Group B and the 80’s
In the early ’80s, Porsche wanted to showcase what their engineering was capable of and they decided that group B rally would be the ideal place. Now for those of you who have not seen what group B was like I suggest you watch this to get an understanding. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vxv-AUKsUs8. Where we benefited from this is that in order to compete in group B the cars had to be homologated meaning at least 200 road-going examples had to be produced. The Porsche 959 unfortunately never competed in group B but not because they changed their plans but because group B was stoped for being too dangerous.
So where did this leave Porsche? Well in 1986 when the 959 was released into the world it held the record for the fastest production car with a top speed of 197mph (317kmh). To put this into context a 1986 Ferrari Testarossa topped out at 176mph (283kmh). This was later beaten and held by the Ferrari F40.
So how did it do it?
Well, Porsche started with a 911 as a base and there was no real surprise there as it was already their current high-end sports car. using the familiar flat 6 layout for the engine with a capacity of 2.8l and twin turbo’s the first models produced 331kw and 500nm of torque. Now Porsche had already been using turbos in other models however in the 959 they were set up sequentially making them a lot less “On-Off” like most 80’s turbo cars, aiding drivability. After witnessing how Audi’s 4wd “Quattro” system dominated on the rally stages Porsche Quickly decided that the 959 must-have 4wd. It was not a basic system either using individual wheel sensors and Porsche’s Control clutch it could split torque 50:50 or up to 80% going to the rear.
Porsche didn’t stop there either, the suspension system was also different from the 911 replacing the Macpherson strut upfront and semi-trailing arm link at the rear with a double-wishbone at each corner. More amazing than this was the electronically controlled dampers which controlled ride firmness and hight it could even be controlled by the driver using buttons inside the car. 30 years later this feature is still not found on all supercars!
As a car, the Porsche was a technical masterpiece and despite the fact that it never found success in Group B for which it was ultimately designed, versions of the 959 did find success in Dakar and Le Mans which is a great achievement. In its own way, it was also a sales success, with a price tag of £150,000 three times more than the 911 Turbo they still sold over 300 cars, unfortunately, Porsche made a loss on all of them.