BRANDENBURG, Germany—The first thing I laid eyes on when I reached the Lausitzring pit lane was the new Porsche 935. It looked incredible in photos, but in person it’s even more stunning. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a car enthusiast who doesn’t love the look of the 935 race cars from the late ’70s, and the new car’s gorgeous lines pay a perfect tribute to both the 935/78 “Moby Dick” long-tail Le Mans car and the famous shorter-tail original.
About the 935
Under the skin, the 935 is basically the 911 GT2 RS production car, which itself is already a well-certified track animal (and a 2019 Automobile All-Star). You don’t see much of the original GT2 RS street car on the outside of the 935, as the standard RS bodywork is gone, replaced with sculpted carbon-fiber composite. Several other classic touches also grace the 935’s exterior, turning it into a mini-compendium of modern and historic Porsche race-car parts.
The aerodynamically capped wheels look amazing and are replicas of the ones used on old 935/78s. The rear LED taillights, also found on the rear-wing end plates, come from the contemporary 919 LMP1 Le Mans race car. The side mirrors have competition provenance as well, as they come from the current Le Mans-winning 911 RSR, while the exposed tail pipes look like those found on a 1960s Porsche 908. The gearshift knob has a wood design similar to a 917, the 909 Bergspyder, and also the Carrera GT supercar. Finally, the functionally perfect carbon steering wheel is taken from the 2019 911 GT3 R. All new 935s come with a full, very substantial-looking safety cage, a full bucket racing seat, and six-point full-harness belts. You can also add an optional passenger seat, if you really want to impress or frighten loved ones.
Running gear for the 935 and the GT2 RS Clubsport we also drove comes from the GT2 RS production car, which means you get a 700-hp twin-turbo 3.8-liter six-cylinder engine and a slightly beefed-up PDK dual-clutch gearbox. The front brakes are 390mm (15.4-inch) ventilated steel rotors with six-piston aluminum monobloc racing calipers. Rears are 380mm (15.0-inch) steel rotors with four-piston calipers. Both cars retain the Porsche Stability Management (PSM) system from the road car, which includes the ABS, stability control, and traction control. However, Porsche remapped the system, probably to allow for the increased stopping power the huge Michelin race tires can generate. The system also allows for individual adjustment of ABS, stability, and traction, including the option to turn it completely off.
Racing heritage is central to the new 935, and nothing speaks to this better than the exterior-design options. Martini Racing livery was on the former 935 factory race cars and looked great on the new launch car as it sat in pit lane. Grant Larson headed the 935 design team and came up with seven more livery options, all based on original race cars of the time. The extra-interesting part is perhaps just how many of those 1970s-to-early-’80s paint schemes so many people still remember: the “Moby Dick” car, the Gulf Oil design, the MOMO car, and the John Player Special. All of these and more were available as options for your 935, should you be one of the lucky 77 owners.
(As an aside, The John Player cigarette factory was based in my hometown of Nottingham, England. We had a school trip to the factory when I was 13 years old. All of us were given 20 cigarette commemorative packs to take away with us, and nobody raised a peep; we all smoked them with our teachers on the way back to school, it was great! OK, we didn’t do that, but we were given the cigarettes. Wacky to think about it today.)
Driving the 935
So, it was finally time to strap into this $829,000, 1 of 77, 700-hp, turbocharged rolling piece of artwork. It feels just like sitting in a modern GT3 race car—completely correct, that is. The racing seat fit me perfectly, was very easy to adjust, and the belts comfortably locked me in place. The steering wheel is manually adjustable up, down, in, and out, just like the street car. As I sat in the garage, looking at the engineer outside and waiting for him to give me the go signal, I drifted off a little. My mind was imagining a Le Mans pit garage, circa late 1970s, first practice about to start. Boy, how much fun would this car be on the Mulsanne straight? I think I almost turned right instead of left as I exited the garage.
Drive a 700-hp car that weighs around 3,042 pounds and you’ll know what hard acceleration feels like. In a straight line, the 935 definitely feels quicker than any GT3 race car I’ve been in, which makes sense due to the 935 having a better power to weight ratio.
The Michelin race tires are massive, and the brake system, ABS, stability control, and traction control are all full-on race-spec. Good grief, does this car stop. I needed to use a lot of leg pressure because the pedal is super firm, but it stops as well as the best GT3 cars I’ve driven. The GT2 RS Clubsport brake system is identical and has the same solid feel.
Lausitzring has some very tight transitions where you need patience as a driver; it’s easy to over-drive these sections and lose time. The track’s bumps signaled to me that the 935 features slightly stiffer springs than the GT2 Clubsport, which Porsche’s engineers confirmed. This may indicate the 935 has a little more downforce potential than the GT2 RS Clubsport; but I could not confirm this.
I was able to work the 935 really hard in the same way as the GT2 Clubsport but found the GT2 a little more compliant mid-corner. The 935’s stiffer setup made itself known mostly in slower tight bends; I had to work a little harder to make it rotate. It responded well when I slowed down my steering-wheel rate and trail-braked a little deeper into corners, to keep more pressure on the front tires.
The Lausitzring is bumpy in many areas and was a great workout for the chassis and ABS/TC/stability systems. Once up to full speed, I could hear the system working the brakes but barely felt any intrusion to progress, despite my extreme braking and aggressive corner exits. The Porsche pro race drivers present offered their recommended ABS/TC settings to each of us; I left all settings as recommended.
Also impressive was the damper/spring relationship. Despite the track bumps and stiff setup, I was still not “flying” the car from bump to bump. Wheel contact with the track remained solid, despite the high lateral g’s. I felt the bumps, of course, and some were certainly harsh, but the car remained on its line and I experienced no snappy lateral tire release. What slides I did feel were induced deliberately by me. Each time I asked, the chassis complied with no complaints. My six timed laps went so quickly I couldn’t believe it.
I stood staring at the 935 after my run. What an opportunity. It’s such a beautiful car, and oh—how I wanted some more laps. An appetizer for the gods, indeed.
2020 Porsche 935 Specifications
|ON SALE||Sold out|
|ENGINE||3.8L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve flat-6; 700 hp @ 7,000 rpm (est), 553 lb-ft @ 2,500–4,500 rpm (est)|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 1-passenger, rear-engine, RWD coupe|
|L x W x H||191.5 x 80.1 x 53.5 in|
|0–60 MPH||2.3 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||211 mph (est)|