Classic Porsche - - Contents -

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.

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