This is the story of the International Race of Champions Porsche Carrera 911 RSRs and the drivers who raced them. It’s a story that is long overdue, as these cars formed an important part of Porsche’s historic rise to the top of the international motorsport pyramid.
In 1973, Porsche introduced its 911 Carrera RS 2.7 road car, but it wasn’t long before these cars were being put to the test on many race tracks around the world. The fully fledged racing version of this car at that time was the 911 Carrera RSR 2.8 of which 55 units were produced for use during the 1973 season.
Late in 1973, the engine capacity was increased to 3-litres and the racing Carrera RSR took on an altogether more menacing look. With ‘production’ of the 911 Carrera RSR 3-litre underway in Stuttgart, Porsche received an order for fifteen cars from Roger Penske, to be delivered to Riverside Raceway, California. Penske, along with IROC partners Mike Phelps and Les Richter, wanted to create a racing series comprising identical 911s to be run over four races. Twelve of the fifteen cars were shipped over to California with a further three being airfreighted. Remember this was the 1970s, and colour ruled, so all fifteen cars were finished in bright colours for two reasons. Firstly, this was so spectators could easily identify which driver was driving which car; and secondly, so that the cars would show up clearly on television.
The cars were all powered by Porsche’s latest 3-litre engine developing 315 bhp at 8000 rpm. Although the race car was in every respect a Carrera RSR, it did run with narrower RS bodywork. This was an intentional move resulting in narrower tyres being fitted which would ensure some lively driving as the cars would have slightly less grip than the RSR. Also, the rear ‘duck tail’ engine lid was swapped out for the ‘tea tray’ engine lid that featured a larger wing, thereby ensuring greater rear end grip.
Part of the appeal of this race series was that it would attract twelve of the best racing drivers from a number of different racing disciplines, all names that were well-known in racing circles around the world. The drivers included: Emerson Fittipaldi, Denny Hulme, A.J. Foyt, Mark Donohue, George Follmer, Peter Revson, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Richard Petty, Bobby Unser, Roger McCluskey and Gordon Johncock. In addition, to ensure that the playing field was level each time, the cars were maintained by a core of mechanics with no interference from the teams.
One of the key aspects of the series was ample good TV coverage and this was the responsibility of Mike Phelps, one of the three IROC partners. Clear numbering and driver names on the cars, combined with the distinctive colouring, ensured easy identification of drivers at the track and on TV. Drivers too, were well rewarded for their participation, ensuring that only the best pilots in their respective disciplines would be encourage to accept an invitation to participate.
The author, Matt Stone, has produced a well researched, well written and thoroughly useful record of the IROC races, drivers, cars and teams, explaining all aspects of this little known series. Not surprisingly, the cars have become known as the IROC Porsches, and are today highly sought after as there were just 15 original cars produced in period. To this end, the author has included a chapter that explains the cars, and how Porsche went about producing them in Stuttgart.
Another chapter is devoted to listing all twelve drivers, giving a profile of each one. Also included here is a section on who you might have expected to have made it, but didn’t. Then a chapter on the rules explains how the series worked, and how the organisers set up the challenge to ensure it was fair for all, but also exciting for the spectators. A whole chapter is given over to the Finale which was run at Daytona, this race featuring just the top six cars, not the full field of twelve. You will have to read the book to find what a nail biting conclusion to the series it was!
A really interesting and useful chapter is devoted to a car-by-car catalogue with each car’s history in period, and since. For the studious Porschephiles, all chassis numbers are listed making this a great record of these special racers. The IROC series would carry on afterwards for several decades, but never again would it feature Porsche and never again would it field such a diverse selection of race drivers. That first season was truly epic, as those around to see it at the time, will testify. The final chapter of the book offers a look at the post-Porsche IROC period.
The author has made a great selection of images, combining B&W and colour images with relevant documentation scans, and some great double-page spread colour images. The pages are not cluttered with too much content, and the text is out of the top drawer – well what would expect from a journalist who has spent his life editing numerous topflight motoring magazines!
Should you buy a copy?
Without question, this is a book you want on your bookshelf amongst your other important Porsche motorsport history titles. With so little being written on this racing series, The IROC Porsches, is an absolute must for Porsche enthusiasts. For a large format book, this is a very reasonably priced book and thoroughly deserving of your attention.
|Title||The IROC Porsches|
|Sub-title||The International Race of Champions, Porsche’s 911 RSR and the Men Who Raced Them|
|Format||Hardback with dust jacket|
|Page count||192 pages|
|Image count||200 colour photos|
|Dimensions||248 x 305 mm (portrait)|
|Price||$60.00 / £45.00|
Written by: Glen Smale