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Everything You Need To Know About Porsche’s Iconic 1980s Supercar

I will spare you the shouting, as James Pumphrey has almost 14 minutes of excitement coming your way. This video solely about quirks and features, nor is it about turning the 959 to 11. James, like many of us, has never seen a 959 in real life before, and he is taking this one in as Porsche intended. As the turning point between classic Porsches and everything made since, the 959’s importance is hard to overstate. Yet somehow, taken with a jaded 2019 eye, the first high-tech supercar seems almost normal.

As a person born in to a post-959 world, everything that made the 959 exceptional has been normalized by later cars. With the exception of the ultra-low Gelande gear and the height-adjustable suspension with an astonishing 8″ adjustment range, virtually everything else on the 959 has appeared on later 911s. The 993 Turbo of 1995 mirrored the 959’s twin-turbo layout, and the Turbo S of 1997 exceeded its output. Center-lock wheels have been available on GT models for more than a decade, and exotic materials have become the norm.

Unfortunately Porsche hasn’t also embraced four-tone metallic leather upholstery in any other models. If you’re listening, Porsche, I know you have it in you to resurrect the metallic leather.

But, trying to use later 911s to contextualize the 959 just feels hollow. To appreciate best appreciate the 959, you must don your raddest shades, and approach in a 1980s frame of mind. Presented with one, there is no denying that most of us would fawn with the same sort of wide-eyed excitement as James, and that is as it should be.

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Two Days, Three Wins: Porsche Wins IMSA’s 12 Hours of Sebring

Two victories were not enough for Porsche this weekend. Porsche followed Friday’s dual WEC wins at Sebring with a win in Saturday’s IMSA event. Following a hard-fought 12-hour race where the team yo-yo’d from first to last and back, Tandy, Pilet and Makowiecki (#911) crossed the finish line just under two seconds ahead of the second-place Ford GT. In the current hotly-contended GTLM environment, with intense competition from Ford, Chevrolet, and BMW, this achievement is nothing short of remarkable, and indicative of Porsche’s exemplary strategy and driver team. This victory is the first time in IMSA history the same driver team has won Sebring in consecutive years. The #912 sister car of Bamber, Vanthoor, and Jaminet finished the race in fifth.

Even Porsche’s seasoned Vice President of Motorsport Fritz Enzinger was awed by his teams’ performances:

“I’ve been in motorsport for a long time, but I’ve never experienced anything like this. Within 48 hours we won a 1,000-mile race and a twelve-hour race with our factory teams at one venue. That’s phenomenal. I was impressed by how focussed every single person worked. That’s what sets Porsche apart. And we mustn’t forget the successful performances from our customer teams. It was one of the best motor racing weekends I’ve ever experienced – just brilliant.”

Qualifying

Porsche’s success in the IMSA event began in qualifying, with the Brumos-liveried #911 and #912 dominating the front row. Pilet and Vanthoor posted the fastest lap times in qualifying for the second round of the 2019 IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship. This is the first time two 911 RSRs have started on the first row at Sebring.

Pilet took advantage of his fresh tires on his first fast lap, posting top times in all sectors of the course. In the #912 car, Laurens Vanthoor was slightly off the pace during his first fast lap, but qualified in second following his second fast lap. The pair qualified 0.143 seconds apart, with the top three qualifiers being separated by approximately 0.25 seconds.

For the stats hungry, we do have a unique opportunity to compare the qualifying results of Porsche’s IMSA and WEC entrants on the same track within a short span. Patrick Pilet’s 1:55.89 second best lap bested Christensen’s 1:57.384 fastest lap by about 1.5 seconds, with even the slower of the two IMSA cars out-qualifying the top WEC car.

In the GTD class, Zacahrie Robichon qualified third in the Pfaff Motorsports 911 GT3 R, which he shares with Lars Kern and Scott Hargrove. Nicholas Boulle, sharing driving duties in the Park Place Motorsports 911R with Patrick Long and Patrick Lindsey, qualified 14th.

