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Legends at the Porsche Museum: The One-Off Porsche 961

Submitted by on August 30, 2021

By Marcel Hundscheid / Speed-O-Graphica

Motorsport Retro’s European correspondent Marcel Hundscheid paid the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart a visit, where he came eye-to-eye with the one-off Porsche 961.

With just one example produced by the marque, the Porsche 961 was the racing version of their road going 959. It was the first four wheel drive car to race at Le Mans, which immediately raised a problem because there was no separate class in the event allowing four-wheel drive cars. The ACO lent a helping hand by creating an invitational category for the 961 to compete, so it appeared in the IMSA GTX category as an experimental model.

The one-off 961 was designed by Porsche engineer Roland Kussmaul. It featured aluminum or composite body panels reinforced with steel frames and a bigger wing to increase more drag.  In terms of power source, Porsche was put in front of the block, since the engine had to be based on that of the 911.

At the Historic Grand Prix Zandvoort in 2018, the fully-restored 961 appeared trackside during a Porsche demo.

The final result was a power unit close to the engine used in the Porsche 962 (Group C), with the major difference that it had a one-piece cylinder head. The newly-built engine produced a staggering performance of 640 hp.

At the 1986 24 hours of Le Mans, the 961 would be driven by Claude Ballot-Léna and Rene Metge. The car would be the only entrant in the IMSA GTX class and finished seventh overall. As the Daytona 3-hour race turned out to be a disappointment (24th place overall, 11th in GTP) Porsche focused on the 1987 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 961 was equipped with bigger tyres and wider fenders as well as an upgraded all-wheel-drive system and upgraded aerodynamics.

Kees Nierop, Rene Metge and Claude Haldi raced the 961 during the 1987 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. While in 11th position overall, Nierop lost control of the car and crashed. Although Nierop tried to get the car back into the pits, his 961 caught fire and as a result he and his team were out of the race. After the race the car was restored and given to the Porsche Museum collection, where you can find it today.

By Marcel Hundscheid / Speed-O-Graphica

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