A bit of history
It had long been Porsche’s goal to participate in motorsport at varying levels, and in an effort to nurture new talent from amongst its customer racing base, a new customer racing series was being planned. 1990 marked the birth of the one-make motor racing series which has today become the envy of the motoring industry, the Porsche Carrera Cup. This year marks the 28th anniversary of the world’s best known one-make race series, and our story involves a familiar race car that was a 1991 Carrera Cup contender.
Following the successful introduction of the roadgoing Porsche 944 Turbo in 1985, Porsche began the development of a race car based on the Type 951 which lead to the Porsche 944 Turbo Cup series. This, the first one-make race series in the company’s history, was run in Germany between 1986-1989 using the transaxle 944 Turbos, and at first consisted of seven races, rising to ten in its final year.
The series proved so successful, that Porsche expanded it to run as a separate regional championship in France from 1987 to 1990. But there was a problem – the 944’s replacement was due at the end of the 1991 model year, and so a decision had to be made as to which model would continue to compete in the one-make race series. In order to give the series a future and to ensure continuity, Porsche management called Herbert Linge out of retirement to run the show.
“The idea after the 944 Turbo Cup was to continue with the 928 and I told them immediately if you want to do it with the 928, I am not going to do it,” Herbert Linge recalled. The 928 was never intended to be a race car, it was too big and heavy, and would cost too much to make it competitive on the world stage. “I told them if I am going to do it, I will do it with the 911,” he said firmly.
Introduced in 1989 (the year of the 911’s 25th anniversary), the 964 Carrera 4 was a significant new model for the company, but the 4-wheel drive system was deemed unsuitable for the company’s racing series. Manufactured alongside the Carrera 4 at the same time was the more traditional rear-wheel drive Carrera 2, but this model’s launch was only planned for a year later, in the hope that it would not detract from potential sales of the Carrera 4. The 1990 season was the first season that saw the 911-based model become the pillar on which the Porsche Carrera Cup series has been established.
The Carrera Cup story
In 1989, the first Carrera Cup race car was built by Porsche Motorsport based on the Carrera 2 production car, and was powered by a 3.6-litre air-cooled, twin-plug boxer engine. The 911 Carrera Cup was fitted with lightweight Speedline alloy wheels, a lightened clutch, a Matter roll cage, and the driver was given a Recaro racing seat. Slightly modified ignition electronics and a modified exhaust system (although it retained the standard catalytic converters) were just a few of the changes to the otherwise largely stock sports car. The Carrera Cup race cars retained the standard ABS system but this was slightly modified to cope with the rigours of racing.
Porsche race engineer, Roland Kussmaul went to work on making the car into a purebred racing machine by discarding all carpeting, sound-deadening material, and the interior fan. The blueprinted engine gave the car a 15bhp power increase over the production model which seemed rather moderate on paper, but being 230kg lighter, performance was very lively.
Power was distributed to the rear wheels by means of a five-speed gearbox with shortened third, fourth and fifth gear ratios and a limited slip differential. Modified suspension kinematics, stiffer and shorter springs and adjustable anti-roll bar ensured race-like handling, while compared to its road-going sibling, the 911 Carrera Cup sat 55mm lower on the road.
In order to ensure that the cars only ended up in the hands of genuine drivers who intended to race in the Cup series, teams were required to lodge a DM25,000 deposit with the company, refundable on the completion of eighty percent of that year’s races, a requirement that has continued more or less unchanged to this day.
Although Roland Asch won three of the ten rounds in the German Carrera Cup that first year, it was Porsche-stalwart Olaf Manthey who took the first Carrera Cup crown with just two victories in 1990. With the popularity of Porsche customer racing on the increase in 1991, the German Carrera Cup calendar once again comprised ten rounds, three of which were supporting races for the Formula 1 Championship. Approximately 40 cars lined up on the grid for each race, attracting both professional as well as aspiring amateur drivers. This time with six victories from seven starts, Roland Asch made no mistake in securing the title with Wolfgang Land as runner-up (Land had finished in third place the year before), while Jürgen von Gartzen took third place in the 1991 German series.
Ever since the start of the one-make series, Porsche has enjoyed strong growth in this sector and they have turned this into a financially lucrative operation. In the first year of the Porsche Carrera Cup, just 50 identical cars were produced for the 1990 season, while in the second year of the competition, this increased to 120 cars. By comparison, this number has increased to 170 Cup cars (2016) which are produced for different one-make series all around the world in regional Carrera Cups, Supercup, Intercontinental GT Challenge amongst others.
Our feature car: 1991 Carrera Cup #WP0ZZZ96ZM5409111
In 2001, Melvin Spear, 964 RS register secretary at the Porsche Club GB, was the proud and happy owner of a 964 Carrera 4 with no intention of selling his prized possession. Likewise, the owner of a certain 1991 964 Carrera Cup racer was also quite happy with his lot, and did not feel up to selling his race car. So, you might ask, how did the Cup car come to change hands when no-one was planning to sell? “An instructor at Goodwood decided I’d got to the limit of the C4 and asked if I had ever considered an RS,” Spear recalled. “I heard about this Carrera Cup and the seller worked a mile down the road from where I live, and so the deal was more or less done over the phone. He was really into American hot rods and muscle cars, so I’m not really sure why he bought it. I had a very quick sale on the C4 after a lady from Aberdeen saw it at Le Mans 2001, and she still has it,” he added.
Porsche Carrera chassis number WP0ZZZ96ZM5409111 was delivered to German Porsche dealer Max Moritz on 27 February 1991. Research showed Spear that the car was driven in the German Carrera Cup by the Argentinean driver, Oscar Larrauri, who finished fifth in the 1991 Carrera Cup driving #9111, after competing in only five of the ten races. The car then also raced in the 1992 and 1993 Porsche Carrera Cup series, before competing in the German Clubsport series, the Pirelli Euro Trophy, RS Cup and the Kumho Ferrari-Porsche Challenge between the years 1994-1998.
This car was imported to the UK some time later from Thomas Schmitz of Germany, but very little of the car’s history was known at the time by either the owner or Melvin Spear. Spear had the car on the road for a couple of years, as the car was taxed and MOT’d, but as he said, “You’d hit a bump and you were on the other side of the road, but being road registered was useful when running in a rebuilt engine.”
Although the car was painted Grand Prix white when the current owner acquired it in 2001, it was returned to its original 1991 white-red-green livery later. In the early days, Spear admits to having taken the car out about once a month on track days, covering about 1000-1500 race miles per annum. “At Spa, we are on track with 996 and 997 Cups, and sure they have got the power along the straights and the handling is a bit better, but the 964 is still hanging on. But, since I’ve been sprinting and hill climbing over the last eight years, track days don’t really do it for me anymore except to give the car its legs and get out of third gear,” Spear laughed.
Some of the most memorable track days were at the Spa Porsche Club Fun Days in ‘07 and ‘09. Spear recalled, “There was limited track time but there was overtaking on both sides, it was more like a race practice day. The food was awesome and the company was great. They were some of the last good air-cooled days before most people felt their cars were too valuable to track.”
The car is running with more power today than in period, as Spear explains, “It produces about 305bhp these days as it was modded in ‘96 by a previous owner who gave it a bigger throttle body, revised cams and a 993 hot-film mass air-flow sensor. The hot-film sensor was removed a couple of years ago due various running issues, and an original air flap and a good map was reinstalled.”
It has had two engine rebuilds, one in 2004 when the whole engine was done due to a drop in oil pressure. Then in 2014 the crankshaft and bearings were replaced. The car was repainted once I found out what colour scheme it originally ran.
RS track day, Oulton Park – March 2017
The forecast was for dry weather but at just after 09h00 in the morning, it was still pretty misty. In fact, the trip from South West Wales had been almost entirely in the mist, resulting in a rather slower journey than planned. But I was looking forward to that Friday like a little kid ahead of a trip to the toy store, as I had arranged to be given a passenger ride in a Porsche 964 Carrera Cup, and although I knew the car quite well, this was going to be special.
The morning was spent photographing this car and others as they circulated around the picturesque Cheshire circuit under clearing skies, as my ride was scheduled for just after the lunch break. Using a pit garage, I set up my lights and photographed the car during the quiet period over lunch, and despite several interruptions where I was asked what I was doing and who I was working for, I managed to get all my detail shots done.
As the cars fired up after the lunch break, I stashed my camera gear away and donned a helmet and climbed aboard. Getting into the passenger seat was a relatively easy step as the Porsche has good access. Mel tightened up my 6-point safety harness and very patiently explained what to do in the case of an emergency, something he must have done hundreds of times. The time came to move out from under the protection of the garage, and to point the car towards the track entrance, and guess what…we were greeted with some rain on the windscreen. I thought, just my luck, now we will have to tip-toe around the circuit when I had been hoping for a good blast.
However, there was no tip-toeing to be had anywhere, as Mel who has driven countless laps in the white-red-green 964 Carrera Cup, sped out onto the track. I had always understood to be cautious just after first rain on tarmac, but the car gripped the road just like it was intended to do. The acceleration of this 26-year old racer was mightily impressive, and the symphony coming through from just behind my head rose and fell in a well-orchestrated manner as we carved through the other cars. In fact, the only cars that overtook us were the much faster, much newer 991s, as Mel treated me to a fantastic few laps in the 964 Carrera Cup.
Memorable was the size of the cockpit, as having sat in or driven numerous more modern 911s, one forgets the smallness of the older cars. The well-worn steering wheel showed that this car has been driven hard and well, and as Mel changed up and down through the gears, I was impressed with the hardiness of the gearbox which was given a fair bit of abuse. Oulton Park has a hairpin, at the end of the stretch alongside the lake, the Shell Oils Corner and despite the rain, the 964 Carrera Cup sliced around the corner as though on rails.
I could have carried on all afternoon, but all too soon the ride was over and on our cool down lap, Mel explained the various points around the circuit that he enjoyed. One such section was the steep rise up Clay Hill where the car goes light on the crest and you have to be ready for the left hander that follows. It is worth repeating that the level of lateral grip was hugely impressive, dispelling those stories about the 911 being tail-happy. In the right hands and with the right treatment, the 911 is a formidable racer, as this 964 Carrera Cup racer was proving.
We wound our way back through the paddock to the pit garage, where we continued to talk about the white-red-green racer. It may be old hat to some in this world, but a circuit ride in a 964 Carrera Cup racer was for me a highlight!
Technical specs: 1991 Porsche 964 Carrera Cup
|Layout||6-cylinder, horizontally opposed|
|Bore x stroke||100 x 76.4mm|
|Power||265bhp @ 6100rpm (standard)|
|Max rev limit||6800rpm|
|Torque||310Nm @ 4800rpm|
|Gears||5-speed plus reverse|
|Wheels & tyres|
|Front||8J x 17 – 245/620-17 (Pirelli slicks)|
|Rear||9.5J x 17 – 265/630-17 (Pirelli slicks)|
|Track||front – 1432mm; rear – 1492mm|
|Acceleration||0-60mph in approx. 4.5 seconds|
|Max speed||270km/h (tested to 173mph or 276km/h)|
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale & Porsche