Current American Le Mans Series driver and frequent Excellence contributor Johannes van Overbeek had the opportunity to drive two very special Porsche race cars with former Trans-Am champion George Follmer.
This Burton-Kremer 934 is the same car Follmer used to win the Trans-Am championship back in 1976. Porsche’s development of the 934 was crucial to the company’s success in motorsports, with technology from that car spilling over to others. The 935 you see here is one of those cars. It’s often referred to as “The Last 935,” and can be considered the ultimate proof of concept among Porsche’s turbocharged sports racing cars. The car benefited not only from Porsche’s engineering know-how and experience in racing, but also from development by its customers running independent race programs. To be sure, it would be hard to call this red beast a Porsche if not for its engine; the chassis is of the tube-frame type and was fabricated by FABCAR Engineering.
This particular 935’s first race was in 1983, just as Porsche’s extremely successful 956 prototype race cars were starting to dominate endurance racing. The Last 935 marks an important transition in Porsche’s motorsports history, when the company was shifting its focus away from sports car racing and concentrating on winning with Group C prototype racers.
Below is a video of Follmer driving the 935 and an excerpt from Johannes van Overbeek’s story, the full version which you can find in the April 2011 Excellence, issue #190. Here’s an earlier video of van Overbeek driving the 934.
“My foot is up there in the dirt someplace,” says George Follmer, pointing up the hill from Laguna Seca’s paddock. In 1978, he was making his way down the hill from the Corkscrew to the front straight in a Can-Am car when a rock got lodged in the throttle. Suddenly, he was wide-open with 900+ horsepower. The car left the track, scaled a dirt embankment, and went vertical — launching itself over a spectator fence before crashing back down. It’s lucky no one was killed.
George suffered severe injuries to his right lower leg and broke two vertebrae in his back. He spent months in a hospital, but he lived up to his reputation as a tough customer: He was back in a Can-Am race car within the year. As George talks about racing perils of the 1970s in his matter of-fact tone, my focus shifts to the pair of outrageous Porsches sitting behind him.
The fact that they’re production-based race cars rather than vintage Can-Am or F1 cars is somewhat comforting, but they’re still very much cars of the period George is talking about. They’re real bookends, too. To the right is a 934, the first turbocharged customer racing 911. On the left is “The Last 935,” a car incorporating everything Porsche and its customers learned from the 934/935 racing program.
These 911-based race cars played significant roles in Porsche’s past, and George was central in their success. And now here he is, standing next to me at a legendary race track…