APR 24th 2014

ON TRACK TODAY: 1996 PORSCHE 911 GT1 (24/04)

Well okay, it didn’t actually see the Goodwood track. This is a shame because we usually like to see racing machines used the way they were intended. But in this case we can make an exception, because apparently this particular Porsche was never intended to be used in competition.

What we have here is Porsche 911 GT1 chassis number 1; prototype for the 911 GT1 road cars. It was brought here on behalf of its owner (who was a guest at Porsche private track day), and whilst it was sitting by itself in the paddock we couldn’t pass-up the chance to take a closer look.

“Really, it’s great to drive on the road. On the down-side the clutch is very heavy, the gears are super-tall, and its size is a bit of an issue…

“It was never intended to race, despite the livery” says Porsche Retail Group Operations Manager John Manning, who had the enviable task of driving (yes… driving!) the GT1 to Goodwood. “It is mainly used for promotional events. Every now and then it does get driven on a closed circuit, but never in anger. We are very protective of it.”

Since to ask if we could drive it would clearly have been beyond-the-pale, we asked John what it was like. “Really, it’s great to drive on the road. On the down-side the clutch is very heavy, the gears are super-tall, and its size is a bit of an issue. But the motor is torquey, not peaky at all. It’s surprisingly docile, and largely drives like a road car.”

With the prospect of a drive – or even a ride – completely out of the question, we chanced our luck and asked if we could hear it run. John’s hand was opening the door before we’d finished asking, and one brief twist of the key later we were listening to the 962-derived flat six settle down to a steady idle. After a couple of minutes John uttered: “It’s warm now. Do you want to hear it rev?” Did we?! Like giddy, wide-eyed fools we did!

At this point everybody within earshot was paying full attention to the colourful Porsche. Those hoping for a deafening din were disappointed, but the sheer quality of  noise was superb; that evocative Le-Mans-winning flat six thrum, backed up with the sound of the turbos spooling up and the odd pop-pop on the overrun. Petrolhead heaven.

Just a few hours after this John was piloting the GT1 back home on the public roads, and we were way beyond jealous.

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