Jantke: Spreading the Porsche Gospel

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The recent Brands Hatch venue for a 6-hour round of the World Championship for Makes (Group 5) brought the Martini-sponsored factory Porsche personnel to Kent. While they were here, establishing beyond any possible doubt their second successive title in this fledgling series, we took the opportunity of talking to the man responsible for their sporting policies. Formerly the editor of a West German competition-orientated magazine, Manfred Jantke represents the Porsche character perfectly today. An excellent knowledge of English is backed up by an obvious conviction that the best way to continue the Porsche story is through engineering refined and proven in long distance racing. Although his job has obvious publicity aspects, Jantke has caught the engineering mood within the company the link between road and competition cars is continually stressed. The interview also provided some interesting new information on the exciting 1.4-litre “Baby Porsche 935-24, but it seems that -despite the convenient size for Formula One and Porsche’s lead in turbocharging – this unit is not the way they would ever choose to enter Formula One. As ever there seems no immediate prospect of the Stuttgart concern becoming involved in Formula One, or the rumoured Indianapolis project, but there are definite signs that they will be involved in other kinds of competition next year.

Since we were present at Brands Hatch to see Group 5 machinery, the first question was obviously how Porsche, one of three West German concerns who really were responsible for this category emerging, viewed their monopolistic role in the Championship?

The pungent reply was, “Our car has developed, but not the Championship!” Jantke stopped smiling as he added, “There are criticisms that we have gone away from the original production concept, but that was not our idea. There are already categories to look after more production-kind of cars. Group 2 and Group 4 are for these people. We wanted more spectacle; more power; high speeds; really things that you should see in a World Championship series. It’s not cheap, of course, but then there are other ways to go, as I said before.

“I think the Porsche 935 shows this idea well. It really is a fast Car – we timed it at 352 k.p.h. (219.(9 m.p.h.) at Le Mans. There’s the flames from the exhaust and good drivers like Mass and Ickx so we put on a big show for the public, and our engineers learn at the same time. This car does the job we intended, just perfectly.”

Perhaps too perfect to provide a good racing series? Jantke nods vigorously. “Exactly so. We made a mistake in the beginning. We pulled away too far. Originally there were Ford and BMW. Ford closed their Cologne competitions shop during the fuel crisis period, while we were all preparing for this Championship to start.

“Then we just have BMW. Still it could have been good last year, and for sure it was better than the races we have this year. We tried 100% from the start. This dismayed our opponents and it was only half-hearted opposition. I think we should have gone more slowly to develop the series.” This is said with earnest intent as he adds, “because the FIA take so long to deal with the Group 6 sports car series, when Group 5 was getting ready to happen, makers such as Renault and Alfa Romeo were not sure what to do: we could have had them in the Group 5 series, if it had been clear about the World Championship at that time.”

Jantke then turns to the car that now dominates this series and those customer machines which provide any life blood at all for the Group 5 to sustain any acceptable “spear carrier” entries at all.

“Our last racing engine was for the 917 and that was finished after 1971. In 1972, we at the factory did almost nothing in competition and we did not enter cars for the races. The first ideas for Group 5 were announced in 1973 and we started to run the Carrera, first with a normal aspiration 2.8-litre engine and then a 3-litre motor. It was all to tell us the way we should go for Group 5. The following year we made the 2.1-litre-turbo for racing at 3-litres. This car is more sophisticated in suspension than the present 935, where we have gone back to our Bananas.” A snort of laughter follows this sally, as we realise that Manfred is actually discussing the nickname for the production-look rear suspension arms.

“So, for the beginning of Group 5 in 1976 we tried really hard in all areas, but especially on weight. At Weissach (the present centre from which the cars are built and subsequently operated: a true manufacturer involvement J.W.) they had made the car perhaps 50 kg. under the weight the regulations say we must carry to race in the 4-litre class. In 1975 it was development year. We made our 1974 car take the 2.8-litre turbo, ready for 1976. “In 1974 that car weighed 800 kg., by the end of development it was 840 kg., so it was obvious that the 1976 Porsche 935 must start carrying ballast to reach at least the 970 kg. weight limit in 1976.

