Although Porsche were developing 959’s for the Paris-Dakar Rally, the Stuttgart manufacturer harboured a desire for their flagship model to race at Le Mans – an event upon which so much of the firms status was based. For 1986, a crack factory built car known as the 961 was prepared on chassis 10016. It was debuted at the annual Le Mans practice day where Rene Metge easily pre-qualified. An all-French driver line-up would be back for the race in June, the 961 running in its own invitational class (IMSA GTX). It was powered by a twin turbocharged engine to more or less Group C spec, displacement having been 2847cc.
Output was 680bhp at 7800rpm, enough for the 961 to reach a top speed of 205mph down the famous Mulsanne Straight. But although weight was down to just 1150kg, the 961’s relatively chunky aerodynamics and bulky four-wheel drive system dictated it would never be able to live with full-house sports prototypes. Despite a high-speed tyre blowout, Rene Metge and Claude Ballot-Lena finished the 1986 Le Mans 24 Hours in a fine seventh overall. It was a particularly dominant year for the German company, nine of the top ten finishers having been Porsche’s, a feat as yet unmatched.