959 was designed to comply with FIA Group B regulations. In theory, it could compete with other Group B rally cars like Audi Quattro Sport, Lancia Delta S4 and Peugeot 205 T16 in the World Rally Championship, which was the most exciting and most sophisticated rally category ever appeared. However, Porsche did not do that, it just entered 959 in the less competitive Paris-Dakar rally. Why ?
Compare with those fabulous Group B rally cars, 959 was obviously too heavy and too big. For example, the Delta S4 weighed just 890 kg, powered by a 1.7-litre turbocharged plus supercharged engine capable of 470 hp in racing trim. The 959, governed by the regulation which according to engine capacity, could not be lighter than 1,100 kg. In fact, it could be heavier. How could 959 compete with them ? Money was another problem. A whole season of WRC might cost dozens of million, which was not affordable by a car maker producing 50,000 cars annually.
Porsche chose the Paris-Dakar, very clever. It was the most famous event in the world, but competition was far less than WRC – Mercedes G-Wagen, Mitsubishi Pajero, Opel Manta …. these were what the 959 faced in 1985 and 86 !! Porsche had every reason to win: more money than most rivals, most expensive car in the field, most powerful and 4-wheel drive. On the contrary, its rivals had every reason not to win: none of them were Group B car !!
Therefore, Porsche cleverly used this event for advertising purpose, and simultaneously wanted to test the reliability of 959 in the worst conditions. In 1984, Porsche entered several 911 Carrera 4×4, which were development cars for 959’s 4WD system, although without the variable torque split function. They finished 1st, 2nd and 26th. Easy job.
In 1985, they entered three 959s development cars, with 100% 959 appearance, but instead of the twin-turbo engine, they were powered by 911 Carrera’s 3.2-litre normally aspirated engine with 230 hp only. The 4WD system and suspensions were the same as the eventual 959. However, all three cars retired by mechanical problems.
Next year, the cars were almost identical to the production model. Like 959 Sport, no ride height adjustment in the suspensions, so ground clearance was increased. The twin-turbo engine was detuned to “only” 400 hp to drink the inferior fuel available in Africa. 330-litre fuel tank. This time they refreshed all the unhappy memory by winning 1st, 2nd and 5th place. If the third car did not act as a service car (it picked the spare tyres, and repairment kits for the other two), it could have finished 3rd !!
Some more specs of Porsche 959:
29 cm ground clearance, long-stroke and adjustable Bilstein shock absorbers, front wheel suspension with wishbones, rear axle with modified control arms and wheel carriers, vented disc brakes
Wheelbase 2.300 mm, length 4.260 mm, width 1.840 mm, weight 1.265 kg
Porsche 959 Dakar gallery:
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