Mark Donohue and the Porsche 911 RSR IROC
Not everything is for sale in Dutton Garage. And this beauty is kept firmly under wraps... for now.
It is a lovingly restored and race prepared Porsche 911 RSR IROC. And it was driven to victory by Mark Donohue in his ‘retirement’ race at Daytona in 1974 just months before his death in early 1975.
This is the orange 911 – chassis number 911.460.0090 – that made history.
This is its story.
And the tale is far from over.
The car is back on the race track thanks to the team at Dutton Garage.
In October 1973, twelve of the top drivers in the world were invited to compete in IROC, the International Race of Champions.
A series of four races were to be held in America and the aim was to reduce all other variables, such as the car, its modifications and fine tuning, so that only one factor remained: the skill, tactics and bravado of the drivers.
The drivers were selected from all four major branches of racing:
- Formula One
Selecting the drivers was an easier job than deciding on the car that would facilitate this race of champions.
The drivers chosen for the first race were all title holders at the time:
- Mark Donohue
- Bobby Allison
- Emerson Fittipaldi
- George Follmer,
- A.J. Foyt
- Dennis Hulme
- Gordon Johncock
- Roger McCluskey
- David Pearson
- Richard Petty
- Peter Revson
- Bobby Unser
But a car that could live up to the occasion was now needed.
Mark Donohue and the Porsche 911 RSR IROC
The cross-discipline competition was the brainchild of Roger Penske. He sought Donohue’s advice for which car would be best for the race and the answer he received was unequivocal: he was told that if you need a strong and fast car you need a Porsche.
Donohue’s instincts were right. The development work that he was involved in on the Porsche Carrera RSR produced what would become the world’s most successful GT car for many years to come.
Donohue had first tested out an RSR prototype at the Paul Ricard circuit in the south of France towards the tail-end of 1972. At the time Donohue was officially testing the new 917-30 Can-Am Porsche, but it was the prototype that really turned his head. He was suitably impressed by the car’s handling and durability that he was quick to push it forward as a fitting car for such a prestigious race. Equally important was his confidence that the well-oiled team at Porsche could efficiently prepare a fleet of identically matched cars.
What Donohue helped steer the development of was a hybrid of the 1973 2.8 RSR and the 1974 3.0 RS.
The fat bodywork was clearly based on the RS 3.0 road car. It sported narrower RS fenders, which allowed for 9” front and 11” rear Fuchs forged wheels with regular bolt-on rims rather than a full race setup. It was graced with a larger, all-fibreglass whale-tail which replaced the smaller duck-tail of the factory cars.
It used the engine of the RS with high butterfly injection rather than the later slide injection. The 3.0 litre engines of the IROC cars developed 235kW, compared to the 172kW of the basic RS 3.0.
The gearboxes used were Type 915 Porsche five-speeds with spaced ratios, rather than the close-ratio cogs used on the racing versions of the cars.
The final touches were made for the televising of the races. Carrera graphics were replaced by Porsche logos, and each car was painted in a bright colour for maximum impact on viewers new colour television sets.
The race was on!
Mark Donohue’s epic final win
Donohue had won the first two 1974 IROC races.
In the third he had to settle for second place as his former Penske teammate took the honours.
A lot was riding on the final race in the series. Daytona, Florida was the venue and the stakes were high. This the race of champions with a million dollars in prize-money up for grabs and plenty of egos on the race track.
It was also to be Donohue’s last ever race. And he had selected the orange 911 – chassis number 911.460.0090 – to drive.
"The race was very, very important to me. I didn't care about the show. The race was going to be my last and I wanted to go out with the best performance I could put on. I don’t think I’ve ever tried so hard to qualify on the pole. It wasn’t necessary to be on the pole to win the race, but I had decided ahead of time that I was going to do it. It was a real ‘white knuckle’ deal.”
When the flag dropped there was quickly no doubt who this was a race against.
After five laps, he and his racing nemesis, George Follmer, driving the bright yellow RSR, were ahead of the pack.
Rather than wait for the final lap Donohue decided to jump his arch rival. He attempted to pull away, but although he took the lead he just couldn’t shake the dogged Follmer.
Donohue played smart, forcing Follmer too deep into a corner.
As Follmer’s RSR pirouetted across the track Donohue smiled into his mirror.
The race was his.
On the final lap, the flag marshals held up a huge banner that read ‘Goodbye Mark, we’ll miss you"
Mark Donohue’s famous IROC RSR arrived in Australia in 2014.
Melbourne rare car dealers Gavin Fernandez and George Nakas, had bought a piece of history.
The car was in excellent condition yet Porsche Centre Melbourne Racesport specialist Peter Bowen helped the team to return it to its original factory specification. After a worldwide search by Bowen over many months, its engine was restored to the correct, original, specs that Donohue enjoyed, while the coil-over suspension is back in race trim. And those massively powerful and expensive 917 four-pot brakes still retain their incredible bite.
The car is more than just a showpiece though. It was prepared for its Australian circuit debut at the 2014 Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motor Sport in March 2014.
The race is still on.
And this is the ultimate 911 to be pitted against.