By Scott Bradley
What have I got myself into? I’m in the middle of the grid at Pukekohe for my first real race, which is our testing for the upcoming Porsche Pirelli series starting in a few short weeks. This is an Arrows race with 20 plus cars and I’m surrounded by three other Boxsters, a Jag and an Alfa.
The green flag drops and we’re off! Three cars side by side accelerating hard towards turn one, there was no track day ‘politeness’, this is racing and the I had grown up like most young boys dreaming of being a race car driver. I had done plenty of track days in the UK and NZ in various cars, I've had a 964 for several years and last year was lucky enough to buy my dream car, a 991.1
GT3 RS. I joined the Rennsport Gruppe and thought that our 10-day South Island track tour was as close as I would ever come to the exhilaration of racing. It only served to make me want to experience more of the thrill I got from driving a highly engineered car as fast as my skill would allow. But the prospect of a race car costing $100,000 or more and tens of thousands of dollars each season wasn’t worth trying to get past my wife. During lockdown (to pass the boredom) this became a burning discussion among a few of the RSG members.
How could we race each other in a car of the same specification that did not cost the earth, was challenging and exhilarating, but allowed us to compete on driver ability rather than who had the biggest chequebook. With a maximum budget of $30,000 we discussed a huge range of cars, but as Porsche lovers and owners the conversation always gravitated back to the Boxster.
I had been aware of the Boxster series in the USA and UK for some time. Tony Houston, a long-time race driver and a self-proclaimed ‘early adopter' had moved from the 944 class and imported a race-prepared 2.5 Boxster that had been competing in the USA. Tony’s car was the first Boxster to run Class E with the 944s in the Pirelli Porsche Series in 2019.
It was at this stage that Chris Barendregt started working with Luke McClunie from LM Automotive to see if it was possible to buy a 986 Boxster 2.5 or 2.7 and build a race car for a total on track cost of $30,000 that would be competitive, reliable and most importantly fun to drive.
It would need to be able to compete in any event like Targa and still meet regulations for the newly created Porsche Pirelli Boxster class, ‘Class F’. A full list of the ‘go fast’ parts from Tony’s Boxster was created. With an initial car purchase price of circa $10,000, it looked like our goal could be achieved with LM Automotive completing all the work needed to transform a road car to a race car.
The list of modifications was defined as:
- Certified roll cage
- OEM or fibreglass roof
- Deep sump kit
- Radiator kit
- Sports exhaust
- Race seat
- Lowering springs
- Oil cooler/heat exchanger
- Underdrive pulley kit
- Wheel studs
- New Air Oil Separator
- Low-temperature thermostat
This sounded exactly what I had been looking for, identical cars that did not cost an arm and a leg, super competitive racing and nothing but driver skill needed to win. I purchased my 2001 Boxster 2.7 for the ‘bargain’ price of $9,000. Black with 225,000km on the clock and a recently replaced engine.
Draft regulations were agreed. The first test to see how Tony’s highly modified Boxster compared to Chris Barendregt’s moderately race-prepared 2.7 and Chris Taylor’s 2.5 was scheduled as part of the RSG’s track day at the final round of the June Porsche Pirelli series in Taupo. The man to test the performance between the cars was Cam McCormack, an experienced race driving instructor and GT3 Cup car driver. It was determined that Tony’s highly modified car was too hard to drive so it was moved back to be closer to factory standard spec which made it faster. After changes were made to Tony’s car Cam achieved clean laps in all three cars and surprisingly the time difference between them was only 0.4 seconds.
The cars were weighed and as they were close in lap times and with only a small horse-power difference, it was agreed that the 2.7’s would carry 50kgs more weight than the 2.5’s and this would create parity between them. Not bad when you consider this allows the cars to be road legal and still run air conditioning. The cars headed back to Te Awamutu for final preparation. Roll cages were installed and certified by MSNZ. LM Automotive had a fibreglass mould for the hardtop made and Active Engineering created a deep sump kit, so a low-cost solution to meet MSNZ regulations could be accessed by all cars. All the ‘go fast’ parts were added and most importantly Martini livery was added to the first three cars out of the workshop to shave another second off our lap times. So back to turn one at Pukekohe for the Arrows race, all I can remember is Cam during our driver training – don’t brake, don't brake………
We will keep you updated with the journey of the Class F Porsche Boxsters as the Pirelli Series unfolds through into 2021. Footnote There has been a huge amount of time and effort put into bringing this series to life by everyone involved, but I would especially like to thank Chris B, Luke and Cam from LM for the tireless support and help in getting our cars on the track.
The cars are immaculately prepared and within budget, two phrases I understand that are often difficult to get into the same sentence when discussing motor racing.
If anyone is interested in knowing more about the series, please feel free to contact Chris Barendregt and the cars will be on display at the Porsche Club Auckland Picnic on 5th December. Luke and Cam are also happy to help anyone interested in joining the class whether they want to build a car themselves or with the support of LM Automotive.