The wonderful 1997 Porsche 911 GT1 Evolution

Porsche and Le Mans are synonymous in motor sport. And when the FIA GT Championship really took off in the 1990s, the brand was determined to return to endurance racing in this category. McLaren and Ferrari were among the first to compete in GT1; Ferrari with a racing version of its F40, McLaren with its F1 (below).

McLaren F1 GTR

The latter scored a number of wins including at Le Mans in 1995, and all of a sudden Porsche’s territory was being invaded. It had nothing new to race… but then something clicked. Its engineers and designers realised that almost everyone in GT1 was approaching things from the wrong angle, by taking existing supercars and adapting them for track use. Porsche considered that this limited potential. Its answer? To build the perfect circuit car that could then be detuned and adapted for the street. The result was the 911 GT1.

Raced by Hans-Joachim Stuck, Thierry Boutsen and Bob Wollek in 1996, it took the GT1 victory on its first attempt and finished just a lap behind the overall winner. In fact, it would score a one-two in GT1 and place second and third in the overall standings. But for the Porsche factory team only an outright win would suffice, and with more honing it produced the 911 GT1 Evolution. Neither this nor the GT1 much resembled the 911 – but the look was still in there somewhere.

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Building a track-focused car meant placing a great emphasis on handling and performance. The mid-mounted engine helped give great stability in corners due to a low centre of gravity and even weight distribution. This set-up would also affect the aerodynamics, which, combined with the 600bhp 3164ce flat-six and twin KKK turbos, meant the carbonfibre-Kevlar-bodied car could reach nearly 200mph. The Evolution’s important updates included improved aerodynamics, as well as a wider front axle and reworked suspension. A modified engine-management system gave faster acceleration, too.

Built for the 1997 season, chassis 004 was the first of three factory 911 GT1s with the 996-style headlights. At Le Mans it qualified third, but ultimately its gearbox failed, and its best result was third at Laguna Seca. It was then used by Klaus Bytzek in the Canadian GT Championship for several years and served as a T-car at Daytona in 2001.

Having retired from racing in 2005, it was then purchased by US collector Phil Bennett. Three years later, it joined the formidable Porsche collection of Matt Drendel, who had it restored to its 1997 Le Mans livery. Following the Drendel sale, the car has joined a couple of the most significant collections in the world, prior to joining the RSR Collection some eighteen months ago. It is one of only two factory 911 GT1s in private hands.

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