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Leh Keen

Leh Keen Proves the GT2 RS’ Potential With a New Record Lap

Earlier this year, we saw David Donohue wheel the latest GT2 RS around Road America in a sizzling time of 2:15.17 on Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires. Last week, IMSA ace and all-around hooligan Leh Keen took another GT2 RS around the four-mile circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and slashed the previous record by a considerable margin.

 

Granted, the comparison isn’t exactly fair. While Donohue’s car was a bone-stock GT2 RS—though likely one of the best of the batch, Keen’s car received a few tweaks to get a little more out of the widely adjustable chassis. Aside from the factory cage and the Manthey water tank for longer fast laps at full power, there are two major changes. This RS benefits from a more aggressive alignment courtesy of 311RS, who’ve modified a few track-spec cars featured on this site, as well as a engine tune from Mitch McKee. The tune reaps an additional 60 wheel horsepower, total 690 at the rear wheels. Truly, this mild package simply maximizes the potential of the factory setup without bringing in many aftermarket parts. With a new set of Cup 2 R tires—likely providing the largest benefit—Keen set out to slash Donohue’s lap by a considerable margin.

And though he did, the ease with which Keen drives this car makes you wonder how. Though still slightly nervous on the brakes, the car looks so much more composed from mid-corner onwards. The corner exit acceleration is hard to fathom—it looks almost four wheel-drive at times, and only once does the break away under acceleration (2:00). When it does, it looks so comfortable and predictable that Keen’s steering inputs are more like those you’d expect from a Sunday drive than a record-breaking lap at one of the fastest road courses in North America. Even when dancing through Turn 10, it looks so casual.

At the end of his first economical lap, Keen crossed the line in 2:12.9—a time which rivals a GT3 Cup Car and bests the fastest non-Porsche production car, a Viper ACR, by seven seconds. Not only hadn’t he needed a warmup lap, he hadn’t even used tire warmers. After that, his times began to worsen, and so they packed it in after a fairly stress-free and straightforward day at the circuit. Of course, it’s never that simple; much headscratching work goes on in wee hours beforehand to get such an encouraging chassis, But it’s fair to say that the preparation this car received made setting a staggering time look easy.

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Protecting a 911 Safari with XPEL Film and Ceramic Coatings

We love Leh Keen’s Safari 911s. In keeping with our belief that the 911 is a perfect all-rounder, lifting one and fitting knobby tires seems to take nothing from the experience. Mr. Keen’s cars are brilliant, and Matt Farah’s personal car is one of the most interesting of the lot. Farah’s Safari is finished in Cassis Red, a rather polarizing and slightly urbane color choice for a brawny Safari car. The paintwork, evidently, is largely original, and Matt has wisely opted to protect it. In order to protect the finish Matt has opted for an XPEL film over his entire car.

While most of us would be well-served by XPEL film over just the chip-prone forward surfaces of our cars, Matt’s adventure-friendly ride needed a bit more protection. As such, Chris West from XPEL spent a whopping five days applying a self-healing extruded Urethane film to the entire vehicle. This proprietary film uses a topcoat based on current self-healing automotive topcoats. This design allows minor scratches in the finish to disappear over time. Used in conjunction with ceramic coatings this finish is both durable and easy to clean.

While XPEL does have patterns for many commonly-protected parts of cars, applying a film to an entire vehicle is a different matter. Mr. West had to custom-cut post of the panels installed on Matt’s 911. The light pod, mirrors, and much of the trim required custom work, but that is relatively minor given the project’s scope. Chris was able to wrap the car from the base of the A-pillar to the rear of the quarter panel with a single sheet of film to avoid visible seams.

While Project 944 GTS and Project Mello Yello may not benefit much from this treatment, those among our readership with finer paintwork may be interested in the full-car protection option.

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Leh Keen Thrashes A Screaming 993 RSR Around Daytona

I might be the odd man out here, but until I watched this footage, I always felt the 991 GT3 RS had the most glorious exhaust note in the entire 911 family. I was wrong.

At 6’5″, Keen hardly fits inside this 993 RSR.

This sonorous 993 RSR is piloted by none other than Leh Keen, whose exploits are well known here. The lanky ace dons his red and white helmet before stuffing himself into this RSR, built and run by Alex Job Racing. At 6’5″, Keen hardly fits inside and keeps hitting the dash with his knees, but still rev-matches with surgical precision and puts just enough energy into his inputs to make the car dance around Daytona.

His typically exuberant style is more measured in this footage, probably because cars like it are going for a pretty penny (or pound). Still, he hurls the car into the fast kink approaching Turn 4 (0:38) with total confidence. However, just as impressive is the way he treats the car with tons of respect; feeding the steering in gently and picking up the throttle at just the right moments. There are few demonstrations of confidence and composure behind the wheel like that high-speed pitch. Any racer worth their salt can’t help but tip their hat to this great display of talent.

Technical Information on the 993 RSR

The RSR was modified to an outrageous extent in the footwork department with two-way adjustable Bilstein shocks, fully ball-jointed suspension, a driver-adjustable front rollbar, and larger 380-mm endurance front brakes. Bodywork included a special front spoiler, an adjustable rear wing, fender flares, full welded Matter roll cage, an alloy bonnet, and a front strut brace.

