All posts in Motorsport Mondays

Motorsport Mondays: 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo Rothmans Cup

Last week, I wrote up a 944 Rothmans Cup car, a model that introduced the idea of a factory-backed, one marque race series as an opener for larger races. In truth, this was no new concept; the unused M1 race cars got turned into the “Procar” series in the late 1970s/early 1980s and run with F1 drivers before races, as well as prior forays by Porsche in the IROC series. But the 944 Rothmans Cup was an effort that any gentleman driver could partake in, and that made it a bit more special. While the racing was close for sure and generated plenty of great action, the lightweight 944s really weren’t particularly fast in the grand scheme of things. Having launched a new Turbo model of the 944 in 1985, Porsche nearly immediately started development of the Cup version of the 951. With sealed motors pushing a bit more power that stock thanks to some revised engine mapping, catalyst-free exhaust and a revised magnesium intake, the real gains came in further use of exotic materials to lighten the cars. While the regular 944 was a bit lighter, the Turbo Cup went the next step; lightened suspension, magnesium wheels, stripped interior and plastic pieces. Undercoating was never installed on these cars and as a result of many small changes, the 944 Turbo Cup weighed in some 400 lbs less than the roadgoing version. Even with a modest power increase, this made for one potent and very special race car:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo Rothmans Cup on Race-Cars.com

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Motorsport Mondays: 2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDi Cup

Not that long ago, if you were at a gathering of automobile enthusiasts and said you had a diesel race car, you would likely have been laughed out of the group. And if I’m completely honest, I probably would have been one of those laughing. The term “diesel” coupled with “performance” just were two words at opposite ends of the spectrum to me even as recently as the mid 1990s. I recall that I had a friend who was very excited about the then relatively new TDi Golf and Jetta, reciting from carefully memorized brochures the fuel economy figures in any given situation. But then, something strange happened. I grew up and got a job where I had to drive – a lot – and was footing my own gas bill. Suddenly, the concept of 50 m.p.g. and having something a little different than the typical performance cars made sense to me. I was contemplating all sorts of weird permutations, generally into the cars I owned. For example, I thought the concept of swapping a diesel motor into the V8 quattro chassis was an interesting one, or for that matter an Audi S6 – the look of performance, but the mileage and run-for-eternity longevity of a diesel motor. Then Volkswagen did us all a favor and started bringing over performance versions of their TDi cars, starting with the Jetta TDi Cup Edition. An effective homologation of their one-make race series, the TDi Cups were essentially a GLi with the TDi powerplant – and offer performance in corners to make things fun coupled to fuel economy that makes life more practical:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDi Cup on eBay

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Motorsport Mondays: 1986 Porsche 944 Rothmans Cup

There are people who will definitely “get” this car, and those that will scratch their heads. A lot of it comes down to priorities and what you’d like to do, honestly. If you just want to go to the track, you could easily buy any number of Porsches or other cars that would be considerably faster than what is effectively just a lightened and stiffened naturally aspirated Porsche 944. While they’re well balanced and entertaining to drive, they’re certainly not the rocket ships people usually associate with the terms Porsche Race Car. However, what they are is very special – the Rothmans Cup was a limited run of special cars with special drivers. Together, they created a racing history that many fans still talk about. The precursor to race series like the Turbo Cup and Carrera Cup, this was a defacto Porsche factory effort – and the result of that is that this car is classified with the very rare group of cars that are Porsche factory race cars:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Porsche 944 Rothmans Cup on eBay

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Motorsport Mondays: 1992 Porsche 968 Firehawk

Ever hear the story of George Washington’s famous axe that cut down the cherry tree? It’s something called Theseus’ Paradox, and it’s a question of whether an object remains original in the effort to preserve it. In the case of George Washington’s axe, both the head and handle had been replaced several times but it was still claimed to be “the axe” used by Washington. Occasionally we see such things with road cars, but much more often it appears with race cars, as is the case with today’s 968. These cars were intended to be raced, and they were – hard. Rubbing, bumps, bruises and crashes amongst race cars are fairly common – just look at the Formula One race from this past weekend – it seemed that nearly every corners one was banging into another. So, here was have a early 968 built for the Firehawk series, but then crashed heavily and re-tubbed. Is it still the same car?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Porsche 968 Firehawk on eBay

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Motorsport Mondays: 1997 BMW 318ti 454 Twin Turbo

There are a fair amount of people who don’t get the “stance” scene, and there are many others who don’t understand modifying a car to go to the track. There are those who don’t understand Concours shows, those who don’t understand not putting miles on a car, and an equal number who don’t understand daily driving a high-performance machine. There are diesel fans, turbo fans, V8 fans and even fans of the supercharger. There are people who love modifications and those who prefer their cars stock. For the most part, I “get” all of these camps; I don’t necessarily agree or favor any one in particular, but each has its own merits. There is one that still leaves me a bit mystified though – drag racing. I understand it takes tremendous skill to get a car dialed in; I appreciate the engineering that goes into overcoming physics. I am awed by the raw speed that these vehicles can produce – ballets of explosive violence, a concoction of sound, smells and disappearing cars. But I’ve never really understood the attraction of drag racing, though an unusual suspect can sure make me smile:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 BMW 318ti 454 Twin Turbo on eBay

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