How one turbocharged engine defined a decade of sportscar dominance for Porsche …
At the end of 1971, with two consecutive Le Mans wins and sportscar championships under its belt, the Porsche 917 (think Steve McQueen in the movie “Le Mans”) with its 4.5-litre hell-and-brimstone flat 12 was made redundant by the new Group 5 rules that mandated engines of only under three litres. Porsche promptly withdrew from European sportscar racing, pulling the 917 and its sister car, the 908, from competition. (The 908 was the smaller variation on the all-conquering 917—a smaller, lighter and more nimble, Porsche used it for tighter tracks and events such as the Targa Florio.)
Porsche now set its longing eyes on the North American-based Can-Am series with a program based around their new turbocharged lump—a project that dated all the way back to the 1950s. Can-Am would provide Porsche with an optimum test-bed to finally refine their turbo project into race winning spec’—lumps that would soon top 1,600hp.
Back in Europe, with the turbo technology well and truly proven, the Porsche 911 Carrera RSR Turbo was born with smaller 2.1-litre turbo engines proving just as competitive as the Can-Am monster. By 1975, the engines would wind up in customer 908s.
In line with RBR race program came the first-ever 911 Turbo road-car that was developed from a prototype in ’73, and sold to customers in ’75. The new turbos were as quick as the response wasn’t—the car became pretty notorious. With the rear-mounted engine, short wheelbase, and explosive (and difficult to predict) power from the turbo, the 911 was a bit of a widow maker.
For 1976, the FIA reintroduced the Group 6 classification—last seen at the end of 1971—now called “Two- Seater Racing Cars” which would fight for the World Championship for Sports Cars, and also reinvigorate the Group 5 rules with the so-called “Special Production Car” category that would contest the World Championship for Makes.
Porsche—turbo whine at the ready—would enter both championships with the 936 in Group 6, and the 935 in Group 5.
Two cars and a shared turbo that would go on to define an era in sportscar racing, and both—in varying specs—are coming to Project CARS 2.
The 936 Spyder in Project CARS 2
The 936 was the replacement for the 908 and 917 as Porsche’s top-flight runner. The customer 908s were still being run competitively by privateers by the mid-’70s, and many had been upgraded with the new Porsche flat-6 turbos when Porsche unveiled the 936.
From its debut in 1976 to the end of its cycle in 1981, when it was replaced by the 956, the 936 won Le Mans three times, and the world championship in its debut year. The 2-litre flat-6 twin-turbo was pushing out 560hp at 8,000rpm that first season, but despite the Can-Am and RSR-mule years, it was still prone to overheating. To cool the lump, Porsche stuck an F1-derived central air-scoop on top of the driver’s head which gave the open-topped Spyder its most enduring feature (along, of course, with Count Martini’s epic Martini-racing livery).
The car won the every round of the World Sportscar Championship in 1976, but for Porsche, the real meat-and-bones was in Group 5 with the 935, and that meant the Martini-liveried 936 was used only for Le Mans from 1977 through 1981.
Being only a Le Mans spec’ sportscar, Porsche was able to focus on creating a low-drag aero’ body in the wind tunnel, and that saw the Project CARS 2-bound 936/77 top-out at 220mph (355kmh) down the Mulsanne. The 1976 spec’ came with the big single KKK turbocharger which was creating so much lag that drivers were required to adapt their driving style. For 1977, the single turbo was swapped out for dual KKKs, and aside from upping the power to 540hp, the engine was far more responsive.
Despite that, they would not have things their own way at Le Mans in ’77 when Renault turned up with three A442s (which you can also drive in Project CARS 2). With their 2-litre turbocharged V6 engines, the Renaults were quicker in qualifying, but Le Mans isn’t only about speed.
The A442 versus the 936—a Le Mans epic coming to Project CARS 2
The race turned out to be a classic; two works Porsche 936s versus three works Renault. After four hours, the time-sheet didn’t look good for Porsche—one of their 936s was already out, and the other was trailing by eight laps after hitting trouble early. That’s when Porsche put Ickx into the surviving machine with orders to push. What ensued was one of the greatest drives ever seen at Le Mans, with Ickx slowly reeling in the leading Renaults through the night with one blisteringly quick lap after the next.
