Pirate Porsche

This 1975 RSR is the only car in the history of Le Mans to sneak on track.

June 28, 2018
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While walking through the back streets of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, something bright green poking out of a garage door catches my eye. The boxy oil cooler set in the front splitter coupled with the massive flares over the fat rear tires make it seem like something special before I can even see exactly what it is. As I get closer, the pump attendants at the fuel station turn into guards. Fortunately the car’s owner, Alfonso Darquea, is more than happy to call off the security to talk about his pride and joy. A chance find quickly turns into an incredible discovery. This is no ordinary RSR, but a car that ran at Le Mans in 1975, where it was given the moniker “Pirate Porsche.”

If you like cars and motorsports, then you’ll have to agree that Darquea has lived a charmed life. Since the 1960s he’s owned one of Ecuador’s biggest gas and oil companies, Dispetrol, and has had the means to own and race some outstanding machines. His collection currently includes a Lancia Delta Integrale and Toyota Celica that were raced by Juha Kankkunen in the World Rally Championship (WRC), both still in their iconic works liveries, an ex-works Fiat 131, and a Schnitzer BMW 320 to name a few. But it’s the RSR that he is most fond of, and in his office, surrounded by trophies and certificates from decades of successful racing, he tells me how it came to get its unusual nickname.

In the 1970s, Guillermo Ortega and Fausto Merello were well-known racing drivers in Ecuador who raced no less of a car than a Porsche 908/02, taking a very credible seventh-place overall in the 1973 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, shipping cars around the world was even more complicated 40+ years ago than it is today. As such, they bought a brand-new 911 RSR direct from Porsche for 1975 and had it delivered at the track in Le Mans.

Painted in black with #9 on the side and proudly displaying stickers of the Ecuadoran flag, the RSR looked the part, but it wasn’t race tuned or prepared. That being the case, the drivers could only manage a 4 minute 40 second qualifying lap, which was only good enough for a lowly 60th place…on a starting grid of 58 cars. They got put on the reserve list and needed two faster qualifiers to pull out to be able to make the race, which looked less and less likely as the clock moved closer to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

But then the NART team boss, Luigi Chinetti, had an argument with the ACO race officials over them placing his Ferrari 308 GT4/LM entry in the prototype, rather than GT, category and withdrew his four entries in protest. Suddenly, it seemed the Ecuadorian drivers’ Porsche had a way into the race.

Team members ran around frantically trying to get permission for the Porsche to go out on track for the formation lap, but in the crowded chaos of the pre-event startline, they couldn’t find the right official to ask. So they did the only thing they could: They pushed the RSR onto the grid and took the green flag hoping that everything would get sorted out in a lap or two and they’d be allowed to continue.

But when the race organizers found out that the Ecuadorians were racing without permission, they were absolutely furious and black flagged the RSR immediately. It became the only car in the history of the race that snuck in and raced without permission. Hence the name “Pirate Porsche.”

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