There’s nothing quite like the sight of a grid full of bewinged, flame-spitting racing Porsche 911s. And the 911 race at Members’ Meeting in March will indeed be nothing like that…
There won’t be a ducktail spoiler or Martini livery in sight. Not even a Weber carb or ventilated disc brake. Think instead 2.0-litre engine, short wheelbase, steel wheels and skinny tyres.
“A race like this has never been held before and it’s going to make a fantastic spectacle”
This is Porsche 911 racing from the mid 1960s when the Porsche 911 – or 901 as people were still calling it at the time – was still in short trousers.
With its classic coupé profile and aircooled flat-six barking in their most unadulterated forms, it is this car that will be taking centre stage for the inaugural John Aldington Trophy race at the 73rd Members’ Meeting on Sunday 22 March. And while the cars might not be as fast as RSRs or 935s, they do promise to put on the closest 911 race you have ever seen.
Specific regs designed especially for this race will ensure that all the cars are as they would have been if homologated for racing in 1965. It’s a level of historical authenticity that, given how quickly and extensively the 911 evolved, can’t always be taken for granted with early 911 racers.
A field of around 30 pre-1967 2.0-litre short-wheelbase cars is lined up for the John Aldington Trophy – named after the man who founded Porsche Cars Great Britain. In period, these 911s were not massively fast against bigger-engined competition, and they did come with interesting handling – Porsche famously welded lead weights behind the front bumper of some cars to help counteract the pendulum effect of such a tail-heavy machine.
But the car that would grow up to dominate GT and sports cars racing for the next half century also boasted bulletproof reliability, an attribute that rapidly paid dividends in rallying and endurance events, often with a chap called Vic Elford driving. The sheer durability of the thing also endeared it to weekend racers.
So what can we expect when the flag drops at the 73rd Members’ Meeting on the Sunday? ‘A fair and close race between what should be very evenly matched cars,’ says Andy Prill of historic Porsche racing specialists Maxted-Page & Prill Limited, which is fielding two cars for the event.
“Early 911s are thrilling but challenging little cars to drive. You have to keep the revs up and with the car’s liking for oversteer it’s all a bit knife-edge”
‘911 regulations can be a bit hard to police but the easy-to-check eligibility criteria mean the cars here will be absolutely in the spirit of 911 racing in 1965. A race like this has never been held before and it’s going to make a fantastic spectacle, a highlight of the Members’ Meeting.’
As well as 2.0-litre capacity only, the regs specify Solex carbs (rather than the Webers of the later 911S), Bosch single-coil ignition and aluminium rather than magnesium for crankcase material. Minimum weight is 1002kg and there are restrictions too on wheel track, brakes (must be non ventilated), anti-roll bars, ride height and wheels and tyres (5.5-inch wide rims and Dunlop L section tyres).
Making one car rise above the rest will be all about preparation, says Andy Prill. A good rebuilt engine should put out between 160-180bhp (the first 911 road car had 130), but of equal importance, he says, will be choosing the best gear ratios for a fast circuit like Goodwood. Several gear sets were homologated by Porsche in the 1960s, and thus are available to be used; Andy reckons correct gearing will mean about 125mph down the Lavant Straight.
Setting up the handling is also key. ‘They were never bad handling cars, they just oversteered a bit more than front-engined cars,’ Andy adds. Even so, with a well-prepared car likely to come in under the weight limit some ballast may be needed – ‘and up front is definitely the place to put it.’
It’s still likely that only the brave will be lifting – which should ensure some spectacular racing action.
‘There are sure to be some offs, especially if it’s wet,’ Mark Bates, of Porsche racing specialists EB Motorsport in Barnsley, tells us. ‘Early 911s are thrilling but challenging little cars to drive. You have to keep the revs up and with the car’s liking for oversteer it’s all a bit knife-edge. It will bite back if you don’t know what you are doing.’
The race will be Mark’s first time competing at Goodwood. He will be driving his light ivory 1965 911 that made its racing debut at the Spa Six Hours last year after a three-year, bare-metal rebuild.
‘I found the matching-numbers car in Vancouver and had it shipped over. Even project cars are now highly sought-after. Early 911 racing has grown in the last five years and the Aldington Trophy will take it to another level – you get grids full of Cobras and GT40s but there’s never been anything like this before for the 911.’
A couple of the cars lining up for honours have period race history, including the star, the actual 911 that won the 1967 European Touring Car Championship. We have seen some of the cars before – three took part in the Fordwater Trophy at Revival last year – but they’ve never been in a race all to themselves before. It will be an international field too, with drivers from Germany, Spain, Switzerland and South America taking part.
And if you want to join them? A ’65 race car is going to be £150,000 and £200,000, and ‘more if it has a history’, according to Andy Prill. It’s a lot – but also a great deal less than some ’60s historics.
What about building your own? With 911 prices on the up, a project car is going to cost from £50,000, with another £50k or so needed for the conversion to race car.
There’s little doubt about the rich rewards on offer from racing an early 911, though. If you’re good, that is. Like Mark Sumpter. Take a look here at just how sweetly he makes his 911 dance around Goodwood.
Says Andy Prill: ‘Can’t wait to get out there. It’s going to be a great race, for drivers and spectators. All we need now is a European series for early 911s like the old 356 Cup!’