It's not just on paved roads that Porsche's cars can deliver thrills on.
Porsche’s racing legend is mainly built on circuit racing and street cars. On the tarmac, Porsche has clocked in an impressive 19 overall wins at Le Mans, and over 50 class wins. Porsche also has 18 wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring, 18 wins at the Daytona 24 Hours, won the FIA World Endurance Championship three times and claimed 12 manufacturer and team titles in the World Sportscar Championship. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when you also consider how Porsches have faired in independent hands.
What often gets forgotten though, is that Porsche also has four Monte Carlo rally titles to its name and a couple of Paris-Dakar winners trophies. It also gets forgotten that the iconic Porsche 959 was actually developed to compete in Group B rally competition but never did due to cost. However, in 1986 the 959 claimed 1st, 2nd, and 6th in the Paris-Dakar rally. And that’s where we should start.
Originally destined for Group B rallying before the trail of destruction and death led to the class's demise, the story of the 959 going racing didn't end there. Porsche turned its attention to endurance racing to show off the high-tech supercar. Porsche had already won the Paris-Dakar rally in 1984 with a 911 RS/SC 4x4, and then won the 1986 event with the same driver, Rene Metge, in one of the two 959 models entered.
In the 1980s, legendary German race car driver Walter Röhrl wondered if a two-wheel drive car could take on the might of Audi's Quattro. He had a 911 SC 3.0 prepared for the mixed surfaces of the San Remo Rally and entered. He led through the initial tarmac stages, but the extra forward traction paid off in the gravel for the all-wheel drive Audi cars. However, the advantage wasn't quite as large there as people expected. Before the matter could be decided though, Röhrl's 911 broke a driveshaft and led to what he describes as the most disappointing breakdown of his career.
Walter Röhrl's origin story for racing Porsche rally cars actually started with him signing for Mercedes directly after winning the World Rally Championship in 1980. The problem came when Mercedes realized they weren't going to be competitive straight out of the gate. Mercedes' rally program was canceled and left Röhrl without a ride, but Porsche promptly snapped him up and put him in the turbocharged homologation special version of the 924 Carrera GTS and sent him to campaign in a number of German national championship rally events.
Porsche's first foray into the Monte Carlo Rally was in 1965, but real success didn't arrive until 1968 and in the hands of Vic Elford. He took first place over his teammate Pauli Toivonen, also in a Porsche 911 S 2.0. That was the first of a 1-2 hat-trick at Monte Carlo for Porsche. The other wins and second places came in 1969 and 1970 with Bjorn Waldegard taking first and Gerard Larrousse following close behind.
While Jean-Pierre Nicolas was winning the 1978 Monte Carlo rally in his privateer 911, the factory team was at work preparing for the Safari Rally. The Safari Rally was a grueling event across 5,000 km of rough terrain in East Africa, so the car took some serious preparation. Porsche took a pair of 911 SC 3.0s and gave them a suspension lift up to 28 centimeters of ground clearance, applied underbody protection, reinforced the body shell, gave it a 6-liter water tank, 20-liter oil tank, and a 110-liter fuel tank. Unfortunately, the Porsches only managed to take fourth and second place.
The winner? That was a Peugeot 504 piloted by Jean-Pierre Nicolas.
Safari 2.0 is the brain-child of Kelly-Moss Road and Race, based in Wisconsin. Converting old 911s to safari spec has come back in vogue recently, but this one is based on a 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera 4. While it may never see a competitive event, Safari 2.0 is built to go fast through the rough stuff. It has wide bolt-on flares installed after the arches were cut out to fit big, grippy, lumps of rubber inside. The suspension arms are reinforced and the shocks are new adjustable units, while the heavy-duty bumpers are constructed using TIG-welded aluminum sections and then powder coated.
Tow hooks are installed so it can be pulled out of a ditch, and modern LED lights on the hood are there to try and prevent the driver from landing it in one in the first place. The anti-lock brakes have been retained, but there's also a handbrake to lock up the rear wheels without being interfered with by the system.
Without Porsche fielding factory works cars for so long, Tuthill Porsche in the UK has been happily serving privateers entering the World Rally Championships with a choice of sanctioned vehicles based on either the 997 or 991 GT3. These machines are no joke and the customer program is run by a former Prodrive and Aston Martin world championship engineer. In 2014 a Tuthill Porsche FIA RGT 911 became the first Porsche to finish a WRC event in 28 years with its GT3-spec wing and laying down its class-restricted 320 horsepower.
It's been a long while coming, but Porsche finally brought its Cayman GT4 Clubsport Rally concept out to show off recently. It debuted as the course car for the WRC's ADAC Rallye Deutschland event with Romain Dumas at the wheel. Following positive feedback, Porsche has decided to offer FIA-compliant rally cars for use in the WRC.