Porsche 2708 Indy (1987, 1988)

Premiere: 1987 October 11, Laguna Seca raceway, California

Porsche 2708 CART
1988 version that never raced© Porsche

Engine

2649 cc V8 single-turbo
Porsche engine code: 9M0
Fuel: methanol
Max. boost pressure by regulations: 48" of mercury (1.62 bar, 0.62 bar over atmosphere)
Max. torque 342 lb-ft/465 Nm @ 8.500 rpm
Max. power 551 kW @ 11.200 rpm
Redline @ 11.800 rpm

CART

The CART regulations stipulated methanol as the fuel and a single turbocharger. CART stands for Championship Auto Racing Teams. This American open-wheel car racing sanctioning body operated the Indy Car series from 1979. In addition to ovals and road racing tracks, the CART races were held on street tracks and even on a track formed on an airport. So, different aerodynamic kits were needed.

Hans Mezger and Valentin Schäffer in Weissach, March 1987
March 1987 in Weissach, Porsche engine engineers Hans Mezger and Valentin Schäffer© Porsche
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Porsche 2708 aerodynamic testing in wind tunnel
Testing of aerodynamics of the high downforce version© Porsche
Porsche 2708
First Porsche 2708. On the left Peter W. Schutz, CEO of Porsche 1981-1987.© Porsche
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Porsche 2708
© Porsche
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Porsche Indy chassis number 2708 001
Porsche Indy, chassis number 2708 001© Porsche

The car got its name 2708 from its 2.7-litre V8 engine. The single-seater monocoque chassis made of composite aluminium sandwich and plastic sandwich material was constructed in Weissach. The Porsche 2708 was ready by October 1987, but the car was not properly tested, so it was not "ready". Still, to get real racing experience and to satisfy the sponsoring oil company Quaker State, Porsche Cars North America entered the last two rounds of the 1987 CART season.

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Porsche 2708
Note the front brake cooling ducts unique to the 1987 version© Porsche

The first tests on USA soil were carried out at the Portland International Raceway. After that, the car was taken 800 miles south to Laguna Seca raceway in California for its first race. To test the car, Porsche team ran a total of 140 laps of practise! The commentators were excited about the entry of the Porsche Indycar. Although there were very few mechanical problems before the race, the car didn't survive very far into the race.

1987 October 11, Porsche 2708 stopped two times in the beginning of its first race. As these cars don't carry starter motors, once the engine stops, you need external help to get moving.

Porsche Cars North America's racing director Al Holbert commented: "We got water leak out of the water pump. It's not determined whether it's the engine itself or the pump. It can't be repaired". Driver Al Unser senior walked away in anger. A bit later, when the 1983 and 1985 CART Indy Car champion had cooled down, he commented: "Somewhat they've gone the wrong way. Now, whether they have or not, I'm not a designer and I'm not a aerodynamics man or anything else, so I really can't say". So, the engine was the smaller problem - the bigger problem was the bad car. Al Unser left the Porsche team.

Al Holbert, a 5-time IMSA champion (last time in 1986), planned to do the driving by himself on the last race of the 1987 season in Miami.

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Quaker State Porsche 2708
1987 Porsche 2708 in Miami© Porsche

Unfortunately, the car performed poorly and Holbert failed to qualify for the 1987 Miami race. It was clear that the 1987 Porsche 2708 chassis was not competitive and a new car had to be created. The problem was the timing - the new car had to be created in the winter in Germany, so there were not enough chances to test it before the 1988 CART season would start in April in USA.

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Porsche 2708 naked
1988 version in creation (can be told by the bump on the right side where the driver's gear change hand is). Inboard spring/shock units can be seen. © Porsche
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Porsche 2708 in Weissach with body panels removed
1988 version 2708 can be told by the bump on the right side of the cockpit. The 1988 version has new front suspension and no front brake cooling ducts anymore.© Porsche
Porsche Indy engine
The Porsche 9M0 Indy engine. On the back is the Porsche Indy car (1988 version can be told by the body that covers the roll bar). People on the photo: engine engineer Hans-Joachim Esch, chassis engineer and Porsche's research and sports director Helmut Flegl and engine engineer Hans Mezger. © Porsche

Porsche knew they don't have time to properly sort out their own car and for any case, additionally, they fitted a March 88 with the Porsche engine. Porsche arrived at the first 1988 race in Phoenix with two cars - their 1988 version Porsche 2708 and a March. Half of the teams used March chassis and the other half used Lola chassis. It was soon clear that the 1988 version Porsche 2708 is not any good either and the March car had to be used for the qualification and the first race of the season. The 1988 Porsche 2708 was given to Porsche Museum.

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Porsche 2708 CART
This photo of the museum car is misleading - this is a 1988 car but #6 was used by Porsche in 1987 © Porsche
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Porsche 2708
1988 car with wrong number © Porsche
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Porsche 2708
Different gear sets were made for the 6-speed Porsche transmission. 15" wheels are 14" wide at the back and 10" wide at the front.© Porsche

The engine in the 1988 March was still the Porsche unit and the car had Porsche written on it. Porsche driver Teo Fabi finished the season on 10th place.

In 1989, a new March 89 chassis was used. Porsche's research and sports director Helmut Flegl claimed: "We want to provide evidence that we can put the Americans in trouble on their very own territory after 20 months of learning and development". At the Milwaukee Mile oval Teo Fabi finished 3rd. The season gave the Porsche-engined March finally a pole position at Portland road course on June 25, 1989. In his pole run, Teo Fabi made a track record. He was a fast driver.

Teo Fabi, March-Porsche, 1989 CART Portland pole sitter
It must be stressed that the car on the picture is a March with a Porsche engine, it is not a Porsche car. Number 8 was used by Quaker State both in 1988 and in 1989.

Starting from pole position at the Portland Raceway, Fabi finished the 200 miles race fourth. At the Michigan Speedway oval Fabi finished 2nd and then came the second pole position on September 3, 1989, at the Mid-Ohio road racing course. This time Teo Fabi took the CART race victory. In addition to his skilled driving, it was assured by an odd refueling strategy. It remains the only CART victory for the Porsche engine. At the Road America race Fabi finished 2nd and together with five fourth places in the season, Fabi finished the 1989 CART championship on fourth place with 141 points, nine down from the third place.

For the 1990 season there was a new March car again. For the first time, two Porsche-engined cars were entered. The other driver was John Andretti. At the Meadowlands circuit the Porsches even had a 1-2 lead for a moment during a yellow flag period when the Porsche racing manager Derrick Walker didn't call them in for refueling. Interestingly, Porsche team had a telemetry system, so they could monitor the car's fuel consumption in live. Teo Fabi finished the race on 3rd place. At the street race in Denver, he managed to take the pole position, but in the race crashed into the tyre barrier. The 1990 season remained the last for Porsche at CART.


Article © James Herne / Stuttcars.com

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Anniversaries
Oct, 11 – 33rd birthday of the 2708 (1987)
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