Le Mans royalty to join us at Sunday in the Park

 
 

Someone who buys a Pagani, a McLaren or even a lowly Ferrari probably thinks that he or she has something pretty special given its high price, sophisticated engineering and limited production.  But David Porter has a car that is unimaginably more exclusive – one of just 10 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP endurance racing prototypes factory-developed for LeMans and other grueling long-distance events.  Not surprisingly, these cars don’t come up for sale very often – and they require a certain amount of skill and resources to keep them up and running.  It’s certainly not something you’ll see on the average test and tune day – but David’s will be there for all to see at this year’s Sunday in the Park Concours.

The 908 HDI FAP debuted at LeMans in 2007 and made the podium that year and in 2008.  But in 2009, the 908s took both first and second places, besting the dominant Audis.  Like its arch German competitors, the 908 is powered by a 5.5-liter 100° twin-turbo V12 diesel producing around 730 horsepower and nearly 900 foot-pounds of torque.  Together with its closed cockpit, carbon-fiber shell and a weight of about 1,900 pounds, the 908 was capable of an average speed at LeMans of 154 mph, placing it amongst the top five fastest average speeds ever achieved on the course and helping the 908 win 19 of the 28 races it entered between 2007 and 2010.  There’s some great footage of 908 testing at Monza here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhVSjhq8Ia8
 

Despite its impressive legacy at LeMans and elsewhere, Peugeot decided to withdraw from endurance racing in 2012, leaving it with a fleet of 10 highly engineered prototypes to dispose of.  Enter BBM Sport in western Northamptonshire, England, which specializes in selling and servicing exotic competition cars and that’s where David came across 908 number 10.  Needless to say, a car like the 908 isn’t something you learn how to drive on the fly – it requires significant skill (and resources) not just to drive it, but to prepare it for driving.  Fortunately, David has demonstrated that he has the chops to pilot such a car (one of only about 20 drivers to have done so), based on his performance in numerous different rides.  Many will recall his performance at last year’s Historics, where his Cortina was the car to beat in Group 6. 

David’s interest in endurance racing started with a Chaparral 2F slot car, but he soon graduated to more serious full-size machinery, working his way through Formula Ford, sports cars and Indy Lights.  “I had kind of done everything other than endurance racing, and I really wanted to compete at Sebring and Daytona,” he says.  And what better way to do that than with a dedicated endurance prototype like the 908.  But there’s a lot more to racing such a bespoke car than gassing it up and turning the key.  “The 908 has a zero-tolerance engine,” he says, “and it takes two hours just to get it ready to  start.”  More importantly, it was delivered with all of its data management systems, which includes the suspension settings for specific tracks.  That valuable information is a real advantage when you’re racing on a track for which the car was tailored, like Sebring, where David took top honors last year, but a challenge if a fresh setup if required.  “It really helps to have the factory programming in place – like Sebring’” he said.  “But at Daytona last year, we had to spend a tremendous amount of time setting it up for the track.”

David is a loyal supporter of the Historics weekend, both as a racer as well as a Concours entrant, where he has exhibited several of his meticulously restored Jaguars.  This year, he will be bringing his lovely Mark 2 sedan along with 908.  Be sure to look for both of them on Sunday.

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