7. PORSCHE 911 GT1
BEST RESULT: 2nd (1996) Not for the first time, Porsche moved the goalposts in endurance racing with the 911 GT1, even if it was perhaps not quite within the spirit of the prevailing regulations.
The two works GT1S led at the start of the 1996 Le Mans, but were soon overcome by the Joest TWR Porsche WSC95S. The Hans Stuck/bob Wollek/ Thierry Boutsen 911 GT1 was the only car to lead the metronomic Davy Jones/ Alexander Wurz/manuel Reuter Joest machine, which had far better fuel economy than the other open prototypes and more speed than the GTS.
The Joest-run car also suffered no serious delays, which could not be said of the tricky-to-handle GT1S, both of which lost time due to driver- induced excursions. Stuck suffered an altercation with another car, while the #26 machine had a number of minor offs.
“I think the sports-prototypes were unbeatable today,” reckoned Stuck, whose car suffered no reliability issues. “We are nearly 200kg heavier and have narrower tyres, so to be so close to victory is great.”
Stuck/wollek/boutsen led a Porsche 1-2 in class, thrashing the Mclaren F1 GTRS, which were not quick or reliable enough to challenge, but fell a lap short of overall honours.
Things looked even better for the revised GT1 in 1997, but the result was worse.
This time the closed Porsches had the edge over the solo Joest WSC95 for much of the contest. Stuck/wollek/boutsen led through the night before veteran Wollek uncharacteristically went off at the Porsche Curves and retired on Sunday morning. That still left the other example, driven by Yannick Dalmas, Emmanuel Collard and Ralf Kelleners, out front. Victory looked assured with three hours to go, but then a dramatic fire – caused by an engine oil leak – forced Kelleners to make a rapid exit, leaving Joest to win again. The older privateer GT1S weren’t in the fight, so rival Mclaren even took the GT class honours.
The 911 GT1-98 finally gave the works squad another Le Mans success the following year, but that was essentially an all-new machine.
Joest chased in 1997 Formation finish in ’96, but it was second and third