porsche’s role in a record attempt
Achieving legendary status thanks to its track exploits, the porsche 935 has also been involved in stranger activities…
thanks to his illustrious career in the top echelons of motorsport, Henri pescarolo is a name you are probably familiar with. Having competed in Formula one during the 1970s, he went on to huge success in sports car racing, starting the le Mans 24 Hours a record 33 times. However, you might be less familiar with the name Jean-claude rude. the two are linked thanks to an unusual record attempt that took place some 40 years ago involving a porsche 935.
Back then paced cycling speed records – where the rider follows a vehicle adapted to protect them from headwinds and provide a slipstream – weren’t a new phenomenon. in august 1973 an american doctor by the name of allan abbott had reached 139mph on the Bonneville salt Flats, but five years later rude, then aged just 23, decided to raise that to the magical 150mph mark. this is where pescarolo and the porsche 935 enter the story.
already a multiple le Mans winner by this time, the legendary driver was more than a little doubtful about the plan, although the enthusiasm of rude managed to convince him. as for a suitable car, the duo settled on a porsche 935 that was borrowed from the Martini racing team. the first step was to adapt the 935, adding a lightweight structure over the rear deck that would minimise the wind resistance experienced by the rider. also added was a roller that attached to the rear valance via struts, the purpose of which was twofold: firstly, it provided a contact point for rude, helping him to ‘stick’ to the rear of the porsche. secondly, the design meant any unintended contact with the car wouldn’t cause instability of the bike. the modifications were completed with an air dam at the rear of the race car to limit the effects of airflow beneath it.
the attempt took place on 23 august 1978 on Volkswagen’s test track at Ehra-lessien near Wolfsburg. according to reports at the time the pair were followed by Jürgen Barth and a cameraman in a 911 targa to capture the record attempt for posterity.
Ultimately, the escapade would be a failure. as rude approached around 110mph the rear tyre of his bike burst and left the rim, becoming entangled with the wheel and the frame, and only a miracle allowed him to come to a halt without injury. sadly he would be killed in an accident a year or so later, so this very special 935 was never called into action again. Despite efforts to trace the car involved, few details exist – even within porsche’s own archives – and there appears to be no record of what happened to it afterwards. the 911 and its 935 racing cousin may have set plenty of records, but it seems that this was never destined to be one of them.