1998 Porsche 911 (996) GT1-98 Pilots: A. McNish, S. Ortelli, L. Aïello Team: Porsche AG Race: 1st overall (GT1 class) at Le Mans in 1998 Spark - 43LM98 (resin)
Since the 956 and 962, Porsche didn’t have a works team. In the early 90’s the manufacturer concentrated their racing efforts in the racing version of the 911, sold to privateers. But in the mid-1990’s, with the advent of the GT1 class, Porsche started the development of a 911 based car. At the time, what most manufacturers did was heavily modifying a road car into a GT1 car. However, Porsche didn’t follow the norm by developing a race version of the road-going 911. Instead, in 1996 they created what was effectively a purpose built sports-prototype, the 911 GT1. For 1998, FIA drastically changed the rules and road car requirements were all but scratched. Interestingly, regulations determined that only one street-legal version of the car was enough for homologation.
With the new rules Porsche started working on the new car. It would be a full-blown prototype race car, in design and construction – the all-new GT1-98. One of the big features of the car was its full carbon fiber monocoque chassis, a first for Porsche. Lighter and stronger than the previous steel chassis, it allowed a more advanced front suspension. The engine was a 3198 cm³ flat-6 with 24 valves and DOHC, delivering 536 ponies to the tarmac. Only three cars were made, two for the works team and one street-legal version.
At Le Mans that year Porsche enrolled both cars, and they would face Toyota’s GT-One and Nissan’s R390 GT1. Even though small problems required lengthy pit stops, both cars managed to finish on top and only one lap apart. The GT1-98 is one of my all-time favorite prototypes, a true grail model. Last year I bought the Altaya version of the car, which in effect is a quite decent model. But for this one I had to have a GOOD model, so I finally got the Spark version. And I couldn’t be happier: AWESOME car!