Opened my emails yesterday morning to find a late-night message from the Yorkshire Bullet: Mark Bates from EB Motorsport. “Testing at Silverstone with Tuthills tomorrow, come over for a catch up if you’re free.” Five minutes later, I had thrown on a Tuthill top and was in the Cayenne, en route to Silverstone.
After eleven sunny Northamptonshire miles, I arrived at the circuit and found the garage but no sign of Tuthills. Instead, Mark was there with top man Neil Bainbridge from BS Motorsport and a smart RSR in Brumos colours. Tuthills had asked Mark to come down and test drive the RSR with the owner (who also owns a few Tuthill-built cars), trying the setup and suggesting some tweaks ahead of the car’s first outing this year for the CER race at Spa Francorchamps.
After many race miles in the two EB 3-litre racecars and the super 1965 911 that did so well at Goodwood last year, Mark is an excellent 911 test driver and has previously set up a number of non-EB 911 race cars, for circuits in the UK and Europe. He jumped at the chance to try an original RSR, making a five-hour round trip to have a go. The great weather was a real bonus.
Having already made a few misguided assumptions that morning, why hold back and break the habit of a lifetime, so I shot straight into another one, assuming this was the replica Brumos car built by Tuthills a few years ago, now fitted with BS Motorsport 3-litre power. Asking the owner about the new engine’s recipe, he smiled and put me straight. “This is the RSR that won the 1973 Mexico 1000 kms.”
Brumos Porsche 911 RSR 911 360 0865
Chassis number 911 360 0865 was delivered to Peter Gregg at Brumos in April 1973 (happy 43rd birthday). Fitted with the 911/72 engine – a naturally aspirated 2808cc flat six making 308 bhp at 8k rpm – the car was sold to Mexico’s Hector Rebaque, who owned it until mid 1977. In the years he had the car, Hector took three wins in Mexico City, twice on the famous 1000 kms race.
After Hector, the car went to Guatemala for a while, eventually ending up with our friends at the Blackhawk Collection, who sold it back to Europe: first living an Italian collector for twenty years, and then to another Porsche collector in Monaco, who had it restored by the now-defunct Scuderia Classica at the start of this decade. I don’t yet have the full story of how the current owner came to possess it, but watch this space.
The track day was organised by my next-village neighbours at Goldtrack, who run a tight ship and bring in some very nice cars as a result. Parked up amongst the latest supercars and plenty of race machinery, this air-cooled classic Porsche turned few heads beyond the cognoscenti, until Bates turned the key and got the engine started.
Porsche 911 Track Day Noise
Even with tailpipe extensions, intended to mute the exhaust a touch for track day dB meters, this Porsche has a proper bark on startup. The engine has a tight, pursed tickover that is so much sweeter than the all-bass soundtracks of later Porsches sporting exhaust systems apparently designed originally for industrial chimneys. I feel an audiophile comparison of most attractive tickovers coming on.
Rolling out into the pitlane, the roofline of the tall RSR runs well above the massed Radicals, Ginettas and Scuderia Ferraris that dominate Silverstone’s start-of-race-season track days. But with 300 bhp pushing less than 1000 kilos along, it goes down the road rather nicely.
“I’ve already spun it once,” Bates confesses. “Fourth lap, pushed a bit too hard and the back just came around. It’s not what our car would have done.” I asked him what else felt different to his own 3.0 RSR build, which has proved so successful in historic racing in the seven years he’s been racing it, winning back-to-back Masters Historic titles and last year’s Nürburgring Trophy race (rumour has it that Germany’s cancelled the race now the English have won it).
Porsche 911 RSR 2.8 vs 3.0-litre
“They are quite different cars. Ours feels sharper after so many years of development. It’s lighter – closer to 920 kilos than the 970 or so of this one – so our brakes bite harder and suspension has a bit less to do. It’s not quite surgical in its precision, as no air-cooled car could ever be surgically precise, but our car is very sharp and reactive to drive. This one feels authentic to the period: very 1970s.”
Testing went well, with the RSR showing a clean pair of heels to most modern machinery. It flew past me on the old pit straight, holding its own against a featherweight Radical and shrugging off modern 991 GT3 RS and new BMW M3s. The delight in seeing real RSRs used with such glorious abandon – the owner encouraging Mark to thrash it and see what it is utimately capable of – was a joyous experience. Ultimately, it was left to Mark to decide how hard he drove it.
“It’s not my car and we’ve already been ticked off for noise and told to keep it under 7k rpm, but there’s enough going on to see what could be looked at. Our car runs lower gear ratios, which offer more opportunies to exploit the engine’s torque. We have some suspension tweaks specific to our car and this year we also have our own dyno-developed exhaust system coming. That makes a difference to the power on tap.”
“It’s been a good morning and we’ve learned quite a bit, changing tyre pressures and moving some ballast around,” said Neil, who has extensive personal experience of racing 2.8 and 3.0-litre RSRs. When I suggested that he may have been one of the last people to race a proper 2.8 RSR around Silverstone in period (not including club races and historics since then), he had a think before sharing a great story of racing a non-turbo RSR against an Autofarm 934 back in the day. But that’s a tale for another time.