Forty Years of the Porsche 911: History of Motorsport

40 years 911

  • 40 years 911 - landing page: The Cutting Edge in Technology for Four Decades
  • 40 years 911 - long story: A Great Sports Car with Outstanding Heritage and a Great Future
  • Engine Development: Low, Powerful and with Six Cylinders for 845 bhp at the Rear
  • Portrait of F. A. Porsche: “Design – Far more than Fashion”
  • First Experience in Motorsport: The Linge-Falk Connection
  • Forty Years of the Porsche 911: Milestones

  • Forty Years of the Porsche 911 – History of Motorsport
    Driving to the Limit for Four Decades

    Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG in Stuttgart are always happy to celebrate an anniversary, also by winning races on the track. In 1998 production of Porsche cars celebrated its 50th birthday, two 911 GT1s taking the opportunity in the same year to win the toughest endurance race in the world against powerful competition: the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Porsche celebrated a one-two victory in 1998. Then the Company celebrated the 40th birthday of the 911 by scoring a one-two victory in the only classic endurance race with a reputation virtually as great as Le Mans: the 24 Hours of Daytona Beach in the USA. The car this time, quite appropriately, was a production-based 911 GT3 RS driven by the German/US team Timo Bernhard/Jörg Bergmeister/Michael Schrom/Kevin Buckler

    Clearly, the 911 is not the only car to clinch racing wins for Porsche on the track. Exceptions are, say, the racing wins scored by Porsche in Le Mans in 1970 and 1971 with the 12-cylinder Porsche 917 bringing home victory. Then there are the three Formula 1 World Championships in 1984, 1985 and 1986 to be credited to the account of McLaren-TAG/Porsche, which had nothing to do with the 911. But the record-breaking winners of Le Mans bringing home victory between 1982 and 1994, the Porsche 956/962C, are both direct relatives of the 911 with a turbocharged power unit derived from the six-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine of the 911. And even the 911 itself has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Porsche 935 driven to victory in 1979 by Klaus Ludwig/Bill Whittington/Don Whittington being nothing but the racing version of the 911. So half of the more than 23,000 racing wins in Porsche's glorious motorsport history go to the account of the 911.

    First entry, first win – this was back in 1965 when Herbert Linge and Peter Falk brought home a class victory in Monte Carlo as “insignificant" outsiders and finished a sensational fifth overall. Back then the car was really slender and, judging by today's standards, not even particularly powerful, the two Porsche drivers requiring “only" 130 bhp to bring home victory. But this was obviously not the end of the road, the winners of the 1968 – 1970 Monte Carlo Rally Elford/Stone and – twice – Waldegård/Helmer benefitting from more power. Maximum output of these racing models in 1970, for example, was 230 bhp. And it was also in this year that Porsche built the lightest – ever 911 homologated for the road, a car weighing a mere 789 kg or 1739 lb and raced by Gérard Larrousse in the Stuttgart-Lyon-Charbonnières Rally. In 1978 French driver Jean-Pierre Nicolas then brought home yet another victory in a Porsche 911 in the Monte Carlo Rally.

    Over the last four decades, the 911 has dominated the scene even more in circuit races than in rallies, simply because the car fits even better into the GT regulations. A model virtually everybody still remembers is the 911 Carrera RS 2.7, which went out of production in autumn 1972. This was indeed the starting point for many 911s with racing features such as the Carrera RSR. As early as in 1973, for example, Peter Gregg/Hurley Haywood won both Daytona and Sebring in the RSR against far more powerful GT cars and prototypes. Another outstanding highlight was the last-ever Targa Floria, Herbert Müller/Gijs Van Lennep bringing home victory in a Carrera prototype against powerful competition and therefore showing their superiority in this important race for the World Constructor's Championship.

    Then came the days of the turbocharged models: To begin with turbochargers gave the 12-cylinder power unit of the 917/30 up to 1100 bhp in 1972 and 1973. In 1974 Porsche entered the turbocharged prototypes derived from the production models in Watkins Glen and Le Mans, finishing second in each case behind thoroughbred racing cars. In compliance with regulations, engine displacement was 2142 cc, maximum output 500 bhp.

    40 years 911

    The 911 growing wider and becoming lower

    These were the predecessors to the Porsche 934 and 935 built for the new international Group 4 and Group 5 regulations as of 1976: The 911 became wider, the front section was lowered even further, and mighty wings on the body optimised the car's streamlining. Developed by Porsche engineer Norbert Singer, the 935 was so light that without lead weights it would have remained far below the minimum weight limit of 970 kg or 2139 lb. Porsche chose engine size of 2.8 litres in order to qualify for a low-weight category, the engine developing maximum output of 590 bhp at 7900 rpm. Racing the Porsche 935, Rolf Stommelen/ Manfred Schurti and Jochen Mass/Jacky Ickx won the Constructor's World Championship on behalf of Porsche, thus reaching the goal the Company had set itself. Two more figures are of interest in this context: Top speed of the 935 in Le Mans in 1976 was 336 km/h or 208 mph, acceleration from 0 – 200 km/h came in a remarkable 8.2 seconds. In 1977 an optimised 935 won three races for the Constructor's World Championship, privately-entered 935s bringing home the title for Porsche once again.

