Tuesday, January 19, 2010

track test – porsche 930 turbo

Zwartkops Raceway, January 2010.
by Pierre Martins

DSC_6175My ass was itching to get back on track after the December holidays, so getting into my friend Allan’s 930 turbo at an open track day at Zwartkops Raceway was a good start to 2010.

It kinda felt as if I was stepping back into a time capsule from 1981. The dash looked brand new, straight, no cracks. The seats showed no signs of wear and tear. The carpets looked the way they did when this car first rolled off the production line. In fact, the whole interior of this car was a trip down 930 memory lane, right down to the stock steering wheel shoved up so close against the instrument cluster it made me wonder how drivers with big hands could drive these things without getting their fingers jammed between the steering wheel and dash. 

And another little trivial thing – With these old 911s, I always feel a tad more ‘at home’ in the left hand drive jobbies. In the right hand drive cars like Allan’s 930, the pedals don’t line up properly with the driver’s seat. They’re slightly off to the left, so you always have to take a moment to align yourself in the seat. But once you get going you kinda forget about it. So never mind, I dunno why I even bothered to mentioned that…

As for the exterior, I’ve always liked the timeless shape of the 911, and the wide fenders of the 930 turbo gave it that extra beefy look, you know - that think-twice-before-you-mess-with-me look of a night club bouncer from the eighties. But it’s now almost three decades later and just like those old eighties bouncers, most of the 930 turbos in South Africa have been modified and bastardised way past their prime, but there are still a few good ones around, like Allan’s pristine original 930 turbo, with stock Fuchs rims and all.

Yup, this is a particularly good example of what the 930 turbo once was. Engine, suspension and brakes on this car, stock standard of course. The one and only aftermarket thing on this car is the exhaust system, albeit an exact copy of the upgrade that was available form Porsche in the eighties. To sum it up, this is an unmolested ‘81 turbo that could easily be turned into a proper concourse car with a few hours of cleaning and detailing, but Allan, even though he’s incredibly fussy about his cars, ain’t the concourse type and his Porsches are definitely no garage queens.

He keeps them impeccable, but he loves to drive them as they were intended to be driven. You should see his special 993, the second last one from a limited run of just twelve cars (Seinfeld picked the last one), but that’s a story for another time. 

DSC_6181 Anyway, putting a well-kept classic like this on a race track is actually not the right thing to do, but the idea behind this test was to blow the cobwebs away and see what the car was capable of on a race track, for once.

I must admit that I was a tad sceptical myself as to whether I should really take a chance behind the wheel of this car. I remembered all those wild stories I’ve heard about the 930 turbo over the years, what a beast it was, how difficult it was to drive, that it would bite your head off when the boost came in, and so on and so forth, but you know what? - To hell with all of that, Allan asked me to drive the thing and I was gonna do just that.

Time to fire the thing up! The tell-tale blup-blup-blup-blup of the 3,3L flat six at idle sounded lovely, cute almost, but I was expecting a wolf in sheep’s clothing even though I was trying shake off all those preconceptions as I cruised out of pit lane…

Right, time to put two and two together real fast. Handling was exactly what I expected from a stock 911. Some body-roll, but it will basically go where you point it as long as you don’t do anything stupid like backing off in a corner. Brakes were no good for the first few laps, but got progressively better as I got heat into them.

DSC_6234 As for the engine – Oh Man, what a hoot! Power delivery reminded me of a 250 Superkart. Very similar to a two-stroke. Nothing at first, and then everything at once. And once the boost came, it kept coming in bucket loads! At first I thought the power would taper off at higher revs with the tall ratios of the 4-speed box, but no, it kept pulling like a steam train right up and past 6000rpm. I never allowed it to go beyond 6300rpm, but I got the feeling this thing would rev until it went bang if I was stupid enough to let that happen. 

That was the first session and the first time I experienced an all-original 930 turbo on a race track. I learned some new things. A 930 turbo is not a point-and-squirt car, it’s a momentum car. Boost management is crucial. You need to heel & toe properly, time your downshifts properly and get back on the power early to keep that snail in the ass spinning. And it’s surprisingly not really all that difficult to time your throttle input through corners to get the boost coming in just after you apex and getting the full wallop down on track-out.

DSC_6177 Confident that I more or less got the knack of the car, I took Allan out for the next session and upped the pace a little without thrashing the car or taking unnecessary risks.

But don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t pussyfooting either. Did a couple of laps in the low 1’16”s, pretty quick for a 930 on hard compound street tyres around Zwartkops, but Allan started getting car sick after a few laps so we came in early. To say that he was little more than happy with the performance of his 930 is an understatement. Lemme put it like this – If I had to leave out all the crude expletives that came out of his mouth afterwards, well then, he didn’t actually say much. He-he-he…

The next session I went out with a 964 RS glued to my ass, so I decided to see what he’s got and upped the pace another notch or two, getting the 930 a tad loose in the right places and dipping into the mid 1’14”s on a few consecutive laps. I was really enjoying the car, and the guy in the 964 lacked the cahoonas and/or ability to stay with the 930, but I decided to call it a day before my luck ran out. This was Allan’s pride and joy after all.

And that was that. Allan’s 930 turbo, being stock standard, gave me the opportunity to sample what these cars felt like on street tyres, on a race track. I know a lot has been said and written about the 930 turbo in the past, but for now, for what it’s worth - I’m totally in love with the car and I don’t understand why the big fuss over its handling and performance characteristics? It’s not nearly as wild and unforgiving as I expected.

DSC_6259So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a fantastic car. Sure, it’s not a car for the faint hearted and you need to be wide awake to pedal one of these things around a race track at a decent pace, but if you understand the 930 and get the hang of it, there is nothing else quite like it. Well, nothing in standard trim that was built 29 years ago anyway.

I can’t remember what other standard production cars were considered to be real opposition to the 930 way back then, but I’m sure it’s safe to say that none of them could possibly provide the thrills of the 930.

It’s certainly one of the most enjoyable standard road cars I’ve  ever had the pleasure of driving on a race track, that’s for sure.

Thanks Allan.


No comments: