Porsche 911 GT1 Evo: ready to race again

Porsche 911 GT1 Evo

Warming up against the shrill screech of the unsilenced Cosworth DFVs, the first thing that strikes you about the engine is how quiet it is. Despite the mammoth straight-through tailpipes, the twin KKK turbochargers suck a lot of the raspy flat-six sound out of the garage’s atmosphere.

That’s not to say this car lacks theatre out on circuit. The unburnt 102-octane Sunoco fuel pops and bangs as it ignites in the exhaust, sending bursts of orange flame out the back. The whistling turbines can be heard before the barking 3.2 litre boxer breaks through the air.

As the car starts to brake for Donington Park’s Melbourne Hairpin, the turbo wastegates spring into life, emitting a confident chatter. Back on the throttle, the blowers spool up, rocketing the car out of sight with 1.2 bar of maximum boost. 15 years after television showed me one streaking down the Hunadières, my first live sighting of a Porsche 911 GT1.

Porsche 911 GT1 Evo on track

15 years is a long time for a racing car to be idle. Thankfully, this 1997 911 GT1 Evo has been rescued by Mark Sumpter, head of Porsche specialists, Paragon. After a comprehensive rebuild, race tracks beckon once more.

Like the similarly incredible 917, the GT1 didn’t feature at the top for long. Unlike the 917, it didn’t crush the opposition. However, for many, the GT1 epitomised the extravagance of late-Nineties GT racing.

Sumpter is one such man enthralled by the cars in period. “A lot of people are romantic with Group C, and I love Group C cars [Sumpter also owns an ex-Joest Racing 962] but I wasn’t watching racing when that era was around.

Porsche 911 GT1 Evo engine

“GT2s and GT1s were my thing. When I was racing Beetles and 2CVs, that’s when I started watching Le Mans, in the mid-Nineties. I remember standing at Paddock Hill corner, and seeing both the works cars bouncing out of the pitlane at Brands Hatch”, reminisces Sumpter.

So, when the chance to purchase a 911 GT1 Evo came around in 2007, Mark naturally jumped at the chance. Even if he didn’t have all the money required to pay for it.

“I’d dreamed of sitting in one, let alone owning one”, enthused Mark. “I’d stretched myself so much. I just let the dust settle and started paying the finance.

Porsche 911 GT1 Evo cockpit

“We were also busy racing in Group C. The engine needed to come out [the misfire still present] so we sent it to Paul Knapton at Xtec. He’d done a 962 engine for us and seemed to be the man to do the GT1 engine.”

The engine rebuild took around 150 hours: two to three weeks’ solid effort. Unlike the Group C cars though, Paul was able to source the necessary components straight from Weissach – one of the benefits to a modern classic.

To read more about the history of the Porsche 911 GT1, the specific provenence of chassis number 109, and the incredible rebuild that this fantastic car went through, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 106 from the Imagine Shop now.

Porsche 911 GT1 Evo rear

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