Though the tech-heavy 959 was made into a Paris-Dakar competitor, the plans for a Group B-destined 961 resulted in one prototype. The latter went to Le Mans, where it finished seventh in 1986, as well as Daytona. After that, the 959-based racers never saw sanctioned action again. Some Porsche builders weren’t too happy with this.
Santarelli Autosport, one of the best known Porsche tuners in France, felt that car’s distinctive shape deserved to be seen on a rally stage rather than fade into anonymity. Designed for French Group F, something similar to Group E1 & E2SH in European hillclimb races, this oddball, known as the 959 RSR, began life as a 930 Turbo. Santarelli’s next step was draping the frame with carbon fiber body parts shaped like a 961’s. Despite using four-wheel drive, two turbochargers, and all the ancillaries that go along with, this 959 RSR weighs in at a scant 2,050 pounds.
A 959-sourced 2.8-liter engine sits over the rear axle, and it sends some 450 horsepower to all four wheels via a G50 gearbox. As you might imagine, traction is immense with 10×16″ wheels in front and 13×16″ wheels in the rear, under which AP Racing brakes reside. If that immense grip ever dulls the driving experience, Fernand Santarelli can twist the wheel of the dampfrad (boost controller) beside the shifter for an additional 60 horsepower.
Not that the experience looks dull whatsoever. Tidy turn-in characteristics, a strong surge of boost in the mid-range, stability at speed, and enough grunt to spin the driven wheels make this a lively car. Though he occasionally gets the car to pivot and dance (4:00), Santarelli more often exploits the immense traction and fires cleanly off all manner of corners. It’s as composed as any, and suggests how effective this kind of car could’ve been.