“That was the start: always the car is putting on weight with the work to make it faster and stronger. For this 1977 season the car carries no ballast. Now we have twin turbos (customer cars are still dependent on the 1976 turbocharger layout) and the extra pipework as a major weight increase. Also this season we have new bodywork, and this is like a second skin on the car: if you look you will see it has two rear screens. We have also fitted a radio now…” A small grin to reflect on the luxurious equipment found in this long distance racer, though this is little compared with what is to come.

“At the beginning of the year we tested power steering and brakes, but only the brakes we race with. Then Barth (Jurgen – J.W.) had this big crash, with Fitzpatrick at Mugello, and we still don’t know what caused it. Perhaps it is possible that the power servo system failed, so now we take it off. The steering had a new geometry pattern after the power steering experiments and it’s beautiful now: just like a Rolls-Royce!” It is relevant to note that Herr Jantke does drive the car occasionally at Weissach (as well as occasionally racing the working occupants of the Porsche Museum) so he does know what he is talking about.

Referring to the benefits gained by the double turbocharger installation Jantke stresses, “the gain is in ease of driving. This is very important in a long distance – you know we have even looked at air conditioning? – where the power curve is much more even than before.

“Normally we run the Car at 1.45 atmospheres boost. This gives about 650 to 680 horsepower. We try never to go more than 1.5 atmospheres, but our customers do, especially in the German Championship. We think these cars are so powerful that, for us, it is not worth the risk to gain 9-11 horsepower by increasing boost.

“Another development we have made in 1977 has been the wheels. We used to have 19-in. diameter wheels, but they lost air because of the leverage cracking the separate centres from the rims. It has been very expensive for us, but we have made our own Porsche wheel now, and we use these: the BBS we keep for the “Baby”, and they are fine -there is less torque in this case, and the rims must be smaller.

“Maybe you thought it was funny to have the air conditioning in a race car, as I mentioned earlier, I say this so you can see how important we think it is that the driver is comfortable at high speeds over long distances. The problem of heat in the cockpit is a bad one for us, especially with the Baby Porsche which has less body inside to keep the heat of the engine, gearbox and turbocharger from the driver. At Norisring on a sunny day, the temperature was 50 C inside the car. The human body cannot breath properly and we had to stop racing that day because Jacky (Ickx) could not drive any more. So this is why we talk about air-conditioning.”

Jantke was very, very cool on the future, and even the existence of, the Baby Porsche 935-2.0. Very frankly he said, “this is not a real Porsche. We de not belong in this class now. We do no business for customers here, all our road cars are 3-litres and more from 911 type. It has taken as 20 years to move up from 1100 c.c. to the present, where we can win outright. We are not willing to go backwards.

—This car was built to prove one thing: that we are better than the Fords and BMWs which are in this class in German races. We wanted to prove that we can beat them when they have decided they will not race against as in the big class.” It is true to say that Ford and BMW were not willing to race against the turbo Porsches with their coupe saloons. It seems only BMW are now willing to take Porsche on in straight combat. One can sympathise with the manufacturer’s reluctance to get involved in this sort of warfare when Porsche have the right motivation and equipment to deploy their engineering expertise in public to win.

Jantke declares, “the reaction from these other manufacturers to the Baby was to congratulate us when it was 13th on the grid at Norisring. Then, in the second and last time that it raced at Hockenheim it was the fastest in practice, and won the race easily. Then they are not so pleased. There is always talk to ban the turbo, or make as carry more weight: they do not think how to improve their cars, only to get us out. We do not like this hostility and I do not think we will race this car again: we did it only to show we can win in this class, if necessary.”

Discussing the Baby Porsche technically Herr Jantke was able to clear up the misconceptions fostered about its weight, and how it was achieved, and the future of that 1.4-litre turbo six.

“First I must say this engine could not, definitely not, become a Formula One engine. You must remember it is still a single camshaft (per bank) with two valves in each cylinder: it is a developed production engine. So, if we are to do F1 we must make a racing engine.

