- The #1 Sahara Beige Emerson Fittipaldi IROC RSR
- One of only 15 911 Carreras produced for the IROC series
- Driven by two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and two-time F1 champion, Emerson Fittipaldi
- Qualified on the pole position in the first ever IROC race at Riverside
- Later entered by privateers in marquee endurance events
- Multiple runnings of the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Daytona between 1974 and 1978
- Powered by its correct 911/75, 3-0-liter “butterfly” racing engine and five-speed manual transmission
- Beneficiary of an award-winning restoration completed in 2010
THE INTERNATIONAL RACE OF CHAMPIONS
With the introduction of the new 3.0-liter displacement limit for Group 5 World Championship Sports Cars, Porsche channeled its efforts into two very different programs for 1972 rather than continuing with a Works WSC effort. On one hand, Porsche would pursue the 1972 and 1973 Can-Am Championships with its formidable Penske-run 917/10 and 917/30 behemoths. It also continued development of the 911-based RS and RSR variants for the GT class of International long-distance racing.
The staff at Weissach managed to further reduce the weight from the Carrera RS 2.7, while simultaneously increasing power without compromising reliability. By using GRP panels, plastic side windows, and stripping out all but the most essential items of interior trim, the RSR barely tipped the scales at 1,980 lbs. For 1974, a new 3.0-liter engine with Bosch twin-spark ignition was employed, with a resultant power increase to 330 horsepower. The now-redundant 917 parts bin was raided for brakes and center-lock wheels, while flared wheel arches, a front air dam, and the now iconic “tea-tray” spoiler gave the RSR a very aggressive posture.
The International Race of Champions series, or IROC, was created by Roger Penske, Les Richter, and Mike Phelps as an all-star racing series with well-known drivers from different racing backgrounds including Formula 1, Indy car, NASCAR, and other racing series. For the inaugural 1973/1974 season, the chosen cars were Porsche’s 911 Carrera RSR, of which 15 were built for the series; 12 for the competing drivers, plus 3 reserve cars.
The 1973/1974 field was a competitive one, with the likes of Richard Petty, Mark Donohue, Bobby Unser, A.J. Foyt, Bobby Allison, Emerson Fittipaldi, George Follmer, Denis Hulme, Gordon Johncock, Roger McCluskey, and Peter Revson competing on the same stage.
FITTIPALDI AT RIVERSIDE AND LATER PRIVATEERS
This Porsche 911 Carrera RSR 3.0 was sold new to Penske Productions in 1973 for participation in the inaugural IROC season. It was piloted by the two-time Formula 1 World Champion, Emerson Fittipaldi. For the first IROC race at Riverside International on 27 October, Fittipaldi used this Sahara Beige car to qualify on the pole position. However, because he arrived late to a driver’s meeting on race day, he was penalized and forced to start at the back of the pack. Despite the penalty Fittipaldi negotiated his way back up the order, before ending up off track and developing a fuel leak, which forced his retirement. The #1 car would not compete in the remaining Riverside races or at Daytona; Fittipaldi used one of the competition’s spare Carrera chassis for the remaining rounds.
Shortly after Fittipaldi’s singular excursion with this Sahara Beige RSR, Penske passed the car to North Lake Porsche-Audi in Tucker, Georgia. They subsequently sold it to T&C Racing of Sarasota, Florida on 21 June 1974 for $26,482. The car was campaigned into the late 1970s by John Tunstall and Charlie Kemp. Sponsored liveries varied from Day’s Inn, to Southpoint Porsche, and Star Brite Auto Polish. Between 1974 and 1978, they raced this Porsche at Lime Rock, Talladega, Road Atlanta, Mid-Ohio, Road America, Mid-America, and even legendary races such as Sebring 12 Hours, and the Daytona 24 Hours. Historic imagery and a 1976 fundraising circular from T&C Racing show that the car’s bodywork evolved with the rules of each series into which it was entered. As such, by the time it was last raced in domestic competition at the 1978 24 Hours of Daytona, the Porsche sported IMSA GT-style bodywork with wider, vented rear fenders, an enlarged front bumper, and gold-painted BBS racing wheels with aero discs.
COLOMBIA AND REDISCOVERY
In 1979, the Porsche was sold by T&C Racing and passed sometime thereafter to Colombian drug kingpin and narcoterrorist, Pablo Escobar. The consignor notes that the car was fitted with 935-style bodywork by a Florida speed shop immediately prior to delivery to Escobar’s estate. However unlikely, registration decals from its 1978 Daytona outing remained affixed to the rear quarter window in a period photo of Escobar and the now disguised, Martini-liveried IROC RSR. Escobar is recorded as having raced the car several times in domestic amateur hill climbs on public road courses. Its next Colombian custodian, Sergio Garcia, raced the car for several more seasons—most notably in the Esso 300 Miles at the Autódromo de Tocancipá in June 1992.
In May 1993, this notable IROC RSR was tracked down by a marque expert and imported to the United States. Unfortunately, it was seized at the port of importation by US Customs; it remained there for several weeks while all parties which brokered the deal were investigated. Finding no fault, the car was thusly released to the importer and in turn, its first stateside owner since T&C Racing. However, the consignor notes that either Escobar, Garcia, or US Customs officials removed all the car’s Colombian documentation and race registrations.
Between 1994 and 2007, the car remained unrestored in its as-found state, still complete with its 935-type bodywork and Garcia livery. For most of this time, the car was owned by a noted Porsche collector, vintage racer, and avid PCA member in central Ohio. It was sometimes displayed during PCA events at the paddock of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, but otherwise remained static.
Thusly acquired by the previous owner in 2007, this supremely rarified RSR 3.0 was submitted for a complete restoration back to its original 1974 IROC specifications. The car’s bodywork was addressed by a contingent of specialist shops in Southern California, while the powertrain and chassis underpinnings were entrusted to RennGruppe Motorsports in Lexington, North Carolina.
Since emerging from this meticulous restoration in 2010, the reborn Sahara Beige/Fittipaldi IROC RSR has gone on to claim multiple concours awards. In 2011, it debuted at the Rennsport Reunion IV at Laguna Seca to tremendous fanfare. Two years later it claimed a coveted Amelia Award at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. It also was exhibited on the show field at that year’s Quail, A Motorsports Gathering in Pebble Beach, California. More recently, this remarkable IROC Porsche was awarded second in class at the 2018 Amelia Island Werks Reunion and was also a crowd favorite at the 2019 Hillsborough Concours d’Elegance.
As one of just 15 IROC Carreras ever produced, this completely restored, race-prepared example presented in its correct #1 Fittipaldi livery, is surely a remarkable and enticing offering to the most hardcore of Luftgekühlt enthusiasts.