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issue 124

BBI Autosport

Hidden in Huntington Beach, about a block from a remarkably European coffee shop, lies a Porsche haven. The unassuming building in a distinctly American setting gives little indication to its content. Stepping into BBi Autosport’s headquarters will leave even the most hardened Porsche enthusiast wide-eyed.

Walking through the glass doors and into the waiting area, you are immediately greeted by a pair of bright white Porsche Turbos. Both are awaiting conversion, surrounded by carbon-fibre wheels, ceramic brake kits and motorsport accolades.

They’re in the safe hands of Betim Berisha and Joey Seeley, co-owners of BBi. Betim and Joey took the non-academic route into motorsport, where persistence and hard graft is the key to success. 1,000 miles apart and unbeknown to each other, Betim and Joey started their journey right at the bottom, sweeping floors at local shops.

Coincidence saw the pair at the same California race event, each preparing 993 RSR racecars for different privateer teams at the age of 20. This is where the Porsche seed was sowed; fast-forward five years and they would be at Le Mans with Porsche Motorsport.

With this background it’s little wonder that the BBi workshop is so meticulously laid out. There’s an incredible team feeling and it instantly feels more like a factory race team than a traditional tuner outfit. Walking through the immaculate workspace, it’s clear that everything has its place.

BBI Autosport 2

Everyone on the team knows the part they have to play and despite being a hive of activity, meshes together like a well-oiled machine. It’s especially surprising given the day we have chosen to visit, the day the cars are loaded to make the trip to Las Vegas for display at SEMA 2014.

Liberty Walk’s Wataru Kato entrusted the team to prepare not one but two widebody 997.2 Turbos for the show. Going against the grain, the team entered one in the famous Optima Batteries street car challenge. These were Liberty Walk cars that could sprint and were not just show pieces.

Wandering around the shop floor, one little Porsche kept catching my eye from the corner ramp. They called it ‘Project Nasty’ and being the only air-cooled car in the shop I had to find out more.

I found Joey trimming a 993 carbon-kevlar arch lining to fit his creation. It turns out these were sourced from legendary creator of the Kremer 935 bodywork, DP Motorsport.

Reading like a wish list of the hardest-to-find air-cooled items, Nasty is the embodiment of BBi’s fanatical attention to detail. With DP motorsport composite 935 rear lights, RUF Yellowbird front air dam and a reworked 3.6 RS America engine being just a summary of the highlights, as we stood talking behind the car the faint glow and familiar hum of TIG welding could be heard.

BBi Autosport 3

It turns out Nasty’s exhaust system, including manifolds, silencers and bumper exit tail pipes, were being built just behind it. In fact all of BBi’s exhaust and intercooler kits are produced in-house and fabricated from scratch for each project.

Louie, or ‘The Fabricator’ as he is known, is responsible for these works of art. Assembled in a purpose-built room, the exhaust systems bark the tune of BBi’s bespoke engine builds that come to life just to the left through a sliding door.

Jared is the resident engine builder, and the ‘engine only’ clean room is the perfect theatre in which to create his masterpieces. Hybrid GT3-based twin-turbo engines, BBi’s signature 4.1-litre GT3 and 1,500-plus-horsepower Turbo motors are all created and built here.

One such engine residing in BBi’s long-running research mule is King Kong. If this car could tell stories, I’d certainly like to hear them. From 180-mile-per-hour blowouts to shredded sequential gearboxes, if it lasts in King Kong it makes it to the road car program.

BBi says it’s 1,500-plus bhp because it is not entirely sure what it kicks out right now. The last dyno pull saw over 1,500 wheel horsepower, but since then the boost has been increased another 0.5 bar.

BBI Autosport 4

Sitting five paces away from King Kong is the car we travelled here in hope of seeing – Jeff Zwart’s Pikes Peak GT3 Turbo. Jeff Zwart should be a familiar name for those into the Porsche brand. Director, racer, photographer, but above all, he’s a Porsche guy.

Jeff heard of BBi’s 1,000-plus-horsepower engine builds and paid the team a visit with the idea of an all-out attack on Pikes Peak. Betrim explains: “I’ve always looked up to Jeff, so seeing him stood right there in my office was a little surprising!”

With the summit of Pikes Peak standing some 14,000 feet above sea level, reliable power is crucial. That’s not something usually associated with 700-horsepower builds, but BBi has a secret weapon.

Clocking up 30 years of Porsche Motorsport experience, four Le Mans 24-hour races, nine Daytona 24-hour stints and eight Sebring 12-hour events under its belt, the team is incredibly well prepared for a gruelling event like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

With an impossibly short build time of just two months, the team conquered the peak, making Jeff a seven-time Pikes Peak victor in the process. Never before have I seen the expression ‘do it once and do it right’ carried out with such clinical precision on a racecar. Most of the car is familiar as a Porsche Cup Car, but the BBi additions blend in as if Porsche intended them to be there.