As dawn broke, fans woke to find Ickx’s sole remaining 936 up in second, though still some laps down. Victory seemed implausible. Until the Renault did what the Renault was famous for doing in those days; it began stuttering and slowing.
Ickx seized the lead and began to pull away from the ailing Renault. Exhausted, he handed the car over to American driver Hurley Haywood for the closing stages. With twenty minutes to go, the crowd stood up as one as the 936 began to cough-up smoke down the Muslanne. The kind of sickly-sweet, blue-gray smoke that meant only one thing—the engine was about to detonate.
Haywood headed slowly for the pits. The Porsche mechanics swooped on the car and diagnosed the problem quickly—the 936 had lost a piston. To win, they had to complete one final lap in under 15 minutes. The mechanics ripped out the plugs from the cylinder and finally pushed Haywood away down pit-lane. Now all they could do was wait as the American crawled around to take one of the most dramatic wins in Le Mans history.
Renault would have their revenge in ’78, though, and then called it a day as they turned their attention to Formula One. That left the 936 with few challengers in 1979; but despite an easy pole, all the 936s failed that day, and that opened the door for the Group 5 935 to win the biggest sportcar race of them all.
The Porsche works built only three 936s, with two separate chassis winning in ’76 and ’77. In 1980, Porsche didn’t field a works team at Le Mans, but Joest Racing—then in its infancy—did get a test chassis (004) that year which was dubbed the 908/80 which went on to score a credible second with the Martini Racing-liveried car. Joest would continue to use a modified 936 in the World Sportscar Championship in 1982 as they waited for delivery of Porsche’s new 956, but they were winless that season.
Group 6, though, was already in its death throes by then, and the 936s were put out of commission. They were dusted-off (literally taken from the Porsche museum) and returned to action for 1981, along with the new Porsche-turbo engine that would find its way onto the 956 in 1982, and chassis number three claimed the 936’s final Le Mans wins. Three chassis built, one Le Mans victories for each—it was quite a way to say goodbye to the 936 for the works.
The 936, though, would remain active with a fifth chassis, built from blueprints provided to Kremer-Racing for use in Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft, in 1982. The 936s from Kremer Racing and Joest Racing had a ding-dong battle all season with Joest Racing’s Bob Wollek’s 936 finally taking the title from the Kremer Racing Vizemeister 936 of Rolf Stommelen.
Project CARS 2 will come with many of these liveries from the classic DRM season as run by privateer 936 teams.
The 936 would finally sign off its decade-long run with a second place finish at the Nürburgring in 1984 with Siegfried Brunn.
The 935—a titan of sportscar racing
Unlike the 936, the 935, when it came onto the scene in 1976, was always intended to be the car Porsche planned to sell to its customers, as it had done successfully with its predecessor, the Carrera RSR GT race cars that were built around the 911 shell. The RSR, though, had been abandoned by the works team when they began working on the new 935.
The 935’s development was rushed, and that meant that Porsche spent six frantic weeks in the spring and summer of 1976 simultaneously racing and developing the 935.
It began light—under 900KGs—and in order to meet the Group 5 minimum weight of 970KGs, ballast was used fore and aft to achieve a 47/53 front/rear balance. This was helpful because the 911 suffered from some basic issues—the engine was in the wrong place (at the rear), the car was small, and the turbocharged engine, while enormously powerful, also suffered from some epic turbo lag.
The car won on debut at Mugello in its distinctive Martini Racing livery, but at the second race of the season, the car fell afoul of the rules. The “Silhouette” formula meant the cars had to have a certain amount of bodywork in common with their road-going counterparts, but when the stewards asked Porsche to swap out the “whale tail” rear-hood from the road 930 onto the 935, Porsche were unable to accommodate them. The car was instantly banned, and Porsche—already scrambling to race and develop the car—were left with an even bigger problem, one that was solved by throwing over a million dollars at the problem to create a smaller air-to-water intercooler to replace the air-to-air intercooler.
The enormous wing that eventually came in mid-1976 proved useful both for downforce and cooling, but it was with the 956/77 (coming to Project CARS 2) that the real breakthrough came. Lowered considerably, the 956/77 was also subject of a wind-tunnel-based aero’ upgrade that altered everything from the rear wing (which sprouted fins onto which the adjustable wing was attached), to the nose that, in late 1976, was altered to a very un-911-like shape with its new, clean hood and vanished 911 lights that ended up buried in the bumper.
The other issue that Porsche needed to clean up was the enormous levels of turbo lag. Porsche replaced the big single turbocharger in favor of two smaller KKK units, and while the lag wasn’t cured entirely, the fire-spitting that came along with the two turbos was a wondrous byproduct. It also upped the power to around 700hp. In a car weighing 960KGs, that kind of power along with the downforce generated by the new wing made the 935/77 unassailable.
The engine was a 2.9-litre flat-6 turbo, the same engine as on the 936, but with a bigger displacement. There were only four gears, taken from the road-going 911, but significantly beefed-up from the RSR test mule that had spent much of its development with stripped boxes.
The 935 won the championship in its debut year, 1976, with the works Marini-liveried car, and Porsche would go on to produce 73 935s. Only nine of these were used for the factory works, which pulled out at the end of 1978 after having proven the pedigree of the 935. The 935/76 went on sale to Porsche clients for a price of 140,000 DM (around half a million dollars in today’s change), and began a new cycle of non-works 935 dominance by teams such as Kremer Racing, Joest Racing, JLP Racing, Brumos, AIR, Andial, and Fabcar. Project CARS 2 will come with many liveries from the Joest-produced 935J.
By the time the 935 won its final major event—Sebring in 1984—35 non-factory models of the 935 had also been produced by privateers such as Kremer (whose 935 K3 is probably the gold-standard, claiming over a third of all the 935’s 150 wins around the world) and Joest (the 935J).
The 935J was built by Joest for Electrodyne and raced with Momo livery in the US, joining other now legendary liveried 935Js such as those of Spot-Oil-Racing, Vegla Racing Team, DeNarvaez Enterprises, and the Liquid Moly cars.
The Kremer 935 K3, meanwhile, in its three evolutions, went on to win the 1979 DRM title, the Le Mans 24 hours, and Daytona in 1981. Kremer sold 17 cars themselves of their third evolution, the K3/80.
The 935 enjoyed a full decade of success—from debut in 1976 to 1984, it scored over 150 wins, including six overall wins at Daytona and Sebring, and wins at Le Mans and the 1000km Nürburgring along with consecutive Championship of Makes between ’76 and ’79. Even ex-Formula One World Champion Alan Jones took a 935 to the championship in Australian GT in 1982, while in the US-based Trans-Am series, the 935 won the 1979 Category 2 Championship.
The final factory-built 935s, designated the 935/80, and which is also coming to Project CARS 2, were created for three drivers only—Georg Loos in Europe, and Peter Gregg, and Hurley Haywood out in the US. This car upped the displacement from the original 935, and horsepower was somewhere near 800. It also features an “upside-down” transmission which allowed it to run at a lowered ride height with a lower anngle on the drive shafts.
By the early 1980s, though, the new prototype Group C category in Europe along with the equally new IMSA GTP category in the US (whose regs had been created expressly to end the dominance of the 935) ended the 935’s cycle of success. By then, the 935 had become an icon of sportscar racing: it was so cool that it remains, to this day, the only car ever sponsored by Apple.
Porsche’s turbo concept dominated sportscar racing for a decade with the 935 and 936, but it wasn’t done yet—when it was transferred over to the new ground-effects 956/962, another era of Porsche dominance in sportscar racing was about to begin.
The Porsche 935/77, 935/80, and 936 Spyder along with many era-defining liveries will come with Project CARS 2 released in late 2017 for the PlayStation®4 system, Xbox One, and PC.