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The cars that made
Porsche history

by Bill Oursler
Page 3

Type 936
Type 956/962
Type 911 GT1 and The Joest Walkinshaw Racing Porsche
Open Wheel Experiences

The Type 936

Porsche management worried that the FIA might change its mind and scrap the 1976-initiated "silhouette" prototype Formula before it began, ordered the development of a new sports racing prototype Spyder. This was to be run in the FIA's World Sports Car Championship, beginning that year, if it wasn't forced to represent Porsche on the Makes scene. As it turned out, the FIA did stick it its word, so the 936 saw duty mainly on the sports car tour, which it won handily. However, its real fame came at Le Mans which was running independently of any championship at the time. There the 936 would win three times, in 1975, 1977, and 1978 it would also finish second in 1978, and again in 1980. Only in 1979, when it was part of a last-minute factory effort, did it fail to finish at the Sarthe.

What made the 936's record so remarkable was that it was a "parts bin" car that utilized a 908-based frame, along with suspension and brake pieces from both that car and the 917, as well as the latter's transmission. As for its engine, that came from the turbo RSR/035, being initially set at 2.1-liters in its boosted format. Subsequently it would gain displacement as well as water-cooled heads, eventually producing in the neighborhood of 750 HP from 1977 onwards. The factory only ran the 936 at Le Mans, private versions racing in the German National Championship in the early 1980's where it won.

The Type 956/962

Perhaps the most significant of Porsche's modern day prototypes in the monocoque-chassis 956/962 FUA Group C/IMSA Camel GTP coupe. This closed topped sports racer combined a new Singer built chassis with new suspension and brakes mated to the drivetrain from the last versions of the 936 introduced in "short wheelbase" 956 form in 1982. It was successful from the start, winning the World Makes title and Le Mans through 1986. Run by the factory in Rothmans cigarette colors, the car was also winning with privateer teams starting 1983. In fact, of the four Le Mans triumphs, the last two, in 1984 and '85, were scored by the Reinhold Joest team with customer chassis.

In 1984, in order to comply with IMSA regulations, the long wheelbase 962 was debuted by Porsche. Although it would replace the 956 in FIA competition starting in 1985, using the same engine and transmission as its predecessor, in the Camel GT it was forced to utilize the all air cooled 935 flat six cylinder until late in Its career. Either way, the car was as dominant as its earlier stablemate, winning the Camel title from 1985 through 1987. Introduced to Europe by the factory in 1984, the 962 would add to North American and FIA successes with a pair of Le Mans victories in 1986 and again in 1987; nothing being posted by the factory Rothmans team.

Age and the rule makers combined to put the 956/062 out to pasture as the 1990's approached. However, there was one last triumph that came in 1994, when run as a "non-ground effects" GT category car, a Jochen Dauer team 962 claimed the victory at Le Mans. Interestingly, part of the driver team there was American Hurley Haywood, who had first won in Le Mans in 1977 in a 936. In 1983 he won again as part of the Rothmans 956 factory squad with fellow American Al Holbert. Holbert himself would go on to win Le Mans again in 1986 and '87 with the Rothmans team.

The Type 911 GT1 and the Joest Walkinshaw Racing Porsche

The 911 FR1 turbo grew out of Porsche's desire to win at Le Mans following its 1994 victory in the 24-Hour long distance classic. Under the complicated rules which prevailed at the Sarthe in the mid-1990's, one could build what amounted to a full prototype, if one could get it approved for the street with a governing body such as those of the countries within the European Community. It was, in effect, a license to steal, much in the same way that Porsche had been permitted to run its 962 as a "GT" car in its last successful Le Mans appearance.

Although carrying the 911 moniker, and resembling the 911 in overall shape, what Singer's team created for the 1996 24 Hours, was unique. While the front, from the cowl forward consisted of the 933 model 911's inner sheet metal structure, from there on back it was a pure competition vehicle, using technology quite similar to that of the 956/963. Even its water-cooled boxer six cylinder had its origins in that car's powerplant.

Still, some at Porsche were worried that the 911 GT was too untried to win at Le Mans its first time out, and that's where the Walkinshaw Spyder entered the picture. Built originally as a Jaguar by Walkinshaw to race in the Group C prototype arena during the early 1990's, the car in coupe form had subsequently been transformed into a Mazda by the replacement of its Cosworth-based V-8 with a Judd V-10 engine. After Porsche's 1994 Le Mans triumph, the car was sold to Zuffenhausen which cut off its roof, endowed it with a flat bottom to meet the new World Sports Car prototype regulations, and installed a 956/962 water cooled head turbocharged flat six with the intent of going back to Le Mans in 1995.

Unfortunately, those plans were shelved when race officials in North America changed their regulations to effectively bar the car from the season opening Daytona and Sebring events which Porsche had planned to use to develop it for the Sarthe. Taken back to Germany the Porsche Spyder sat under a dust cover until the spring of 1996 when Porsche decided to lease the two actual cars they had to Reinhold Joest to run at Le Mans as a back up for the 911 GT1 effort.

In an ironic twist of fate, the two factory GT1's stumbled just enough to allow one of the Joest leased machines to win the 24-Hour affair outright, the GT1 's being forced to settle for second and third overall, and first and second in their class. Although the Spyder was parked, the GT1's returned to action later that year in the BPR Global Endurance GT challenge, winning three events.

