasons of modulation than for shorter stopping distances.
He chose an AP Racing kits, and his corner entries have been steadier and more consistent ever since. “It’s not that the factory system doesn’t work, but the amount of information coming through the pedal isn’t the best. It’s a little inconsistent. Bigger brakes are worth the money.”
Where the suspension is concerned, there wasn’t too much work he had to do. Achieving the desired amount of camber is tricky with this car — even with spacers and aftermarket camber plates. There are aftermarket arms that are more easily adjusted, but for Kyle’s purposes, he went with the shim-adjusted GT3 LCAs.
While some people have their doubts about the platform’s reliability, if you set them up correctly, they can be reliable, capable, and satisfying cars for a reasonable amount of money.
True, the GT4 or Clubsport variants offer more as a near-turnkey package, but the reality is that they’re well outside the price range of most mortals. The base cars’ pricing make all the thrills and unique challenges of a mid-engine, moderately powerful, sonorous sounding P-car accessible.
The two cars detailed here are only a couple examples of the Porsche 987 platform in NASA, and the numbers continue to rise. If you have any questions about how to get into racing Caymans, feel free to contact DeMan Motorsport or Mr. Hoyer himself.