Someone Is Seriously Ballsy Enough to Race a New Porsche 935 At Pikes Peak
The 935 was made for the track so it’s a good thing that all of Pikes Peak is paved nowby Michael Fira, on LISTEN 06:01
Jeff Zwart is a man of many talents: he’s an eight-time Pikes Peak champion who broke quite a few records on the fabled Colorado hill climb course over the years mainly driving Porsches and he’s also a world-renown director having masterminded some famous automotive commercials that you probably were amazed by.
The next thing Zwart plans to do - which will amaze us and surely entertain him - is returning to the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb on August 30th. As ever, his weapon of choice is a Porsche but not just any product of Zuffenhausen. Think special, think very special, think 935-19.
Jeff Zwart is the man for the job, literally
Porsche loves racing and has pretty much built its reputation via its successful exploits on the track by saying, hey, if a car can run flat-out for 24 hours straight around places like Le Mans or Daytona, it will surely take whatever you can throw at it during your everyday life. That is precisely what got Jeff Zwart into Porsches. Well, that and the fact that he learned how to drive in an early 911. Then, like many of us, Jeff saw the movie ’Le Mans’ starring Steve McQueen which, happily, is almost completely devoid of dialogue but filled with scenes shot at the real 1970 edition of the 24-hour race in France.
The movie, whose motorized star, the Porsche 917, actually won at Le Mans in both 1970 and 1971, may not have been a box office hit but has endured as a cult classic among gearheads and Zwart soon realized that if he wanted to get up close and personal to these race cars he saw on screen, one of his best bets was to get into photography and journalism as the media is granted unparalleled access to a race meeting - in comparison to a fan, that is. He came to that realization while at Zandvoort, in the Netherlands, for the Dutch Grand Prix in the ’70s as he was preparing to become a veterinarian.
The whole photography thing took off little by little and he began covering automotive events for some leading names in the business which got him in touch with racing schools on more than one occasion as the snapper for stories surrounding said racing schools. During the making of these articles, he also got to drive the cars there and was well regarded by the instructors although he couldn’t pursue a career in racing due to a lack of money.
Later on, as photography evolved into videography and he began directing television commercials besides just shooting print, he got a chance to race in the Pro Formula Ford Series but the break into rallying came later still after connecting with Rod Millen, multiple rally & Pikes Peak champion who was racing for Mazda at the time. Doing gigs for Mazda, Zwart got to know Millen and he suggested to Jeff that he should get into rallying after noticing his driving prowess. Ultimately, Millen actually built Zwart a rally car that was entered into the US ProRally Championship.
That happened in 1990. Three years later, Zwart graduated into a Porsche but, despite it being the AWD Carrera 4 (993-generation), it wasn't going to win championships in front of the Japanese sedans purpose-built for rallying.
As such, Porsche came with the idea that Zwart should do the Pikes Peak, an event he was already familiar with having filmed a couple of commercials on the then-gravel course. A turbocharged engine was swapped in place of the original, 300 horsepower N/A unit and a redesigned suspension replaced the original Koni configuration. With 550 horsepower, that ’94 Valvoline 911 is the car that effectively put Zwart on the map at Pikes Peak and, since then, he’s done the event a whopping 16 times.
This year, he’ll do it all over again but it won’t be in what they call a "Showroom Stock" like back in the day when he used to run whatever Stuttgart had done last, be it the 996 Turbo, the GT2, or the 997.
Arguably, this is one of the most 'out there' cars that Zwart's ever driven at Pikes Peak as it's one of just 77 Porsche 935-19s built, a car that's worth over a million already despite its $700,000 sticker price (RM Sotheby's sold one this year for $1.5 million).
Based on the Porsche 911 GT2 RS road car, the 935-19 is a 3,000-pound race car that evokes the original 935 from the ’70s that dominated Group 5 racing. It’s powered by the familiar 3.8-liter, flat-six boxer engine with twin-turbochargers that makes some 700 horsepower in this guise. The power is dispatched to the rear axle through a seven-speed PDK transmission. Weight is kept in check by means of deleting all interior amenities and using carbon fiber for almost every body part, although there’s also some aluminum-steel composite and Kevlar parts in there too.
|Engine||Water-cooled 6-cylinder aluminum twin-turbo rear-mounted boxer engine with rigid mounting;|
|Transmission||7-speed PDK gearbox with rigid mounts and short paddle throws|
Suspension is by tuned MacPherson struts in front and lightweight multi-link arrangement in the rear with adjustable shocks at both ends. Zwart will drive up the 12.42-mile, 156-turn Pikes Peak course in a 935-19 prepped by Emotion Engineering who already shook down the car at Willow Springs. The team tested there as Zwart needs to get to grips with the ABS of the 935-19, a feature he’s never had to work with in a race car before.
"It will be a bit strange to race at Pikes Peak so late in the summer, rather than the usual June date," said Zwart. "I am anticipating the weather conditions to be a little more tricky but trying to read the weather has always been a part of Pikes Peak. Our last Pikes Peak car was something that we built combining a turbo engine with a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car. I really look forward to driving a full factory-built package with the latest upgrades and in the 935 bodywork. It should really be something special to drive," he added.
We surely are on the same page with Jeff and can’t wait to see how he does in the Time Attack 1 class.