Ernst Fuhrmann’s requirement to develop a significantly updated GT race car in 1977, would present a number of challenges for the Porsche race department. Just to make things interesting, the new car was to race in a class in which they had not competed for almost a decade. But the subsequent work resulted in the creation of one of Porsche’s universal favourites, the 935/2.0 ‘Baby,’ a race car that Norbert Singer and his team could be justly proud of.
In 1977 Porsche competed in the World Championship of Makes, but many of their customers participated in the very popular domestic Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft (DRM). This series was divided into two classes, one for the up to 2-litre cars and one for the over 2-litre cars. The bigger class was dominated by customer 935s, where Ford and BMW found themselves out-classed, and so the other manufacturers turned their attention to the sub-2-litre ranks. With more manufacturers in this ‘smaller’ category, this had the effect of drawing the attention of the media and the public away from the larger displacement class where the 935 was king. To pour fuel on the fire, Ford and BMW said that this was where the ‘real racing’ was happening, and that Porsche was unable to compete in that class because they did not have a 2-litre race car.
This jibe did not sit well with Ernst Fuhrmann, who as Chairman of Porsche, took on the challenge and instructed the motorsport department to build a car that could compete in the 2-litre class of the DRM. This presented Norbert Singer with a couple of headaches, because Porsche did not even have a 2-litre production engine at that time, and the 2-litre DRM class had a very low minimum weight that would prove a real challenge for the 911 to get down to. Fortunately for Porsche, it was in just such circumstances that Norbert Singer thrived.
It would be helpful at this point to take a step back and to explain how the 935 came about in the first place. The Porsche 934 was a turbocharged race car that was eligible to race in the Group 4 class, where externally, only the fender width could be modified to take wider racing tyres and wheels. In 1974, Porsche developed a lightweight turbocharged 911, the Carrera RSR Turbo 2.1, a model which had benefitted from Porsche’s turbo experience in the 917/30 Can-Am developments. When the new regulations were eventually published in 1976, Porsche found that they could substantially modify the 911 for the Group 5 class, the new higher class for all-out race cars. This resulted in the formidable 935 model, which pretty much swept all before it.
In an interview with the author back in December 2015, Norbert Singer cheekily revealed, “We started with the 935 in 1976 when it was clear what we could do. It was based on a 911 of course, and the regulations allowed a lot of things where, let’s say, we found a good interpretation which the FIA people had not really intended.” Where the regulations for example stated that the fenders were free, Singer took this literally and he smoothed the fender line to follow that of the front bonnet. This meant that the headlamps could be relocated to the lower fender position, one of Singer’s favourite aspects of the 935. The term ‘silhouette’ too was not clearly defined in the regulations, and this allowed greater freedom in other areas. What the FIA wanted to avoid, were the ugly wheel arch extensions found on some of the Group 4 cars, and so the rules were more flexible for the Group 5 racers. Thus was born the 935, a model that was to determine the shape of Porsche’s GT race cars for almost a decade.
The 935/2.0 concept
To meet the challenge laid down by Ford and BMW, Fuhrmann’s determination to compete in the smaller capacity class led to the creation of the 935/2.0, or ‘Baby’ as it is affectionately known. This new ‘Baby’ race car was packed to the gunnels with clever features that would combine to make this car really fly.
Norbert Singer, who had only started at Porsche as a young engineer in the racing department in March 1970, took over the Carrera RSR project at the end of 1972 demonstrating his swift rise up through the ranks of the department. Singer, though, was no ordinary engineer, and when an opportunity in the Porsche racing department presented itself he chose that over a career in space science, which may help to explain some of his ‘out of the box’ thinking.
The most popular DRM race was at the Norisring, with easily 100,000 in attendance, and despite the extremely tight timeframe that Singer faced, it looked like they could still make the deadline, although it would not be easy. Singer explains, “On the one side there was the engine development, but on the other side we also had to develop the car, and so we had to make everything lighter. The minimum weight was 730kg, which is pretty hard to get down to with a production based car. We took every piece and looked at how we could make it lighter, because we only had to race for one hour, not 24 hours. That was always what our basic thinking was, would it last for 24 hours, but this was just a one hour race.
“We lightened a lot of parts and in the end, it turned out that we were too light, we had it down to 715kg and so we were 15kg below the minimum weight. We had heard that our competitors, Ford and BMW, were over the minimum weight. So, we had to add 15kg of lead to get the weight up, but because the Norisring had a very open paddock, everybody could walk around and look in the cars and we didn’t want to show them that we were underweight. We decided to hide the extra weight and so the idea was to melt the lead and fill the longitudinal crash barriers in the front. You couldn’t see it, but you couldn’t take it out either (laughs), but it was okay, this was the game.”
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