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79 I


t’s now 30 years since a Formula One driver won the World Championship with a manual gearbox – it was Ayrton Senna in 1991. Since then, every champion has won the F1 title


by flipping an electronic paddle-shift with his fingertips. That technical revolution was started by


Ferrari in 1989, and the brand maintained its lead in 1997 by becoming the first to develop a paddle-shift for a road car, the Ferrari F355 ‘F1’. This was a blessing for supercar manu- facturers everywhere – and most owners too – because (whisper it) most supercar owners aren’t really interested in changing gear. Yes, despite the hairy-chested prestige of supercar ownership, in reality most drivers just want to cruise around. The semi-auto- matic gearbox is the perfect face-saving op- tion: you can boast about your F1-inspired paddle-shift gear change and how it shaves a


few tenths off your 0-60mph time, while driving it in full auto mode the whole time. Orders for manual gearboxes declined sharply through the 2000s. In 2011, Ferrari stopped offering a manual option in the UK; by 2016, its manual production had ended completely. It’s not surprising when you look at the order book: in the six years the Ferrari 599 was on sale in the UK (2006–12), not a single manual example was ordered. Not one. It seemed the automatic had won. But then a backlash began. When Porsche released a new edition of its hardcore 911 GT3 in 2013 (codename 991), for the first time it was only available with Porsche’s pad- dle-shift ‘PDK’ auto. No manual gearbox. This caused outrage. The 911 GT3 represent- ed the ultimate driver’s car, the pinnacle of challenging, hardcore driving. Showboating Ferraris and look-at-me Lamborghinis were one thing; for the GT3 to go auto was heresy.


As well as a manual option, the new Porsche 911 GT3 also features a double-wishbone front suspension


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