The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a race that should need no introduction.
This gruelling endurance event has been testing drivers and teams since 1923, and simultaneously, challenging manufacturers to improve on race car technology in the name of gaining competitive superiority.
In 1980, Porsche entered three 924 GTPs into the fiercely competitive Prototype class of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, each piloted by teams from Germany, the UK and America, and each wrapped in corresponding liveries to represent the nationalities of their drivers.
Following the race, the car piloted by Tony Dron and Andy Rouse, and known as 924 GTP 002, was returned to the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart and placed into storage, not to be touched for some 35 years. To this day, it’s still the only Porsche-owned race car to compete under British colours.
In 2015, Porsche commissioned a full restoration of the car by Porsche Classic Partners in the UK, to commemorate the 40-year anniversary of the 924. The restoration focused on returning the car to the condition and specification as it would have been when it first arrived at Le Mans in 1980. When the car arrived in the UK, the restoration team uncovered some interesting developments: for example, the car was fitted with a later engine from 1982. It seems someone at Stuttgart had been tinkering and testing with 924 GTP 002 while it was in storage.
Check out the video above to take a look at how the car looked prior to its restoration.
Getting to see and experience such an important part of Porsche motorsport history in person, and in this condition, is something truly special. Spotting the car at the recent Bicester Heritage Sunday Scramble event, the first major draw of the GTP – and it happened from afar believe me – is the liveried wide bodywork. I can smell a wide turbocharged Porsche race car on turbofans a mile away.
Based on a production Carrera GT bodyshell, designated Type 937, the chassis was stiffened with a rollcage and lightened with wider composite panels. The front end was made more aerodynamic, while an effort was made to keep the shape recognisable as a 924.
Titanium components were used throughout the GTP’s chassis and suspension, adding rigidity and shaving vital kilograms off.
Under each front fender sits a 16×11-inch BBS wheel, while the rears are 16×12-inch, and all are complete with functional turbofans, and shod in wide slick tyres.
Under the bonnet, which was carefully placed to one side for passers-by to enjoy the GTP’s mechanical workings, lives a redesigned water-cooled four cylinder 2.0-litre KKK-turbocharged powerplant capable of outputting 320hp at 7,000rpm. Part of the restoration, and it seems by a healthy dollop of luck, involved reuniting the car with its original 1980 Le Mans engine – the very same engine – which had somehow ended up with a collector in Czechoslovakia.
Lots of innovative technology went into propelling the 924 GTP around Le Mans, including a charge-air intercooler, mechanical Bosch/Kugelfischer fuel injection, and dry sump lubrication. These components, along with a large fuel cell under the boot floor, ensured that the car spent as little time as possible in the pits during race conditions.
The success of the 924 GTP in Le Mans inspired Porsche to create the desirable 924 GTS and über-rare GTR editions, cementing the manufacturer’s commitment to closely link its race and road car productions.
Win on Sunday, sell on Monday – it’s an approach that I, for one, hope never fades away.