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The IROC Porsches: The International Race of Champions, Porsche’s 911 RSR, and the Men Who Raced Them

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Poster of IROC '74 Daytona USA race.Poster of IROC '74 Daytona USA race.

The IROC Porsches: The International Race of Champions, Porsche’s 911 RSR, and the Men Who Raced Them

Winning motor races at any level is a complex tableau of factors, at minimum among them driver, car, and team (plus, of course, the money to buy more and better of all three). Motorsport history has shown that on any given day, a superlative driver at the wheel of a marginally competitive car, prepared and entered by a middle-of-the-road team, can win the big race. Conversely, a fabulous, top-line competitive car at the hands of a midpack journeyman driver working for a top-notch team, on the right day, can also win. And occasionally, a just-so driver and car, backed and run by a world-beating team, can also get the job done. Plus other variations of these themes.

THE DRIVERS

A photo of Bobby Allison.A photo of Bobby Allison.

A photo of Emerson Fittipaldi.A photo of Emerson Fittipaldi.

A photo of AJ Foyt.A photo of AJ Foyt.

A photo of Gordon Johncock.A photo of Gordon Johncock.

Bobby Allison (1937–)

Bobby and his brother Donnie were both successful racing drivers in a variety of cars and series. As time went on, several of their sons and grandsons became noted drivers in their own rights. Bobby Allison was a NASCAR stalwart and standout. Even though NASCAR was a primarily oval-track-based series at that time, there were a few road courses slotted into the schedule, and Allison proved himself a competent and capable race-winning road racer. Dan Gurney is often lauded as the King of Riverside for having won the NASCAR race there a total of five times in his career, but few remember that over time, Allison enjoyed even more prolific visibility at RIR, conquering Riverside a total of six times in the big stockers.

Emerson Fittipaldi (1946–)

This dazzling Brazilian driver began racing Formula cars in 1970 and soon became the youngest driver ever to win the F1 title, in 1972 in a factory Lotus—just prior to the IROC I season, which made him a hot and necessary ingredient in the IROC recipe. “Fitti” went on to win the title again in 1974 and a total of fourteen Grands Prix during his F1 career. Post-F1, he proved equally adept in the CART Indy Car series, winning the Indy 500 twice (in 1989 and 1993) and the CART championship in 1989. He also participated in Formula 1 as a car builder and team entrant.

AJ Foyt (1935–)

Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr. needs little introduction here or anywhere else. By the time of IROC I in 1973–1974, he was already a three-time winner of the Indy 500 (in 1961, 1964, and 1967), and he would go on to become the Greatest Spectacle in Racing’s first four-time winner. Another driver who could, and did, do it all, Foyt was a capable road racer, having won the 24 Hours of Le Mans (teamed with Dan Gurney) in a Ford GT Mk IV in 1967, although he was still seen primarily as an Ovalmeister. He was a multi time USAC Indy Car championship winner, drove USAC dirt cars and midget racers, and was highly accomplished in NASCAR. Foyt holds the American USAC/CART championship (IndyCar) racing career win record with sixty-seven.

Gordon Johncock (1936–)

This Michigan-born driver was selected to compete in IROC primarily due to his success in USAC Indy cars, including winning the 1973 Indy 500. Johncock began his professional racing career in 1964, and he twice retired and twice returned to the pro open-wheelers, ultimately winning the driver’s title in 1976. Even though he was invited to race the IROC as a USAC open-wheel star, he also competed in NASCAR twenty-one times. His final Indy car victory came in a 200-mile event in Atlanta in 1983. Johncock retired for good in 1992. IROC would be his first and only real participation in pro-level sports car racing.

Riverside’s Union 76 trackside racing-fuel depot.Riverside’s Union 76 trackside racing-fuel depot.

