EIFEL RALLY PORSCHES

We re­turn to the Eifel Rally, the clas­sic rally event set deep in the for­est near to the Nür­burg­ing, which is or­gan­ised by the en­thu­si­as­tic crew from Slowly Side­ways

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words & pho­tos: Robb Pritchard

Robb Pritchard re­turns to the Eifel Rally to watch Porsches in ac­tion

The mod­ern WRC cars and what to­dayʼs driv­ers can do with them is ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble but thereʼs noth­ing quite as emo­tive as see­ing clas­sic rally cars put through their paces. The Eifel Rally Fes­ti­val, in the rolling forested hills near the Nür­bur­gring, has to be one of the best places in the world to see be-winged, fire-spit­ting Group B cars kick­ing up the dirt.

Be­hind ev­ery rally car that has sur­vived the rigours of years of stages there is a story, one that might not be too ap­par­ent as it blasts past in a cloud of dust. Clas­sic Porsche ven­tured be­hind the scenes to track down the fas­ci­nat­ing back sto­ries to some of the most note­wor­thy Porsches at the event.

Per­haps not quite as spec­tac­u­lar to look at as an air­borne Audi E2 S1, Porsches are still some of the most beau­ti­ful cars ever to grace a rally stage. Not many can claim a cham­pi­onship to their name but Jo­han-frank Dir­ick­xʼs Bel­galiv­er­ied 911SC won the 1982 Bel­gian Rally cham­pi­onship in the hands of Marc Duez, which makes it one of the most suc­cess­ful rally Porsches of all time. Many of the cars in the event are repli­cas, of­ten ex­tremely ac­cu­rate ones, but this is the orig­i­nal. Well, al­though Jo­han-frank is 100 per cent sure itʼs one of the four run by the RAS team, heʼs not en­tirely cer­tain which it was as ac­cu­rate records of which car did which rally with which driver werenʼt kept.

He also owns the sim­i­lar sis­ter Pa­trick Sni­jers Bas­tos car, but in an ef­fort to work out which is which he in­vited JeanPierre Ga­ban, the for­mer team boss, to come and look along with one of the orig­i­nal me­chan­ics. Back in is­sue #43, WolfDi­etier Ilhe con­firmed his was the orig­i­nal 1984 Paris-dakar 953 driven by Jacky Ickx by find­ing a hid­den switch used to turn the rear lights off so they could­nʼt be eas­ily fol­lowed in the dust. The story be­hind Dir­ick­xʼs car is­nʼt so glam­orous, though. The me­chanic said he used to be a very bad welder so con­firmed it was a ʼshell heʼd worked on by the dodgy welds!

The car was in pretty good con­di­tion when Jo­han-frank bought it, but to be a re­li­able rally car it needed to be stripped right down to its con­stituent parts to have ev­ery­thing checked and any­thing that looked old or worn re­placed. Be­cause of the SCʼS pop­u­lar­ity, the re­build was much eas­ier than some of the more ex­otic cars at the event and it took less than a year to be put into the gor­geous con­di­tion it is to­day.

One thing he had a bit of dif­fi­culty with was the bash plates, as ob­vi­ously be­ing un­der­neath no amount of pe­riod pho­tos

“THE SC IS A BEAU­TI­FUL CAR TO DRIVE…”

could help. He had a bit of a cheat code though, in the form of the two orig­i­nal SCRSS he owns. ʻIʼm not sure that theyʼre ex­actly the same, but they are sim­i­lar enough,ʼ he smiles.

The driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween the two cars is a very big dif­fer­ence, though. ʻThe SC is a road car con­verted for ral­ly­ing whereas the SCRS is a pure rally car and the dif­fer­ence is just in­cred­i­ble.ʼ But an­other sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence be­tween the three re­main­ing SCRSS and the SC, a cham­pi­onship-win­ning car it may be, is the price. ʻThe SCRSS are worth so much these days that hon­estly it takes the fun out of driv­ing it hard. The SC is a beau­ti­ful car to drive and, al­though itʼs still worth a sig­nif­i­cant amount of money, I donʼt have the heart at­tack feel­ing when I take it side­ways through the cor­ners.ʼ The Eifel Rally is not a timed event, al­though it seems most driv­ers are quite un­aware of this fact, and slid­ing side­ways al­most ev­ery­where and get­ting some se­ri­ous air over the jumps, Jo­han-frank was a joy to watch.

With only three of the six orig­i­nal SCRSS left there are, of course, sev­eral repli­cas in ex­is­tence. And then there is Wolf­gang In­hester ʼs car. Some peo­ple have his­tor­i­cal cars, but some have their own his­tory sur­round­ing them and, as head of PR at the Roth­mans Opel team, the brand­ing means a lot to Wolf­gang, as does the fact that his good friend Henry Toivo­nen drove an SCRS. Also, one of his child­hood friends was the late Stephan Bellof, an­other driver syn­ony­mous with Roth­mans, adding even more sig­nif­i­cance to the colour scheme.

