Porsche 961 #203 – Spark

1986 Porsche 961
Pilots: C. Haldi, K. Nierop, R. Metge
Team: Porsche AG / Rothmans
Race: DNF (IMSA class) at Le Mans in 1987
Spark - S0961 (resin) 

Published 11/04/19

Porsche 961 #180 (06/15/17):
When Porsche started developing the 959, the basic idea was to have a possible substitute for the 911. To get the most out of the program, it could also be used as a rally car. But since it would be legal for Group B rallying, why not modify it for Le Mans? And that’s how the 961 came to be – a 959 for La Sarthe. The 961 was very similar to the 959 road car, but with a wider body and larger rear wing. The engine was the same Typ 935/76 boxer-6. Displacing 2849 cm³, it originally delivered over 440 hp, but for racing that went up to 640 hp. The famous driver-adjustable damper and suspension systems were deleted, to lower the weight and keep things simpler.

With the exaggerated body work this could easily pass as a Group 5 car.

The 961 wasn’t a big priority for Porsche, almost just an experiment. With that, only one car came out of Stuttgart, chassis #WP0ZZZ93ZFS010016. It was ready for the Le Mans test session in early May, 1986. It was a pretty quick car, doing better than the Group B BMW M1 and even quicker than some C1 and C2 cars. Though starting in 26th place, it finished in seventh place overall. The following year Porsche’s four wheel-drive car was back, as 961 #203. 

961 #203
Somebody got wider…

And this time with Rothmans war paint and again with René Metge at the wheel. Now homologated for the IMSA class, the 961 #203 started in 31st place. Lady Luck, however, did not smile to the 961 that year. On lap 199, with Nierop on the wheel, the car spun and hit the wall. The pilot was unhurt, but the car caught fire (2m2s video) and was abandoned on the side of the track.

961 #203
To think such a gorgeous car was reduced to a smoking wreck…

And that was the end of the racing career of the 961. The fire totally destroyed the car, but fortunately Porsche recovered the wreck and years later restored it. So now you can see the 961 #203 in the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart. And fortunately for us collectors, Spark makes a beautiful version of the car in 1:43. But as always, the model comes without the Rothmans decals. Within five minutes however the livery was complete and the model shining.

961 #203
Five minute decal job to make it look complete. Thank you, Spark!

I already had the #180 of 1986 version of the car, and the #203 is much harder to find. I recently got a chance to grab one, though for a lot more than what I paid on the #180. But what the hey, since I love the 959 so much, I couldn’t say no to the opportunity. And I’m glad I did, because it’s a duesy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *