For the first time, two Porsche legends of the 1980s rally program, the Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 4×4 Paris-Dakar (953) and Walter Röhrl, have joined together in an extreme alpine playground.
The Porsche 953 was constructed in 1984 in anticipation of the Paris-Dakar Rally, a desert terrain event where no Porsche before had encountered the adversities of such extreme heat or terrain.
The Paris-Dakar Rally 953 adopted the 911 G model shell for the 953, and a near-standard 3.2-liter flat-six with a reduced compression ratio was utilized, which was more suited to handle the poor-quality fuel available during the endurance race.
The 953 most significant development were located underneath the Porsche – a new all-wheel-drive system with 31:69 distribution between the front and rear axles and a center differential that manually locks.
Knowing that the Porsche would need to endure 14,000 kilometers through the harshest and challenging terrain on the planet, Porsche made sure to increase the wheel travel to 270 millimeters and installed double-wishbone suspension with twin shock absorbers at the front. In the rear, some changes included a reinforced axle with additional coil springs.
The body was profoundly modified, including reinforced the body heavily with a welded steel roll cage. The doors, front fenders, roof, and all the glass apart from the windscreen were constructed of polycarbonate plastics to save weight.
To handle the long distances that they would be covering every day during the Paris-Dakar, a 120-liter fuel tank was installed within the front luggage compartment. Porsche engineers additionally fitted an extra 150-liter tank behind the driver’s seat.
At the car’s debut race, French veteran drivers René Metge and co-driver Dominique Lemoyne drove it to victory, making it the first time a sports car had won in the history of Paris-Dakar.
Unfortunately, due to a cable fire, their teammates Jacky Ickx and Claude Brasseur fell back to 139th place, but with the speed and reliability of the 953, they were still able to climb their way back to sixth place at the finishing line.
Walter Röhrl – King of Ice Driving
Almost 40 years later, another Porsche Eighties rallying legend has been brought together with this extraordinary car, though in unfamiliar surroundings amid the Austrian alps at Zell am See.
Röhrl is the Porsche brand ambassador, a two-time former World Rally Champion, and the undeniable king of ice driving. He is the perfect match for the 953 in the sub-zero setting and has no hesitation in climbing aboard.
The Porsche 953 is finished in its trademark Rothmans livery, matched with white Fuchs alloys wearing all-terrain tires – a classic rallying 911.
Every inch of the car shows illustrates an absolute purity of purpose, starting from the underbody protection, off-road mud flaps, the high taillights, to the aerodynamic motorsport wing mirrors.
The interior continues the theme with a spartan cockpit that had lightweight bucket seats and an array of auxiliary rally instruments.
After only a lap around the ice circuit, Röhrl’s instincts took over, as he has the 953 drifting on full opposite lock, his feet dancing across the pedal box with the same ease and accuracy that took place 50 years ago when the young German was ruling the World Rally Championship.
The distinct sound of the Boxer engine roars, echoing around the barren valley, a sound that Röhrl claims are the ‘pinnacle’ for motorsport enthusiasts, along with the elixir for professional racers. “It stimulates you. It spurs you on,” he explains.
Today Röhrl needs little encouragement as he navigates around the circuit with tails of snow and ice in his wake.
“Porsche builds fine roads cars and wonderful cars for the track, but they also make them for the most brutal terrain in the world. This car was made for the desert, but it is still amazing how you can drive it on sheet ice. It’s addictive!”