The Ex – Peter Gregg, Hurley Haywood, David Helmick 1973 Sebring 12 Hour Winning Porsche 911 2.8 RSR

The Ex – Peter Gregg, Hurley Haywood, David Helmick

1973 Sebring 12 Hour Winning Porsche 911 2.8 RSR

Background to the RSR

The Porsche 911 is thought by many to be the greatest sports car ever made; a design concept which has endured for more than half a century and is still successful today both commercially on the road and in competition on the race track.

As a road car it was a hit from the outset however the Porsche factory did not decide to start racing the 911 immediately choosing to focus its attention on the purpose designed 906, 908 and 910 prototypes. Nevertheless customers were quick to latch onto the competition potential of the car and in order to satisfy this demand the factory produced a series of “sports purpose” models designed to make the most of the FIA’s rules. This started in 1968 with the 911 T/R and was followed by the 1970 S/ T and the 1972 S/R. However at the end of 1972 following rule changes in the World Sportscar Championship that rendered the all-conquering Porsche 917 obsolete, the factory decided to take development of the 911 in GT racing much more seriously.

Porsche decided to create a small run of 911 road cars with improvements in engine size, weight, aerodynamics and tyre width that would form the basis of a winning race car. To this end, in 1973 Porsche launched the legendary Carrera RS. There were two options available, Touring or Lightweight, with the latter tipping the scales at a featherlight 975kg. Demand for the car far outstripped the Porsche marketing department’s expectations and 1,580 examples were produced, over three times as many as required for FIA homologation.

Pleasing though this commercial success must have been, Porsche’s sole purpose in releasing the Carrera RS road car was to allow development of a modified racing derivative, the Carrera RSR. Porsche took standard RS body shells off the production line and built them into racing cars in the Werk 1 race department. A total of 57 cars were produced, of which 49 were sold to customers and 8 retained for use by the works. The RSR incorporated every improvement allowed under the FIA Group 4 rules.

Porsche bored out the engine to give a total capacity of 2806cc which was the most that could be safely obtained from the magnesium crankcase. The compression ratio of the engine was increased to 10.3:1, and a series of other racing modifications made including larger valve sizes, twin plug ignition, a larger capacity fuel injection pump, hotter camshafts, lightened crankshaft and conrods, high butterfly induction and racing exhaust headers.

Every part was optimised resulting in a 50% leap in power to a claimed 308hp. Brakes were upgraded to cross drilled and vented discs with callipers taken from the 917. The Fuchs wheels were widened to 9” at the front and 11” at the rear and the wheel arches further flared to accommodate them. Cooling was enhanced by the adoption of large Behr engine oil cooler in the front spoiler and a serpentine gearbox cooler in the left hand front wing. The bodyshell was stiffened at the suspension mounting points and the car ran on race suspension geometry with modified front suspension struts and rear trailing arms. The result was quite a step up from the standard RS road car and a machine that was capable of beating much larger engined cars.

 

The Porsche RSR and Brumos Racing

The first international sports car race of the 1973 season was the Daytona 24 Hour race. This is one of the three most prestigious endurance racing events, the other two being the Sebring 12 Hours and the Le Mans 24 Hours. American racer Peter Gregg had been scoring class victories in Porsche 911s, 904s and 914s over several seasons with the support of his Florida Porsche dealership, Brumos.

The team took race preparation to a higher level than any of their rivals, always insisting on completely rebuilding every last nut and bolt before a race, even when the car had just been delivered brand new from the Porsche Factory. It was this meticulous approach and their presence at the forefront of the US racing scene that led Porsche to assign one of their two entries to the Daytona 24 Hours, a works prototype 2.8 RSR, chassis 0328 (R4), for the season opening event.

On paper, Porsche did not stand much of a chance as its GT cars were up against much quicker Formula 1 derived Prototypes from Matra, Mirage and Lola, not to mention the much larger engined Ferrari Daytonas and Corvettes. However during its racing debut, the 911 Carrera 2.8 RSR ran strongly and unexpectedly reliably. The same could not be said for the competition, and one by one they fell by the wayside. By the time the flag fell on the 24 Hour epic Gregg, Haywood and Brumos were out front by 22 laps.

The overall victory in one of the highlights in the World Championship of Makes calendar in the 2.8 RSR’s first race demonstrated the competitive, reliable and robust nature of Porsche’s brainchild, and put the model firmly at the forefront of the international endurance racing scene. Immediately following the Daytona success, 0328 was recalled to the Porsche Factory in Zuffenhausen to be examined and aid with the development of the subsequent 2.8 RSRs produced.

By the time the Sebring 12 Hours came around in mid March, Gregg’s order for his own customer RSR had failed to arrive in the US. Frustratingly for Brumos, three other teams’ cars had been successfully delivered and so a frantic negotiation began in order to secure one of these cars.

