The Racing Bug
This article was originally published in HPBooks' Porsche 911 Performance: Building the Ultimate 911 for High Performance Street or Road Racing, by . Rossi is a contributor to European Car, Road & Track, Sport Compact Car and Los Angeles Times. As part of our selection of vintage 911 must-reads, this book provides a comprehensive look into the high-performance modification of 911's for the street and track. Covering topics ranging from engine building to chassis strengthening, this 144-page guide will certainly take your venerable 911 to the next level of performance. Click here to order this book.
Figure 1: Don't overlook the details, a clean windshield is far more important than you may realize.
When When the Phase One renovation was complete and I eased the S onto the track after a fifteen year absence, I was astonished how quickly my addiction to racing reappeared.
I can think of no other sport that challenges the contender's physical stamina or mental focus for such prolonged periods of time. Nor one that risks injury or death. This, of course, includes such other motor sports as motorcycle and powerboat racing because, at an elementary level, what is required of those competitors is basically as the race car driver. Only the vehicles and arena are different.
Behind the wheel and at speed, worries about retirement plans or your daughter's newest boyfriend become trivial. A driver's entire body and soul must be in concert with the car for each twitch of the chassis and burble of the motor is speaking to him. They are subtleties that must be interpreted correctly if there is to be hope of victory. thrust.
Figure 2: Navigating Turn 4 at Willow Springs.
Perhaps that is the attraction to auto racing. That it is all-consuming. Whether it is for thirty minutes or twenty-four hours, the world beyond the sinuous blacktop disappears.
After an initial shakedown confirmed that the rebirth of the 911S was successful, I began to campaign it regularly. I entered every slalom and autocross event I could find. Soon I moved up to the time trial events of the Porsche Owners Club.
The difference between slalom and a time trial event is simply the size of the racing circuit and the speeds attained. Both competitions involve the driver doing his best to circumnavigate a race track in the shortest amount of time possible. The course is run alone, or at least the cars are spaced far enough apart so that one competitor does not impede the performance of another.
Figure 3: For West Coast racers, Laguna Seca is Nirvana.
My stints at the Streets of Willow Springs were soon complemented by events at the faster road courses of Buttonwillow Raceway Park, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, picturesque Laguna Seca and, of course, the big track at Willow Springs.
While slalom and time trial contests certainly necessitate the development of excellent driving skills, there exists another level of club racing requiring keener skills because the competitors are in closer proximity to one another. This is wheel-to-wheel racing. Professional-type racing. The real thing.
Figure 4: Falling into Laguna Seca's famed Turn 8 - The Corkscrew.
I realized this was the level I was headed for when the practice sessions for the time trails were becoming more fun than the competition runs themselves. In these sessions, competitors are grouped with similar cars and allowed to run the course continuously, usually for twenty-five to thirty minutes.
Clustered together with friends in their own 911s, these "practice laps" were more akin to sprint races. When we should have been pursuing the quickest line around the track, we were trying to latch onto the rear bumper of the friend ahead of us or stay away from those behind. Fortunately, the rules of edict during practice kept our impromptu bouts reasonable. Still, it gave us each a tantalizing sense of wheel-to-wheel racing.
Figure 5: The S garners the P.O.C.'s magazine cover.
From this, spawned Phase Two for my 911S, although initially it began as a simple rebuild of the 2.2-liter motor. The old flat-six was tired and worn and worrisome metal flakes began to reveal themselves in the oil filter. It was a clear signal I had pressed the engine into service for too long and that a cataclysmic failure was in the making.
As is the curse of all types of competition, it is difficult to simply rebuild a motor without improving it. Thus the original engine was not enlarged, but replaced by a new 2.7-liter race motor with better internal components, new pistons and cylinders, headers and open exhaust...the list goes on.
In the rules of most racing clubs, increased motor displacement pushes a race car into a higher class, which immediately authorizes the enhancement of every other component on the car. Brembo brakes, E.R.P. suspension, BBS wheels, Yokohama racing slicks, etc.
Thus was the slippery slope on which I fell. Actually, it was more akin to a cliff and I drove off at full speed. Hopefully my experience, both good and bad, will help you maneuver the same terrain and aid in your endeavor to build a formidable 911 club racer.
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DonÂ't overlook the details, a clean windshield is far more important than you may realize.
Navigating Turn 4 at Willow Springs.
For West Coast racers, Laguna Seca is Nirvana.
Falling into Laguna SecaÂ's famed Turn 8 - The Corkscrew.
The S garners the P.O.C.Â's magazine cover.