Race Report

Where the previous day’s WEC event ended in rain, the IMSA event began with a downpour. Not only was grip compromised, but visibility was limited by torrential Florida rain. Early race conditions saw the top-qualifying RSRs lose positions until conditions improved around the six-hour mark. The #911 car ultimately falling to last place in class, before a combination of a top-notch driver team, effective pit strategy, and sheer gumption saw the car return to the lead.

The reigning GTLM champions, the #3 Corvette of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen attempted a bold fuel strategy in the race’s closing phases, only to be counteracted by a lengthy late-race caution. Denying the Corvette any opportunity to climb the grid in the race’s final laps.

Over the latter half of the race the #911 car clawed its lead back, with Tandy ultimately crossing the line 1.951 seconds ahead of the second place Ford GT. The #912 car finished two laps down in fifth position. Following Sebring Tandy, Pilet and Makowiecki now lead the IMSA driver standings. Per Patrick Pilet:

“It somehow feels unreal. We started from pole position, and then we were running last, and now we celebrate our second Sebring victory in a row – unbelievable! Our team is simply something very special. We never gave up, we always believed that we had a chance and now we’re standing here as winners. It’s indescribable.”

The Pfaff Motorsports GT3 R led the GTD field for about half of the race. A lengthy pit stop due to a faulty sensor placed the #73 car in the pits for an extended period, ultimately losing the lead and resulting in a 10th place finish. The Park Place Motorsports entry driven by Long, Boulle, and Lindsey ran a very strong race, climbing from their 14th place qualifying position to a 6th place finish.

Perhaps Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsport, summed up this weekend best:

“Perhaps we should rename the event the “Porsche Super Sebring” race weekend. Three pole positions, three victories – what more could you want. Our team did everything right. Ultimately, when things went down to the wire, we were there. The key moment was when we reclaimed the lead after a perfectly timed pit stop. Our strategy was to wait and strike at the right moment. Now it’s time to celebrate!”

Results

GTLM class
1. Pilet/Tandy/Makowiecki (F/GB/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 330 laps
2. Hand/Müller/Bourdais (USA/D/F), Ford GT, 330 laps
3. Garcia/Magnussen/Rockenfeller (E/DK/D), Corvette C7.R, 330 laps
5. Bamber/Vanthoor/Jaminet (NZ/B/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 330 laps

GTD class
1. Ineichen/Bortolotti/Breukers (CH/I/NL), Lamborghini Huracan GT3, 320 laps
2. Potter/Lally/Pumpelly (USA/USA/USA), Lamborghini Huracan GT3, 320 laps
3. MacNeil/Vilander/Westphal (USA/FIN/USA), Ferrari 488 GT3, 320 laps
6. Long/Lindsey/Boulle (USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 320 laps
10. Kern/Robichon/Hargrove (D/CDN/CDN), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 318 laps

Gallery


 
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Porsche Claims GTE-Pro and GTE-Am Victories in WEC 1000 miles of Sebring

Michael Christensen (DK), Kevin Estre (F) leading the field at Sebring

Sebring is signaling great things for Porsche, with victories at both the WEC and IMSA events. In Friday’s 1,000 Miles of Sebring, the weekend’s WEC event, Porsche managed first place finishes in both GTE-Pro and GTE-Am. The winning Pro car, #91 driven by Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz, finished a lap ahead of their teammates Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen in the #92 car. The winning GTE-Am Dempesy-Proton 911 RSR was piloted by Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell, Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer, and Christian Ried.

Gianmaria Bruni (I), Richard Lietz (A) in the #91 Porsche 911 RSR

Qualifying

Porsche’s qualifying results were surprisingly mixed for the GTE-Pro cars, with one pole and an eighth place result. Michaelson and Estre ran a near-perfect qualifying session in the #92 car, achieving pole position with a blistering 1:57.500 lap. During qualifying the Porsche GT Team kept both cars in the pits during the early phases of qualifying. This allowed the team to avoid the heavy traffic evident early in the session, and emerge into a more open track on fresh tires.