That incredible noise comes from an M64/75 Type 3.8 RSR engine fitted with a stronger, lighter valvetrain; high-lift cams; and special pistons and barrels. All of this, plus revised inlet plenum and exhaust manifolds, amounted to roughly 350 horsepower. This power was sent to a single-mass flywheel, then onto to a unique six-speed Type G50/34 manual transmission. With every aspect of the powertrain addressed, this engine provided world-class sound and acceleration.

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Porsche 911 on safari

Did you know the Porsche 911’s first ever race was, in fact, a rally? The year was 1965, and Huschke von Hanstein, race director and Porsche PR officer, was keen to show off the dexterity of the company’s new sports car, which could be driven on the road and raced at weekends. Herbert Linge and Peter Falk were thrust into a 2.0-litre 911 for the legendary Monte Carlo rally, driving the car from Bad Homburg, Germany, to the Prince’s Palace in Monaco, finishing a creditable fifth overall. A 911 would win the notorious event outright in 1968 in the hands of ‘Quick Vic’ Elford, the first of many key rallying successes which forms an important part of the 911’s 30,000 overall race victories to date.

Meanwhile, alongside the sport kits which formed the basis of Porsche’s famous Sports Purpose manual in 1966, the company offered a rally kit – option 9552. Comprising of a pair of Recaro seats, roll bar, a 100-litre fuel tank with front hood filler, adjustable Koni shock absorbers plus subtle engine modifications, the kit was intended for customers who wished to participate in long-distance rallies.

Notable success on the rally stage has continued throughout the 911’s history. Who can forget the heroics of the factory-supported Prodrive SC RSs in the 1980s, a precursor to the 1984 Paris-Dakar-winning 953 and, later, the 959, which was built for the very purpose of rallying before the demise of Group B just before its release. The air-cooled 911 remains a regular participant in global regulation and speed rallies, with most notable success courtesy of British Porsche specialists, Tuthills. They have campaigned all manner of classic 911s in various rallies of considerable magnitude right around the world, with the late, legendary rally maestro Björn Waldegård often found at the wheel right up until his death in 2014. Current works driver Romain Dumas, meanwhile, developed his own 997 GT3 RS R-GT which competed alongside a rival 997 – again from Tuthill – in the 2015 WRC, with Porsche itself testing a Cayman GT4 Clubsport R-GT in 2018 with a view to joining the WRC series. As you can see, rallying isn’t a mere offshoot of the Porsche 911 – it’s forever been part of its DNA.

Meanwhile, safari 911s have well and truly captured the imaginations of wider enthusiasts in the last two to three years, catapulted into the limelight by pro racing driver and Porsche enthusiast Leh Keen’s imaginative safari builds. Others have since joined the market with their own off-road expressions of the 911, but what are these cars really like to drive? Today we’re going to find out, thanks to an invite from Makellos Classics to test their most remarkable project to date. Matt Kenyon, owner of the San Diego-based company, explains: “Safari cars are popular right now so we wanted to try our interpretation of it. Some cars have the look, but we wanted to build a car that you could legitimately take off-road.”

The 911 in question is a 1978 European SC, which Makellos acquired in April 2018 with 125,000 kilometres on the clock. As Matt describes, its spec was perfect for the project at hand: “When we came across this 911 SC it had a pretty cool factory spec. It had sunroof delete, lower console delete and radio delete. It just screamed at us to build a rally spec 911.” Work started in May and was completed by mid-September, an incredible feat when you consider this was a passion project which Matt, manager Greg Bartley and the rest of the Makellos team had to fit around a busy stream of paying client jobs.

After a strip down the team began with crucial fabrication work to the 911’s chassis, which entailed custom bracing all over the car as well as reinforcement of the rear strut towers. The front strut towers were custom braced, and custom front and rear skid plates were added too.

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Matt Farah Takes His Safari 911 For An Urban Adventure

When you think about the perfect Los Angeles city car, you don’t necessarily jump to a 1980s Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2, but once Leh Keen has fiddled with the suspension and interior, it just might be. With a softer suspension, more tire sidewall, and taller ride height, a Safari 911 is an excellent machine for running around in the mean streets of LA. You can hit bumps, curbs, pot holes, and speed humps at speed without so much as a worry about it hurting your car, and certainly without worrying about it compacting your spine as a stiffly sprung motorsport-inspired suspension might.

Matt Farah, of Smoking Tire fame, recently sent his Casis Red Porsche off for a complete overhaul by BBi Autosport and The Keen Project. He drove Leh’s personal car a few years ago, and fell madly in love with the concept. It’s been just over a year since he bought the car, and it’s turned out exactly how he wanted it. With huge knobby tires, a wild interior, some bash bars, and bright as day fog lamps, Safari Project #14 makes for a great city runabout. It’s comfortable, easy to drive, and works exactly as planned. This is the first of three drive reviews of the car, running around in the city. In the near future, Matt promises to bring us reviews of the car on a twisty canyon road and again on an off-road route. I look forward to seeing if his positive opinion continues to hold when he drives the car in those differing environments.

This kind of does go to show that Leh Keen was a genius for kicking off this trend in the Porsche world. They’re apparently brilliant to drive, still retain the character Porsche is known for, and carry an added value that can’t be reproduced anywhere else. That Leh has a waiting list years long is testament to the car, as well. Well done to Leh and well done to Matt for getting the car he wanted. I’m personally so glad he decided to keep it in Casis Red, it’s such a gorgeous color.

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