'I was there'

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No. 1 Writer Mike Cotton recalls some significant racing 911s he watched

No one knows for sure how many race victories have been achieved by Porsche’s 911 model in the past halfcentury, but the company’s own publicity department reckons “a good two-thirds of Porsche’s 30,000 race victories to date were notched up by the 911”. Among them are an outright victory at Le Mans in 1979 with the Kremer Porsche 935 K3, the first for many years by a production-based car, nine victories in the Daytona 24 Hours, 10 in the Sebring 12 Hours and six in the Spa 24 Hours.

That’s just the biggies, an amazing record for a six-cylinder production car that was designed with the engine in the wrong place — for competition anyway — behind the rear wheels. Weissach engineers Herbert Linge and Peter Falk started the 911’s journey in the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally, finishing the snow-bound event in fifth position. Three years later Vic Elford and David Stone won the Monte outright, then BjOrn Waldegard repeated this success in 1969 and in 1970.

In 1971, the year of Porsche’s second victory at Le Mans with the 917, no fewer than seven of the 13 cars classified were 911s. Had the Porsche dynasty not made cars, Ferrari would have been first and second at Le Mans… and there would have been no other finishers! Throughout much of the history of endurance racing, Porsche has supplied the backbone to the entry and final results, and when this was not so the competitions were poorer.

Turbocharging gave the 911 a new lease of life in the 1970s. The 911-based 935 became the dominant machine in endurance racing and the most extreme example was `Moby Dick’, the factory’s 935-78, with special carbon bodywork and a new engine with water-cooled cylinder heads. This car, said to develop 800bhp, won the Silverstone Six Hours by seven clear laps in 1978, but misfired at Le Mans and was soon withdrawn, leaving the field clear for private teams.

No. 2 Gary Watkins has been a close observer of racing 911s for more than 20 years

Had there been no Porsche 911, where would worldwide sports car racing be today? That’s a difficult one to answer, but certainly not in the rude health it enjoys right now. Porsche’s bread-andbutter sports car provided the foundations for the relaunch of endurance racing in Europe in the mid-1990s and has been one of the cornerstones of just about every class of GT racing ever since.

Sports car racing was on its uppers after the demise of the old world championship at the end of 1992. What emerged in the void was a new series for GT cars with the Porsche 911 — then the 964-shape car — taking both a leading role and providing much of the supporting cast.

When Jurgen Barth, Porsche’s long-time customer racing boss, joined forces with Stephane Rate! and Patrick Peter to create the BPR Organisation ahead of the 1994 season, GT racing was reborn in Europe. Former Le Mans 24 Hours winner Barth was able to mobilise an army of private Porsche entrants that made their plans for a series of races around Europe and beyond a reality. Without the 911, the BPR was going nowhere.

The resulting boom spawned a series of off-the-peg Porsche racers that continues to roll out of Weissach to this day and gained further momentum on the launch of the GT3 category for the 2006 season. When Ratel had the idea for the new class of cost-effective GT contender for the amateur and professional alike, he picked the 911 GT3 Cup one-make racer as the performance benchmark.

It didn’t matter that the powers-that-be in Stuttgart were initially hostile to Ratel’s ideas. The idea was a success and the 911 an essential ingredient therein. The GT3 class has now spread all over the globe, taking the Porsche name with it. The 911 racer is more ubiquitous than ever as the car celebrates its 50th birthday.

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