IROC’S RULES OF PLAY AND THE WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS | With Flying Colors

The Porsches’ paint colors were carefully chosen to maximize their visibility on television. Equally, the driver and sponsor identification on each car was carefully planned. Compared to today’s racing cars with their highly designed paint and sponsor-identification schemes, the IROC Porsches’ appearance was relatively uncomplicated. Each car, of course, wore a number and some Porsche logotype striping (although, interestingly, no logo badge on the front trunk panel). It was critical that each car/driver combination be clearly identifiable for commentators, at-track spectators, and television audiences, so the driver’s name appeared on each door as well as on a stripe along the upper edge of the windshield. Goodyear, Champion, and Union 76 each got meaningful but relatively modest sticker real estate on the car (alongside IROC’s own official red, white, and black logo) to satisfy sponsorship obligation.

THE IROC PORSCHES CAR BY CAR

Chassis 0042, Bright Green (often referred to as Jade) on a showroom floor.Chassis 0042, Bright Green (often referred to as Jade) on a showroom floor.

Chassis 0075, Mexico Blue, driving on a snowy road.Chassis 0075, Mexico Blue, driving on a snowy road.

Chassis 0100, Sahara Beige on the grass at Amelia Island 2018.Chassis 0100, Sahara Beige on the grass at Amelia Island 2018.

Chassis 0042, Bright Green (often referred to as Jade) | Riverside: Petty/Foyt/Hulme

Racing drivers can be superstitious types; among the many old saws between racers is “never race a green car.” We don’t know what spawned this unusual “just don’t go there” belief, but it’s been spoken and heard often and for many years. It’s somewhat whimsical then that the original IROC roster of fifteen Porsche RSRs contained no less than three uniquely individual and decidedly green cars (0042, 0037, and 0040). No matter, since the drivers had no say in which car was assigned to them for which event, and were thus unable to select or avoid a green one if dealt their way. Despite superstition, 0042 ended up in the hands of three of the IROC champions. In Race 1, Richard Petty started in the 8th position and drove the car to a 7th place finish. In Race 2, it wound up beneath AJ Foyt, who started 7th and gave it a good drive to a more solid 5th place finish.

Chassis 0075, Mexico Blue | Riverside: Hulme/McCluskey/Pearson

0075 is another car driven by a smorgasbord of IROC champions, ranging from F1 and Can-Am to Indy to NASCAR backgrounds. In Race 1, Hulme qualified it in the 4th starting spot, only to drop a spot to 5th at the finish. The sometimes hapless McCluskey started it in 5th and finished 11th. Pearson gave 0075 its final IROC ride, driving hard and well to start 11th and finish 4th. The car did not run at Daytona.

In 1974, 0075 was sold to Henry (Paul) McIntosh, and later that year to Greg Loomis, who drove it on the street (Loomis also owned and raced a 1974 RSR 911).

Chassis 0100, Sahara Beige | Riverside: Fittipaldi/Spare/Spare

Chassis 0100, finished in this subtly elegant shade called Sahara, led a somewhat solitary life early in its game. It was driven in a single IROC I race, that being Race 1 at Riverside. It was assigned to Emerson Fittipaldi, who qualified it on pole. But Fitti’s tardiness to the prerace drivers’ meeting cost him his front row start, where he would have taken the green flag alongside Race 1 winner Donohue. Having to start from the 11th position, next to Follmer, he spun the car and suffered fuel system damage resulting in a disappointing DNF. It was Emerson’s only DNF and worst IROC I finish. The damage was ultimately repaired, but the car sat out the rest of the Riverside season and didn’t earn a ticket to Daytona. Its post-IROC life has been a bit less dramatic although still quite racy.

“Once we switched to the American cars and were running more ovals than road courses, IROC became more of a specialized NASCAR series.” —Mike Phelps

IROC Porches on a race track.IROC Porches on a race track.

Among the foundational tenets of IROC that remained for all years and car iterations was the use of relatively simple designs and bright colors so that the graphics were easy to read on TV and the cars easy to distinguish from one another. It worked just as well on the Chevys and Dodges as it did on the first-gen IROC Porsches. FCA Media Archive Photo

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Motorbooks (June 22, 2021)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 192 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0760368252
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0760368251
Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 3.39 pounds
Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 10.15 x 1 x 12.3 inches

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The IROC Porsches: The International Race of Champions, Porsche’s 911 RSR, and the Men Who Raced Them
The IROC Porsches: The International Race of Champions, Porsche’s 911 RSR, and the Men Who Raced Them

$44.99

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