That Mini Six-Wheeled Porsche Is the Star of the World’s Most Delightful Endurance Race
Japan’s K4-GP is like a competition between motorsport’s most legendary cars, except they’re all tiny.
In recent days, you might've seen a photo of a wonky, small, six-wheeled Porsche 935 knockoff floating around social media. It's the kind of thing you'd expect from one of those car render sites, not from, say, an engineer who designed real Le Mans prototypes. But boy, do I have news for you. Not only is that the case, it barely scratches the surface of the zany tribute cars that go wheel-to-wheel at an amateur race in Japan.
This Rothmans Porsche-parodying "Lostmans Push" was built to compete in an affordable-car endurance race called K4-GP, held twice a year at Fuji Speedway. Put on by performance shop Mad House, K4-GP is meant to be a cheap, approachable, low-stakes race with a 1,200-cc displacement limit and a strict fuel cap. Racers are allowed no more than 100 liters (26.4 gallons) for the race in the top class, making the event kind of a hypermiling competition—though nothing's stopping you from just driving flat-out.
It also means most of the field is filled out by Japan's smallest class of highway-legal vehicle, kei cars. Naturally, the "ABCs" of kei sports cars (Autozam AZ-1, Honda Beat, Suzuki Cappuccino) are a common sight, though the way they're dressed up is anything but ordinary. Because K4-GP isn't meant to be serious, cars often cosplay as historic racers. You may have already seen photos from a 2017 K4-GP race where a Mazda 787B-livered Autozam shared the track with a Cappuccino in a Team Oreca Viper costume. (The latter seems to have a sister car decorated as a Corvette C7.R, too.)
But people go further than silly liveries and slapdash bodywork. Scan the field, and you'll spot recognizable, but oddly proportioned replicas of cars like the Porsche 962 and Ferrari F40 LM. The August 2023 race's entry list indicates they're based on the Nissan Saurus Jr., a one-liter sports car that weighs under 900 pounds.
There's also a Ford GT40 replica called the GT35—you get one guess why. According to Motorz, it consists of a Kawasaki jet ski engine crammed in a chassis from "Cadwell." (That may be a misspelling of Caldwell, a family of junior formula chassis). Obviously though, nothing quite compares to that six-wheeled Porsche clone.
This car is a mind-bending tribute to two of the late '70s most iconic race cars, the six-wheeled Tyrrell P34 Formula 1 car and longtail Porsche 935/78, nicknamed "Moby Dick." It's officially entered as the P9111111—that's nine and three elevens—by Takuya Yura, car designer and founder of Japanese motorsports constructor Mooncraft. They made Mazda's early Le Mans prototypes, before Mazda started its in-house program that culminated in the victorious 787B.
That's one hell of a build pedigree, and the car appears as well-engineered as you'd expect. Its entry describes its chassis as an "original vehicle," so it's a true prototype. According to a post on Twitter, its four-wheel-steer front end is assembled from kart parts, including kart tires. If there's anyone capable of designing a kart-based four-wheel-steering system, it's probably an engineer behind multiple Le Mans cars.
So how'd it run? Well, that depends on how you define winning. According to a Redditor, it finished 109th overall in a field of 128 cars, 82 laps behind the leader. But remember, this race is technically a hypermiling contest, so it's pretty clear the P9111111 wasn't going for that win. If it was, it wouldn't have clocked the second-fastest lap of the whole race.
At that pace, I don't care where it finished, and I suspect you don't either. That kicks ass. Everything about this race does. It's like if the 24 Hours of Lemons took place in Japan, and didn't allow BMW E30s. Sounds about perfect to me, even if it is only lots of hypermiling.
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