RALLYING TO THE CAUSE
After a third Monte Carlo Rally victory, Ferry Porsche decided to withdraw his teams from European rallying, wincing at the cost to Porsche’s slender budgets: the Monte alone required over three hundred tyres and, besides, Porsche had made its point. However, there was still one international rally that Porsche had not won yet which seemed eminently within its grasp, and that was the East African Safari Rally. Unlike the European events this was run almost entirely on rough surfaces, or gravel, and the car’s structural strength was more important than outright speed.
In his own 911S, Sobieslav Zasada, former European champion, had managed to finish fifth in the 1971 Safari and second in 1972, and on this basis Ernst Fuhrmann sanctioned a single works 911 for Björn Waldegård for the 1974 event. Porsche prepared the 911, which had a standard 2.7 engine, a low-ratio final-drive limiting top speed to 130mph and local chassis reinforcement: this comprised heavy-duty front wishbones with increased ride height and a thicker torsion bar at the rear to raise the back axle by a similar amount, giving the 911 the now familiar ‘high riding’ look. Waldegård was half an hour ahead with most of the race run when a driveshaft fractured.
Fully occupied with developing the 911 through its 934 and 935 variants for the the racing scene, Porsche did neverthess make one final attempt at the Safari in 1978, perhaps encouraged by Jean Pierre Nicholas’s victory in the Almeras-entered 911 during the previous winter’s Monte. Two 911s, using the same 3.0-litre, 250bhp competition engine of the Nicholas car were prepared much as in 1974, this time with fully 28cm ground clearance. Clearly the fastest competitors, a seeming Porsche one-two victory turned ultimately into second and a fourth as both 911s lost crucial time with suspension woes.
In 1982/3, Porsche would develop the experimental 953, a 4x4 911 designed to test some of the technology destined for the Group B 959, and this again used Safari type ground clearance. This was the last ‘high riding’ 911, winning the Paris Dakar at its first and only attempt.