Think Porsche and Le Mans in the early 1980s, and the utter domination of the Group C Porsche 956 racers may spring to mind. But in the Group B class reserved for GT cars, behind all the sleek BMW M1s and well-developed 911 Turbos, there was something rather unusual running. Both in 1983 and 1984, a French driver raced at the 8.5-mile la Sarthe circuit in a Porsche 928S. It turned out to be the only 928 to ever compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
After those two attempts, that shark-nosed Porsche never raced again. Instead, the car was stored for decades in the workshop of the man who raced it back in the day, Raymond Boutinaud. But in 2015, he decided it was time to pull the dust cover off of his V8-powered endurance-racing machine so that he could restore it to its former glory. After a two-year nut-and-bolt rebuild, Boutinaud invited us to Paris to be the first to see his refreshed 928. He also wanted to tell us the full, never-before-published story of his historic Porsche.
Boutinaud started building and racing Porsches back in the 1970s. He financed his on-track activity via funds generated through his own garage on the outskirts of Paris where he serviced and modified clients’ road and race cars.
In 1982, Boutinaud bought himself a brand-new 928S. He, like most Porsche owners, enjoyed the power and handling his sports car delivered at track days. But he couldn’t help wonder what the 928 would be like if it were made into a fully prepared race car. Stripped of excess weight, tuned, and set up for maximum performance, Boutinaud reckoned that the 928 could make a serious run at the 911s that showed up to Le Mans in droves. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the organizers of Le Mans like this idea since it added variety to the starting grid.
Porsche’s motorsport department was also keen on the idea of a privateer developing the 928 for competition. Racer and Porsche engineer Jürgen Barth himself became the overseer of the project. When asked today what he recalls about Boutinaud’s Le Mans 928S, Barth says: “We helped a bit at the time with the Le Mans 928 using info we had from the 928 Günter Steckkönig was driving in the VLN (Association of Nürburgring Endurance Cup Organizers) series. But Raymond mainly did it all himself.”
Turning a road car that you could drive to work into an endurance racer did pose some challenges. Porsche had already gotten the 928S homologated for Group B racing in 1982 in hopes that independent racers would run it. Even so, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest organizing entity didn’t give final approval of Boutinaud’s car—delaying the build—until two months before the race in 1983.
From Street Car to Racing Machine