“We do not think the turbo 1-litre is the way to do this. We could reach the existing I’ I standard, but not go beyond, to pass, to win, to set a new standard. It would be more expensive and complicated than existing F1 engines. So there is no sense for as to do this. If we did F1, and we will explore the reasons why we do not plan it at the moment, we would use a normally aspirated 3-litre racing engine for this job.”

Naturally we asked how Porsche felt about the Renault F1 programme. “This is a big interest for us: we think they will give proof that our calculation is right!” It was said with good nature, not arrogance, but the next statement was a more earnest, “we will be very surprised if they win. What we have seen as far is normal for the turbo engine. It can qualify quite well, you can boost it for practice, and it breaks the turbo, but it does a good time. The problem is to race for two hours with this practice power, and to overcome this throttle lag, so that you can race and win against opponents on the track, not a watch. Turbocharging is cheaper for a production-base engine to make more power. For racing in a formula car normal aspiration is cheaper and better,” Herr Jantke concluded, though he was to return to F1 later on.

Back on the subject of the Baby Porsche Manfred Jantke told as some of the changes that had brought the car so close to the 735 kg. limit. “Really it is a much different car to the 935. The bodywork is much, much lighter with the lightest glass and plastic. The chassis has the steel centre section only -tubular space frames front and rear (the big one has tubular rear construction) -and that steel is the lightest we could use: thinner than before. Then we have the smaller shads and really incredible things: the gas pedal is in titanium and so is the gear-lever: it doesn’t make much difference but we do it with many things.

“In the car’s mechanical parts we have saved the weight of piping for the oil cooler by placing it in the rear. The cooling for the engine is different, it works on an under-pressure scoop to pull air in, and was developed when we looked at the possibility to run our cars without the engine cooling fan. We find it would be possible, but not for a race with pit stops or any slow moving: it would have to be steady high speeds to make this safe.

“Of course has the engine has only the single turbocharger, so that is lighter, and we have less weight in the gearbox: it is five speeds from the 911, capable of holding 370 horsepower. The big turbo has a four speed 930 type of gearbox which is able to take 900 horsepower and this is naturally heavier, even with less gears, to absorb this extra power.”

So far as the car itself was concerned this was the limit of our conversation, but there was one fascinating quote illustrating Porsche character clearly. Jantke said, “we have got so close to working with weight limits now, that we have to take into account the loss of weight in a race: on average our cars lose a kilogramme (2.2 lb) in brake wear and oil consumed. Of course the fuel load plays a bigger part in the car’s weight, but we have to take into account even this little change. So, if there is a 735 kg. weight limit, for example we like the car to have a ready-to-race weight of 740-755 kg.”

For next year the retention of Martini, as sponsors, and Jochen Mass/Jacky Ickx as drivers has already been confirmed, but Manfred Jantke has some very definite views on the Group 5 series next year. “Next year it is BMW’s as to support the Championship. The series must have other makes to survive, in 1978 it will be BMW’s job to keep the series alive.”

Jochen Neerpasch and the team have confirmed that a single works 320i-turbo will be campaigned at all rounds of the Group 5 series next year. A flotilla of works-assisted 320is will also attend. From a BMW viewpoint 1978 is the year when they will debut the mid-engined machine of mixed ancestry, it will run prior to its homologation at Daytona and Le Mans, where the organisers have made provision for such prototypes. So the Munich team have a pretty busy year to come, looking after Group 5 in the present, developing a limited production mid-engine road car, and racing the same project for the first time. No wonder Munich was unenthusiastic about saloon car racing against Jaguar in 1978.

Next year the 935 will sit again in the hands of Mass and kits, but Jantke is pretty pessimistic about the future of Group 5 if Porsche should win the Championship again, without a fight. The signs are that, with a turbo-BMW driven by the calibre of top notch pibt normally employed by BMW at this level (notably Ronnie Peterson, Hans Stuck and David Hobbs) Porsche will not enjoy a walk-over. BMW pushed them surprisingly hard in the points table when they ran the big Group 5 CSL coupes in 1976.

