The Porsche 924 Carrera GTP raced at the iconic French Le Mans 24 Hours endurance motor sport event in 1980 as part of an innovative three-car, international factory team. Car #2 was the British entry, #3 the American and #4 was the German car. Each car featured distinctive liveries based on the national flags, and the British car is arguably the only Porsche factory race car to have competed with such a prominent red, white and blue motif.
The driving force in 1980 comprised Tony Dron and Andy Rouse, and they finished the 24 Hours in 12th place. The front-engined, rear-wheel drive 924 GTP has been in the storage archives of the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart since its retirement. However, last year Porsche Cars GB was entrusted with the restoration of the famous British car #2 in a unique initiative that saw skilled technicians at Porsche Classic Partner Centres in the UK undertaking key aspects of the work.
There are four Porsche Classic Partner Centres in the Porsche Cars GB sales network, located in Glasgow, Hatfield, Leeds and Swindon. A thorough inspection of the historic race car resulted in a comprehensive list of work that was required to bring it back to a representative – yet historically sympathetic – race-ready condition. Porsche Centre Glasgow worked on the suspension, brakes and wheels; Porsche Centre Hatfield took on the gearbox and drivetrain; Porsche Centre Leeds had responsibility for the electrics and radiator plumbing; and Porsche Centre Swindon breathed new life into the engine.
During the restoration process, an accurate period GTP engine was discovered and reunited with the car, authentic aerodynamic wheel trims were located and a replacement fuel tank cell was recreated from an original pattern part.
Road and Race Restorations in Manchester, a Porsche Recommended Body Repairer, completed the picture by restoring the bodywork, paint and decals, and interior trim.
Since its completion, the historic 924 Carrera GTP underwent a shakedown run around the Porsche Experience Centre at Silverstone prior to being displayed at the Le Mans Classic event in France. This weekend it makes it UK public debut at the Silverstone Classic.
Going forwards, the car will also be proudly displayed in the showrooms of the Porsche Centres responsible for bringing this part of Porsche motorsport history back to life once more.
40 Years at the Front
This project supports the 40th anniversary of the launch of the 924 in 1976, the first model in the so-called ‘transaxle’ series of Porsche cars, with their front engines and gearboxes located in combination with the rear-driven axle. In celebration of this, Porsche Cars GB has encouraged the network to restore an example of a front-engined Porsche itself. Each of the 16 Porsche Centres participating in this year’s restoration contest will be displaying the fruits of their labours at the Silverstone Classic, and also demonstrating them in a special parade over the weekend. The line-up includes examples of the 924, 944, 968 Club Sport and the V8-powered 928.
Porsche Classic is the factory department responsible for the supply of parts and technical support for all Porsche cars from the earliest 356 from the 1950s up to the ‘Type 996’ 911 from 1998-2004 and ‘Type 986’ Boxster from 1996-2004 – and everything in between. Over 70 per cent of all Porsche cars ever made are still on the road, and over 50,000 original equipment parts are available from Porsche Centres to service and maintain these. Porsche Classic Partner Centres have invested further in offering drivers of older Porsche cars additional support, and a dedicated area of their Centre showrooms highlights this special focus.
The 924 Carrera GT Le Mans
Since its earliest days, Porsche has taken lessons from the race track and applied them in the development of its road cars – and vice versa. The 924 Carrera GT Le Mans was no exception. Taking as its basis the 210 hp 924 Carrera GT road car, famous Porsche racing engineer, Norbert Singer, was given the task of creating a fully-fledged racing car. Singer and the engineering staff at the Porsche Motorsport team at Weissach, near Stuttgart, Germany, drafted a relatively modest list of modifications. Under the product code Type 937, a production Carrera GT bodyshell was stiffened considerably with the addition of an aluminium roll-cage, and the exterior bodywork was clothed in new lightweight plastic panels. These extended to the nose, which was made more aerodynamic while keeping the appearance of the 924, and also helped to shroud the wider 11-inch front wheels and 12-inch wide rear wheels with racing Dunlop slick tyres.
The front cross-member was welded in place to increase cornering stiffness, and although the MacPherson strut front suspension was retained, titanium springs and Bilstein gas dampers were fitted. At the rear, however, the torsion bars were supplemented with titanium coil springs. The driveshafts were also made of titanium (in fact, they were taken from the ferocious 911-derived 935 race car) and the rear differential was fully locked for maximum traction.
Under the bonnet, the engine was relatively straightforward. The VW-based 1,984 cc, turbocharged in-line four-cylinder underwent some modifications to help with airflow and cooling; the KKK turbocharger was moved to the left side of the engine, and the intercooler increased in size and moved to the front. Bosch/Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection replaced the production specification K-Jetronic, and dry-sump lubrication ensured consistent oil supply under racing loads.