BBI Autosport 5

Company profile
Owner:
Betim Berisha and Joey Seeley
Founded: 2005
Location: Huntington Beach, California, USA
Rarest 911 in the shop: Porsche 959
Most expensive 911 built: Pikes Peak GT3 Turbo
Interesting fact about the business: Berisha and Seeley cemented their friendship as Betim moved to California from Seattle to fill Joey’s position at a race shop he worked at. This followed Joey’s move back to his native Washington State. The reason for the move was to recover from a broken shoulder received celebrating a Porsche race win with Betim. Betim was on a bike pulling Joey on a skateboard at the time!

BBi is genuinely one of the most welcoming and warm shops I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. The lighting is bright, the music is chilled and the walls are adorned with the team’s many achievements.

It’s more like a creative studio than automotive workshop. It leads you to wonder how it’s possible to assemble a team where everyone is pulling so strongly in the same direction. “It’s not been easy.

The passion, the energy and the heart of it are only ten per cent,” explains Betim. “The rest is insanity. There has to be an extra driving force – whatever that is, we all have it and that’s why we are under the same roof.”

Leaving BBi, I couldn’t help but feel inspired. Maybe it’s the California sunshine or maybe it’s the extra strong coffee, but after an afternoon with Betim, Joey and the team, I can’t wait to start tearing into my own projects and make them a little more ‘BBi’.

 

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D974, Mont Ventoux, France

The top of the infamous Mont Ventoux, known as the Giant of the Provence, can be entered from three directions. The 1,911-metre-high mountain in the French Vaucluse is well known for its difficult stages in the Tour de France, where the racers often enter it from the steepest side, where the village of Bedoin lies.

The name comes from the Occitanian word ‘vent’ meaning wind and it’s dedicated to Vintour, the Celtic god of the wind. No wonder, because wind speeds of over 300 kilometres per hour have been measured at the top of the Ventoux.

The area is extremely popular in the cycling scene, and you can imagine it’s swarming with tourists and cyclists during the summer months.

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We made the trip in early June and started the drive around 7pm, when it was quiet. We saw maybe three cyclists during our drive up, and on the top by the weather station, one single camping car was spotted.

We’d therefore say the best times to go up these roads would probably be June and September when the weather is good and when there are not too many people around. It gives you a chance to open up the throttle a little bit more in your 911 on the perfectly smooth tarmac.

A little bravery comes in handy because guardrails are nowhere to be found at most points, and there are quite a few tricky hairpins to be found.

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Location: Mont Ventoux
Latitude: 44°10’28″N, 5°16’44″E
Length of drive: 26 miles
Points of interest:
Epic views from the top of Mont Ventoux; plenty of wineries with famous Ventoux wines along the way; visits to the beautiful lavender fields in the Ventoux area.
Food and accommodation:
Malaucene and Bedoin have a variety of hotels and restaurants with amazing dishes from an authentic French menu

Malaucene is located west of the mountain and from there the D974 takes you all the way to the top. Going down the mountain again on the other side, passing the Tommy Simpson monument in the so-called ‘Moon landscape’, the D974 will take you back southwest to Bedoin.

A few miles under the top at an altitude of 1,440 metres you will see Chalet Renard where the D164 can be taken east, to the village of Sault, the third access road to the top of Mont Ventoux.

This area in the French Provence is amazing to drive, with mind-blowing views and a beautiful countryside. Just make sure that if you’re a fan of slightly higher speeds, you go here during the off-season months of the year.

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Sales debate: Will Porsche 964 values catch up with the 993?

You’d have to be living in solitary confinement not to have witnessed the perpetual rise in values of a host of air-cooled 911s in recent times, with even the once-unloved 964 now on a crest of a wave in terms of reformed popularity. But can general values of the 964 catch and even usurp values of its younger brethren in the 993?

“Everything is continuing to go up, there’s no question of that,” says John Hawkins, proprietor of Specialist Cars of Malton, adding: “A good 964 can easily fetch £40,000, while a good 993 can currently fetch £50,000. The 964 should easily catch up, as it’s the last of that original Porsche 911 shape.”

That may be good news for those who have a tidy 964 parked up in their stable and who may be looking to sell in future. However, before that sales advert is drafted, it’s worth knowing that not everybody believes the 964 is destined for greatness over a later 993 variant.

Jamie Tyler, head of sales at Paragon Porsche, believes daylight will remain between general 964 and 993 values. He tells us: “Personally, I think that 964s will stay a little behind 993 prices. I would love them to catch up mind, as I’ve got one!”

Porsche 964

“I personally think that people love the impact bumper ‘80s cars (the 3.2 Carrera) and, with the 993 being the very last of the air-cooled era, the 964 has always been the car stuck in the middle,” Tyler says.

These differing sentiments from two of the UK’s most respected independent Porsche 911 dealers shows that there’s no united consensus on whether the now-revered 964 is likely to catch the 993 in terms of general values.

That said, it seems those private sellers looking to sell their 964 – or 993 – should perhaps wait a little while longer before they cash-in regardless, with values of air-cooled 911s in rust-free condition continuing to climb.

The news then is irrevocably good for both 964 and 993 owners who intend to enjoy the best of their classic Porsche 911 for some time yet.

