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  Porsche 935/81 'Moby Dick'      

  Article Image gallery (37) JR-001 Specifications  
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Country of origin:Germany
Produced in:1981
Numbers built:2
Internal name:930
Predecessor:Porsche 935 J
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:February 25, 2010
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Click here to download printer friendly versionPorsche has always had a very pragmatic approach to racing; all that matters is that a Porsche badged machine comes home first. Whether this car is fielded or even constructed by a customer is of little importance. Particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, the German manufacturer was more than happy to supply bits out of which complete racing cars could be constructed. The Kremer 935 K3s are a very successful example of this practice. For favoured customer Joest, Porsche even did one better and supplied the drawings of the ultimate works 935, better known as 'Moby Dick'. Built in 1978, it explored the edges of the regulations but in the end yielded only one victory. Reinhold Joest recognised the design's potential and asked for the drawings to build two more copies in his workshop for the 1981 season.

Like all other 935 incarnations before it, 'Moby Dick', or 935/78 as it was officially known, was built for the Group 5 class. The regulations stipulated that a Group 5 car had to be based on a production road car but left ample of room for modifications. For the 935/78, Porsche's technical genius Norbert Singer took a standard 911 Turbo (930) chassis and chopped off the nose and tail. On each end of the core structure aluminium subframes were bolted to support the front and rear suspension as well as the twin-turbocharged flat six engine. The lightweight chassis was clothed in a special low-drag body. Ultimately aimed at winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright, the 935/78 used a very long nose and tail to increase its aerodynamic efficiency. The prototype was painted white and combined with its sheer size, the Porsche engineers felt it resembled a white whale and christened the new racer 'Moby Dick' after the legendary whale in Herman Melville's novel with the same title. When the FIA inspectors first saw the car they were blown away but could find little wrong with Singer's interpretation of the regulations.

Especially for the 935/78, Porsche had extensively redeveloped the familiar turbocharged flat-six engine. To improve reliability, the new engine was equipped with water-cooled heads. These featured four valves per cylinder. Displacement was also increased slightly, to 3211cc. Even though the engine still sported the mandatory 930 production crankshaft, it produced well over 800 bhp and nearly 800 Nm of torque. This ferocious engine was not shared with Joest and he had to make do with the readily available single-cam 935 engine. Although not quite as powerful as the original's, this was a proven engine with victories in all major endurance races to its name. It was available in various sizes, ranging from 2.6 to 3.3 litre. The engine's displacement was related to the minimum weight allowed by the regulations, so a larger engine would mean a higher minimum weight. By 1981 most teams ran the largest engine available because it produced enough power to overcome the associated weight penalty. With the 3.2 litre, 700 bhp version of the flat six engine fitted, Joest's new 'Moby Dick' had a minimum weight of 1025 kg.

Dubbed the '935/81', Joest's new racer debuted in the opening round of the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft (DRM) at Zolder in the hands of Jochen Mass. He finished third in the hotly contested. After two more unsuccessful outings, the Joest 'Moby Dick' was handed to Italian born American Gianpiero Moretti to use in the North American IMSA championship. Faced with a colourful selection of highly developed 935s, the 935/81 held its own. Moretti scored two second place finishes but unfortunately could not score a victory. For the 1982 a second example was made available to John Fitzpatrick. He shared it with David Hobbs at the 24 Hours of Le Mans where the 'Moby Dick' finished fourth overall and first in class. Meanwhile Moretti had brought his MOMO liveried example over for some DRM and World Championship racing. The two machines were only rarely raced in 1983. At one of these rare outings, the 1983 Riverside Six Hours, Rolf Stommelen had a fatal accident in Fitzpatrick's example. Moretti retired his example a few months later after he had taken delivery of a March GTP racer.

When the original 'Moby Dick' first hit the track, it was far superior to anything else out on track. It had the pace to win at Le Mans but in the end only took one victory in four outings. There was considerable unfulfilled promise when Porsche announced the end of the 935/78 program after just a handful of races. Three seasons later, the 935/81 'Moby Dick' was one of many extreme Porsche 935 derivatives. Kremer, for example, had built a full spaceframe 935 clone and Fabcar even produced a 935 version with full ground-effects aerodynamics. Clinching a win in this competitive environment without the benefit of the 935/78's trick engine was always going to be incredibly difficult. A class win at Le Mans is the next best thing, so the project had its share of happy and sad moments. It also provided the world with the only 'Moby Dick' in private ownership.

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  Article Image gallery (37) JR-001 Specifications