This performance gained an additional championship point for the Michaelson and Estre. Lietz and Bruni qualified in eighth place, 0.613 seconds down from the leaders. According to eventual race-winner Gianmaria Bruni;

 “We’re probably the only team who opted out of using another set of fresh tyres. That was the right decision, because early on in my qualifying stint the track was so dirty that the first lap was only good for cleaning up the rubber. In the second lap I caught up to an Aston Martin. Otherwise I would have definitely done better than position eight.”

The lead GTE-Am cars of Dempsey Proton and Project 1 locked out the first row on the grid. Australian Matt Campbell proved to be the fastest in GTE-Am, with a qualifying time of 1:59.790. The Project 1 911 RSR of Bergmeister, Lindsey, and Perfetti qualified second, 0.145 seconds behind the leaders.

The Porsche 911 RSR, Porsche GT Team (91), Gianmaria Bruni (I), Richard Lietz (A)

GTE-Pro

The 1,000 Miles of Sebring was subject to numerous changes prior to the beginning of the season, being shortened from 1,500 miles to 1,000, and ultimately capped at just 8 hours. These quirks made the Sebring event the only event of its length in the 2018-2019 WEC calendar.

Unfortunately Lietz and Estre were unable to continue their qualifying success through the 8-hour event. Early race collisions, first involving a pair of AF Corse Ferraris, and then the Aston Martin of Darren Turner resulted in a drive-through penalty for the #92 car, costing Lietz and Estre their lead. Due to limited overtaking opportunities at Sebring, the #92 car was unable to regain their lead.

A remarkably rapid pit stop for tires evaporated the leading BMW’s lead with less than 25 minutes left in the race. The #91 car of Bruni and Lietz were able to move into the lead, which they would retain through the end of the race. From Gianmaria Bruni:

“It’s a fantastic result for us drivers and for Porsche. The way the team managed to catapult us to the front at the last pit stop was simply sensational. This shows just how special our crew is. The fact that we were able to win the 1,000-mile race at the return of the WEC to Sebring is incredible. For me personally it’s even more special: it’s the first time I’ve won a race for Porsche. That means so much to me.”

And Estre:

The rain at the end was a blessing. Gimmi managed to keep the car steady on the wet track, and the team worked at lightning speed. That was the decisive factor in the race. Everything ran perfectly for us. I’m totally over the moon with my first win of this season.

Dempsey Proton Racing 911 RSR (77), Julien Andlauer (F), Matt Campbell (AUS), Christian Ried (D)

GTE-Am

In the GTE-Am category, Dempsey Proton Racing brought the marque a second victory. Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell, Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer, and Christian Ried performed consistently, moving from pole position to ultimate victory. Project 1, with drivers works drivers Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey, and Egidio Perfetti secured a third place finish, with the Gulf Racing car of Thomas Preining, Ben Barker and Michael Wainwright finished Fourth. Porsche’s appearance at Sebring was rounded out by a seventh place finish by the #88 Dempsey Proton car of Mattero Cairoli, Giorgio Roda, and Gianluca Roda.

Results and Gallery

Following this race the #92 car of Christiansen and Estre retain their points lead in the championship, with the #91 car still in second position. In the manufacturer’s standings Porsche has a lead of 100 points over Ferrari, and 102 over Ford.

