Porsche at Dakar - Looking Back
Non-fiction is often more compelling than anything a fiction writer could imagine. The story of Porsche's motorsports efforts in the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1984, 1985 and 1986 is a rich vein of history. One of our 2021 projects was working with 000 Magazine on a deep dive into the project. After three years of on-and-off labor and two visits to the Porsche archives in Stuttgart, we emerged with a profound appreciation for those involved and what they accomplished. The full story is told in 000 Magazine, Issue 017 - published in May 2021.
Porsche's story at Dakar is a story that could only have happened at that time in history with that group of people. The number of circumstances that aligned at the same time is astounding. The Paris-Dakar itself was fairly new and gaining momentum. Jacky Ickx had racing success at the highest levels and was in a position to tackle something new. Rothmans International had supportive people in key positions like Sean Roberts, sponsorship interest and budget that aligned with Porsche's motorsports priorities and the markets they reached. Porsche itself had recently seen a change of management and renewed support for motorsports.
Revised Group B regulations paved the way for concepts like the 959. Audi showed the world that all-wheel drive was not only viable but a game changer. René Metge brought his desert driving mastery and taught the team how to approach (and respect) the desert. An incredibly unique collection of people at Porsche such as Peter Falk, Roland Kussmaul, and Wolf-Hendrik Unger drove, engineered, navigated, and developed the technology. David Richards and his nascent Prodrive operation even had a role - including taking the first win for the rally 959 in Egypt with a rebuilt 959 that crashed out of the 1985 Dakar. Not only did Porsche win with the 953 in 1984 and 959 in 1986, they did it at the same time other Porsche motorsports programs such as Group C and IMSA racing were in full force.
As well-known as the Porsche 959 road car and Dakar 959 racing success is for Porsche enthusiasts, few recognize how instrumental Jacky Ickx was to the whole project. It was his initial idea and his pitch for support to Rothmans that set the project in motion. He was an active participant in management decisions. The Dakar entries were made as "Team Jacky Ickx" rather than Porsche. Ickx not only raced in the desert but fell in love with the desert.
The spirit of Porsche at Dakar continues to this day. Amy Lerner ran a Porsche in Rothmans colors at the 2021 Dakar Classic and is headed for another run in the 2022 event. Read more about her project in Porsche Road and Race here.
If you ever get the chance to talk with Mr. Ickx, don't ask about Formula One or LeMans or Group C. Ask about Dakar.