In his younger days, when not run­ning a rally teamʼs press or be­ing the head of Mercedes-benz global com­mu­ni­ca­tions, he was also a co-driver, even win­ning the 1980 Ger­man Rally cham­pi­onship next to Archim Warm­bold. But an in­vi­ta­tion to take the seat next to Harold De­muth at the in­au­gu­ral Eifel Rally in 2011, 30 years after his last com­pet­i­tive out­ing, gave him the rally bug again… This time, though, he de­cided it was time to be a driver.

But he wanted to do it prop­erly, and so went to Jür­gen Barth, long time head of Porsche mo­tor­sport, and asked for copies of all the orig­i­nal FIA ho­molo­ga­tion blue­prints. Pretty much any­one else would have been laughed at as se­cu­rity es­corted them from the build­ing, but not Wolf­gang. Be­cause Jür­gen trusted him to do a su­perb job he left with a bin­der full of pho­to­copies and thatʼs why al­most ev­ery sin­gle piece on the car is ex­actly like the orig­i­nal from 1984.

There are a few dif­fer­ences, though. Bil­stein made the shocks for the orig­i­nal car but to­day KW stands out from the com­pe­ti­tion de­vel­op­ing a be­spoke sus­pen­sion sys­tem for the car. An­other con­ces­sion to mod­ern safety stan­dards is the fuel tank. ʻI looked to see who was the best,ʼ Wolf­gang says to

“THE EIFEL RALLY IS NOT A TIMED EVENT…”

ex­plain why he chose Aero Tech. They make the fuel cells for F1 cars… And orig­i­nal Kugelfis­cher fuel-in­jec­tion sys­tems just arenʼt avail­able any more so he went to Bosch, al­though that costs at least 15bhp. He is still keep­ing an eye out for a Kugelfis­cher sys­tem in case one pops up on ebay...

The orig­i­nal bud­get for the build was €150,000 but that was ex­ceeded by over €100,000. But when you con­sider that an orig­i­nal is cur­rently for sale in Amer­ica for $1.8mil­lion, it is still a bar­gain con­sid­er­ing what an ac­cu­rate trib­ute it is. ʻItʼs quite emo­tional to drive be­cause it sounds ex­actly as I re­mem­ber Hen­riʼs car sound­ing, and ac­tu­ally the whole rally feels like in­stantly go­ing back 40 years the mo­ment you pull the car off the trans­porter.ʼ

Un­for­tu­nately it was­nʼt such a great event as a mis­fire and a strong smell of petrol was chased to an over-en­thu­si­as­tic fuel pump that was flood­ing the en­gine. Some prob­lems you can fix in the ser­vice park and go out again but this had such se­ri­ous con­se­quences that he de­cided to do some proper work once the car was back in the work­shop. ʻItʼs a pity to stop early but I donʼt want to risk the car for noth­ing.ʼ

For two years pre­vi­ously Thomas Schofer has turned up to the start in the small town of Daun in a very faith­ful replica of the car Wal­ter Rohrl cam­paigned in the 1981 ERC be­tween his world driver ʼs ti­tles, and for two years failed to get out of the ser­vice park be­cause of a fault in the old Bosch ig­ni­tion sys­tem which caused a bad mis­fire.

Slowly Side­ways, the event organisers, have a very strict pol­icy about repli­cas. ʻS­lo1ʼ means that it is an ex­act copy of the orig­i­nal and thatʼs what Thomas wants. Itʼs proved to be a very hard is­sue to cor­rect but this year it seemed that at last it was go­ing to be a good week­end. The shake­down went well and the gold and black 924 Car­rera GT is a beau­ti­ful car to see in a power slide but, half­way around the first stage, kick­ing up a huge plume of dust on the dry gravel, the grem­lins struck again. The car has al­ways looked stun­ning, so hope­fully Thomas wonʼt give up and will see this beauty be­ing pushed hard again some­where soon.

Spe­cial men­tion must also go to the Ir­ish crew of Conor Falvey and James Oʼbrien. We fea­tured them last year in the same car but not only are they the most friendly team in the whole event, they drive their 1978 3.0 RS, in the Bernard Beguin 1978 Monte Carlo Rally colour scheme, like it was meant to be driven: fast and side­ways. And the sound of the 3.0-litre flat-six be­ing stabbed up to full revs echo­ing off the trees, as Conor bal­ances the power slide, has to be one of the most glo­ri­ous sounds in the world of mo­tor­sport.

