People with not much better to do have recently had their feathers ruffled over “reports” that Porsche is working on four-cylinder engines again. The trouble is, my myopic friends, Porsche have done this before.
This is much in the way that the internet masses are scratching their collective heads today about the Ferrari FF, just announced to be the first four-wheel drive Fezza, and be the first official shooting brake too. Oh, and it’s a genuine four-seater. But let’s keep it between us that the 1986-1987 408RM was the first 4×4 Ferrari…
Although being the company’s first four-seater shooting brake is certainly notable because it demonstrates why Ferrari doesn’t need a sedan or SUV to appeal to those customers. No, Ferrari have their own way, and it’s better. Anyways, the point is that a little historical perspective goes a long way. With cars, as in life. But back to the Porsche.
The North American International Auto Show, held annually in Detroit, is Motown’s yearly thrust into relevancy. #NAIAS, as it’s known to Twits like us (@CarEnvy) is proving to be unusually strong this year. After the recession of the last few years and the impotency of the auto show scene that followed, automakers are making a return to the show circuit en masse and in force.
After a few years away from the Detroit show for “personal reasons”, Porsche came back today with one of the sexiest and lust-worthy cars I’ve seen in years. Years. The Porsche 918 RSR. They call it a concept, I call it a future Le Mans winner.
To cap off a stunning showing at the 24 Heurs du Mans this weekend, the Peugeot Total team scored a major upset of Audi’s seven-year-reign over the race by finishing 1-2. They were, however, gracious enough to leave Audi third place.
I can only imagine the time when car aficionados strolled along the latest and greatest models at the 1969 Geneva Auto Show and happened upon a brand new concept: the Porsche 917. Equipped with a 4.5 litre with a rocket-like 520 HP, the car was born after the FIA relaxed their racing construction guidelines. For gadgetheads, the conceptual arrangement of the car – 12 horizontal cylinders with a titled crankshaft – was a dream.
And here we are 40 years later and the race car that set the tone for innumerable models and racing improvements is one of the most classic and celebrated icons of the modern auto era. There are not many models that can boast being featured as a brand spankin’ new prototype and within a year win a championship series–but that’s exactly what the 917 accomplished. It was the first car to give Porsche an overall win at the 24 hours of LeMans in both 1970 and 1971, and it could go 100 km/h in 2.5 seconds. For those of you scoring at home, that’s pretty fast.
The development of the Porsche 917 was a risk, an expensive risk. The Commision Sportive Internationale (otherwise known as the FIA) had previously ruled that the Group 4 sports cars (5 litre) could participate if they had produced 50 units. The problem was that these narrowly-targeted cars were either going the way of the dinosaur (Ford GT40) or were not really all that great–and the lack of participants forced the FIA to drop the 50 unit threshold to 25. Porsche decided to exploit this change with vigor. By continually making tweaks and selling off the used ones to customers, the company decided to build a whole new car with 25 units of the 4.5 litre 917 with the intent on winning the 24 hours race. Which they ran away with.
After its aggressive beginning, the 917 was a symbol of racing and excellence. Forty years later, in a world of consumer eco-hippie-mobiles, the 917 brings back fond memories of when racing was racing and going as fast as you could was all that mattered.
Now that I’ve waxed on, it’s time to wax off….Wait a minute. That didn’t sound right.
Sebring, Florida is a quite little town located in the centre of the state, just over an hour south of Orlando. It is home to a lake, and airport and an historic 3.5-mile road course built on an abandoned WWII airbase. For one weekend a year, it is the focal point of international motor-sport as the elite of world sports car racer gather for the annual 12-hour race. This year’s contest, scheduled for March 21st, will highlight new technology as well as renew old rivalries.
Before we review the players, it might be helpful to talk about what makes Sebring such an important date on the racing calendar. Sebring is a circuit built on an airfield and, although they have continued to update the surface, it is a very bumpy track. This means that, besides being the first opportunity for endurance race teams to compete this season, it is also considered to be a prerequisite test for aspiring Le Mans competitors to test their equipment. It is said that 12-hours of racing at Sebring is more punishing on cars and drivers than 24-hours at Le Mans.
British automotive show Top Gear‘s “tame racing driver,” the Stig, has revealed himself. As well all know from when the Black Stig revealed himself, he will probably soon get sacked in favor of a Stig of a different color. The identity of the Stig is a closely guarded secret by Top Gear, and the man behind the famous black/white suit is contractually obligated to never let anybody know who he is. You are probably getting to the “JUST TELL ME WHO IT IS” phase now so hit the jump.