PORSCHE Carrera 6
PORSCHE CARRERA 6
IT IS a truly wonderful spur that competition brings. Consider for example the lowly Volkswagen, motoring equivalent of Salvation Army lassies' shoes, that was seized upon by Porsche as basis for a high performance car. Early doubts about excessive oversteer were resolved into later doubts about excessive oversteer but a series of clever factory drivers like the late Edy Barth and Herbert Linge ensured that on the competition cars at least it didn't get out of hand-or at least they had the knack. These racers ran from the early tinfoil Glocklers through the shapely 550s, RSKs of various sorts, and the unsuccessful Formula Is to the Targa-winning 8-cyl roadsters. On the GT' front; Porsche didn't really' go to town until the Abarth-Carrera came out followed by the fiberglass 904, which car confounded the experts by doing well in rallies and even, in the hands of the underrated Ben Pon, blowing off much bigger cars on high speed tracks. Came the new FIA regs already and everyone wondered what Porsche would doach du lieber, it's Batman to the rescue!
The general layout and recent history of the Fledermaus mannewagen has already been covered in a recent issue so there is no need to do more than point out that with it Gerhard Mitter recently carried off the European Hillclimb championship and in the classic road races it won the 2-liter Prototype championship ahead of Ferrari's 2-liter Dino.
Now we had been 'after press relations boss Von Hanstein for months to have a drive in a Carrera 6 but all resources were being strained to sort out the prototype while still building cars for the team and customers. Consequently it was with some joy that we received a summons to report at Hockenheim track. This track, as you may have read in these pages, has been modified from the old egglike oval due to an Autobahn coming across the, bottom end, and now boasts great concrete grandstands surrounding a network of club tracks in a bowl while the previous long curve and return straight are attached thereto. Much:shifting of sand is going on and it will make a first class venue for sports and F2-F3 racing in that part of Germany, if a little small for FI.
Naturally enough it was raining ,when we arrived and naturally, racing cars being the uncertain things they are, nothing approaching a competition machine was to be seen. Just drivers Mitter and Hans Herrmann, a couple of German journalists, and a spaniel wearing a Tyrolean hat and smoking a pipe. Eventually various odds and bods began to show up, enough to know that we were in the right place anyway, but no racing car so we amused ourselves taking laps around in one of the normal Porsche 911s to see where the track went. Everything was quite wet and we didn't press our luck, not wishing to find out about rear-engined cars especially when Von Hanstein was around-not that it didn't feel quite sanitary. Anyway sooner or late~ one of the Batmobiles blubbered up, a brand new one as it turned out, and with some difficulty a rather corpulent English journalist was inserted into the passenger's seat. It was even more of a project to get the door closed as it requires three catches and sundry bangs but off Mitter went with his passenger looking rather like those herring you see coiled up in glass jars. A lap later they were back again as the rather feeble fiberglass door had blown off, probably as a result of both occupants breathing in unison, giving the aforementioned reEj the fright of his life. As by now things were supposed to be well under way, Von Hanstein was in a parlous state running around flapping his arms like a rooster but the mechanics soon had the doors off (or remnants thereof) and the Carrera -6 set forth once more as a species of jolly or beach car.
Eventually the other one arrived as it had been held up at the factory for some unknown reason; Herrmann plumped himself into this and as I was next in line, I went with him. It is a bit of a problem getting in over the wide sill and down into the hole, especially as the floor-mounted fire extinguisher lies in wait to snare your trouser leg and you don't feel that you can really put much strain on most of the upperworks. Once actually inside, there really doesn't seem to be room for two people with shoulders, rather as on some of those economy charter flights, and the best thing to do is sit sort of catty cornered so that the driver has room to operate. This Hanse did in exemplary fashion albeit poking the clutch pedal from time to time as he imagined a bit of slip. There did seem to be an odd vibration around 5500-6000 so after-I got out it was taken away and worked on for a while. As far as the ride was concerned it was very pleasant as Hans is quite safe even in the streaming wet and the car didn't feel the least-bit twitchy. My only complaint was that water came in through the body joint and dripped on my ankle.
In the interim before driving it myself, we took out one of the rally Porsches that suddenly appeared, Gunther Klass' car as it turned out. This was set up rather high and with very short gears (all normal enough for rally cars) but what scunnered us was that it felt absolutely eetery-teetery all around the circuit. Klass must be the King of Oversteer or else deadly sensitive as that one would be too goosey for me in the dry, unlike the normal road-going one.
Anyway soon after that Von Hanstein let me know that it was time for me to do the do or die bit so I crawled into the driver's side of the Jolly alongside an apprehensive Mitter, who straightaway told me not to use fourth as it was jumping out. That was a lot of help as I have enough trouble remembering where the gears are on a 5-speed Porsche box let alone avoiding fourth. Crowding into a borrowed crash hat, I then fired the thing up and after an ineffectual glance over my shoulder trying to see through the body pillars and yellow plastic back window, progressed out onto the track with. only a mild bit of ugga ugga.
The engine fitted to this car was redlined at 7000 but nevertheless didn't seem particularly cammy; either a fairly cooking mill had been dropped in for the Gentlemen of the Press or else there is a lot more power to be got out. Driving it was perfectly straightforward as the directional stability is first-class, the view of the road between the Wagnerian-soprano fenders excellent, and the driving position comfortable enough with smallish wheel and tight fitting fiberglass buckets so that it wasn't a tour de force to steer it at all even if the gearshift was a bit close for my liking. There was little to distract the driver inside as the only two instruments fitted that I could see, a small tach and even smaller oil temp gauge, lived down two of the many tunnels (the others are air feeds) with which the matte black dashboard was riddled.
The whole business felt very comfortable in spite of a distracting distortion in the screen corner but just the same it is just as well that a short rear end was fitted as who likes to go steaming along 120-mph corners at 120 mph. As it was, I speedily found myself doing 6500 in fifth along it in the wet which was quite enough, leaving 500 rpm to bong the nose in if something started to slip. Not that it did as the car felt very stable indeed and as all the controls worked smoothly and easily, the Carrera 6 would even be quite practical for road use.
Next time around I got a bit braver, helped by Mitter who was making. encouraging signals and demonstrating shift points with forward flicks of the hand, but the Carrera felt just as solid as before with no instability, even in the streaming. wet. It seems to be a neutral-steering automobile even at the slow speed I was going and as safe as houses for when I got the back out once on a slow corner through an incautious application of boot, a small left lock correction brought it back again: Frankly, it is one of the few competition cars that I felt as if I could drive in competition given a bit of practice; with such comfortable road holding and a demonstrated turn of speed the Batmobile is probably the best customer's value-for-money racer on the market today.