1976 934 Le Mans winner

 

To have the opportunity to write about a car with such a proud racing pedigree as this particular ’76 934 boasts is most motoring journalists’ dream. It’s the equivalent of a modern-day adventurer coming across an explorer’s original notes of their exhilarating and dramatic forays into difficult and uncharted territories, only of course, a car can’t chronicle its exploits. If only they could be coaxed to speak… it would be great to hear what kind of life it led, and tales of its drivers’ habits and quirks.

This particular car has a fascinating history, which is well documented with many period photos and original paperwork relating to ownership and registration changes, which together with race results to call upon, give us a real insight into the life it has led. But as is often the case with these old racing cars, to a certain degree you are always unpicking its threads of history, and that is all part of the intrigue and mystery that attracts you to a car like this, and with it equal measures of excitement.

Introduced in 1976, essentially the 934 was a specially prepared racing version of the 911 Turbo built to satisfy the FIA Group 4 rules. If you want to know more we recommend you refer to Issue 77’s Classic 911 Race Cars series. Back to the car in question. Chassis number 930 670 0177 was one of just 31 factory built 934s, which were numbered consecutively from 930 670 0151 to 930 670 0180, plus one out of sequence, 930 670 0540. The first actual race for this car is not entirely clear, however, in 1978 the car was bought by Roland Ennequin of Paris and given a new registration number, 385 DCF 75, but it wasn’t until the following year on 18 March, that the car would see the track, but not for long. Entered by Kores Racing and piloted by Bourdillat and Bernard at the Mugello 6 Hour race, the car had to retire after damage to the turbocharger.

Just a month later, on 22 April, Ennequin and Bourdillat raced the car at Dijon but bad luck intervened again and the car retired after 20 laps. It was then entered for the 24 Hours of Le Mans on 9-10 June 1979 with somewhat more success, Bourdillat, Ennequin and Bernard bringing the car to a victorious 16th place overall and a very impressive second in its class. At this point it wore the logo of Ennequin’s company as the car’s main sponsor, which specialised in office supplies.

Two more races followed in 1979 – the six-hour event at Brands Hatch on 5 August, where Ennequin and Bourdillat finished 19th overall and tenth in class, and a month later at Vallelunga, where the car sadly recorded a DNF.

On 15-16 June 1980 Ennequin entered the car again with Bourdillat for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, now finished in black with pink diamonds, in addition to more marking lights fitted to the front wings, joining the roof-mounted unit fitted from the previous race, so as to recognise the car more easily in the dark. It picked up an impressive second place in class, finishing 24th overall.

Following the 1,000km Dijon event on 28 September 1980, in which Ennequin and the famous Philippe Alliot, who later participated in Formula One from 1984 to 1990 and 1993 to 1994, piloted the car to 14th place overall and third in class, the car was sold in November to Valentin Bertapelle from Wittelsheim who owned the Alsace Citroen dealer. Just a year later it took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans again on 13-14 June 1981, this time with Bertapelle, Thierry Perrier and Bernard Salam behind the wheel, who managed to get the best result yet – first in the GT class and 17th overall with an average speed of nearly 156km/h, now in the colours that we recognise today.

930 670 0177 was then sold by Bertapelle to Porsche specialist Manfred Freisinger on 6 June 1983 and is documented as such on the original sales invoice as well as in a document from the customs office in Karlsruhe-Rheinhafen, which are still included within the car’s history file. However, according to very recent research carried out by the authors of a book on the history of 934s, the chassis number is different to the 930 670 0157 that was recorded by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (the organisers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans) during the years the car participated at Le Mans in 1979, 1980 and 1981. When and why these changes have been made cannot be explained to this day, but you can take a guess that it may have been due to Carnet de Passages en Douane (CPD) swaps at customs.

It was common practice to share these between cars, as the merchandise passports were difficult to obtain and were required when transporting race cars across borders in Europe when being entered to compete internationally. To make matters more confusing, or clearer, chassis 930 670 0177 is also recorded with the ACO to have competed at Le Mans three times! Today, of course, nobody can be too sure of exactly what happened 32 years ago and so the mystery remains, 930 670 0177 or 930 670 0157? Very much a genuine 934, but which one?

“Sadly I’ve never had the opportunity to drive such a car,” says the author of a forthcoming book on the 934’s history, “but what I do know is that the 934 was not easy to handle. It suffered from a lack of downforce at the rear, with a lift of 75kg at top speeds and the wheels were too small for its power, because Group 4 regs only allowed 14-inch rear tyres, compared to 15-inch as used on the very first prototype [internally called R14]. On some tracks the brakes were also too small for the relatively big weight of the car (1,120kg), which is why Norisring race director Gernot Leistner allowed the 934 teams to use a water-cooled brake system during the 1976 season, although such a setup was banned by the FIA at that time. And it had the typical behaviour of a Turbo – when the boost grew, suddenly the full horsepower came without any warning! Because of this, absolute professional drivers like Bob Wollek, Toine Hezemans or Helmut Kelleners could really go fast with the 934. For an averagely talented race driver the car was a real beast. A professional driver in a 911 Carrera RSR 3.0 was as fast as a gentleman driver in a 934.”

What we do know is that Freisinger stored the car until 2007, when it undertook a comprehensive year-long restoration. It was reinstated to how it looked in 1981 after it left the racetrack at Le Mans, finished in that glorious pink and with all the decals of the last sponsors. It was also correctly prepared for historic racing, so the aluminium rollcage, which was no longer permitted for competition use, was replaced with a steel cage, along with other necessary safety features such as, among other upgrades, an extinguisher, race seat and belts, and it was issued with current FIA HTP paperwork by DMSB (Deutscher Motor Sport Bund e.V.). The car is fitted with an upgraded 934/5 3.0 turbo (Type 930/73) mechanical injection engine capable of a claimed 700bhp.

Which takes us up to 2010, when 0177 was acquired by Gerald Harrison, a private collector, who has driven it on the roads in France, where astonishingly it is currently road registered, a world away from its natural habitat.

My original intention to try to get quotes from a few of the racing drivers turned out to be a little optimistic after a day’s research and a dozen or more emails unturned absolutely no leads whatsoever. So, the next best and ultimately only step I could take was to speak with Gerald, and although he didn’t get the chance to take it on a track, where a car built like this really comes alive, it was insightful nonetheless. He takes up the story.

“I’d been hankering after a 934 for ages, and this was the one I was looking at for the most time. I acquired it from Freisinger, and I thought it hilarious that it was pink, but it’s not Barbie pink, it’s freakin’ GI Joe pink. It opposes its reality. I’m not a Le Mans race car driver, but I took it out a few times and probably racked up six hours of driving in total, which gave me a sense of what it’s like, and it was an unforgettable experience.

“The feeling of acceleration is on a whole different level. I’ve driven fast bikes, boats and planes all of my life, but never have I felt that kind of speed. It’s on a whole new level, when the turbo spools up, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the ferocity of its acceleration.

“The handling, agility and nimbleness are impressive, too. It handles beautifully, the enormous slicks that have been hand cut to look road legal are, of course, a huge factor in this. It’s phenomenal that you can drive this on the road really, just mental. Driving it on the Auto Strade in Italy was just insane to see it among normal stuff. And when you let off the loud pedal fast it backfires, but not like an MGB backfire, more like a freakin’ M16 machine gun going off. Push that pedal and the volume, of everything, goes up to Spinal Tap 11. You can’t drive this slowly, when it’s off boost it grumbles, spitting, sputtering and stalling. There is no such thing as driving normally with this car. The 934s are designed to go flat out only.

“The section of road that I spent the most time behind the wheel is just below my house near Nice, it’s like my very own little racetrack. Consisting of sharp hairpins in mainly first, second and sometimes third gear, it’s like a mini Nürburgring, but it was frustrating in the 934. It turns in and handles nicely, but the second you squirt on the power you have to slam on the brakes. It’s very much like Mike Tyson, it’s fighting or it’s not. To be smooth and continuous with the car was quite difficult.

 

“The brakes take a while to warm up and should have really been better for the power it has. There’s a dull moment and you expect more to happen and then it bites. There’s not much give or take, though, you have your foot on the floor using your thigh rather than your calf muscles, bracing your whole body for the impact.

“The speed that we topped out when I gave it the full beans was a good way under the suggested 200mph, which by the feel of the gearbox makes me think it has been set up for a shorter track, it just peters out a bit. It would also explain the excessively violent acceleration.

“Saying that, the gearbox is easy to use, it snicks nicely in and out of gear. The clutch, however, is unforgiving. It’s a nightmare – it’s on or off. You can’t ride it and a hill start would be virtually impossible. It’s hard work and heavy. The gearbox by comparison, though, is a delight, it’s easy to manipulate the short gearstick, which just falls to hand.

“Everything about it is manly and hairy-chested. You can imagine a big, muscly German guy wrestling it around a circuit. It’s a chunky bit of kit and you need big inputs with everything you do. I once took it out for an hour’s blast and I was shattered by the end. It stunk of fuel and it was very hot and noisy – deafening in fact. You can’t even imagine driving it for 24 hours.

“The 934 is single-minded in its build. Although I have raced a Porsche 904 and a 906, which by comparison are beautifully light and neutral cars, the closest thing I’ve ever encountered to the 934 when it comes to speed is the Ducati Desmosedici, a 200bhp, 180kg bike, or a jet. It felt dangerous.”

Given it was a car that Gerald had always wanted I’m intrigued as to why he has never explored the car’s potential in its natural breeding ground. “Some nine months later, my wife and I decided to change our lives, and direction, and sell off all the rare, road and competition Porsches that I’ve acquired over the last ten years, in order to pursue aviation. The Harrison Porsche Collection is offered by Maxted-Page, the appointing agents. I will always regret not driving the 934 on circuit, but I might enter it into this year’s Le Mans Classic, and sell the entry with the car. And if I don’t sell it I may well get to drive it on track after all.”

If it remains unsold, it would be rude not to pass on such an opportunity, as indeed Gerald agrees, and that would be an emotional rollercoaster of a drive I’d love to hear told. Just imagine what the 934 would have to say…

’76 934

Original, period paperwork and photos reveal the car’s past

Le Mans in 1979

Georges Bourdillat (F), Roland Ennequin (F) and Alain-Michel Bernard (F) under team Kores Racing bought the 934 to a 16th place finish overall and second in class.

Le Mans in 1980

The car, now in a different colour scheme, finished 24th overall and second in class, with Bourdillat, Ennequin and Bernard again .

Le Mans in 1981

In its last year at Le Mans, Thierry Perrier (F), Valentin Bertapelle (F) and Bernard Salam (F) manage the best result, finishing first in class and 17th overall.

Current owner, Gerald Harrison, driving the 934 on the roads in France where unbelievably it is currently road registered

Current owner, Gerald Harrison, driving the 934 on the roads in France where unbelievably it is currently road registered.

This was taken from issue 85, for all Total 911 back issues visit www.imagineshop.co.uk/

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