For almost 60 years the Porsche 911 had found itself in extreme situations both on the open road and on the track and now a new chapter is being written. A pair of special, experimental 911’s are being tested in uncharted territory. There are no roads, incredibly thin air, far below freezing temperatures and no sign of plant life as it can’t survive.
Led by adventurer and endurance racer Romain Dumas, a team have set out to test the limits of the 911 in one of the toughest places on earth. The sheer slopes of the Ojos del Salado, Chile, the highest volcano in the world.
The first test has taken place, and now Porsche can say that one of their 911’s has become one of the few vehicles, of any kind, to have reached such extreme altitudes.
With Dumas at the wheel, the 911 explored up to 6,007 meters (19,708 feet) on bolder strewn gradients, ice fields, with temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius below freezing that tested both the team and the car and air so thin it had half the available oxygen compared to sea level. There were impassable walls of seasonal snow and ice near the summit which provided the upper limits of the test, and gave a glimpse of what cars can do in the right conditions.
Now that the test is complete, the team couldn’t be happier, “This was a truly memorable and special moment in a place that’s both beautiful and brutal at the same time – I guess the only machines anywhere in the world higher than us today were aircraft!” Dumas said. “We were hard on ourselves and really put it in the deep end for its first test, yet it felt at home. We have enormous respect for those who have gone higher. No one has seen so much ice and snow up towards the top of the volcano, but despite it we went over 6,000 meters up, to the point where the walls of ice and snow meant we could go no further. We’re really proud of what the car and the team are capable of first time out – hopefully we can count on many more adventures in the future.”
Vice-President, Complete Vehicle Architecture and Characteristics at Porsche AG, Frank-Steffen Walliser, was the one who commissioned his chief engineer for the Porsche 911, Michael Rosler with the project.
“It’s been magical to build a 911 like the world has never seen before – made possible by a small team of engineering enthusiasts. The 911 has already been proven on the track and, of course, on the road,” said Rosler, who is the Director of the complete vehicle 911 model line. “With this project, we’re shifting the focus to where there are no roads. Testing our theories means finding the harshest possible environments to see if they work – and on the highest volcano in the world, we succeeded.”
Each of these cars, at the core is a 911 (Type 992) Carrera 4S equipped with a factory standard turbocharged flat-six engine, making 443 horsepower under standard conditions, with the original seven speed manual transmission. Through it’s mix of robust yet lightweight chassis construction, short wheelbase, ample power and ability to handle extremely high altitudes, the 911 has proved to be the perfect basis. And from this basis, the engineers at the Porsche research and development base in Weissach, near Stuttgart, worked closely with Romain Dumas Motorsport, letting their combined creativity take flight, as they worked to prepare for the specific demands on the mountain.
The cars were first equipped with roll cages, carbon fiber seats and harnesses to meet the safety requirements of this feat. Next they added portal axles to increase ground clearance (now at 350 mm), lower gear ratios to allow for gentle, precise throttle inputs at low speeds and fitted new off road tires. In addition, the cars were equipped with special lightweight, but extremely tough, Aramid fiber underbody protection to allow sliding over rocks.
One of the cooler pieces added to the cars is a device called the Porsche Warp-Connector. It was originally designed for motorsport applications, and what it does is form a mechanical link between all four wheels to allow constant wheel load even when the chassis is enduring extreme articulation -contributing to maximum traction. Manual, switchable differential locks were added along with an advanced steer-by-wire system. A winch was added at the front of the car along with the revised bodywork to allow clearance for the 310 mm wide off road wheels and tires. They then moved the cooling system upward to allow the car to take on the more extreme off road sections without fear of damaging anything.
The last thing they did to the cars was finish them with two distinctive liveries. One features the same Porsche Motorsports color scheme that adorns the 963 LMDh racecar and the second is a 911 themed livery designed by the styling team in Weissach.
“Over 30 years ago, a team of Porsche engineers fitted four wheel drive to a 911 to explore ‘what if?’ – and I’m proud that this natural curiosity and drive amongst engineers to explore the limits, to test new ideas and above all to inspire, is alive and well,” Walliser said. “Projects like this one are vital to who we are at Porsche. As they began their journey, the team literally aimed sky high. The first of what I hope will be many adventures.”