The Le Mans 24 Hours Winning 1982 Porsche 924 Carrera GTR

The 1982 Le Mans 24 Hour IMSA GTO Class Winning, 

Brumos, BFGoodrich, El Salvador Racing 

1982 Porsche 924 Carrera GTR

The history of this car and what it achieved epitomises everything I love about endurance racing. What started with a marketing idea, placed in the hands of a world class racing team who went on to exceed that goal and take class victory in the greatest endurance race of all the Le Mans 24 Hours.  

One of only 17 examples produced, the Porsche 924 Carrera GTR is a far cry from its humble beginnings the 924. EA425 or what was to become the 924 was originally a joint project of Volkswagen and Porsche, created by the Vertriebsgesellschaft (VG), the joint sales and marketing company funded by Porsche and VW to market and sell sports cars. For Volkswagen, it was intended to be that company’s flagship coupé, while for Porsche, it was to be its entry-level sports car replacing the 914. 

Though a fully Porsche Weissach design, the project utilised suspension parts from the MK1 Golf through to the Audi four-cylinder engine. With the 1973 oil crisis and changes in management in Volkswagen, VW decided to concentrate on cheaper models like the Golf and Scirocco and Porsche, needing a model to replace the 914, structured a deal to buy back the design from VW. 

Launched on the French Riviera in November 1975 the initial 924 impressed with its handling but was initially underpowered. Famed motoring journalist Patrick Bernard, who would go on to pilot the sister car to this at Le Mans, described the early versions of the 924 as ‘embarrassingly underpowered but dreamily well balanced”. He did however go on to say “Blessed with very good handling compared to rear-engined Porsches in my estimation – Dynamically, it was definitely a thoroughbred. A great start for a race car”. 

With the initial models producing 96 and 110bhp for the US markets and 125 bhp for the European cars, the 924 was steadily improved and developed through out its eight years of manufacture. The most development came with and went into the Turbo cars and the introduction across the board of a 5 speed gearbox. The 924 would go on to be one Porsches best selling models.

In 1979, Porsche began developing its 924 Turbo as a Group 4 GT entry for the 1980 24 Hours of Le Mans. A trio of 924s made a successful debut at Le Mans in 1980. Entered by Porsche and driven by and run in the the colours of Germany, England and America. The three cars were driven by Manfred Schurti/Jürgan Barth in the German car, Andy Rouse/Tony Dron in the British car; and Derek Bell/ Al Holbert in the American car. Bell standing in for the injured Peter Gregg at the last minute. 

 After a 36 hour test at Paul Ricard the team took to Le Mans, entered in the LM GTP Class with the #2 Rouse/Dron car finishing 12th overall, the #3 Bell/Holbert 13th and the #4 Barth/Schurti a credible 6th overall and first in class.  

The much missed Tony Dron described the 924 as “a quite remarkable car”, remembering “the wonderful integrity of the chassis, an extremely stiff chassis and the handling of the car was extraordinarily good. On of the best handling cars I have ever driven”. 

Porsche returned to Le Mans in 1981 with a single 924 driven by Rouse and Schurti and one 924 GTP LM powered by a new turbocharged 2.5-litre 944 engine driven by Barth and Walter Röhrl. Both finished well with the GTP LM finishing 7th overall and 1st in the LM GTP Class and the other car 11th overall and 1st in the IMSA GTO Class.

Off the back of the last two years success, Porsche developed the 924 Carrera GTR in 1981. A far cry from its road based cousins, the new coupe was fitted with a full alloy roll cage and an additional cross-brace beneath the bonnet. Body panels included aluminium, lightweight poly-urethane and fibreglass. Disc brakes and axles came from the 935 parts bin; a larger intercooler was fitted in the nose; an uprated dog-leg five-speed transmission with limited-slip differential and its own cooler mounted at the rear gave the chassis exceptional balance. 

The suspension was fully adjustable, with titanium springs and Bilstein coil-over dampers, front and rear. The dry-sump 2.0-litre inline-four developed a startling 375 bhp with almost 300 pound-feet of torque, giving the GTR a 180-mph top speed.

The 924 GTR’s large wheel arch flares covered wide 16-inch centre-lock BBS alloy wheels fitted with internally-finned turbine covers to enhance brake cooling. The windscreen was of thinner glass, while the lightweight door shells held only a latch mechanism and frames for sliding plastic panels. The interior was all business, virtually identical to the factory racers save for the second bucket seat and harness for a passenger; there was also a fire-suppression system and additional instrumentation.

