Dakar Porsche 953: An In-depth Look at The Paris-Dakar 4×4

Dakar Porsche 953: An In-depth Look at The Paris-Dakar 4×4

white and blue Porsche 911 953 rally race car parked on the grass

In 1984, the Paris-Dakar Rally witnessed a groundbreaking victory that defied conventional expectations in the world of off-road racing. The triumph came courtesy of a specially developed Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 4×4 Paris Dakar (Porsche 953). Led by project manager and driver Roland Kussmaul, this unique Porsche aimed to conquer the challenges posed by the grueling rally – a battle against scorching heat, ever-changing terrain, and the logistical difficulties of servicing cars in remote locations.

man with a mustache in the drivers seat looking behind the car
Driver and Lead Project developer for the Paris-Dakar course, Roland Kussmaul.
Source: Porsche

Equipped with a 3.2-liter air-cooled flat-six engine producing roughly around 300HP. This engine was a boxer-six configuration, known for its horizontally opposed cylinder arrangement. The Dakar Porsche 953’s engine, while relatively standard in terms of displacement, was adapted and enhanced for off-road racing, featuring specific modifications to meet the challenges of the Paris-Dakar Rally.

Because of the specifications of this infamous race, the team introduced a new all-wheel-drive system with a 31:69 power distribution between the front and rear axles, along with a manually locking center differential. Designed to withstand harsh conditions, the car boasted increased wheel travel to 270mm, a double-wishbone suspension with twin shock absorbers at the front, and a reinforced axle with additional coil springs at the rear.

Dakar Porsche 953 rally race car with the number 176 on the door driving on the sand
Powered by an air-cooled flat six and specialized suspension, the rally world was turned upside down by the Porsche team.
Source: Porsche

The body of the Dakar Porsche 953 was a 911 G series shell reinforced by a welded steel roll cage. To save weight, the doors, roof, front bumpers, and most of the glass were made of polycarbonate plastics. Essential for covering the vast distances of the Paris-Dakar Rally, the car featured a 120-liter fuel tank in the front luggage compartment and a 150-liter tank mounted behind the driver’s seat.

Dakar Porsche rally car parked in front of busses and trucks with the same paint job

In the inaugural outing for the 911 in the race, only three 953 cars participated, driven by motorsport legend Jacky Ickx, Frenchman René Metge, and project manager Roland Kussmaul. Despite initial skepticism about pitting a sports car against traditional off-road vehicles, Metge and co-driver Dominique Lemoyne secured a stunning overall victory. Ickx and co-driver Claude Brasseur, after overcoming setbacks, finished a commendable sixth, showcasing the speed, agility, and all-wheel-drive capability of the 911 Carrera 4×4 (953). Kussmaul and co-pilot Erich Lerner achieved a highly creditable 26th place.

Three men standing close to eachother leaning next to a car
Key members of the Paris-Dakar Porsche team: Jacky Ickx (left) and Roland Kussmaul (center)
Source: Porsche
Two men standing on a car in the middle of a crowd of people, one with his arms raised to the sky

The victory in 1984 marked the first time a sports car had triumphed in the challenging Paris-Dakar Rally, challenging perceptions and earning respect for Porsche’s expertise in off-road racing. The success of the Dakar Porsche 953 paved the way for further triumphs, including a win in 1986 with the Porsche 959, reinforcing Porsche’s ability to compete and excel against vehicles with a more traditional rallying heritage.

Two variations of the Porsche 911 Dakar edition vehicles driving in the salt flats
Then and Now, Porsche pays homage to the Paris-Dakar rally legend.
Source: Porsche

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