Porsche GT1 - Endurance racing superstar of the late nineties
In the early nineties, there was a new breed of sports cars which were winning in FIA GT championship. Ferrari F40, Jaguar XJ 220 and McLaren F1 GTR were some of the most successful models, but Porsche didn’t have a car to compete with them.
Preparation for success
So, a decision was made to develop a full race car according to FIA GT regulation for competing in GT class and in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, besides the fully prepared racing cars, Porsche, in order to homologate the new model, had to produce 25 road going examples of Porsche 911 GT1.
Porsche wanted to continue its domination in GT class in late 90’s
The new model was officially released in 1996 by the name of Porsche 911 GT1 and the audience were stunned with the glimpse of aggressive and powerful new car. Specifications were equally impressive and the 911 GT1 had a 3,2 flat six engine with two turbochargers delivering around 600 bhp. The race version had around 950 kg and with that weight twin turbo engine could launch the GT1 to 330 km/h. Even though the new car was called 911 GT1, it didn’t share much with the regular 911 except for some suspension components. However, the earlier Porsche 962 race car was used as a basis. Porsche also produced the promised 25 road going cars by the name 911 GT1 Straßenversion. It had two seats, sound isolation, more weight (1150 kg) and less power (540 bhp).
Video: Porsche 911 GT1 onboard at Silverstone
Debut of Porsche 911 GT1 at Le Mans 24 hours
The race debut of 911 GT1 was in the 1996 24 Hours of Le Mans which Porsche won dominating the GT1 class. Joest Racing team Porsche 911 GT1 won the race, with drivers Alexander Wurz, Davy Jones and Manuel Reuter, while Porsche factory team car was second, with Hans-Joachim Stuck, Thierry Boutsen and Bob Wollek behind the wheel. However, it lost the overall victory to Porsche WSC-95 prototype. After the Le Mans success, 911 GT1 entered the BPR Global GT Series where experienced drivers Hans-Joachim Stuck and Thierry Boutsen proved that the new Porsche was fastest on the grid.
For the 1997 season, Porsche revised GT1 with a new aerodynamic package and managed higher speed on long straights. For the 1998 season, Porsche modified GT1, even more, trying to catch Mercedes CLR which proved to be very fast. However, in the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans, GT1 won despite being slower than Toyota or Mercedes. That was 16th Le Mans win for the Porsche which is a record that still holds. The 1999 season was the last for officially entered GT1, and Porsche struggled to compete with Mercedes and Toyota and in 2000 stopped racing. Some privateers used them until 2003 but GT1 was already outdated.
Beside the Le Mans wins, Porsche 911 GT1 had an impressive career with 245 races entered in 144 events. The GT1 won 34 pole positions, scored 47 wins, 25 second and 13 third places. All that was achieved in the period from 1996 to 2003 which commands respect and secures its place in motorsport hall of fame.