Other plans include it foray into rallying on a one-off basis. These plans could not be confirmed officially at our interview. From other sources, we have heard that Porsche will enter next year’s East African Safari with two 911 Carrera 3-litres. The writer would guess at Bjorn Waldegaard and Walter Roehrl as Porsche’s favourite drivers, but there would be some tricky contractual negotiations to overcome.

Commenting once again on the F1 scene Jantke made it clear that it was not a lack of money that prevented Porsche’s participation. In fact the economics of F1 look very good to Porsche, for they would be travelling to much the same places with some chance of initial reward, and a good share in the cake with success. Involved in Group 5, as they are, starting money prospects and rewards for winning are minimal, compared to the cost of reaching and preparing for a round of the silhouette championship.

While we were on the subject of other formulae, Jantke confirmed that the Group 6 Sports car, which won at Le Mans this year and last, would be appearing again at the Sarthe circuit, following the usual testing along with the Group 5 machinery, at Paul Ricard in the first two months of the New Year. Concerning Le Mans drivers, it is at the moment only certain that Jacky Ickx will get a chance of becoming the first five-time winner at Le Mans. He will race a 936. His co-driver has yet to be finalised.

Peering further into the future Jantke commented, “Formula One is at a fantastic level of entertainment and competition. We are not so interested in just the publicity. We need a place to look for power, reliability and economy of fuel between pit stops. It is more interesting for us to be involved in this type of engineering because we are this to put it into our road cars.” It is at this point that one is finally reminded what a unique establishment Porsche represents. Research needs competition is this company’s view -and while they are in competition further prestige accrues to an already leading name. From a Porsche standpoint, not being in competition would be unnatural. A rabid enthusiast might well wonder if Colin Chapman versus Weissach might not constitute the match of the decade when refereed by Bernie Eccelstone, but that is not to be, so far as we can see. What is evident is that F1 has been seriously considered recently at the very highest levels in the company.

More realistically Herr Jantke pointed the path for the front engined, V8 Porsche 928 model. “For the present we can meet BMW and their mid-engine Car with our rear engine 911 base. I can tell you that this will be so, but also I must add that our next generation of Porsche competition cars will be based on our street cars, and that means we can win with the front-engine, transaxle 928 as well.

“The job is the same. We must solve engineering problems and improve the street car. Look what we have done with the turbo, it has many things directly from racing, and it makes a good base to go racing.

“We began with the problem of making the best handling from it rear engined car when everybody else said ‘rear engine car is no good.’ Now we have this optimum rear engine handling on the track and in the street.

“In the beginning we are thinking that 2.4-litres is the most we can make from our six cylinder: now we do 3.3 litres for sale. This has come from racing. We learn how to cool the aircooled engine better through the aerodynamics and we research into metals, so that less metal is necessary between the cylinder bores.” That example of Porsche’s close identification with racing is used to close the chapter on the future of the 928 as it competition car, but one knows that brakes, suspension, gearbox and engine can show direct benefit from the Weissach racing research role, and that is just the obvious part. The depressing thought is to look for our British investment in automotive engineering for the future on this scale: it is not just the racing, that is part of much bigger commitment to a future of genuinely better road cars.

Talking about the 911 in the years ahead Jantke says, “as long as we can make 20 such cars it day it will stay in production. At present we make 70 cars a day on average at Zuffenhausen, and ten of those are 928 -these figures exclude completely the four-cylinder 924, of course.

“Now we are increasing to 20 of the 928 per day, but still we make more than enough 911 types. We would like to build the 911 at least for another four years to make a smooth changeover to 928,” said Herr Jantke with it wistful smile.

Impeccably turned-out and precisely sure of what he was saying, I think Manfred Jantke talked to Motor Sport in it way that typifies the approach of his company. Chapman is more dynamic and exciting, Porsche more established and convincing on the engineering side. It had been an illuminating discussion, and it remained only to say a rather gauche “thank-you”.

J.W.