DOES SOUTHERN China really need another 330km/h, bazillion-cylinder supercar? Does it really need another car with more than 600-brake horsepower (450 kilowatts), yet space for only two people and perhaps one-quarter of their luggage? Strictly speaking, of course it doesn't. But drive the Porsche Carrera GT, as we have, and you'll rejoice that the world really wanted this car. Pragmatic Porsche wouldn't have built the most potent road-going model in its history purely for art's sake. The Carrera GT is a limited-edition, race-engineered supercar, much in the mould of the Ferrari Enzo and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. Throw in the classic McLaren F1 of 1993 and there isn't a performance increment on four wheels that isn't covered somewhere among this highly exclusive Porsche. It's the Ferrari Enzo that will draw the most comparisons with the Carrera GT, however. The 5.7-litre, V10-engined Porsche trails only marginally in most technical respects - not to mention a landed (British) price tag equivalent to 'only' HK$4.6 million, against the Enzo's HK$5.8 million. And while the Enzo was merely the latest of Ferrari's 10-yearly supercar instalments, Porsche had never intended to build the Carrera GT, at all. Flash back to the late 1990s, at the 24 hours of Le Mans. Porsche, having watched marques as diverse as Mazda, Peugeot and McLaren snaffle various victories, is reasserting its dominance in the world's most famous sports car race, with three consecutive wins from 1996-1998. Better yet, already on the drawing boards is an all-new racing machine, known in-house simply as LM2000. It centrepiece is a V10 engine. The prototype of the Carrera GT was revealed at the Paris Motor Show in 2000, housing the V10 engine, enlarged from 5.5 to 5.7 litres and re-tuned for flexibility. Hans Riedel, Porsche's no-nonsense sales and marketing director, said flatly that the Carrera GT would be built only if it could make money, with the break-even figure being 1,000 cars. Four years on, in a corner of Porsche's new Cayenne plant in Leipzig, eastern Germany, production of the 1,325 orders for the Carrera GT is well underway. More orders will be taken, but there'll be a maximum of 1,500 built. According to a Porsche source, about 22 of those have been sold to customers throughout South-east Asia. With its Carrera GT order books already full enough - and more importantly, a new 911 (997) on the way - Porsche has gone on the road with this Stuttgart-registered, pre-production car, finished (perhaps inappropriately) in Italian red. We caught up with the car at the Phillip Island racing circuit in Australia. It's erroneous to begin describing this car 'in the metal' because there seems to be so little metal in it. The two-seater chassis is a full carbon-fibre monocoque, mated to a carbon-fibre 'skeleton' that houses the engine and transverse gearbox. Underneath is a smooth, carbon-fibre and Kevlar bellypan that provides aerodynamic downforce. Above, the bodywork is likewise in a carbon-fibre and Kevlar composite. Only at each extremity of the chassis does one find hollow stainless-steel beams, designed to provide impact absorption. Behind the forged magnesium wheels, for example, sit Porsche's awesome, ceramic-composite brakes (clamped by six-piston calipers). The innovative, twin-plate clutch and flywheel, whose small diameter (in concert with the over-slung gearbox) allows the engine to be mounted low in the chassis, is made from carbon-fibre, ceramic and titanium. One steps down low into the Carrera's cabin, the abundance of leather, aluminium and magnesium cabin details helping to detract from the stark, racetrack appeal of the carbon-fibre 'tub'. Aside from a step over the broad carbon-fibre sills, it's easy to hop in, even with the lift-out roof panels in place. It's likewise surprisingly spacious once you're there. The one-piece racing seats look vaguely like standard Porsche seats, but are almost brutally supportive and adjust only fore-aft. The aluminium pedals are floor-hinged (like an old 911's), but are connected to an altogether more demanding clutch, brakes and engine. The conventional, six-speed gearshift pattern suggests some normality, yet the abrupt, short-travel clutch suggests otherwise. Turn the ignition key, tweak the throttle pedal and the V10 startles you with a scream like a canvas tent ripping in a storm. The gear knob - made from Balsa wood, as in the legendary 917 racer - sits at the same height as one's right hand on the wheel and sluices softly into first. Before letting out the clutch, consider that the quietly thrashing, 5.7-litre V10 engine behind you is, at just 1000rpm, producing about 475Nm torque. That's almost 100Nm more than a 911 GT3's peak output. Despite the on/off clutch action and the engine's minimal flywheel effect, the best technique for starting is simply to ease out the pedal, barely brushing the throttle. And the surprises continue. This screaming, supercar engine, redlined at 8,400rpm, will chug cleanly out of corners at just 1500rpm - so long as it's a smooth, dry and grippy surface. Clumsy acceleration had the rear wheels break traction at 140km/h in third gear. The Porsche's V10 grunt is best compared to that of a four-cylinder, high-revving superbike - here, thankfully, overseen by electronic anti-spin control. With confidence building, one can snap through the GT's deliciously smooth and perfectly spaced cogs, again marvelling at the electric immediacy with which the V10 gathers revs. It sheds them again just as rapidly, making smooth gear-changing a practised art. In so many ways, the Carrera GT is an easy car to drive. The steering is light and extremely linear, the weight and feel firming up nicely as the car's aerodynamic downforce comes into play. The brakes are fantastic, not only for the GT's firm, squat and confident slowing, but the pedal's reassuringly mechanical feel and feedback. At every point of contact with this car - through the steering, the gearbox, the guitar-string throttle responsiveness and the brakes - it's as though Porsche has boiled away the fat and left only lean muscle exposed. It sits so broad and flat on the road, and encourages the driver so much with its responses and deceives with its comfort, that one could easily step beyond the limit on an unfamiliar road. It would be tempting to describe the Carrera GT as a Le Mans racing car for the road, but that would be to imply a raw, uncompromising machine that demands much of its driver at any speed. And that's not true of the Carrera GT. It's simply that every era has its pinnacles of automotive achievement, and this super-Porsche is one of them. Tested: Porsche Carrera GT What drives it? 5.7-litre V10 engine; six-speed manual, H-pattern box. How fast is it? Rear-wheel drive thrusts the 1380kg car forward with 450kW of power at 8,000rpm. Torque is 590Nm at 5,750rpm How fast is it? 0-100km/h in 3.9 sec; 0-200 km/h in 9.9 sec; top speed 330km/h. How thirsty is it? Very. Image effect: Good for brunch at Beas River; bad in Western Magistrates Court No2. Available: Euro390,000 via Porsche Centre Hong Kong, tel: 2926 2185.