With only 17 examples built in total a limited number of road cars were produced with the race cars ready to race in 1982. 

This Car: Chassis Number 720011 

The story of this and its sister car start with top BFGoodrich salesman Gary Pace who was discovered while working in a petrol station by BFGoodrich’s Vice Presedent Robert A. Eisentrout. So impressed by what Pace had to say on his chance meeting, Eisentrout immediately set him up with his own department, what became known as the T/A Performance Team. What Pace and his team were tasked with was making the long considered boring utility tyre exciting. He put movie stars in race cars, got involved with car clubs and built a huge inflatable dome that toured the dealerships round the country showing short movies made by Pace’s team on everything from circuit racing to racing in Baja, thus firing the passion of wannabe tyre buyers around their country. 

Focusing on racing the T/A tyres started in the early 1970s with Trans-Am. Initially named the T/A – Trans-Am Tire, but due to a conflict with Pontiac they were renames “Tough American”. Pitted up against purpose built race tyres, victory for T/A tyres became full page magazine adverts. With endurance racing wins across IMSA and the SCCA, the T/A tyres established their racing pedigree and by the early 1980s BFGoodrich set their sights on the European market. With that goal in mind there is no better race to take on than the 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans. 

Choosing which car to go with, BFGoodrich targeted the IMSA GTO class and with Schurti and Rouse having won the class at Le Mans in 1981 in a Porsche 924, the new 924 Carrera GTR seemed the car to use. With the works Porsche factory team concentrating all its efforts on the new Group C class and their new 956, they no longer ran a team of 924s. However they were offering factory support to privateer teams at races and being closely tied to Porsche would immediately boost BFGoodrich’s international reputation. 

With the cars chosen, BFGoodrich then needed to choose who was going to run the cars. For this they chose Brumos and Herman Miller. Owned by Deborah Gregg (after the death of her husband Peter) and the duo of Jo Herman and Paul Miller, respectively, both were highly respected teams and with the help of Jo Happen, head of Porsche Motorsport North America, were each supplied with an ‘out of the box’ factory 924 GTR to develop. 

The Herman-Miller car was to be driven by Paul Miller and Patrick Bernard and the Brumos GTR, this car – 720011, was to be driven by Doc Bundy – the man who gave the 924 its first race win, and Jim Busby – well known for his wins in 911s and 935s. Jim also had close ties with BFGoodrich. The third seat for each car was to be filled by a European based driver or as in the case of this car at Sebring, a film star. 

The road to Le Mans started at the 1982 Daytona 24 Hours. The Herman Miller team was joined by Jürgan Barth, while  720011 was joined by Mafred Schurti. After a poor qualifying the Herman-Miller car finished a credible 11th overall, 3rd in the GTO Class, while 720011 finished 19th and 7th in class with gearbox troubles. 

From Daytona they remained in Florida for the Sebring 12 Hours. With Barth remaining in the Herman-Miller car, driving duties for 720011 were shared on this occasion by keen racer, movie actor and now husband of Barbara Streisand, James Broline. Coinciding with Spring Break the Sebring crowd was full of revellers a group of whom had bought a pig. Said pig managed to wander onto the track just as James Broline happened to be there. The ensuing incident totalled the pig and damaged the car badly. The Brumos team managed to get the car back out there but it was not a good race, with 720011 finally finishing 23rd and the Herman-Miller car retiring with a broken crankshaft. 

From Sebring all efforts were concentrated on the logistics of getting to Le Mans. The BFGoodrich engineers set about preparing the tyres all of which had to be shaved ready for the race, taking the tread depth from around 10/32 of an inch to 3/16 and in doing so creating a much more stable and consistent tyre. It is not clear whether 40 or 80 tyres per car were shipped out to France, but as one team member later said: “I might have been accused of shipping too many!”.

Meanwhile the cars were shipped straight to Weissach with Herman-Miller crew chief Lee White and Brumos crew chief Paul Willison in tow. Now at the Porsche, the cars got updates to their cooling and fuel systems. In fact 720011 was apparently used as the car to develop the changes to the intercooler at the factory, at which time the double water pump system was added. Both cars were prepared for Le Mans by the factory with White overseeing the preparation of both engines. When all of the preparation was complete both cars were put through their paces at the Porsche test track at Weissach by Jim Busby and after one more test on a runway, they were off to Le Mans. 

