It’s a bit strange to think that twenty-five years ago, Porsche planned to take the 959 into international sports car racing. Especially for its time, the tech-heavy 959 was so sophisticated that running one in an endurance race must’ve made the engineers weep and kiss their family lives goodbye. However, it was indeed built to fit into the Group B series of the day.
Porsche initially planned to build these 959-based cars for customer racing teams running to FISA Group B circuit racing regulations. By the time the car reached fruition, however, FISA had shifted Group B to suit rally racing instead, and the circuit Group B customer program was dead in the water. However, development continued on their lone chassis No. 10016. They had to put all that effort and research to good use.
The 961, as it came to be known, did not live an unfulfilled life. Two somewhat successful attempts at Le Mans and one showing at Daytona verified its potential. Not only was it faster than the contemporary BMW M1s at Le Mans, but it was faster than some of the C1 and C2 prototypes, and finished seventh in 1986. Despite its complexity, it was one of the more reliable cars in the field that year.
Power came from a 935 engine, and its 650 horsepower was put to the ground via a modified version of the 959’s drivetrain which favored the rear axle more than the road version did. It also sported a set of brakes from the 962, and benefited from considerable weight loss. In race trim, the 961 weighed only 2,535 pounds. Those states were enough for it to reach an astounding 207 miles an hour down the Mulsanne Straight.
Though Chris Harris’ enthusiasm is visible in the video above, it’s the celebratory cheers made by Roger Green in the footage below that gets the thrill of the 961 across. Though laggy, once the turbos spool around 4,500 rpm, the 961 simply pulls the horizon towards it.