I’m not quite sure what to make of an organizer who runs his races on common sense, or what to make of such a friendly exchange after so many intimidating ones with other officials. As I’m heading for the door, Earle speaks again: “Oh, and by the way, we’re subscribers — have been for a long time.” Hates Porsches, eh?
If you’re like me, the idea of actually driving a real 1974 Carrera RSR is intimidating. Racing one, even more so. In shape and era, it’s a 911 not so distant from Porsche’s famously wayward 930. Oh, and it’s a race car, a car meant for racing drivers. Words like “serious” and “unforgiving” come to mind, not “docile” or “easy.”
“Familiar” is the first word that comes to mind as I trundle through the paddock. Despite its impossibly wide slicks and full-race flat six, this RSR feels like a $600,000 SC. It starts with the same key that my old, $16,000 911 did. Four of the five gauges in every 1970s 911 are present, though one key difference is a 10 on the tach. The carpeted dashtop and on/off clutch are two more.
On track, series production 911 vibes take over again: the great visibility, the solidity, the so-so 915 shifter. With some heat in its tires, 9060 feels like a Spec 911 with more grip. A lot more. If you know how to handle an early 911, then you know how to handle a ’74 RSR. In fact, it’s easier. With far more grip than power, it feels honest, like a 911 that will never put a foot wrong, that will never surprise you.
Even so, I decide to follow Byrne in 9073 to see what I might learn. The lesson is shortened when something I was worried about comes up in my mirror: Faster traffic in the form of turbocharged 935s and 5.8-liter Dekon Monzas. As they filter through, Byrne gets away.
Which leads me to another surprise: Out here, a 330-hp, 2,100~pound 911 can feel, well, kinda slow. Other RSRs are walking me on the straights, but that’s because 9060 is that rarest thing in vintage racing: a 3.0-liter RSR with a 3.0-liter engine (as well as its original curb weight, suspension pick-up points, etc.).
9060’s 3.0 was just freshened by Jerry Woods, so I know that it’s healthy — but the car’s power-to-weight ratio suggests something more exciting than the reality. Maybe I’ve been ruined by 500+hp street cars, but 9060 feels on track like a Boxster S does on the street. Of course, there’s “feels fast” and “is fast.” Tested in the February 1975 issue of Sport Auto, 9060 did 0-62 mph in a still-impressive 4.2 seconds.
Even so, coming off the super-slow Turn 11 and onto the front straight, there’s time to check my watch, check the gauges, consider a new world view, and check my mirrors before heading up the hill. Whenever I see a 935 rounding Turn 11 way, way back there, I leave some space because I know it’ll beat me to Turn 2. It’s an awesome thing to be passed by a fire-spitting 935 at over 100 mph. 9060 can keep pace with its younger, turbocharged brothers into the tight Turn 2, but the ’35s plain disappear after that.
Despite wild speed differentials, the first session feels safe, like a well-run track day. I spend most of my time running solo and, when I’m not, even the hardest chargers are courteous. The same holds true in the race; the fast part of the grid disappears, only to lap the field smartly towards the end of the race. If this is what the big show — the one people pay to see — will be like, I can’t wait.
Six days later, at Friday practice for the Historics, the big crowds change everything. The drive from paddock to pit lane is hectic, requiring care so as not to run over fans who can’t hear your engine, loud as it is, over all the others. Stewards’ whistles help, but only so much.
Things are different out on track, too. While Group 7B is largely the same as last weekend, it’s got an entirely different temperament. I feel like I’m back in one of Jay Lamm’s first LeMons races, only the cars aren’t $500 beaters. Until now, I was feeling pretty comfortable with this whole endeavor. At the Pre-Historics, everyone was polite. Now drivers are dive-bombing on the way into Turns 2, 3, 4, 5, 6….