Le Mans 24 Hours – 1982 

With a camera crew in tow, both cars arrived at Circuit de la Sarthe for the main event. Pitted next to the Porsche factory team it was time to go. The Herman-Miller car, race number 86 was to be driven by Miller, Bernard and Schurti, while this car, the Brumos number 87 car, 720011, was to be driven by Busby, Bundy and Frenchman Marcel Mignot. Well liked within the team, Mignot was no stranger to Le Mans, being a racing instructor there by day.

Heading into qualifying the decision was made to qualify on Dunlop racing tyres before switching to the longer lasting BFGoodrichs for the race. Obviously this was not a decision openly publicised.

It was Schurti who would come out on top in qualifying, setting a class record down the Mulsanne Straight and putting the #86 Herman-Miller car 42nd overall. 720011’s qualifying was not so easy and was almost catastrophic. With Mignot yet to qualify, due to coming down sick, this left the team with only Busby and Bundy qualified. Further to that under the new ACO rules with Busby turning a few laps in the #86 car for filming he was subsequently listed as their reserve driver, leaving Bundy as 720011’s only qualified driver. Some hefty negotiation between BFGoodrich and the ACO later and 720011 was allowed to start at the back of the grid in 55th with only the two driver line up of Busby and Bundy. 

With their troubles not yet behind them, Doc Bundy then spun 720011 in the Saturday morning practice hitting the guard rail and damaging a rear corner. With ACO rules stating that all cars would start the race in perfect condition, it was all hands on deck back in the pits. A group of energetic Porsche mechanics jumped the fence into the driver’s parking area and disassembled Jurgen Barth’s road going 924, removing the rear bumper and any other parts they needed, they started tossing these parts and bits over fence and started franticly rebuilding 720011. With the work done they made the grid in time. 

Heading into the race both teams strategy was to be steady and consistent and make the tyres work to their advantage. With a saving of 20-30 seconds over their competitors every time they did not have to change tyres, this was a sound strategy. Heading into the race they mounted enough tyres so as to be able to change every six hours. Herman-Miller changed their first set at 7:11pm. This was probably a planned stop so as they could dissect the tyres and see how they were holding up. Once they looked they realised they did not need to have changed them. 

Brumos took head and stayed out. At around 8pm with Doc Bundy behind the wheel, 720011’s throttle cable broke coming out of a corner. Pulling over to the side, he was confronted by a Marshall questioning “abandon?”, he shouted “no” and headed under the bonnet. Thankfully, much to ridicule from his mechanics, Bundy had worried about such an incident and was thankfully carrying a six inch length of wire in his race overalls. Wiring the throttle 60% open he slammed the bonnet back down and got back in the car. With the marshall sticking his head in the window to ask the same question, and with the car in gear, clutch in, it roared into life just before Bundy yelled “no”, dropped the clutch and sped off back to the pits to get the cable changed. 

By 9:57pm as the sun set there was still no change of tyres for the #87 car. Doc Bundy was out on track and this time he was confronted by another issue. As he exited the tight second gear corner at Arnage, he looked over to see a man in his swimming trunks giving him the ‘finger’. Putting this down to a presumed glitch in international relations he carried on only to be confronted by the same greeting over the next few laps. Deciding not to engage in the man’s chosen line of communication he battled on. 

As the evening drew towards midnight and with both cars out in front of the class, the Brumos team changed a rear tyre on 720011 as a precaution, due to a small nick in the sidewall. 

At around 2am while out in front of the class, the clutch failed on the #86 Herman-Miller car. Bernard brought the car into what would be a three-and-a-half-hour pit stop. At 5:55am with Schurti behind the wheel the #86 was back out on track, only to get a radio call minutes later from Schurti saying he was off the track with a front wheel off and their race was over. All eyes then turned to the 720011.

As the race headed into the early hours of the morning Doc and Busby battled on, it was 4:00am and bar the one rear tyre, 720011 was still on its original tyres. 

As the sun came up Doc’s fan returned, in his swim trunks, giving him the finger, as they battled on. At 10:37am Busby  was spotted running slowly and pulled into the pits with a water leak. With the Works 956 running so well the Porsche mechanics mucked in to help fix the problem. 720011 would require constantly topping up with water for the remainder of the race. Pitting a further eight times to top up with water and Bar’s Leaks, 720011 battled on, but they are winning. 

