Take a Virtual POV Ride in the World's Only Porsche 961

Porsche 961 at Zandvoort 7 photos
Photo: Robbert Alblas/YouTube
Porsche 961 at ZandvoortPorsche 961 at ZandvoortPorsche 961 at ZandvoortPorsche 961Porsche 961Porsche 961
When it comes to Porsches developed in the 1980s, we usually think about the 959 and the 956. Both were outstanding vehicles born after the Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) introduced the Group B and Group C categories.
Designed to meet Group C rules, the 956 went on to become one of the most successful race cars in history. It dominated the World Sportscar Championship from 1982 to 1985 and won the 24 Hours four consecutive times. Its development, the 962, allowed Porsche to dominate the series for two more years.

The 959 is mainly known as a ground-breaking production model. It was considered the most technologically advanced and the fastest road-legal car of its time. However, the 959 was also born as a race car because its initial purpose was to tackle competition under Group B regulations.

While both the 956 and 959 are now iconic classics, not many people talk about the 961, which was born around the same time. That's not surprising, given that the project was short-lived and spawned just one prototype, but the 961 deserves a place in the spotlight as one of Porsche's most daring creations.

The 961 is directly linked to the Gruppe B concept car that debuted in 1983 and later spawned the 959. Much like the latter, the 961 was supposed to compete under Group B regulations. However, when the FISA altered these rules to better suit World Rally Championship (WRC) competition, Porsche abandoned plans to develop the 961 for production and provided racing versions to private teams, as it had done with the 956.

The project wasn't scrapped entirely, though. Porsche continued developing the car alongside the road-legal 959 for factory racing. It featured the same four-wheel drive system but lacked the driver-adjustable damper and suspension systems. Porsche also reconfigured the 4WD system to distribute more power to the rear wheels.

Unsurprisingly, the Germans fitted the 961 with the same Type-935 engine used in the 959 and 956. The race-spec layout, however, enabled Porsche to squeeze more oomph from the twin-turbo, 2.8-liter flat-six mill. Peak output was increased to 680 horsepower, a massive figure for a vehicle tipping the scales at only 2,540 pounds (1,150 kg). For reference, the 956 hit the track with 635 horsepower (but it was notably lighter), while the 959 came with 444 or 508 horses on tap.

Porsche completed the 961 in 1986 when it had not yet built enough 959s to meet Group B homologation. As a result, the race car was classified under IMSA's GTX class. The 961 debuted at the 1986 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it qualified 26th and finished the race seventh.

After an unsuccessful attempt as a GTP car at Daytona International Speedway, the 961 returned to Le Mans in 1987. Despite seasonal upgrades, the Rothmans-liveried race car was slower and had to retire after it crashed and caught fire. Fortunately, the 961 was repaired and then displayed in the Porsche Museum.

Even though it spends its retirement on display in Stuttgart, Germany, the one-off 961 gets to stretch its wheels on the track from time to time. The footage below shows the Porsche being manhandled at the Zandvoort circuit. Based on the track configuration, the footage isn't exactly recent, but it's still a spectacular experience if you're into POV driving videos. Hit the play button below and crank up the volume for twin-turbo flat-six goodness.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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