Porsche’s screaming V8 wasn’t Labeled “Porsche Indy” without reason. A win at Indy was the real eventual goal of the effort. But this type of racing on this type of track was a huge leap for the company in the three years they contended the race there. Doing photographic coverage of the race those years, I too was well outside my comfort zone, in a mass of people the like of which I had never seen at a racing event, working with significant photographic restrictions, shooting cars that ran tremendous average speeds with little slowing for the fast, swooping corners and no real chance for a head-on shot.
Following the premature birth of 2708 at Laguna the year before, the development year of 1988 saw Teo Fabi, who had both F1 and prior Indy experience, as Porsche’s main driver. The car itself evolved dramatically. Porsche did aerodynamic studies, and reconfigurations to make the airflow presented to the redesigned rear wing smoother. The V8 underwent continuous and needed improvement. On the basis of decisions apparently made by Al Holbert, Porsche chassis versions were eventually replaced—one could argue prematurely—by a series of cars in which the chassis was made by March, who also built chassis for other Indy car teams.
The most successful year overall for the Porsche effort was 1989
Fabi was on the podium for the first time at the Milwaukee race, and was second at Michigan, putting him in line for a possibility for the championship. Driving the team’s spare car, he won overall at Mid-Ohio. He was second at Elkhart Lake, but then retired at Nazareth and crashed at Laguna Seca, winding up in fourth place at the end of the season.
The final season, 1990, saw a considerably redesigned car. To finance a two-car team for Indy (with John Andretti as the second driver), Porsche had advertised in the Wall Street Journal for an additional sponsor, landed Fosters, and accordingly changed the dominant color of the car to an attractive blue. A late rules change voted by other teams required March to redesign the chassis, and the radically different 90P was not ready until Indy. Following a rainy qualifying, on race day the two Porsches worked their way up to seventh and eighth by the 132nd lap, but Fabi’s clutch blew and Andretti had suspension damage after a frozen rear sway bar led to a brush with the wall.
Although Porsche had a good engine and a promising plan for the future that included moving to the newly ascendant Lola chassis for the next year, the entire project sadly was killed by politics, money, and a lack of will to persevere, leaving a permanent scar on Porsche’s record.