Based on the current-generation Widow Maker, the 515kW remake of the Porsche 935 Le Mans racer promises to be the ultimate track toy
One of my favourite childhood memories involves Moby Dick. Not the heavy and hard-to-read 1851 novel by Hermann Melville, but a scale model of the famous Porsche 935 Le Mans racer. Six-year-old me had managed to convince my mother that I was ill enough to not attend school, and not only did she fall for my acting debut, she rewarded me with a neenish tart and a new Matchbox toy. As I was too sick (cough, cough) to hit the shops with my mum, there was some trepidation when she handed me the box. Would it be some god-awful hotrod or a vintage car that would hold my attention for minutes? No, it was a light blue slant-nose Porsche 935 with Elf and Sachs sponsorship. Of course, it’d be years before I knew what Elf and Sachs were, but they sounded cool and looked great splashed over the bonnet and roof of the mini endurance hero.
Flash forward 35 years, and one of my favourite memories of 2018 were the three days spent with the current 911 GT2 RS. In a year that’s seen seat time in such automotive weaponry as the Ferrari 812 Superfast (see page 116), Audi R8 RWS, BMW M4 GTS, Porsche 911 GT3 manual and McLaren 720S, those 1200km strapped into the fixed-back bucket of the GT2 RS are to be cherished. With little doubt, the 991 GT2 RS is the best road car that I’ve ever driven.
Imagine my excitement, then, when Porsche combined those two memories to recreate the 935 with this GT2 RS-based homage.
“This spectacular car is a birthday present from Porsche Motorsport to fans all over the world,” said Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars. The new 935 was presented to the world at the recent Rennsport Reunion at Laguna Seca in California and marks another celebratory milestone in Porsche’s 70th year. Just 77 examples of the new 935 will be built and predictably all are sold. Walliser explained that within the 24 hours after the car was revealed, his team fielded more than 250 serious, cheque-waving enquiries to buy a modern Moby Dick. While plenty of Porsche fans have missed out this time, Walliser did intimate that the reaction to the 935 has caught his company by surprise and that it may lead to further retro homages in the future.
Customers of the 935 will have to wait until June 2019 for delivery of their new track toy, but what exactly do they get for their 700,000 Euros (circa $1,150,000)?
Firstly, the new 935 isn’t homologated for either road use or a specific racing category, so it sits within the same realm as the Ferrari FXX programme, Aston Martin Vulcan or McLaren P1 GTR. Like those cars, the new Porsche 935 is a curious amalgam of road and race car technologies.
The basic chassis and drivetrain carries over from the road-going GT2 RS, but with 515kW at 7000rpm from the twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre flat-six, you’re hardly going to feel short changed. There’s also a venomous 750Nm available from 2500-4500rpm and drive is sent to the rear Michelin slicks via the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox of the road car. The gearbox is solid-mounted to the subframe and the limited-slip differential has been tuned for more aggressive lock-up to suit the circuit application.
The slicks are the same as those used by the Porsche Super Cup and Carrera Cup racers and are mounted on 18-inch centre-lock single-piece forged alloys (11.5-inch at the front, 13-inch at the rear) that draw inspiration from the wheels used on the 935/78 race car. The switch to the smaller-diameter wheels (down from 20-inch fronts and 21-inch rears of the road car) necessitated a change in the braking hardware. Gone are the carbon-ceramic rotors of the GT2 RS and in come motorsport-specific cast iron discs measuring 380mm up front and 355mm at the rear. Respectively, the front and rear rotors are squeezed by six- and four-piston monobloc calipers. Moby Dick retains the ABS and ESC safety nets of the GT2 RS, but they’ve been recalibrated to work with the increased loads generated by the slicks, and both systems can be completely switched off.
At just 1380kg, the new 935 is 90kg lighter than the 911 GT2 RS on which it’s based. Much of the weight reduction comes from the stripping of the interior, but this is balanced against additional equipment such as the full roll cage and the air-jack system. Further weight savings come from the extended use of carbon-fibre and carbon-Kevlar to replace some of the steel and alloy panels of the RS.
The elongated tail successfully mimics that of the original 935 Le Mans cars, but is also the primary contributor to the new 935’s 4870mm length. That’s 321mm longer than the GT2 RS. The 935 is also 154mm wider than the donor car and 62mm taller thanks to the towering wing that itself measures 1909mm in width and 400mm in depth. The 935 sits on a wheelbase that’s 4mm longer than the road car but the difference is due to a change in suspension geometry rather than any structural alterations.
Inside you’ll find just the FIA-compliant driver’s seat, though a passenger seat is on the options list. However, passenger legroom is at a premium as the lightweight and leakproof lithium-ion battery is mounted in the footwell for improved weight distribution, and because there’s no room up front after the standard fuel tank was replaced with a 115-litre FIA-approved fuel cell. With the fuel cell comes the option of a high-pressure motorsport refuelling coupling. In place of the bolt-in half cage of the GT2 RS, the new 935 features a welded-in roll cage that extends to the front of the cabin. Though the 935 isn’t homologated for a race series, Porsche hasn’t skimped on the safety equipment, as modern Moby features an electronic-release firebomb and an FIA-standard escape hatch in the roof – in case the great white whale rolls onto its side.
In a further blend of new and old, the carbon-fibre quick-release steering wheel is the same as that used in the current 911 GT3 R race car, while the gear lever for the PDK transmission is topped with a laminated wood design that references the balsa wood shifter of the 917 and the birch gearknob of the Carrera GT. Then there’s the Cosworth LCD screen with in-built data logger juxtaposed against the retro styling of the boost gauge.
Porsche has yet to release any performance claims for the new 935, but the 90kg weight reduction and the addition of slick tyres should result in a significant step up from the already outrageously fast 911 GT2 RS. To recap the crazy speed of the RS, during our testing (issue 60) it recorded 0-100km/h in 2.8 seconds, 0-200km/h in 8.1sec and 0-300km/h in a fraction under 21. It also crossed the standing kilometre in 19.6sec at a phenomenal terminal speed of 288km/h before I eventually ran out of road at a genuine 334km/h – just 6km/h short of the speed limiter.
While the 935 should comfortably outsprint the GT2 RS, we’re more keen to know what sort of lap time it could cut, given that the road car makes a damned good showing on track and has only recently been usurped as the Nürburgring record holder. One Porsche Motorsport engineer that we spoke with suggested that the 935 would offer track performance on par or quicker than a Carrera Cup race car. Another insider suggested that though heavier, the significantly more powerful 935 should be faster than the company’s GT3 R. For reference, at this year’s Bathurst 12-Hour, the leading GT3 R qualified with a 2:02.7.
We just hope that those lucky few who’ve managed to get their names on an order for the modern 935 actually hit the track in their new toy. For the rest of us, perhaps Porsche will release a scale model. Jesse Taylor