For 1997, a series of customer 911 GT1 replicas were produced and sold while the factory entered a pair of updated 911 GT1 "Evo" models both at Le Mans and in the new FIA GT championship which had replaced the BPR Global Endurance GT Challenge. Although humbled by Mercedes in the FIA title battle, the factory GT1's took charge at Le Mans until both were put out of action during the latter stages of the event with mechanical woes. That left the single Joest-enter Porsche TWR Spyder, which was brought to Le Mans strictly as a private operation, to take over for the win.

Although the much traveled prototype would again make its appearance at the Sarthe in 1998, that would be the year the 911 GT1's would shine. Totally revised, the 1998 GT1's featured an all carbon fiber chassis and much changed aerodynamics. While the new cars did little better in the FIA championship, they made up for that at Le Mans with a one-two sweep of the top two overall spots. Their mission accomplished, they were retired to Porsche's Museum, along with the TWR Spyder at the end of the 1998 season.

That wasn't quite the end of the 911 GT1 story, though. At the beginning of 1998, Porsche sold one of the "Evos" to North American-based Champion Racing. They used it to claim the United States Road Racing Championship series GT crown that year, as well as the GT division win at the prestigious Petit Le Mans event which heralded the birth of the American Le Mans Series. All this came on top of the GT class points trophy won in 1997 on the Exxon series by the Jochen Rohr team.

Today the 911 GT1 has been invited to return to active competition by officials of the American Road Racing Championship, which in 2000 succeeded the USRRC. In another bit of irony, the car may also be eligible for historic and vintage competition at the same time.

Open Wheel Experiences

Porsche which quit open wheel competition after its less than successful experience in Formula One during the first part of the 1960-s, remained out of single seater competition until the beginning of the 1980's when its U.S. racing boss, Josef Hoppen convinced the factory to come to Indianapolis. In partnership with Ted Fields' lnterscope team, Porsche would supply a modified version of its traditional, water-cooled head, flat six-cylinder turbo. lnterscope would supply the driver in the form of Danny Ongais, the chassis, and the Panasonic sponsorship.

Announced in late 1979, the project was canceled in the spring of 1980 when the United States Auto Club, which sanctioned the Indy 500, abruptly lowered the maximum boost pressure permitted Porsche for the race. Reluctant to run what amounted to an untested engine, the factory withdrew, leaving Indianapolis a "might have been" chapter in its racing history.

Three years later, after entering into an agreement with McLaren owner Ron Dennis, Porsche found itself competing in Formula One with a brand new Mezger design, water cooled 1.5-liter V-6 turbo paid for by the TAG organization. Although showing much potential in 1983, it wasn't until it was dropped into a new chassis in 1984 that the Porsche and McLaren truly hit its stride. From then through 1987, McLaren was nearly unbeatable, winning the World Drivers and Constructors crowns three times during that period. Niki Lauda secured his last World crown in 1984 over teammate Alain Prost by a half point. Prost quickly making up for that disappointment by winning the title in 1985 and '86.

As Porsche was preparing to bow out of Formula One at the end of 1987 it was entering the Indianapolis arena once again, this time with a Mezger V-8 using much of the TAG Turbo's technology. It was not to be a happy experience, as Porsche ran an uncompetitive in-house chassis for the last two CART Indy events in 1987, before switching over to a March-built open wheeler in 1988.

For the next three years until it once more left the Indianapolis scene at the conclusion of the 1990 season, Porsche stayed with March. During that period it was able, despite employing the talents of former Indy 500 pole sitter Teo Fabi, to win just once, this coming through Fabi's efforts at Mid-Ohio in 1989. While statistically and emotionally Porsche's second excursion into the Indy scene was not what the company had hoped, when it left it could console itself with the fact that as far as engines went, its 2.6-liter was among the most powerful and reliable up to that point.

In the early 1990's, Porsche once more involved itself in Formula One, designing and building a 3.5-liter non-turbo V-12 for the Footwork Arrows team. While it too showed potential, a lack of funding resulted in its being ultimately less than competitive and the project was abandoned after less than a year


From its formative years through 1968, hill climbing was a key part of Porsche's motorsport efforts. In large measure this was due to the circumstances of the sport which emphasized lightweight and handling over brute horsepower. At first Porsche relied on unmodified Spyders to carry the workload. However, after being defeated by Ferrari in 1962, Porsche began to look elsewhere. At first it purchased a lightweight British-built Elva sports racer into which It dropped its 1962 derived Type 771 flat eight. However, after that crisis had passed it went back to using what it had in hand, which mostly meant the 904 coupe, supported by the Iast of the Spyders -the W-RS. In 1965, when Ferrari again invaded the hillclimb scene, Piech, then just arriving at Porsche hurriedly constructed a Spyder version of the 904, which was unable to stop the Ferrari advance.

That led Piech to create an all new tubeframed open topped machine, the Ollon-Villars Spyder, which today is recognized as the progenitor of all modern racing Porsches. From that car came the special lightweight versions of the 910. These were stripped to the bare minimum, weighing in at about 1100 pounds, and were good enough to help Porsche dominate the hillclimb scene through 1968. However, as the weight had been taken out, handling had suffered as the mass of the engine and transmission was no too far aft in the car. This resulted in the 909, which ran twice at they end of 1968. With this car, Porsche had moved the driving position so far forward that the driver's feet overhung the front axle line.

While the car did not affect the final outcome of the season, that being left to the venerable 910, it did affect future design thinking; most subsequent racing Porsches having similar driving positions. In any event, having now moved to the center of the sportscar stage with the 917, Porsche abandoned hillclimbing, never to return with a factory team.

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