GTE-Pro class
1. Lietz/Bruni (A/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 226 laps
2. Tomczyk/Catsburg/Sims (D/NL/GB), BMW M8 GTE, 226 laps
3. Priaulx/Tincknell/Bomarito (GB/GB/USA), Ford GT, 225 laps
5. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 225 laps

GTE-Am class
1. Ried/Andlauer/Campbell (D/F/AUS), Porsche 911 RSR, 221 laps
2. Flohr/Castellacci/Fisichella (CH/I/I), Ferrari 488 GTE, 221 laps
3. Bergmeister/Lindsey/Perfetti (D/USA/N), Porsche 911 RSR, 221 laps
4. Wainwright/Barker/Preining (GB/GB/A), Porsche 911 RSR, 221 laps
7. Roda/Roda/Cairoli (I/I/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 219 laps

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Chris Harris Samples the 919 Hybrid

 

Harris trying to familiarize himself with a very alien car.

There are few cars which can compare to the tech-fest that is the 919 Hybrid. With 4WD, a sophisticated electric motor powering the front axle, and the punchy V4 turbo driving the rear, the propulsion is unrivaled.

That’s not only due to low-end torque and enviable traction. In large part, it’s due to the way that it deploys its ~1,000 horsepower. With clever mapping to decide when the right moment is to deploy hybrid boost, all Chris Harris has to do is plant his right foot for the most efficient use of power. « Because the car feels a bit different in every corner, there’s a sense that it’s doing stuff that I don’t know about, » Harris elaborates.

The self-driving aspect might be exaggerated slightly for dramatic effect, but the typical approach one might take to a contemporary GT3 car doesn’t seem to apply with this rolling test lab. Even after learning how to manage all the systems at work, he needs a few tips from Neel Jani on how to take quick corners with great speed and consistency.

« The way you can just roll it into a corner off-throttle—how un-Porsche is that? » Harris asks.

It’s not surprising that the high G-forces quickly exhaust Harris, a reformed smoker, but it’s the way which the 919 Hybrid casually cruises through the fast bends that he can’t quite fathom. Thanks to the aero grip and the computer assistance, coasting off-throttle through some sections works better than one familiar with typical racecar behavior might think. Thanks to the outrageous levels of downforce, the car carries Harris to a new level of performance that leaves him baffled.

« I’ve never driven a racing car that feels like it’s doing more thinking around the lap than me. »

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Does Technology Make More Enjoyable Supercars?

It’s bizarre to hear someone refer to the 997 GT3 as a representative of the « analog era » of supercars. Though it didn’t seem so at the time, by modern standards the GT3 is decidedly uncomplicated. Though it comes from the era of alphabet soup, is combination of traction control, PASM active suspension, and even Sports Chrono makes for more of a cup than a full meal. Compared to a car from a decade earlier, say a 993 Carrera RS, the GT3 is thoroughly modern. Compared to any car in the same segment today, it’s an exercise in minimalism. But what does that mean when comparing it to a modern supercar?

Though they emerged from under the same corporate umbrella, the Huracan and GT3 could hardly be more different. Whether comparing cylinder counts, gear counts, transmission types, or even driven wheels, the two don’t seem to align anywhere. Even as Lamborghinis migrate from being rolling style statements to having more and more track and on-road capability, the two struggle to find common ground.

To my eyes the Huracan is the most desirable modern Lambo since the Gallardo Balboni, but it’s not really my kind of car. As the reviewer points out in its effort to be accessible, it’s almost too civilized. This is an Italian wedge that can be daily driven, and driven swiftly with ease. At heart, I suppose many people fancy that a proper supercar should show some contempt for its driver. A proper supercar should try to kill you if you look at it wrong.

That is not to say that this particular GT3 is a widowmaker like a 935. Yet, in its comparative minimalism, it demands more of its driver. Having a traditional manual ‘box helps with this (though it is far from the end-all-be-all). Perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t rely as much on its electronic aids to go quickly. The traction control can be defeated with a single button press. The suspension isn’t infinitely variable. Just two wheels are driven, and they converse directly with your right foot via a 3.6L real-time translator.

In every measurable way, the Huracan is superior to the GT3. It’s faster in a straight line, has more traction, and is swifter around a track. But does that make it better?

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