January 1, 2012
The Historian’s Desk By Lou Scalzo
Photos provided by Dave Brown and Tom Morgan
“Roger, there’s no question about it. The only way to go is with factory built Carreras.” This is a quote from Mark Donohue’s book“The Unfair Advantage.” Roger Penske was looking for the right car for the new race series called the International Race of Champions (IROC) when it was materializing, and had looked at Formula Fords, Mustangs, Javelins, and Camaros. But Mark Donohue explained there were 4 good reasons for choosing the 911 RSR; 1] Penske wouldn’t have to build them; 2] They wouldn’t be anywhere near as expensive as any other completely race prepared car; 3] They had to be as identically equal as any race cars ever built; 4] Foremost, the Carrera was the most reliable car available.

Quoting from his book, Mark states: “Dr. Fuhrmann had told me once that the car couldn’t be broken, as long as it wasn’t over revved and as long as it was shifted correctly. And it was really quite true. I always liked those cars, because they could be driven hard without worrying about breaking anything. They’re so strong and so well engineered, that there isn’t much a driver can destroy but the gearbox. The Carrera is – without a doubt – the very best off the shelf production race car available at any price. At least as long as there’s a competitive class to race it in. And Roger was going to make that happen. After listening to me for a while, he decided maybe I was right.”

Penske went back to Germany and had Porsche make a production run of fifteen perfectly identical cars for his races. He hired Peter Reinhart, a former employee who raced one of Penske’s Camaros in Europe, to keep tabs on the operation over there. Upon arriving in the U.S., the cars were initially sent directly to Riverside International Raceway, where they were identically maintained by a single team of mechanics during the ‘74 season.

“ A fter being in the 1974 races, it was advertised and sold thru North Lake Porsche-Audi, a dealership in Tucker, Georgia.”

So marked the beginning of the IRO C series, starting 1974. The season consisted of 4 races, the first 3 held at Riverside in California for three consecutive weeks, and the final race held at Daytona. Roger Penske had signed up a variety of drivers for the series with wide ranging backgrounds; Allison, Petty, Pearson, Foyt, Fittipaldi, Hulme, Johncock, McClusky, Revson, Follmer, Unser, and Donohue. He also tried to get Unser and Andretti, but their contracts with Firestone stood in the way because Goodyear was a sponsor of IRO C series.

The first and third races were won by Donohue. Before the final race at Daytona, the cars had to be rebuilt. The engines went back to the factory, while the chassis went to the Penske race shop. The cars had to be changed for Daytona asthe banking required stiffer springs, and slightly different aerodynamics. Al Holbert and Peter Gregg did the testing for the set-up recommended by Donohue. To keep fairness and equality, the drivers drew car numbers from a hat with just enough time before the race to put the names and numbers on. At that, the fastest qualifier had to draw last. Donohue won the race at Daytona, with Revson and Unser in a close battle for second. Mark had announced his retirement earlier and this was his last win. The following season after coming out of retirement he was killed in a Formula 1 practice session.

Fast forward to present day. Last month while visiting Dave Brown at RennGruppe Motorsports in Lexington, I saw the beautifully restored ’73 IRO C 911 RSR driven by Emerson Fittipaldi. After talking to Dave about the extensive paper trail he has on this particular car, I decided it would be good to do an article on it and the RSR history.

There were 3 types of RSR’s developed by Porsche: The first was the 2.8 “Narrow body car”- It had the “Duck Tail”, and smaller fender flares and tires. This was a 2.8 magnesium case with 80mm cylinder head spacing. The second was the “IRO C” 911 RSR, which featured a 3.0 liter sand cast aluminum case with 83mm stud pattern, a wider body and tires. The third and final version, was the ’74-’75 RSR with the same 3.0 liter engine, high butterfly or slide valve injection, center lock hubs and a very wide body with vented front and rear fenders

This particular ’73 IRO C RSR, VIN #9114600100, engine #6840035, presently owned by Steve Golden, is one of the original 15. After being in the 1974 races, it was advertised and sold thru North Lake Porsche-Audi, a dealership in Tucker, Georgia. This was part of the agreement with Penske Racing, where all the IRO C RSR’s would be sold thru Porsche dealerships after the race season.

This particular RSR was sold to John Tungstall of TC Motorsports, from Sarasota Fla. John had previous racing experience, mostly with Corvettes before purchasing the RSR, with the intension of racing it in the IMSA Camel GT series, running in the over 3.0 liter GTO class, which he did with success from 1975 to 1980. Through the years the RSR was updated several times, with various bodywork, and mechanical upgrades. In 1980 the RSR was not as competitive with the new turbo racers, and John sold the car to a group to race in South America.

Fast forwarding once more to 2007. Steve Golden tracked down VIN #9114600100 through one of his sources, and had the opportunity acquire the RSR and bring it back to the states. The car was stored during 2008, and in 2009 the body was sent to California for restoration while the drivetrain and suspension were sent to RennGruppe Motorsports to be brought back to original specs. The process took approximately 1 ½ years to complete, finishing in 2010.

In 2011 the RSR debuted at the Rennsport Reunion IV at Laguna Seca. John Tungstell was re-united with the RSR and could not believe his eyes. It was 1974 once again.

‘Till the next Rambling, your historian.