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
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?