• How The Porsche 959 Rally Legend Redefined The Nature of Supercars

Porsche looks back on the 959’s historic win at Paris-Dakar

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For most of its long and illustrious career, the Porsche 911 acted as the brand’s range-topping sports car through turbocharged models like the Turbo, Turbo S, and GT2. But the 911 was at times superseded by supercars like the 959, Carrera GT, and 918 Spyder.

The 959 was Porsche’s first supercar and it’s by far the most intriguing when it comes to the reason it was designed. Unlike its spiritual successors, the 959 was born out of Porsche’s desire to join Group B rally racing. But development took longer than expected and by the time the 959 was ready for production and homologation, Group B was cancelled. Porsche eventually raced it at the Paris-Dakar Rally, winning the grueling event in 1986. It’s been almost 35 years since the 959 won the race and Porsche is celebrating with a special "Top 5 Series" video.

How The Porsche 959 Rally Legend Redefined The Nature of Supercars
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The five-minute video is both a history lesson on the race-spec 959 and a highlight footage of the car’s Paris-Dakar adventure. It documents how the 959 was designed and developed and it talks about its then-revolutionary all-wheel-drive system. It also gives us a closer look at the twin-turbocharged inline-six engine, rated at 400 horsepower, and the adjustments Porsche had to make to turn the 959 into a rally race winner.

Finally, it talks a bit about how the three Porsche 959s fielded in the 1986 Paris-Dakar Rally finished the race in first, second, and sixth positions, scoring a historic win for the German brand.

How The Porsche 959 Rally Legend Redefined The Nature of Supercars
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The 959 did more than just race at Paris-Dakar, though. While the video doesn’t mention it, simply because it documents this historic event only, the 959 was also raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Called the 961, it won its class and finished seventh overall in 1986.

How The Porsche 959 Rally Legend Redefined The Nature of Supercars
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Of course, the 959 is actually more famous as a road-going car.

Introduced in 1986, it was the world's fastest streel-legal production car with top speeds of up to 211 mph.

It was also considered the most technologically advanced sports car of its time and set the standard for the competition. It also provided the basis for Porsche’s first all-wheel drive 911, the Carrera 4. Fitted with a twin-turbo, 2.8-liter flat-six engine rated at up to 523 horsepower, the 959 remained in production until 1993. Porsche built 337 units in seven years.

Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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