The question of parity has long been a problematic issue for various motor racing leagues the globe over. With equivalence among machinery, the race results boil down to sheer driver talent, and usually provide a far closer race spectacle than cars with a dearth of performance struggling to compete with the few running at the pointy end of the field.
The obvious solution to the problem is to create a one-make series.
During the mid 1980s, Porsche decided it’d have a crack at supporting its own one-make series, and the result, in the European summer of 1986, was the 944 Turbo Cup. A fantastic vehicle to promote the then new and exciting 944 Turbo, the series was for all intents and purposes a success, drawing in massive grids.
Roll forward to 1989 and the introduction of the latest iteration of Porsche’s iconic 911 sports car – the 964 chassis. With 944s on borrowed time, the decision to continue the one-make series utilising the new 911 chassis must have been a no-brainer for the Zuffenhausen boffins.
Porsche’s creation for the one-make series became known as the 911 Carrera 2 Cup, and each 964 was prepared to identical specification – 3.6-litre engines slung out the back producing a modest 265hp, around 15hp up on the factory rating.
With each car being assembled by the Porsche factory, you could be forgiven for thinking the Carrera 2 Cup arrived at the track bristling with an array of tuneable driveline components, ultra exotic brake hardware and an interior pared down to the bare essentials in the pursuit of a ‘leichtbau’ race-ready package.
But in addition to being clever enough to bend physics and make a rear-engined, rear-wheel drive platform a workable performance alternative, the Porsche engineers also hit the sweet spot when it came to one-make success: simplicity. While fitted with enhanced spring and shock absorber combinations, the Cup suspension remained true to the production layout; and as Porsche is well regarded for its for phenomenal road car brake arrangements, those too were left as per the production models.
The knock-on effect was the limited scope for suspension geometry adjustment, ensuring the level playing field ethos behind a one-make series remained intact and letting the drivers’ skill-sets do the talking on track.
The series centered around the 964 model from 1990 through until 1994, in which time the factory built 297 of these Carrera 2 Cup variants, destined to compete not only in Europe but across the globe. In addition to Germany and France, Japan also hosted one of the more popular Carrera Cup championships throughout the 964’s reign.
Of the almost 300 cars built, here in New Zealand we were lucky enough to have five of them exported to our shores for competition purposes. Today, four of them remain in the country, three of which retain their original Cup specification (the 4th is something quite far removed from original but that’s another story), and all were present for the NZ Festival of Motor Racing, competing mainly in the classic Porsche racing ranks.
This 1990 example campaigned by Michael Neville showcases the earliest iteration of the 964 Cup car. The ninth 964 Cup car chassis built, this 911 saw service in the German Carrera Cup before a lengthy and successful career in New Zealand motorsport circles; entering the country in 1996 and competing in scores of events nationwide throughout the latter half of the 1990s.
Later, the car proved a class winner in Porsche club racing in the hands of the Neville family, something backed up by race-winning performances and fastest lap times across the two NZFMR weekends; Michael showcasing the pace possible from the 26-year-old platform against classic racers running far more contemporary and tuneable setups. It’s also street registered. A street legal, factory-built race car
A Chequered History
Kevin Cantwell’s example comes with something of an illustrious past, not to mention a well-earned exterior patina reserved for track cars that have seen more than their fair share of action.
Even at the Festival alone, Kevin and the 964 covered a serious distance of race kilometres. Entered in the Invited Sports & GT, Classic Porsche and Heritage Touring Car classes, the 911 seemed to spend an equal amount of time being hammered on track as it did sat cooling down in the pits. But given the car’s pedigree, it was more than likely just another day in the life of a significant 911 race car.
The fitment of the 18-inch Speedline 3-piece race wheels signify that Kevin’s car is of later stock than Michael’s red example. Emerging from the Porsche factory in 1993, the 964 joined the Roock Racing effort and was steered by a selection of drivers throughout the 1993 European Carrera Cup championship, winning the team title for that year.
As well as championship successes, the Roock Racing outfit also had a crack at 24-hour races at both Spa and the Nürburgring, even winning the 1993 Spa 24hr. That’s a solid dossier of history and achievement under the car’s belt before it even made it to New Zealand shores in 1994, imported by one Mr. Owen Evans.
