Although it is not widely known, one of the most successful Porsche powered race cars ever, was not a Porsche. It was a March GTP car, an 83G that, in the hands of Al Holbert, not only won the 1983 IMSA Camel GT Championship, it also won the 1984 Daytona 24-Hour race outright, in the hands of its new owners, the South African-based ‘Kreepy Krauly’ team.
To uncover the history of this great car, we first of all have to take a look at just how the March-Porsche combination came about.
With the announcement of new rules, both for IMSA and the forthcoming Group C category, March began to develop a GT prototype in 1980, (along with Lola who produced the T600 series) which would use ground effects and also carry a wide variation of engines. John Bishop, the head of IMSA, wanted to break the domination enjoyed by Porsche with their 935 and its derivatives.
The March design team produced a prototype BMW-powered car called the M1C that was raced by David Hobbs and Marc Surer in the IMSA series of 1981. Basically underpowered against the Porsche 935s, the M1C nevertheless earned two pole positions and three top-six finishes. The March 82G followed and has the distinction of being the first car to be designed by Adrian Newey, who has gone on to become a most successful designer of Formula One cars, first with Williams then McLaren and currently Red Bull.
Designed as a customer car, the 82G was built with a honeycomb aluminium monocoque and was a simple, rugged design. The engine bay was capable of accommodating a wide range of engines from Chevrolet’s V8 to Porsche’s turbocharged flat-6 Boxer engine. To fulfil IMSA and Group C regulations, the fuel was contained in a 120-litre bag tank/fuel cell between the rear bulkhead and the engine bay. The front suspension consisted of upper and lower wishbones with outboard coil spring and damper units, whilst at the rear, there were top rocker-operated inboard coil spring/damper units mounted alongside the Hewland gearbox.
The bodywork was designed and developed by Max Sardou who is known for designing the Porsche 917/20 ‘Sau’ or Pink Pig back in 1971. The 82G featured front fenders reaching forward with an adjustable wing between the fenders. This ‘lobster-claw’ front end was to become a March GTP trademark in the years that followed.
Chassis 82G/1 was sold to Bob Garretson who gave the March company a flying start by finishing on the same lap at Sebring in the 1982 Twelve-Hour race as the winning Porsche 935. In Europe, a March works car was run with a 5.8-litre Chevrolet small block but sadly it did not fare well and failed to reward its drivers, Eje Elgh and Jeff Woods, with any victories. The car was then sold to Randy Lanier who, with Marty Hinze, obtained a third and a sixth place in subsequent IMSA races in America.
Dave Cowart and Kenper Miller were stalwart March customers, buying their first GTP car, an 82G, and having a BMW six-cylinder motor fitted. It was underpowered but reliable, the gearbox being the weak point of early Marches. Cowart/Miller finished in the top six at three races in 1982.
Success came March’s way in 1983 when Al Holbert ordered three of the four 83Gs produced, chassis numbers 83G.02, 03 and 04, and made some subtle improvements to them. Holbert won the IMSA Championship for March with these cars, winning at Miami and Laguna Seca (after which he sold the Chevrolet-powered 83G-3 to Dave Cowart and Kenper Miller to replace their aging 82G), and Charlotte, the latter with a Porsche-powered car, 83G-4. Holbert then won at Brainerd, Minnesota, Sears Point and also the Daytona Finale in November with this same car. Incidentally, Cowart and Miller were second at the Daytona Finale, having had Holbert Racing fit a Porsche 935 engine to their 82G. Jim Trueman, Holbert’s co-driver, drove 83G.03 to victory at Mid-Ohio where he shared the victory with Doc Bundy and Bobby Rahal. Pepe Romero and Doc Bundy were on the pole for the Road Atlanta race but a succession of problems dropped them down to finish fifth.
Al Holbert sold 83G.04 immediately after the 1983 season, to the newly formed ‘Kreepy Krauly’ team from South Africa. The three South African drivers, Sarel van der Merwe, Graham Duxbury and Tony Martin, won the first race of the 1984 season, the Daytona 24-Hours, to give March a great start to the year. At Laguna Seca, the March-Porsche won again but by that time, the opposition, in the form of Randy Lanier’s ‘Blue Thunder’ March GTP team had taken over, and they won the Championship.
After 1984, the 83G was sold to the John Hotchkiss team, who used it until they bought their 962. Thereafter, it languished, until bought by the current owner, who has had a meticulous restoration carried out to return the car to its former ‘CRC’ livery, just as Al Holbert raced it in 1983.
The March series of GT prototypes were fast, user-friendly cars that filled out the bulk of IMSA races during 1983 to 1985. It’s interesting to note that only Al Holbert Racing seemed to be able to make a Porsche-powered March win consistently, but then again, Holbert ran a very professional organisation and enjoyed considerable help from Porsche’s engineers.
Used by the top teams and drivers, March GTP cars rewarded their owners with IMSA successes until once again, Porsche turbo-power took over in the shape of the 962.
March GT Prototype histories
1983 – Holbert Racing, chassis 83G/03, Chevrolet power
|Sold to Cowart/Miller|
1983 – Holbert Racing, chassis 83G/04, Porsche 3-litre 935 Turbo engine
|Charlotte 500 Km||Holbert/Trueman||1st|
|Sears Point 3-Hours||Holbert/Trueman||1st|
|Daytona Finale 3-Hours||Holbert/Trueman||1st|
|1983 IMSA Championship winner|
1984 – Rebuilt as 84G, sold to Sarel van der Merwe, #00 Kreepy Krauly sponsored
|4-5/2||Daytona 24-Hours||Van der Merwe/Martin/Duxbury||1st|
|26/2||Miami G.P.||Van der Merwe/Martin||8th|
|24/3||Sebring 12-Hours||Van der Merwe/Martin/Duxbury||DNF|
|29/4||LA Times GP, Riverside||Van der Merwe/Martin||6th|
|06/5||Laguna Seca||Van der Merwe||3rd|
|20/5||Charlotte||Van der Merwe||DNF|
|28/5||Lime Rock||Van der Merwe||1st|
|10/6||Mid-Ohio||Van der Merwe/Martin||5th|
|Sold to John Hotchkiss|
|28/4||Riverside 500 Km||Hotchkiss/Adams||5th|
|Sold to present owner – 1988|
March chassis 84G/03 was a sister car to Holbert’s 83G/04, and was powered by a twin-turbo Porsche 2649 cc engine. This car participated in the 1985 Le Mans 24 Hours being entered by the South African ‘Kreepy Krauly’ team and driven by Christian Danner, Graham Duxbury and Almo Coppelli, but it unfortunately finished well down in 22nd place. This selection of images shows the #34 Kreepy Krauly chassis 84G/03 while testing at the South Wales circuit at Pembrey back in 2016 before being shipped to the USA. The Pembrey Circuit was a popular testing venue for British Formula One teams, and was reputedly one of Ayrton Senna’s favourite circuits.
Just as a bit of background, it is not widely known that Sarel van der Merwe won the South African Rally Drivers Championship a record eleven times in 1975, from 1977 to 1985 and again in 1988. He was a household name in South Africa back in the day, earning the nickname ‘Supervan’.
Written by: John Starkey
Images by: John Starkey, Porsche Archives & Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale