Every once in a while a car comes along that is so radical in both its concept and the execution it’s difficult to predict whether it’s going to be an absolute weapon or a bitter disappointment. Such was the case with the RP968 Porsche back in 2015.
Announced just weeks before the event, the build was kept secret from everyone but a few Porsche fanatics that managed to grab a sneak peek at the vehicle in its construction phase. When we ran a feature on the still partially finished vehicle it set the internet alight splitting the time attack fans into “it’ll be crazy fast” and “it won’t even post a time” groups. At its maiden WTAC the RP968 proved the former to be true running 1:26.80 – the fifth outright fastest time at the event with absolutely zero testing time. In fact what is even more astonishing is this car has only managed three full laps in anger at WTAC and one of those recorded that time, a sure sign of much bigger things to come.
Aside from its impressive inaugural performance at WTAC 2015, very little is still known about this extraordinary car. So we sent our CEO, Ian Baker to have a coffee and a chat with the car’s owner Rod Pobestek, the “RP” in RP-968, to get the lowdown on what is possibly the most interesting and radical Porsche 968 on the planet.
Ian Baker: I guess we should start at the beginning, how did this insane build come about?
Rod Pobestek: I have always been a front-engine Porsche guy. Unlike the 911 which is an evolution over many decades these were “clean sheet cars” and they ticked so many boxes.
Firstly they have a perfect 50/50 weight distribution and the way the chassis is designed around the torque tube they really are a special thing. Yet, for some reason they’re so often overlooked. I still have my 944 Turbo road car and this was firstly planned as a fun track car. It was always destined to be a cool thing but I guess things just got right out of hand and once you commit to one area you need to make sure all the other areas are up to the same spec so things snowballed very quickly into what you see today.
IB: Do you remember at what point things started to “get out of hand”?
RP: I guess the real stupidity started with the purchase of an Albins sequential transaxle. At the time I was a little shocked that I had just purchased a gearbox for $30,000 but over coming months that would turn out to be one of the cheaper components in the vehicle. Once we cut the back off the car there was no turning back!
IB: So you didn’t set out to build the crazy full carbon fibre monster initially?
RP: Originally we planned an Open Class build using full GT3 suspension but that would have meant changing all the pickup points and it was too hard to keep this within the rules of Open Class. So then we really had no option but to build it for Pro Class.
This did concern me a little as were entering into another whole world, way beyond what we originally looking to do. I was out at WTAC 2014 and I remember walking into Under Suzuki’s pit garage and just being blown away by the tunnels on that car. I could not take my eyes off it and could not believe that you were actually allowed to build a car like that within the rules. It was a game changer for me.
IB: Was that the day you made your mind up to build a Pro Class car?
RP: As fate would have it while I was staring under Suzuki’s car a guy came over for a chat who was assisting the Sutton Brothers in the adjoining pit garage. He turned out to be a very pivotal part of the whole equation. His name was Sammy or more correctly Dr Sammy Diasinos. Sammy gave me his card and explained he was an aerodynamicist who had formerly being working in Formula One with Toyota and Caterham and had returned to Australia to start his own business and was so excited about the way time attack racing was evolving in Australia.
Within a few more meetings I was confident we had the missing link of the equation as I already had a fantastic group of engineers, fabricators and mechanics. The aero component is critical and with Sammy onboard I knew we could move forward.
IB: Did the build start immediately after that?
RP: The planning started almost immediately but the build itself started in March 2015 and we finished it the Wednesday of event week in October. So the actual build time was six months. I cannot begin to tell you what those six months were like. At times we had over 20 or more people working all over the state on various components and a full build team of fabricators mechanics and engineers at PR Technology in Brookvale headed up by Richard Den Brinker.
It was an enormous task and strain on everyone involved but I know that everyone was just as passionate about the project as myself and we all had the vision this could be something very special indeed. I am grateful for the effort put in by everyone as I could see the strain this was putting on the team. 12 hour days were turning into 16 hour days which were turning into 20 hour days. In the end Richard worked two days straight until he simply could not keep his eyes open any longer but that is what it took to get it there. We knew that if we didn’t make the event we had to wait another year!
IB: For a car of this caliber there must have been a ton of design work done prior to the build?
RP: We actually designed the whole car on the computer long before we started. The mechanical design was the work of Dijan Nikik and a few others people such as Brypar were involved. But the big job was the body. When you are working with aero everything has to be within a millimeter or it simply will not work properly and working to such tight tolerances in a short time frame is a major undertaking.
Every inch had to be drawn and then Sammy ran over 300 assimilations on the CFD computer before we could start manufacturing. To give you an idea of the time involved here each one of those can take up to ten hours. It is insane the amount of work that went in behind the scenes but that’s what gives me the confidence that once we’re up and running this car will be a rocket. Seriously, this aero package is REALLY special.
IB: The engine is a work of art too by the looks of it…
RP: Actually there is not a lot there that hasn’t been done before. We were aware of the limitation of the block being around the 850hp mark so we aimed to keep it in the low 800hp region. It has all the usual forged internals and the cylinder head is “flipped” 180 degrees to put the hot side upward where we could produce proper manifolding and control the heat.
The inlet is a billet item by Ariel of Custom Plenum Creations. It has a big Borg Warner turbo and we have now switched to a pair of Turbosmart gates. Any of these aero cars will have problems with melting wastgates as the engine bay is sealed and that is something we have been working with Turbosmart on in recent times.
IB: The carbon fibre body looks pretty special. Was that done locally or did you have to source it from interstate?
RP: It was built on the South coast of NSW in Nowra by a company called Innovation Composites. When I went searching for a composite company most of the leads I had were companies interstate and I really wanted to be able to drive somewhere and keep track of the progress as we were on such a tight timeline and I could not afford any delays. These guys build super maxi yachts and are exceptional craftsmen. I probably drove them crazy but they got it done and on time.
IB: So what has happened to the car since 2015?
RP: To be honest we parked it for a few months. It was such a strain in every regard, financially, physically and emotionally. I am pretty sure most of the team would have slept for a week after that and then tried to patch their family relationships back together.
[pullquote]Our goal is the same as every other top tier team competing:
to be faster than everyone else![/pullquote]
So we did nothing until about March then pulled the covers back off. We have done some testing, a bit more work and updates and we have more test days scheduled. This year will be a whole lot different game. The car is built we just need to dial it in and we will be good to go!
IB: What are your goals for WTAC 2016?
RP: We will have a new driver on board as we welcome Barton Mawer to the team. Barton has a wealth of experience driving aero cars in the open wheeler division and more recently Australian GT. Aside from that our goal is probably pretty much the same as every other top tier team competing: to be faster than everyone else.
Moving forward we do have one very clear goal and that is the outright lap record held by Nico Hulkenberg in an A1GP car a time of 1.19.1. Yes we know the Red Bull F1 car did 1.11 but that is another world entirely and it is not listed on the records list anyway. It may sound a bit pie on the sky but we have done a lot of homework and it is not an impossibility. Certainly not this year but it could be achieved one day so that is our target time for sure!
IB: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us and best of luck for WTAC 2016. We can’t wait to see you at the track in October.
Follow Rod and the RP-968 team on Twitter @RP_968
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