What It’s Like Driving the Wild Porsche 911 GT1 Straßenversion on Public Roads
The most hardcore 911 ever, tweaked slightly for public consumption.
Porsche might have dominated Group C racing with its 956 and 962 prototypes, yet by the mid-1990s, the new GT1 scene called for something beefier than the GT2-spec 911s they had in store at the time. With the mostly mid-engined competition of Jaguar XJ220s, Ferrari F40 LMs and more, along with front-engined contenders such as Chrysler Viper GTS-Rs, Porsche's Robert Singer knew exactly what to do. Yet to jam a mid-engine Le Mans prototype between the 993's, and then the 996's headlights and taillights against the upgraded McLaren F1 GTRs of 1996, Porsche also had to build 25 road-going homologation specials. These are known as the GT1 Straßenversions, and by the end of 1998, the company finished a total of 23, while the race cars won pretty much everything they were supposed to.
Of the 23 left-hand drive cars, only the first two came with 993 light units, while the blue 996-spec Tiff Needell got to drive up in the Scottish Highlands is a 1997 car belonging to car collector @fossilfurious, showing a respectable 10,388 miles on the clock. Make no mistake: Straßenversion or not, the 991 GT1 is little more than a 962 rear chassis bolted to a 993 Turbo's steel body. Of course nowadays, one can also make an ex-Daytona 24 Hours racing version road-legal, at least in Europe. Porsche only built 18 911 GT1 racing prototypes.
In terms of real-world practicality, the 911 GT1 Straßenversion would fall between the Formula 1-derived Ferrari F50 and the Strada version of the GT Champion Maserati MC12, yet also definitely higher than any of the road-going Mercedes-Benz CLK GTRs. That still may not be very user friendly, but this car was purely made to bend the FIA's rules and win races, making both McLaren and Ferrari very upset in the process.
In 1998, Porsche managed to finish with a 1-2 at Le Mans. Interestingly, one of the reasons why they succeeded despite being slower than both the Mercedes-Benz cars or Toyota's GT-Ones was that Porsche's new sequential gearbox was more reliable than the competition's. Meanwhile, both the road-bound and racing 1997 911 GT1s came with synchronized gear rings, which lead to a smoother, yet slower shifting experience.
On a wet Scottish road surrounded by sheep, this twin-turbocharged, 554-horsepower "911" remains hard to keep at bay, but not for somebody like 14-time Le Mans veteran Tiff Needell, who only drove a 911 GT1 around a parking lot in period. Not this time, however.
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