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Pure madness

The medially omnipresent Jack Ryan from the pen of Tom Clancy prefers chasing either terrorists or drug bosses. In 1966, during the 24 Hours of Daytona, the real Jack Ryan, on the other hand, chased after his big dream - with a seemingly hopeless, street-legal 911.

Text: Alexander Morath Photo: Porsche 09.04.2019 3 min

Once upon a time there was a Volkswagen dealer near Atlanta. His name: Ryan. Jack Ryan. When this Volkswagen dealer wasn't dealing with any Volkswagen cars, he was driving a Porsche. Precisely: 911. More precisely: 911 coupé. This was the second car that Porsche had delivered to America with chassis number 300 128. In 1965 it came into the possession of Ryan. Purchased as a demonstration car. Only 30,000 miles on the speedometer and destined for something great. At least that’s what Ryan felt. His dream: the participation in the 24-hour race of Daytona in the following year. Also a realistic dream? For Ryan definitely, after all, the GT class up to two litres was rather sparsely populated and the 911 was therefore a serious candidate for class victory.

In Zuffenhausen, however, the situation was a little different. In spring 1965 Herbert Linge and Peter Falk caused a sensation when they finished fifth in the overall classification of the Monte Carlo Rally at the wheel of a 911. But a 24-hour race? And a race as exhausting as Daytona? Violent steep turns alternating with full throttle passages that demanded everything from the driver and the car. In order to master this challenge, Porsche had specially armed a pack of hungry 906s.

But there was this Ryan guy. He had brought two friends to Florida, which he would need for the driver change. Also there: his 911, obviously. Some of Ryan's plans seemed less obvious. The mere sight of the 911 triggered nervous stomach rumbling among the Porsche racing officials.

Because it was pretty much a standard 911. 130 HP. In addition to that, provisional solutions wherever the eye goes. For example, the passenger seat disappeared from the interior in favour of a lower weight in favour of the vague hint of a roll bar. As an exhaust, Ryan had a long, black pipe locked in the middle of the rear. The lamps on both sides of the starting number were more of a spark than a light source, and behind the tank cover last but not least the extended radio antenna was displayed.

Who was this Ryan? And even more important for Porsche: What if this still young and on the race track quite untested 911 would fail in Daytona? Gold for the trade press. Satisfaction for the envious competition.

The Porsche race director at the time, Huschke von Hanstein, then went to great lengths to dissuade Ryan from starting in Daytona. Unsuccessfully. "That's my 911 - and I drive where I want to," Ryan countered, making it clear how serious his plan was to him.

On February 5, 1966 at 3 pm Ryan finally started with the number 18. His battle plan: Main thing is to hold out. And just don't get upset. That is what he did. And so the 911 went on round after round. And another one. Overtaking manoeuvres from the competition left him cold. Also the total track length of 6,132 kilometres. It's all right. At 6 p.m. Team Ryan finished 33rd in the overall standings. Three hours later the advance to 25th place and then the next morning, so shortly before 8 o'clock, to 19th place. Not bad. Especially since the only opponent in the GT class up to two liters capacity had given up the ghost. Connecting rod damage. The 911 on the other hand remained tough and hungry. And after 548 laps it was rewarded with 16th place in the overall classification. Absolute madness. But above all: a mad success!