    “Baby" was also a member of the 935 family: To remain in compliance with regulations for the German Motor Racing Championship in 1977, Porsche chose a 1.4-litre power unit at the time. Engine output, however, was still 370 bhp, weight of this 935 without additional loads amounting to a mere 710 kg or 2062 lb. Racing “Baby" in Hockenheim, Jacky Ickx brought home victory right from the start and caused quite a stir in the German Motor Racing Championship.

    Porsche's other extreme, “Moby Dick" in 1978, was equally sensational: From the outside, this Porsche clearly stood out from all other versions of the 935 through its looks alone, Norbert Singer, the Senior Engineer and Project Manager guiding Porsche's Racing Department for decades, had cut a few centimetres off the plastic body of the car before placing it on top of the chassis.

    This lowered the entire car, thus improving streamlining and aerodynamics in the same way as the long rear end. Conceived and developed primarily for Le Mans, “Moby Dick" was designed primarily for very high speeds, the top speed recorded on this model being 366 km/h or 227 mph. The engine, incidentally, was the first power unit in the history of the 911 to feature water-cooled cylinder heads with four valves per cylinder. The cylinders themselves remained air-cooled. Output of the turbocharged 3.2-litre six-cylinder with four overhead camshafts was up to 845 bhp, helping “Moby Dick" to win the Silverstone race for the Constructor's World Championship and finish 8th in Le Mans.

    n 1984 Porsche won the Paris-Dakar Rally with the 911 SC 4x4. Contrary to the 959 appearing later on the scene, the 4x4, serving as the basic vehicle for the 911 in rally trim, was not equipped with electronically controlled four-wheel drive and a turbocharged power unit. Output of the turbocharged power unit of the Porsche 959 in 1986, in turn, was 400 bhp. Top speed of this special car with its elevated ride height was 210 km/h or 130 mph, even on rough tracks. And going down in history as the “super-911", the 959 finished first, second and sixth in the 1986 Paris-Dakar Rally.

    40 years 911

    One-two victory in Le Mans in 1998

    After Group C (prototype racing) had come to an end, Porsche was very successful in international GT series with the GT2, the 911 raced by private teams developing up to 600 turbocharged horsepower. The first 911 GT1 was developed for works racing in 1996, followed two years later by the modified 1998 model, the first sports car built by Porsche to feature a carbon-fibre chassis offering the advantage of 50 – 70 kg less weight and a stiffer chassis structure. Perhaps the most outstanding achievement with this car was the one-two victory in Le Mans in 1998 scored by Allan McNish/Laurent Aiello/Stéphane Ortelli coming first and Uwe Alzen/Bob Wollek/Jörg Müller finishing second. In this case, incidentally, the six-cylinder power unit was not derived directly from its 911 ancestor, since both the engine block and cylinder heads of the 3.2-litre were made of aluminium. Water-cooled, the engine delivered more than 500 bhp maximum output with the help of two KKK exhaust gas turbochargers.

    The 911 has also been entered in the fastest cup trophies in the world since 1990, the year when the national Carrera Cup first saw the light of day. In 1993 this outstanding event was followed by the international Porsche Pirelli Supercup, further national cups being launched later with the 911 Carrera in France and Japan. And since the year 2003, the Carrera Cup Asia has been presenting the thrill of Porsche in Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, and the People's Republic of China.

    2003 also marks the introduction of Porsche brand cups in Britain and Australia, the cup car being steadily enhanced through an ever-higher standard parallel to the series model. A further outstanding event is the 911 GT3 Cup introduced together with the launch of the Porsche 911 GT3 in the market.

    Compared with the “standard" GT3 already very sporting and dynamic, the Cup version is even more of a racing car featuring assets such as plastic doors and lids, a safety cage, complete absence of all sound-insulating materials, and racing slicks for maximum grip. The cylinders, pistons, connecting rods and the transmission have also been upgraded time and again by Porsche's racing engineers, output being consistently increased to 390 bhp at 7300 rpm in the year 2003.

    40 years 911

    Customer sport of the highest calibre

    It is fair to say that no other car maker offers a racing team the option to buy a complete sports car for motorsport enabling them to win international classic races right from the start – as was the case, for example, in Daytona in 2003. And most definitely no other manufacturer has the same kind of heritage in supporting private drivers. For while other car companies make their appearance in motorsport and then disappear again, Porsche remains – with a racing heritage now going back five decades. And precisely this is what private racing teams are able to rely on, achieving outstanding results on race tracks the world over. In the Customer Motorsport Department in Weissach, in turn, this means full employment, secure and interesting jobs, and a long list of orders and assignments.

    40 years 911

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