Porsche 936/78 and 936/81

Premiere: 1978 June, Le Mans

1981 Le Mans winner

Jules-sponsored Porsche 936/81
© Porsche
936/78 936/81
Engine 2.1-litre flat-6, bi-turbo 2.65-litre flat-6, bi-turbo
Gearbox 5-speed 4-speed

For the 1978 Le Mans, Porsche created two new 936/78. The first one was built using chassis 936-001, which had already served for the 936/76 and 936/77. The second car was built on a new chassis and numbered 936-003. Because of the new water-cooled 24-valve engine, the 936/78 came with huge NACA ducts on the sides for the radiators and a new rear end with hanging spoiler.

Porsche 936/78 side air inlet
Side air ducts of the 936/78 © Porsche
Porsche 936/78 rear spoiler
Unique rear spoiler © Porsche
1978 Le Mans start: the pace car is the European Car Of The Year 1978, Porsche 928. The #5 Porsche 936/78 (936-003) has the red rear wing and the #6 936/78 (936-001) has the blue rear wing. The #7 car is a 936/77 (936-002). © Porsche

The 936/78 #5 (936-003) of Jacky Ickx, Jochen Mass and Henri Pescarolo that won the qualification of the 1978 Le Mans, had to retire because of an accident on Sunday. Ickx joined the #6 car of Jürgen Barth and Bob Wollek. Renault Alpine won, the surviving 936/78 (936-001) finished second and third place was taken with a 936/77 (936-002). As the 936/78 cars (936-001 and -003) were made only for Le Mans, they were put under covers after the race.

1978 Le Mans, Porsche 936/78
1978 Le Mans 2nd place 936/78 (chassis number 936-001) © Porsche

For 1979 Le Mans, Porsche made a sponsorship contract with David Thieme's company called Essex Overseas Petroleum. The name of the company is rather little known because it was shut down a few years later when Thieme was arrested. A month before Le Mans, one of the Essex-sponsored cars (936-001) was used at the 1979 Silverstone 6 hour race, but was badly crashed. Miraculously, the car was repaired for Le Mans.

1977 Le Mans, Essex Porsche 936
1979 Le Mans, #14 Porsche (936-001) of Bob Wollek and Hurley Haywood © Porsche
1977 Le Mans, Essex Porsche 936
1979 Le Mans, #12 Porsche (936-003) of Jacky Ickx and Brian Redman© Porsche

Like at Silverstone, bad luck struck also at Le Mans. The 936 #12 (936-003) driven by Brian Redman got a puncture at the speed of around 150 mph/240 km/h. The tyre exploded into pieces ripping off left rear bodywork and bending the radiator that is located in front of the left rear wheel. The car looked really bad, but Redman managed to drive to the pits without the left rear tyre. The car was fixed up as much as possible and sent back to the track. Then another problem stroke - the belt of the fuel injection pump ripped. A replacement belt was in the car and Ickx managed to install it, but it ripped again soon. A mechanic delivered a new belt to the track, but that was the violation of rules and the car was disqualified. Pole-setting 936 #14 (936-001) of Bob Wollek and Hurley Haywood was also forced into retirement when the engine failed on Sunday morning. Despite the #14 Porsche taking the pole position and the #12 Porsche setting the fastest race lap, no honours for the 936 at Le Mans in 1979.

In 1980, the Porsche factory team raced at Le Mans only with the 924 Carrera GTR cars, but they were back in top class for 1981 with the 936. Because of the new 2.65-litre engines the cars were now called 936/81 (chassis 936-001 and -003). The 2.65-litre engine was originally developed for the 1980 Interscope indy formula car and pumped out in the region of nine hundred horsepower. Porsche withdraw from formula racing in USA before the first race as their engine was considered too powerful and Porsche was not interested in lowering the boost pressure. It was lowered, though, for the endurance racing when the 2.65-litre engine was installed in the Le Mans car. The power was decreased by around thirty percent, now with just above six hundred horsepower. Instead of the 5-speed gearbox, a stronger 4-speed unit was used together with the 2.65-litre engine.

The #11 Porsche 936/81 (936-003) started the 1981 Le Mans from pole position and won the race driven by Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell. All the factory built 936 had now won Le Mans: chassis 002 in 1976, 001 in 1977 and 003 in 1981.

1981 Le Mans, Jules-sponsored Porsche 936/81
1981 Le Mans winning 936/81 of Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell © Porsche
1981 Le Mans, Jacky Ickx helmet
1981 Le Mans, Jacky Ickx in the winning 936 © Porsche
1981 Le Mans poster, Porsche 936/81
© Porsche

The #12 Porsche 936/81 (936-001) of Jochen Mass, Vern Schuppan and Hurley Haywood had technical problems and finished 42 laps down from the winner. The factory 936 cars were not used anymore after the 1981 Le Mans as the new closed-cockpit Group C Porsche 956 with the same engine was to be made for the next season.

After the three factory built 936 and the Joest built car, a fifth 936 spyder was created by Kremer Racing for the 1982 season. The car looked like 936/78 (or /81) except it didn't have the NACA ducts on the sides as it was using the older air-cooled engine. For the 1982 season Kremer and Joest both also created their Group C closed racing cars using 936 parts. The Joest car was even called 936C, while the bodywork of Kremer's rather cool CK5 didn't look like 936 at all.

Article © Stuttcars.com

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