Clas­sic rally events these days are al­ways full of Es­corts and 911s. They are both very ca­pa­ble and rightly very pop­u­lar cars but there is al­ways some­one who wants to find some­thing that no one else is driv­ing. Swiss driver Franco Lupi is one such Porsche en­thu­si­ast. As well as be­ing far too ex­pen­sive

“IT’S QUITE EMO­TIONAL TO DRIVE IT…”

for a nor­mal per­son with an ex­pen­sive hobby, all types of 911s are much too com­mon and plenty of peo­ple had made repli­cas of 924 GTS and Car­erra GTSS, so it was the Jür­gen Barth/roland Kuss­maul 924T in which the duo tack­led the ʼ79, ʼ80 and ʼ81 Monte Carlo ral­lies that Lupi de­cided to repli­cate.

A donor shell was stripped down to the bare metal and, as is usual in any com­pe­ti­tion build, all the seams were re-welded and ex­tra re­in­force­ments were put in where needed, such as around the sus­pen­sion mounts. They bought a new 2.0-litre en­gine for it, but be­cause only five 924Ts were ever made for ral­ly­ing it is a very hard en­gine to tune. The rar­ity of the car, al­though great for turn­ing heads at clas­sic events, means that in­for­ma­tion on what was mod­i­fied for the Group 4 reg­u­la­tions is very hard to come by.

For­tu­nately Porsche al­lowed Franco to spend a cou­ple of hours with the orig­i­nal car in the Mu­seum and he went over it with his me­chanic and took hun­dreds of pho­tos. He also man­aged to find a few of the orig­i­nal en­gi­neers and got a lit­tle more in­for­ma­tion about what they did with the car. He also man­aged to find the last set of orig­i­nal arch ex­ten­ders and made a set of moulds from them.

The project took a lot longer than he an­tic­i­pated but it all be­came worth it when Jür­gen Barth asked to look at it and was very pleased to see his old car recre­ated after 35 years. And of course Franco asked if heʼd like to be in­volved in help­ing to fin­ish the project, es­pe­cially as there was no in­for­ma­tion at all on how the car was set up. A cou­ple of months later Jür­gen and his old co-driver Roland went to Paul Ri­card for a proper test. With the orig­i­nal brake servo they werenʼt too im­pressed with how it stopped, but apart from that they ab­so­lutely loved it, so much so that when Franco of­fered to let them drive it in the 2017 Monte Carlo Clas­sic they jumped at the chance.

It is a reg­u­lar­ity event, not a speed one, which nei­ther had ever done be­fore so they were a lit­tle scep­ti­cal at first, but thor­oughly en­joyed it and were the high­light of the event. Jür­gen also gave Franco a copy of the JVC in-car film from the ʼ81 Monte Carlo which was the first ever video taken inside a rally car. Ap­par­ently the qual­ity is pretty good.

Franco and co-driver Daniel Peter­mann thor­oughly en­joyed the Eifel Rally, es­pe­cially the open­ing Su­per Spe­cial which he said he could just drive all day. The car was so well-bal­anced it took the jumps and fast cor­ners well and he had com­plete con­fi­dence in it. One thing that does need some more work is the gear­box. The stan­dard turbo is­nʼt the quick­est but to be able to get out of hair­pins a bit faster mod­i­fy­ing it would in­volve chang­ing the Jetronic sys­tem, which is no easy job. Ex­per­i­ment­ing with gear ra­tios is the next plan.

The Eifel Rally is a spe­cial event and is also one of the most open. On the stages crowds are kept be­hind bar­ri­ers for safety but in the ser­vice park you are free to min­gle among the cars and their own­ers, and most peo­ple are proud enough to tell you all about their cars, whether theyʼve brought an amaz­ing orig­i­nal rally car or have cre­ated their own. CP

Top: All-ir­ish crew of Conor Falvey and James O’brien re­turned to the Eifel Rally in their 3.0 RS

Above: Wolf­gang In­hester was for­merly head of PR for the Roth­mans Opel rally team, so it’s only nat­u­ral he should en­ter a re-cre­ation of the works SCRS rally cars in the clas­sic spon­sor’s liv­ery

Be­low: Franco Lupi from Switzer­land en­tered a recre­ation of Jür­gen Barth’s 924T Monte Carlo rally car

Above right: Jo­han-frank Dir­ickx’s 911SC is a gen­uine his­toric rally car, not a mod­ern re-cre­ation. The car won the 1982 Bel­gian cham­pi­onship, driven by Marc Duez

Above left: Thomas and Ju­lian Schöfer com­peted in a stun­ning 924 Car­rera GT

Be­low left: No-non­sense in­te­rior of Wolf­gang In­hester’s Roth­mans-liv­er­ied SCRS. Plenty to keep the driver oc­cu­pied here…

Above: Falvey and O’brien’s 3.0 RS lights the way ahead on one of the night sec­tions

Be­low: Moulded cover pro­tects light­ing dur­ing day­light stages

Be­low: The sound of the 3.0RS at full chat on the rally stages sent tin­gles down the spines of the spec­ta­tors

Above left: Wolf­gang In­hester was a good friend of the late Henri Toivo­nen, so what bet­ter way to re­mem­ber than driv­ing a Roth­mans branded SCRS?

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