JAN 14th 2015

Video: Chris Harris throws a Porsche 997 Cup car around a rally stage!

The Porsche 997 Cup car was, when it was in production between 2009 and 2012 the best selling one-make racing car in the world. It was designed specifically for the Carrera cup and F1-supporting Supercup series. It runs a 450hp 3.8-litre flat six, a six-speed sequential gearbox and offers very little in terms of chassis adjustment.

It was supposed to separate the men from the boys – to be difficult and challenging to drive. The problem was, it was also highly eligible in all sorts of endurance racing series around the world and people began tweaking them. They also spotted a niche in some national rally series, most notably in Spain, Germany and Belgium – and the cars began appearing on tarmac events, wowing the crowds with oversteer and proper engine noise.

It is way too simplistic to assume that rallying has never fully-recovered its soul since the death of Group B, but the mechanical spectacle has probably been lacking. Even in the Mitsubishi/Subaru heyday it was the outrageous driving more than the cars which captivated us. What rallying needs is noise and slip angles. What rallying currently has is turbocharging and differentials that really only want the racing line – both are the enemies of the bobble-hatter.

“it is a clear favourite with the fans – quite what the big WRC manufacturer teams make of the attention being siphoned away from their 4WD machines is anyone’s guess”

The FIA slowly cottoned-on to the fact that driving the rear wheels and making more noise might re-engage a lost audience, so it came up with a set of regulations called RGT which allow people other then OEMs to homologate interesting rear-wheel drive cars for use in international events. Now most people looked at the regs and thought, ‘That’s a lot of money and work to go and be blown away by an off-the-shelf R5 Fiesta’, but one lunatic from Banbury thought otherwise.

‘It’s already cost a lot, and it’ll cost more, but that’s not the point, this project is built on passion,’ says Richard Tuthill of Tuthill Porsche, who is in fact the lunatic mentioned above.

He genuinely thought it would be possible to buy a 997 Cup car, bolt on some suspension and gear ratios and be away – but that didn’t turn out to be the case.

Richard’s an old friend of mine, and I can remember wandering into his main workshop about a year ago and seeing someone cutting the rather lovely Porsche roll-cage from the car he’d bought.  To meet the FIA side-impact regs, he needed to design and fit an entirely new cage. That’s quite a bit of work.

As was altering all the suspension to Exe-tc springs and dampers, altering the entire set-up for the increased ride-height, fitting newer, smaller brakes. Then there was endless small stuff like finding space for a spare tyre, changing the fuel tank and once all of that was done, and Richard was slightly wincing at the bill, the FIA’s engine people decided that the car was probably a bit too damn fast, so just before its WR debut on Rally Germany last summer, they made him run an intake restrictor that really killed the power.

For Rallye France, Richard gave the car to Francois Delecour, the FIA increased the size of the intake restrictor to 39mm and the car began to fly. Just like in Germany it was a clear favourite with the fans – quite what the big WRC manufacturer teams make of the attention being siphoned away from their 4WD machines is anyone’s guess. But I sincerely hope they see it as a positive thing for the sport. After all, a Porsche is never going to beat a WRC car.

The car in the video is the next stage of development and has not been done before. Yes, there are many tarmac-spec 996 and 997 Cup cars out there, but lifting one and adding big-drop Exe-tc shocks is not natural Porsche territory. Richard tried to get an entry into Rally GB last November, but the homologation of the front suspension couldn’t be completed in time. I think you’ll see from the video that it really was the spectators’ loss.

So this is a modern, gravel-spec 997. It has around 360hp, drives only the rear wheels, has ample steering lock and no exhaust silencing. Just imagine the Welsh forests booming to twenty of these things on Rally GB 2015.

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