Porsche 961 (1986)

Premiere: May 9, 1986 Le Mans test day

The Porsche 961 was the racing version of the 959 supercar. While the 959 rallye car was also internally called 961, publically only the circuit racer was called 961. Only one 961 was built. It had 959 prototype chassis number which in turn was from the 1985 911 Turbo chassis number sequence: WP0ZZZ93ZFS010016.

Porsche 961
© Porsche
Porsche 961
The 961 is not just wider than the 959, the body panels have different shapes© Porsche
Porsche 961 rear wing
Adjustable rear wing is unique to 961 (the rear wing of the 959 was not adjustable) © Porsche
Porsche 961 front lid
Unique front lid © Porsche

The 961 was entered at the 1986 Le Mans 24 hour race. Uncommonly, the 24 hour race was scheduled for May 31-June 1 that year, two weeks earlier of the typical Le Mans weekend in the middle of June.

1986 Le Mans, Porsche 962 and 961
1986, end of May at Le Mans, the Porsche 962 #1 would win the 24 hour race on June 1© Porsche
1986 Le Mans, Porsche 961
1986 May 31, Le Mans before the start of the round-the-clock endurance race© Porsche

The 961 was the first 4WD car to race at Le Mans. In reality, most of the engine power was sent to the rear axle. The 961 did well and finished 7th driven by Claude Ballot-Léna and René Metge (Metge had won the Paris-Dakar rallye with the 959 in the beginning of the year). Six cars in front of the 961 were all Group C Porsches, so the 961 took the maximum out of the race. The 961 had the 936/956/962 Group C racer engine with 24 valves and water-cooled heads.

1986 Le Mans 7th place Porsche 961 #180 of Claude Ballot-Léna/René Metge © Porsche

The 961 was raced only one more time in 1986, at the Daytona 3 hour race, but without success.

1986 Daytona, Porsche 961
1986 October 26, the 961 at Daytona© Porsche

For 1987 Le Mans, the power of the 961 was raised from 471 kW (640 DIN hp) to around 500 kW (680 DIN hp).

Porsche 961
1987 Le Mans livery© Porsche
Porsche 961
© Porsche
Porsche 961
© Porsche
Porsche 961 rear wing
Adjustable Gurney flap © Porsche
Porsche 961
Wider tyres installed for 1987 © Porsche
Porsche 961
The already wide 961 could be called "fat" in its 1987 trim. Look at it! © Porsche

With the enormous power and 1150 kg (2535 lb), the 961 should have been fast, but it didn't get a solid qualification time and in the race the drive shafts broke more than once. Thanks to 4WD, the car could return to the pits for repairs. In the morning, the car was crashed. Visually it wasn't damaged too badly and looked repairable, but fire started in the engine room, ending the Le Mans for it.

1987 Le Mans, damaged Porsche 961
1987 Le Mans, the 961 after the engine room fire © Porsche

The 961 was restored and given to Porsche Museum collection.

Porsche 961 in Porsche Museum
The 961 in the Porsche Museum © Stuttcars.com

Article © Stuttcars.com

Continue to Porsche 962
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