According to Brumos crew chief Paul Willison in the 22nd our of the race 720011 eventually lost 5th gear. Unable to fix the problem, they battled on. He remembers that by hour 23 the car was starting to overheat, probably due to having to run so hard in 4th gear for so long and the aforementioned water leak. With the turbo turned down, 720011 headed back out on the track and the war of attrition continued.

In the final stage of the race, in what Bundy believed to be a decision driven by the film crew, he was swapped out of the car with Busby who was to finish the race. Enraged, he went back to his trailer and packed to go home. Still fuming, Gary Pace came in and told him to get his race gear back on as it turned out that Busby had exceeded his laps and they needed Doc to finish the race and that he did. 

With the works Porsche 956 passing him on the final lap in the Porsche Curves on their way to a 1-2-3 finish, he tucked in behind them and crossed the line to take 16th overall and victory in the IMSA GTO class. Mobbed by the crowds at the finish line, 720011’s achievement is made even more impressive by the fact it completed the 24 hours on just five tyres from start to finish and with only two drivers.

From Le Mans, BFGoodrich decided to go with one last run with Brumos and 720011 was shipped to Japan for the Suzuka 1000Km on the 28th of August 1982. Driven by Jim Busby and fellow American Ron Grable and still carrying the race number 87, they were 6th overall and 4th in class. 

With the close of the 1982 season, came the close of BFGoodrich’s connection with the car. Having achieved what they set out to do with Le Mans and success overseas in Japan.

For 1983, ownership of 720011 was retained by the Brumos Porsche team and it was raced by Deborah Gregg and an all-ladies team at the Sebring 12 Hours on the 19th of March. Painted white and black and carrying the Brumos team name, driving duties were shared with Kathy Rude and Bonnie Henn, daughter of T-Bird Swap Shop owner Preston Henn. Qualifying 51st, they sadly failed to make the finish due to an accident by Gregg.  

From Sebring, it was on to Riverside for the 6 Hours on the 24th of April. This time sharing just with Kathy Rude, they qualified 45th but again sadly didn’t finish. 

Next up was Charlotte for the Charlotte 500Km on the 15th of May. Qualifying 16th, they did not finish; however in the process Kathy Rude set the fastest lap in their IMSA GTU class. 

720011 is not know to have raced again in IMSA that season until the finals at Daytona on the 23rd of November.  Sharing the driving with Elliot Forbes-Robinson, the duo qualified 27th and finished in 17th overall, with Elliot having set the fastest lap in the IMSA GTU class. 

For the 1984 season 720011 was sold to Alfredo Mena’s El Salvador Racing. A high profile personality and political commentator in El Salvador, Mena hosted a political television program that aired five times a week. Now painted fully white and sponsored by Red Roof Inns, Sleep Cheap and Brumos Porsche, presumably 720011 was still run for El Salvador Racing by the Brumos team as he shared the driving duties with Deborah Gregg. 

The first outing of the season was the Daytona 24 Hours on the 5th of February. Driven by Mena, Gregg and Jim Truman they qualified 48th before finishing 69th. From Daytona the team moved on to Sebring for the 12 Hours. Retaining the same driver line up but this time featuring a new separate rear wing and an auxiliary four light structure on the front. Qualifying 39th, they sadly did not finish due to engine troubles. That is the last race record we have to date for the car. 

720011 eventually went to El Salvador with Mena. Whether it was raced and if so, how much we can not say to date, but looking at the photos taken when the current owner bought 720011 from Mena over 10 years ago, you can see it is still white with the separate rear wing, but with sponsorship from Taca International Airlines on the bonnet. 

Bought by the current owner nearly ten years ago, an avid racing Porsche collector, he is remarkably only 720011’s 3rd owner from new. In his ownership he had the car completely restored back to its 1982 Le Mans 24 Hour class winning livery by competition Porsche specialists Willison Werksatt. Owned by Paul Willison who ran 720011 in period. As it sits now it literally fresh from a recent cosmetic refresh.

Apart from being shown at the Amelia Island Concours and with Porsche North America, 720011 has not been see much in public since it stopped racing in the IMSA in 1984. As such this offers a very rare opportunity to own a significant piece of Porsche racing history. Not only is 720011 one of only 17 Porsche 924 Carrera GTR ever built it is also part of an even more prestigious club of Le Mans Class winning Porsche. 

Surely a coveted prize of any significant collection or racer alike. This could be your chance to return to Le Mans for Peter Auto’s world class Le Mans Classic in a Le Mans Class winning Porsche and if you can find some period BFGoodrich radials, history has proved you won’t need to pack too many tyres!