To any New Zealand motor racing enthusiast, the Evans name might as well be considered household. In addition to being the father of 2012 GP3 champion and current GP2 driver Mitch Evans, the name Owen Evans is indelibly linked to Porsche racing circles, having spent a solid chunk of the 1990s through to the mid-2000s piloting the distinctive blue and green Lighting Direct Porsche 911s.
It was in this vibrant yet ridiculously ’90s livery that this very car caught my attention. In 1993 it won the Wellington Street Race, a now defunct 500km enduro through the streets of New Zealand’s capital city. If the daunting, technical circuit flanked by unforgiving concrete walls wasn’t enough of a challenge, the stiff 2-litre Super Tourer opposition the 911 faced presented an even tougher ask for the still very much production-based chassis.
Inside, the scars of years of competition are evident; there’s a rollcage scratched due to a couple of decades of clambering in and out of the car, and slightly unkempt original upholstery. Winning the national Porsche series no less than five times throughout the 1990s, followed up by 2nd overall in the North Island Endurance series from 2003-2006 tends to prioritise the ‘go’ side of the equation with a little less attention paid to cosmetics.
As per the cabins of the other two 964s, Kevin sits snugly between the bolsters of a period Recaro seat. Anchored securely with Sabelt harnesses, the original Carrera Cup roll protection is retained; after all, safety is paramount and even by today’s standards the factory-built cage architecture is still well up to the task.
In latter times, the 964 has been returned to a variation of its original Roock livery as campaigned in those early ’90s European races. It’s the air of authenticity so important to historic motor racing, with awareness, desirablity and of course value of race hardware with a notable past increasing rapidly at this time.
As overwhelming as the opportunity to document three historically significant factory-built racers is, it’s difficult not to play favourites when confronted with a livery this bold, this retro, and this fresh from a comprehensive restoration.
Owned by Mike Baker, this 1993 car has probably the most esteemed history of the Cup car trio. But that livery! Despite the relatively ‘modern’ era (for a classic race meet) the Porsche hails from, the period-correct paint and graphics scheme, as run throughout the 1993 and 1994 seasons, exhibits the kind of vivid simplicity sadly lost in the fussy liveries of today.
Finishing a solid second in the 1993 Carrera Cup season in the hands of saloon car racing royalty Alfred Heger, the car managed one better in 1994. Under the control of latter day Formula One safety car driver Bernd Maylander, Mike’s 964 took out the overall honours for the 1994 German Carrera Cup series, making this particular chassis one of the last 964s to win an official Carrera Cup title.
Does anyone else associate Reebok with the ’90s just as much as I do? It’s just one of those quintessential brands of the decade, and a perfect partner for a Carrera Cup competitor.
Spirited down to the Southern Hemisphere in 1995 by the Giltrap family, this 964 was also pressed into service for the Bridgestone Porsche championship, with a modicum of success from driver Richard Giltrap including the top podium step in 1996 for the ‘A’ class category.
Current owner Mike took custody of the 964 sometime around 2001, subsequently driving the wheels off the car for a total of 73 national-level race meetings between 2001 and 2009.
Mike’s achieved success with the 964 too – a string of runner-up positions in the Bridgestone Porsche championship himself, as well as runner-up in the North Island Endurance series on four occasions. The 911 also found itself as far afield as Malaysia in 2013 for the Asia Classic Car Challenger, finishing the event with a creditable class victory before the long journey home.
Home in time for a refresh. Race cars get tired when they’ve done the sort of competitive miles Mike’s car has, and considering the current trend toward restoration to original period livery and specification, the 964 underwent a comprehensive rebuild to the requisite factory standards.
This year’s NZ Festival of Motor Racing marked the debut for Mike’s rebuilt 964. Following the two-year competition hiatus, it might be a fair assumption that Mike may have taken things easy on the tarmac, but picking up where he and the 911 left off, this clearly wasn’t the case. Ripple strips became a target, sending the inside wheels off the ground across the top of Hampton Downs’ turn 3.
The kicker? Over 25 years after the single-make Porsche Carrera Cup was conceived with notions of close racing and performance parity, these three cars still exhibit similar on-track traits by lapping closely, and in the case of Kevin and Mike, continually battling one another across the course of the Festival.
Proof that Porsche engineers got the one-make formula right in that Stuttgart workshop all those years ago? I think so. It’s a legacy that continues to enthral today with the GT3 Cup.