For market advice on any generation or style of Porsche 911, check out our full selection of sales debates, where we ask the 911 experts the pertinent market questions so you don’t have to.

Porsche 993

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Porsche 996 Carrera 4S: the performance underdog

Since its inception in 1963, the Porsche 911 has garnered a deserved reputation: a popular yet exclusive sports car, while many desire a new 911 for their garage, few can actually afford one.

However, 52 years of production – not to mention the fact that more than 70 per cent of 911s to leave Werk II are still on the road – ensures that vast models of this decorated icon are at the centre of an equally enviable used market.

That opens up the doors to a few more parties who covet their own piece of motoring legend, and the depth and breadth of the 911’s heritage means there’s much available.

Porsche 996 C4S

From high-end exotica down to entry-level sports car territory, this in principle adds weight to the school of thought that to a certain degree, there is a 911 available for everyone. However, there’s a very real argument that this is no longer the case.

The mass inflation in prices of classics has, by and large, pushed the Porsche 911 just out of reach for those wanting their very own staple of Zuffenhausen flat six for relatively elementary money.

Despite this, there’s one generation from the 911’s heredity that’s still within the grasp of the entry-level buyer in the form of the 996. Save for both iterations of 996 GT3, the first variants of water-cooled 911 have enjoyed an immunity from the unprecedented hike in values. As such, a good example can be had for less than £20,000.

Porsche 996 Carrera 4S rear

While that presents an ‘in’ opportunity for many to source a well looked-after 911 with a reasonable amount of miles on the clock, the choices available are negligible.

Buyers will largely be limited to the pick of the 996 Carrera line-up – 996 Turbo prices start a little further on at around £25,000 – but before you turn your back on the classifieds, remember there’s an altogether more special iteration in the form of the 996 Carrera 4S.

To find out if the 996 Carrera 4S really is a £20,000 Porsche 911 bargain, read Lee’s test drive in full in issue 124, available in store now. Alternatively, order your copy online, or download it straight to your digital device.

Porsche 996 Carrera 4S driving

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Tandy, Barker and Webster: issue 124 driver columns

Nick Tandy – the factory driver:
Porsche 919 Hybrid, Porsche Team: Nick Tandy

It’s official. This June I will be following in the footsteps of Richard Attwood, Derek Bell and Allan McNish, all British drivers who have raced top class Porsches at Le Mans.

All three have also won at La Sarthe in Weissach machinery, so there’s no pressure to perform alongside Nico Hulkenberg and Earl Bamber in the third 919 Hybrid LMP1 car!

Joking aside, it’s a huge honour to be chosen by Porsche as one of their LMP1 drivers this year. When I signed as a factory driver in 2013, I knew about the prototype programme, so it was always an aim.

Just to be invited to test the car was an honour but, to see that my performances have paid off is brilliant, and it shows the faith in the strength of drivers that Porsche has across its programmes.

As a team, we haven’t had a great deal of time together, but I’ve been at the race track with Nico testing last year, have now completed a couple of race weekends with Earl in TUSC, and we’ve also all been at the factory together for the technical briefings and the seat fitting.

Ben Barker – the Supercup superstar:

For 2015, like last season, I returned to action at the increasingly competitive 12 Hours of Bathurst in Australia, driving Grove Racing’s 997 GT3 Cup car.

Stephen Grove, who owns the team, had done a mega job to get prepared, upgrading the car with a completely rebuilt engine, a Holinger paddleshift system and new brakes. It was perfect for an endurance race and I was really impressed with his level of professionalism.

After putting in some quick times in practice, I was the qualifying driver but we had a small problem with the paddle shift system. With the problem lingering, I couldn’t turn the awesome car setup into an ultimate lap time. We still qualified second, four tenths off pole, which for a 12-hour race is not a huge hindrance.

Luke Youlden started for us, getting into the lead before starting to pull away. I jumped in second and put in a really good stint, extending the lead and setting the lap time we had expected in qualifying. We were looking really strong. Stephen did an awesome job too.

Josh Webster – the Carrera Cup champion:
Porsche Carrera Cup GB 2014

There’s now just a month to go until the new Carrera Cup GB kicks off. It’s been a long winter and much of it has been spent securing the sponsorship to get me back on the grid. My Porsche GB scholarship provides £80,000 towards the budget, but the balance is provided by my sponsor partners.

As well as keeping fit in the gym and learning tracks on my new simulator rig, securing the budget has taken up most of my time during the off-season. On my 21st birthday I was actually up in Leeds talking to a potential new partner so with eight hours in the car there were no wild celebrations!

Despite being the Carrera Cup champion, getting the budget in place for the year ahead is still hard but I enjoy the challenge. We don’t have management, it has always just been my family and me: Team Webster.

Some partners come on board through connections you’ve already built up (motor racing is, after all, about who you know a lot of the time) while cold contacting people, sending them a marketing pack can also work, but it’s harder to get results.

To read all three of our racers’ columns in full, make sure you pick issue 124 in store now. Alternatively order your copy online or download to your digital device here.

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