|Porsche 911 GT1 '98 Strassenversion|
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Since the heyday of the 956 and 962, Porsche had not fielded a Works racing team, but rather lend a (sometimes very big) hand in Porsche privateer efforts. A rare exception was the Dauer win at Le Mans with their modified 962 'GT1' car, which was a Works effort in anything but name on the entry sheet. For the most part, the German manufacturer concentrated on producing a racing version of the current 911 model, the 993. At that time there were two GT classes; GT1 for heavily modified production cars and GT2 for relatively stock racers. Both classes required a production minimum of 25 examples per annum.
Porsche's interest initially lay with the GT2 class, for which the current 993 model was relatively easily adapted. The likes of McLaren, Jaguar and Ferrari were left to tackle the GT1 class. In 1995 a number of the GT2 Porsches were modified in an attempt to promote them to the GT1 class with wider wheels and more power, but the gap was too wide to bridge. As a Porsche representative explained to British journalist Michael Cotton "it's a GT1.5 or GT1.4 at best". McLaren's overall win at Le Mans served as an eye opener and convinced Porsche that a 911-based GT1 car could indeed be a viable route to success.
Unlike its competitors, Porsche decided to design a racing car first and then adopt it for road use to meet the homologation requirements. One of the biggest problems of the 993 GT2 was the location of the engine that did not permit the use of Venturis. These were essential to achieve sufficient downforce on the flat bottomed car so the designers decided to rotate the six cylinder engine around, making the GT1 the first mid-engined 911. With its Porsche 962-derived 3.2 litre Turbo engine, it was also the first water-cooled 911. The flat six produced around 600 bhp, which was about the same as the BMW V12 in the back of the McLaren.
Another problem with the regular 911 was the heavy steel monocoque chassis at a time when the competitors all used more advanced composite structures. Here the money-strapped company had to compromise by using parts of the 911's steel structure combined with a center section made up of a reinforced roll cage. This did speed up the crash tests as much of the road car's nose section was carried over. Carbon fibre was used for the panels of the bodywork, which to some extent was similar to the 993. The car's racing intentions added a little more drama to the body in the form of a wide cold air intake in the nose, a scoop on the roof for the intercooler and a rather large rear wing.
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