 

RSR Chassis 0705

Dr. Dave Helmick had received chassis 0705 only days before Sebring practice was due to start, having taken delivery from importer Franz Blam in Atlanta. Helmick was an accomplished amateur racer who went on to race Porsches successfully in IMSA for many years. Peter Gregg approached Helmick to see if he would lend them his car. The lure of being part of the Brumos set up for such an important race was strong and a deal was struck. Helmick would loan this brand new RSR to Gregg and Haywood in return for full support from the Brumos team and a single driving stint in the race itself.

Time was scarce, and Brumos weren’t afforded their normal practice of completely going through a car before racing it. Instead, only the most crucial of details were carried out. An FIA compliant ATL fuel cell with dry break fillers was fitted, which required modification of the front luggage compartment slightly. The standard factory rear roll hoop was extended forward with side impact protection for the driver, something Gregg always insisted on.

A state of the art, two way intercom system was also installed into the 2.8 RSR allowing instant communications between pit crew and driver, alongside the fitment of ID lights, sponsors decals and race numbers. Again, the Brumos car was assigned the same number 59 as it had been at Daytona, this being Peter Gregg’s personal number.

Gregg, Haywood and Helmick ran well with the RSR in qualifying, eventually netting 4th position out of 72 starters for the 12 Hour endurance classic. Throughout the race, 0705 ran without any mechanical problems. Gregg and Haywood took on the majority of the driving time, with Helmick driving the single stint agreed. The only issue to confront them was a large piece of concrete thrown up from the track by another car which went through the windscreen, fortunately on the passenger side.

The Brumos team had encountered the same problem at Daytona and with the benefit of practice were able to change the windscreen in 3 minutes rather than the 8 minutes it had taken at Daytona. This was pivotal as the race proved to be incredibly close with the main opposition coming from the 7 litre Corvettes and a pair of other Porsche RSRs. At the finish, it was Brumos who were ahead by a single 3 minute lap, claiming the outright victory in 0705.

Immediately after the Sebring race, Helmick was approached by the Mexican racer Roberto Quintanilla who made him an offer for 0705 that he couldn’t refuse. This was not unusual at that time as front running race cars were often bought by well heeled South Americans. Quintanilla was a close friend of Hector Rebaque who bought a number of Porsche RSRs from Brumos. Quintanilla bought 0705 to replace a 914/6 GT that he’d just completed the Daytona 24 Hours in with his racing partner John McClelland.

McClelland recalls 0705 being trucked directly from Sebring to Pueblo in Mexico where he raced it with Quintanilla for the first time. The car arrived the night before practice giving McClelland just enough time to change the gearset for one recommended and supplied by Jack Atkinson, chief mechanic at Brumos. McClelland recalls “Gears were great. I think we won. But some memories improve with age!”

After this race, they prepared the car for the 1000k of Mexico. The car was repainted in red with blue stripes. Records for the race are hard to come by but McClelland insists that they won beating Rebaque’s RSR amongst others.

Towards the end of 1973, Quintanilla bought another famous Porsche RSR, chassis 0588 (R6). This car had been run by the factory in Martini colours and won that year’s Targa Florio outright. The car was subsequently developed by the factory with a number of aerodynamic and mechanical upgrades that took it outside the homologation rules for Group 4.

As a result it ran at Le Mans that year as a Group 5 prototype before being sold to Roger Penske’s Sunoco team. Quintanilla and McClelland bought the car from Roger Penske at Watkins Glen for a suitcase full of cash – literally. Now with a factory developed prototype in their hands Quintanilla and McClelland switched their attention to 0588 for the rest of 1973 and the following 1974 season. However 0588 was not legal for IMSA events so many of the factory prototype parts were switched with the standard RSR items on 0705.

These included the short rear trailing arms, titanium variable rate coil springs and centre lock 917 style wheels. Thus upgraded Quintanilla and McClelland ran 0705 as a second car in shorter events through 1975. Quintanilla stopped racing at the end of 1976 and all of the Porsche cars and spares ended up with John McClelland at his base in Kansas City.

In early 1978 McClelland agreed to sell 0705 to Bob Johnson, owner of Autoworks an experienced racer in TransAm. When Johnson arrived to pick up the car McClelland persuaded him to take 0588 with him. While Johnson did nothing with the 0588 it continued to share a garage with 0705.

Johnson thoroughly refreshed 0705 in his workshop, including a repaint in orange. He raced it with his business partner Tom Touhy at the Watkins Glen 6 Hours and a number of TransAm events during 1978. By the end of the season Tuohy had decided racing was not for him so in 1979 the car was sold to its fourth owner believed to be a Mr. McLean from West Virginia.

Not much is known about 0705’s activities while under McLean’s ownership. It continued to race and there is evidence of subsequent colour changes to red and finally pink. However, by no later than 1985 it was purchased by the well known Porsche race car collector Dr. Bill Jackson of Colorado. Jackson kept the car in his collection for around 15 years where it sat alongside some of the most famous racing machines to come out of the Porsche factory. For the whole of this time 0705 remained in its last raced condition wearing a striking “Pink Pig” livery made famous by the 917 at Le Mans.