As a consequence, power output rose by 50% from the 210 hp / 6,000 rpm of the road car to 320 hp / 7,000 rpm, with a 40% boost in torque. Combined with a weight reduction to 930 kg from 1,180 kg, the car’s performance leapt forwards. For a Le Mans racer, top speed is a prime focus and maximum velocity rose to 180 mph; large ventilated and cross-drilled brake discs (borrowed from the 917) were employed to slow the cars after the Mulsanne Straight.
In the context of the recent success at Le Mans with prototypes vying for outright wins (and already by 1980 Porsche had an enviable record of triumphs in the 24 Hours), there was some mixed feelings regarding the relative performance of these brave 924 Carrera GTP race cars. However, a suggestion by Porsche Cars GB to run the cars in the national identities of Britain, Germany and the US, with national drivers and exterior liveries, saw the programme gain a welcome boost internally at Porsche AG and also generate wide media interest.
In the event, external factors prior to the 1980 Le Mans start, saw Derek Bell switch to the American #3 car with US driver Al Holbert, and the #2 British car was shared by the proven pair of Tony Dron and Andy Rouse, and the #4 German car was driven by Jürgen Barth and Manfred Schurti.
A wet start to the Le Mans 24 Hours race itself saw the modest expectations of qualifying transformed considerably, with Bell running 16th overall after one hour followed by Barth in 22nd and Rouse in 28th. By nightfall, the three 924 Carrera GTP race cars were running 10th, 14th, and 15th and by breakfast time on Sunday morning they had moved up to sixth, seventh and eighth.
At the chequered flag, the #4 German car finished in sixth place, a remarkable achievement for the 924 Carrera GTP in what was not only the car’s debut at Le Mans but also the first time the 924 model had been entered by the Porsche factory in motor sport. The #2 British car crossed the line in 12th position, one place ahead of the #3 American entry.
In line with the Porsche ethos of race to road technology transfer, the 1980 Le Mans programme inspired the production of 59 examples of a new 924 GTS model that was homologated for competition use, plus a further 19 examples of the higher-powered GTR offered in full Le Mans race specification for customer motorsport (and priced at 180,000 Deutschmarks).
In a fitting post-script, in the 1981 Le Mans 24 Hours, the Porsche factory entered a 924 GTP which with a large 410 hp 2,479 cc four cylinder engine was technically a prototype of the forthcoming 2.5-litre 944 road car. Driven by Jürgen Barth and Walter Röhrl, it won the GTP class category and placed seventh overall. Of three privately-entered 924 Carrera GTR cars, the top finisher was the car of Andy Rouse and Manfred Schurti, in 11th place.
Porsche Museum at the Silverstone Classic
The Porsche Museum in Stuttgart is sharing two of its treasures with fans at this weekend’s historic motorsport festival.
1973 917/30 CanAm
Porsche used its new-found skills with forced induction to attach two exhaust-driven turbochargers to the flat-twelve engine of the 917. The result had a displacement of 5.4-litres and produced at least 1,100 hp, making it one of the most powerful racing cars ever built. Depending on the boost pressure, the engine’s power output is somewhere between 1,100 hp and 1,400 hp. The car, which weighs a mere 800 kg, accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in just 2.4 secs, by which time the driver hasn’t even shifted into second gear! The 917/30 can reach 120 mph in 5.6 secs and passes the 180 mph in 11.3 seconds.
The 917/30 went on to dominate in the 1973 Can-Am and filled the top four places in the Championship. This particular car chassis #917/30-002 won the Watkins Glen Can-Am race driven by legendary American racer Mark Donohue, a driver forever associated with the distinctive blue ‘Sunoco’ liveried 917/30.
1998 911 GT1 98
This car, 18 years after its debut, still shows that elegant styling, high functionality and track-specific features are not necessarily incompatible. The GT1 98 was an all-new car for the 1998 season and the first Porsche with an ultra-lightweight carbon fibre chassis. This was paired with a familiar 3.2-litre flat-six twin-turbocharged engine, albeit driving through a new sequential gearbox.
The factory Porsche team famously finished 1-2 in the Le Mans 24 Hours race that season with the GT1 98. But the car also had a loyal following among the many Porsche customer race teams. Resplendent in its newly-restored ‘Jever’ livery, this former Zakspeed Racing team car – chassis # GT1/98-004 – returns to the UK after thrilling spectators on its debut last month at Goodwood. It is no stranger to Silverstone; with this car, Michael Bartels and Armin Hahne finished third here in the 1998 FIA GT Championship race.
Porsche Motorsport Pyramid at Silverstone Classic
Clearly, motorsport informs much of the Porsche product development process and the company also invests in developing the next generation of racing drivers via its integrated race programmes. In support of this, the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid is on display, headed by the actual winner of the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours race, the approx. 1,000 hp 919 Hybrid LMP1 race car of Nick Tandy/Earl Bamber/Nico Hülkenberg.
The new Cayman GT4 Clubsport and 911 GT3 Cup are also present on the main Porsche stand to underline how the company supports drivers to progress their GT racing careers, with the aim ultimately to reach the pinnacle of sports car racing in the top LMP1 category.