In Porsche’s illustrious motorsport history, it might be argued that the 1986 Paris Dakar one-two doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Or rather, it didn’t until Porsche made a 911 called the Dakar and everybody suddenly remembered. Not only was Dakar in the mid-80s dominated by trucks and dedicated ATVs - i.e., the opposite of Porsche sports cars - the 959 was so good at continent-crushing that even the support car came home sixth. Three adapted Porsche 959s finished in the top six of the Paris-Dakar more than 35 years ago - it’s a phenomenal achievement.
Porsche still owns the trio, with the winning car of Réme Metge and Dominique Lemoyne left untouched in the museum as a testament to that incredible victory. The second-placed car, however, the one driven by Jacky Ickx and Claude Brasseur, has just undergone a significant recommissioning to make it driveable again. It’s been documented in a YouTube series, and the completed, fully functioning car will be shown at Retro Classics in Stuttgart later this month, another celebration of Porsche’s 75-year anniversary.
Given the 959 hadn’t been touched since 1986, the restoration was not a small task - and certainly not when you factor in the decision to preserve and restore as many original parts as possible. The 959s were prototypes back then, a hugely significant part of Porsche’s history, and the last thing anyone would really want is an entirely new car that looked like a Dakar. Encouragingly, the car was in pretty good shape despite 18,000km of impossible hard driving, with no major defects or corrosion. The Kevlar body, doors and bonnets were apparently still good, and the corrosion where they met the metal chassis was kept rather than repaired. “Only by keeping the damage from back then can we tell the story authentically and preserve it,” said Kuno Werner, Head of the Porsche Museum Workshop.
The exact details of the work undertaken will be revealed in the YouTube series over the coming weeks, but the intention was very much to retain as much of 1986 as possible with the 959. Even the mud that could stay was kept, and cable ties left in place when they didn’t have to move. Though detuned to 400hp from 450hp on account of the poor fuel available back then, it’s hard to imagine the 2.8-litre twin-turbo flat-six started on the button, but that said you get the impression Porsche Classic has probably had more arduous resto jobs. “The car has proven its quality and durability. Even sand and dust from hard racing use could not harm the technology. High-quality materials were also used back then,” said Klaus Kariegus, one of Porsche’s gearbox experts.
To mark the job’s completion, Jacky Ickx was invited to drive his 959 once more, this time in a German quarry rather than the African savannah. He said: “In the car the memories came back to me immediately as I remembered the people who made it all possible back then… “Everyone wanted to drive the car on the road. Then Porsche decided to enter the 959 in a rally in the desert. It’s fantastic that I get to be a part of this story.” He certainly still knows what he’s doing if the pics are anything to go by…
With the first video published today, another five instalments will follow on YouTube during February ahead of the Retro Classics event, which runs from 23rd-26th February. To think we’re just a month into Porsche’s 75th anniversary year - there should be plenty more to look forward to in the rest of 2023.
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