In 1999 0705, together with a number of Jackson’s other cars, was acquired by Heritage Motors of Hollywood before being sold to David Mohlman in 2001. Mohlman commissioned Kevin Jeannette of world renowned Porsche race car restorer Gunnar Racing to undertake the restoration of 0705 back to its Sebring 12 Hours winning specification.

Gunnar’s restoration was documented thoroughly, with many detailed pictures logging the special Brumos details uncovered. Interestingly the car still retained some of the parts that were swapped from the factory prototype 0588 by Quintanilla. These include the trick titanium coil springs, hand fabricated short rear trailing arms, special suspension bearings and centre lock wheels. Paint archeology can also clearly be seen, with all of the previous liveries present and the original light yellow under a thin coat of black on the underbody in these pictures while being stripped back in the bare metal restoration.

In 2004, 0705 was acquired by the current owner and imported to the United Kingdom. In his ownership, extensive research has been undertaken into the history of 0705, and attention paid to details which were improved in his quest for historic perfection.

While in the current owner’s possession 0705 has been used sparingly. It has been invited to run at the Goodwood Festival of Speed three times, in 2008, 2013 and in 2018 for the 70th Anniversary of Porsche celebration. Also in 2013 it was invited to the Amelia Island Concours where it was a prize winner and then on to the Sebring 12 Hours to be displayed in the Hall of Fame on the 40th Anniversary of its win.

While at Sebring, 0705 was reunited with Hurley Haywood who drove the car for several laps of the circuit on the eve of the 2013 race. A short film was made of the reunion by Porsche Cars North America and 0705 was featured on the front cover of Porsche Panorama magazine. Also in 2013 the car was displayed at the Salon Prive Concours in London where it won its class and at the Hedingham Classics at the Castle event where it was also a prize winner.

 

Present Condition

Much time and attention has been spent by the current owner to ensure 0705 is in as historically correct and functional condition as possible without wiping out the little details which tell its history.

The 2.8 litre RSR engine, while not original to the car, is a genuine and very rare Type 911/72 unit from another RSR (chassis 0782). The provenance of this engine has been researched and traced back to its originating chassis. Together with the gearbox it has been rebuilt by leading UK Porsche racing engine specialist Neil Bainbridge of BS Motorsport. A thorough photographic record of the rebuild was taken and this shows the many original period RSR details present. The engine was refreshed this year and produced 315 bhp on the dyno, beating the original factory claimed output.

When restored by Gunnar Racing, the car’s suspension contained several unusual features, most notably the titanium variable rate coil over springs, hand fabricated rear trailing arms and spring plates and ball-type spring plate bearings. As previously mentioned recent correspondence with John McClelland suggests that these non-standard items are likely to have come from chassis 0588 (R6) and be prototype factory parts designed for the wider tyred Le Mans Group 5 version of the RSR.

While it is possible to run 0705 in its current form on this suspension it was decided to replace the rear trailing arms and spring plates with original factory Group 4 items as this allows the car to be set up with the correct geometry for its 9” and 11” wheels. All the prototype suspension parts have been retained and remain with the car.

Considerable time has also been spent perfecting the car’s bodywork. The profile of the wheel arches has been the subject of much attention and leading Porsche body specialist Sportwagen were commissioned to perfect this detail, again with a photographic record of the work undertaken. Profiles were taken from the arches of another original 2.8 RSR, and the ones present on 0705 were modified to match.

The current owner has been just as attentive to a myriad of other details on the car culminating in 0705 being presented in its exact Sebring 12 Hour winning specification. No shortcuts have been taken meaning that the process has taken many years to complete.

It should be noted that the car still retains many original and interesting features such as the factory roll cage that was modified by Brumos at Sebring, the long range ATL fuel tank that they also installed and the original factory Heinzmann fire extinguisher. It was driven up the Goodwood hillclimb course this summer by Hurley Haywood himself who described the experience as “like getting back in the car at Sebring in 1973”.

 

The Opportunity

Andrew Frankel, when testing 0705 for Motor Sport magazine in 2016, summarised it neatly, “the RSR is, in truth, nothing less than the most rewarding iteration of greatest sports car ever invented.” Only 57 of these very special machines were ever produced and very few survive today with much of their original form intact. As a result its excellent provenance and high degree of originality already mark 0705 out as one of the best.

However it is the place it holds in Porsche’s racing history that really makes it stand out. This is highlighted by the poster “1973 – Das Jahr des RSR” that Porsche Club America commissioned to celebrate the 911’s three most important wins – the Daytona 24 Hours, the Sebring 12 Hours, and the Targa Florio. Of these three wining cars, only two now exist. 0705 therefore represents an exceedingly rare opportunity to acquire one of the most significant Porsche’s ever made.