The automotive world owes many of its advances to rallying. Any manufacturer worth its salt has participated in at least one of the international events. Porsche is no stranger to this scene – even before it took an active interest, the 356’s less eclectic brother, VW’s beetle was out winning some of the most grueling events.
Rallying has come a long way since its roots in the early 1900s and some events even no longer exist due to landscape and population changes, so let’s take a look at Porsche’s top 5 rally cars and how the stallion charged from the rallies of then, to now.
#1: Porsche’s 911, 1986 Paris Dakar Winner
Driven by Rene Metge in the 8th ever event of the Paris-Dakar rally, Porsche’s 911 took the win from Pascal Rigal and Mitsubishi to finish in both second and first places. The Paris-Dakar started out when it’s founder Thierry Sabine got lost in the Tenere Desert in North Africa and decided that it would be a great idea to have a rally from temperate France to Senegal. Porsche’s stellar victory was unfortunately clouded by his death at the start of the 1986 event in a helicopter crash. Many modifications were made to the 911 for the event, so much so that it got dubbed the 953.
In addition to significant suspension modifications, it was also converted to 4×4 using the then cutting edge components from the 959 that had not even reached production.
#2: Cayenne S Transiberia, 2007 Transiberia Rally Winner
To prove the mettle of their Cayenne series of 4×4’s, Porsche custom-tuned the first-generation Cayenne and entered it in the Transiberian Rally. Running from Moscow in Russia to the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar across tough terrain, this rally is not for the faint of heart. To prepare, Porsche picked the juicy bits from the GTS and S models, combining them into one super truck. They used the V8 engine from the GTS and put it through a six-speed Tiptronic transmission with a 4.11 final drive ratio. Features such as bucket seats, diamond plate flooring, and a serious snorkel were also added. Not only did Porsche take the victory in 2007, but in 2008 it took all of the positions awarded. At the time of writing, one of 26 of these desert destroyers is currently on sale in Belgium.
#3: Porsche 924 Carrera GTS
The first turbocharged Porsche rally car, the 924 Carrera featured an inline-four with a maximum boost pressure of 1.0 bar as specified by the FIA. The car was part of a project where Porsche collaborated with the Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG) and all the parts used in this design come from them. This can often be a bone of contention with true Porsche fanatics since the car was even built at the Audi production plant – but it’s the personal favorite of champion driver Walter Rohrl; he successfully completed the 1981 German Championship in this vehicle. In his own words, ‘with this [924 Carrera] we had great fun, beautiful rallies, and much success.’
#4 Porsche 911, 1978 Safari Rally Contender
Possibly the most demanding rally in the world, the Safari Rally is located in Kenya and covers 2,900 miles of semi-desert and savanna. Many contenders have failed to complete the rally due to its poor road surfaces with knife-like stones. It was excluded from the World Rally Championship (WRC) for 17 years due to a lack of finance but is set to return this year as one of the most challenging events of the series. Porsche’s first-ever entrant was the 911, 3.0 liter that participated in the 1978 event and came second, being trounced by the team from Peugeot. Despite the cars being raised and featuring heavy chassis protection, one car suffered axle damage after striking a large rock that was concealed by mud. However, Porsche came up trumps and was the only manufacturer to have both its vehicles complete the course – ironically taking second and third place.
#5: Porsche 911 996, GT3
With the classic Porsche six-cylinder wail, this is the latest incarnation of the iconic 911 to take on the rally scene. Recently winning the Rallye Koln Ahrweiler in Germany with Ruben Zeltner at the wheel, Porsche is once again showing the timelessness of its 911.
Rallying is a diverse and challenging niche in the motorsport arena. Many manufacturers have tried and failed to secure any lasting victories for their marque. Since their participation in the early 50s Porsche has kept its eye on the tach and continues to prove its performance on the rally scene.