Image: 1973 Martini-Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 RSR Works Prototype (R7), Gijs van Lennep / Herbert Müller, Martini Racing Team, at 24 Hours of Le Mans, 1973, Circuit de la Sarthe, France. Photo by Rainer Schlegelmilch.
One of the most remarkable racing Porsches will be auctioned by Bonhams|Cars at its Goodwood Revival Sale on 9-10 September and, stimulating interest, the stunning pure-bred Martini-liveried RSR Coupe legend is being displayed at this week’s 30th anniversary sale at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
As a starring finisher in the Le Mans 24-Hour race, an iconic and evocative reminder of the Porsche works racing team’s Martini-sponsored past, this car is one of the most significant pieces of Porsche’s illustrious racing history ever to be offered for sale by public auction. This 1973 3-litre ex-works Martini-Porsche RSR Coupe – known to the factory team as ‘R7’ – is the actual car driven into a memorable fourth place, only being beaten by three open-cockpit ‘thinly-disguised Formula 1’ sports-prototype cars in that year’s Le Mans 24-Hour race.
The class-winning, fourth-placed RSR was driven by the immensely experienced and capable pairing of compact cigar-chomping, crew-cut Swiss Herbie Muller and his amiable, former outright Le Mans-winning Dutch team-mate Gijs van Lennep. Their closed-cockpit visually road-useable Martini-Porsche RSR was headed only by three dedicated sports-prototype racing designs all powered by 12-cylinder 3-litre engines; the winning Matra-Simca MS670B of French stars Henri Pescarolo/Gerard Larrousse, a factory team Ferrari 312PB in second place and another Matra-Simca third.
The Porsche RSR Coupes really were that memorable racing season’s surprise package. The sheer investment in manpower, manufacturing commitment and cost of producing a brand-new sports-prototype design for 1972-73 had seen Porsche choose to concentrate instead upon enhancing the long-established racing success of tuned and developed versions of its already revered production Typ 911 Coupe design.
A new European Grand Touring Championship was giving the competition 911s a fresh lease of life with race grids almost completely comprising this model. In the Autumn of 1972 Porsche launched its new 911 ‘Carrera’ model with engine capacity raised from 2.4-litres to 2.7. A batch of 500 lightweight-bodied 911s was built to achieve governing-body sporting acceptance (homologation) of the new variant. Three versions were offered – the RS (RennSport), RST (touring) and the ultimate racing RSR of which ‘R7’ – now to be offered by Bonhams|Cars – is one of only four such works team cars to have survived. While the RS was the latest road version, the RST had luxury touring equipment and furnishing, while the RSR was the full competition model – weighing-in some 60kg less than the RST.
Since the new Carrera could not be homologated into the international GT racing category until April 1, 1973, two early RSRs shipped to America for the Daytona 24-Hour race on February 4 were entered in the more-liberally regulated Prototype (sports) category. They used full 3-litre engines delivering some 300-horsepower and the Brumos team’s privately-entered new RSR co-driven by Peter Gregg/Hurley Haywood won that Floridan 24-Hour race outright – no fewer than 22 laps ahead of the second-placed Ferrari 365GTB/C. This success left Porsche leading the 1973 World Championship for Makes after that opening round.
Despite contesting the Prototype class the 3-litre Coupes could not match the 250kg lighter, Formula 1-derived true sports-prototype cars from Matra, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Gulf-Mirage but Porsche’s hard-won tradition of matching speed with reliability would triumph again.
Such developments as fitting Porsche 917-type disc brakes and the addition of a full-width aerodynamic spoiler or ‘wing’ at the rear – which became nicknamed the ‘Mary Stuart’ wing after the starched mediaeval ruff popularised by Mary Queen of Scots – made the works Martini-Porsche RSRs extremely fast and nimble, yet stable through all kinds of corners.
Going into mid-season, the Martini-Porsche RSR was tipped as a likely winner of the Le Mans 24-Hours in view of the hitherto poor reliability record of those much faster purebred-racing sports-prototype designs. Porsche took a more realistic view and for ‘R7’ to take that fourth place beaten only by 12-cylinder-engined open-cockpit specialist projectiles was a truly terrific result.
Today, ‘R7’ survives as one of the best-preserved and surprisingly original of probably only three genuinely surviving cars from that originally-assigned group of eight, of which only four - chassis ‘R5’,’R6’,’R7’ and ‘R8') ever wore the classical Martini Racing livery with its dark-blue and red striping upon a German-silver background. After its Le Mans success, ‘R7’ as now offered for sale contested the last two rounds of that year’s World Championship of Makes, finishing ninth in the Osterreichring 1,000 Kilometre race, and then - fitted with a long tail in place of the ‘Mary Stuart’ - seventh in the Watkins Glen 6-Hours, USA, entered by Brumos Porsche-Audi Corp and driven by Peter Gregg/Hurley Haywood.
Upon completion of its Martini Porsche works team season, ‘R7’ was sold to Mexican Porsche exponent Hector Rebaque for use in national racing back home. After competing successfully there in ‘Viceroy’ cigarette-brand colours, it was sold into the discreet long-term ownership of Italian enthusiast collector Massimo Baliva. In part due to the car's disappearance from the scene – Baliva essentially keeping his stewardship of the car very much to himself – some elements within the classic Porsche world assumed its destruction. As, is often the case a replica was constructed and when Massimo Baliva’s car emerged from obscurity (he was selling his collection due to his advanced age) litigation ensued. The case was ordered dismissed and the case settled, with the replica car being acknowledged as such.
The present car offered by Bonhams|Cars’ authenticity had been confirmed by legendary Porsche engineer Norbert Singer (1973 Martini Porsche team manager) whose forensically detailed examination proved it indeed to be the original 1973 RSR team car ‘R7’.
Mark Osborne, Global Director of Motorsport, Bonhams|Cars, enthuses:
“We at Bonhams|Cars are truly delighted to present this highly significant example of the Porsche racing tradition. Examples of the sensationally-evocative Martini Racing factory-team RSRs rarely appear on the open market and here is a really exciting opportunity to acquire not just one of them, but the 1973 Le Mans car itself – ‘R7’,”
“So here we present a legendary Martini Racing Carrera 3.0 RSR, a prototype from the Porsche Racing Department, no less, and one of the most revered building blocks of Porsche’s fabulous racing reputation.”