The Paris-Dakar Rally is an endurance rally raid event that’s internationally considered among the most difficult off-road motorsport races in the world. in 1986, competitors had to drive about 15.000 km through rough terrain and unpaved roads. They may find the most hostile conditions on their way. Porsche has a history in rallying, with legendary victories on their account. Think about the quadruple class victory in the 1966 Rally of Monte-Carlo. But the Paris-Dakar is a rally from a different league. And the last thing one could do is tell us Porsche is in its comfort-zone in a Paris-Dakar Rally.
However, in 1984, Porsche won the Paris-Dakar rally with a Porsche 953, piloted by Rene Metge and Dominique Lemoyne. In 1985, Porsche unveiled three of the first purpose-built Porsche 959 examples. All 3 cars retired with mechanical issues. So, they decided to give it another try in 1986. With water-cooled heads and two turbochargers, it developed nearly twice the power of the winning 1984 car but was barely any heavier.
The Rothmans Porsche Team
The winners of the 1985 edition, Rene Metge and Dominique Lemoyne paired up. So did Jacky Ickx and Claude Brasseur, who knew the rally from previous years and won it in 1983 in a Mercedes 280 GE. Roland Kussmaul and Wolf-Hendrik Unger took the wheel of the 3rd car. The fast service-car of the team, sponsored by Rothmans, Mercedes G, powered by a Porsche 928S 4.7-liter V-8. Furthermore, the team brought 2 MAN trucks, loaded with equipment and parts. Furthermore, they had a DC-3 plane to their disposal.
A Porsche 959 as a service car
The race has barely crossed the mediterranean sea when it sees its first casualties. Pescarolo-Fourticq in their Range-Rover abandon the race after 15 km of special when ther car is ruined by fire. The Rothmans Porsche team’s all-out assault wasn’t off to an ideal start either. The Rothmans Porsche team lost both the Merceedes-G support car and one of the large MAN trucks. The solution they came up, was quite inventive. Pack up the 3rd Porsche 959 with spare parts and let it serve as a service and backup-car.
In the 7th stage, which took place during the night, both Metge/Lemoyne as Ickx/Brasseur could overtake the Mitsubishis that had been the leaders. After the difficulties of the desert, another problem showed up. The region had suffered abnormal amounts of rainfall. That caused lots of mud and both the leading Porsche’s got stuck at the crossing of the Senegal river. Kussmaul noticed a motorbike cross the river, and succesfully followed the same route. After he memorized the route, he returned and helped his team-members by pulling them out of the mud. However, while helping the others out, his own car sank to the hubs. The others now offered help, but Kussmaul refused. He wanted the other to leave and take the class win. With a tremendous effort, Roland Kussmaul and Wolf-Hendrik Unger dug themself out and continued their way to the camp.
The Rothmans Porsche team took first and second inthe 1986 Paris-Dakar. Roland Kussmaul finished 6th overall. When you take into account that Kussmaul returned to help his fellow team-members, and that the carried spare parts for the other cars, you can imagine the virtual winner of the race was Kussmaul.
The 1986 Paris-Dakar in figures
- Start: 1 January 1986 from Versailles
- Finish: 22 January 1986 in Dakar
- Rest: 13 January 1986 in Niamey
- Length of rally: 15,000 km
- Number of kilometers of specials: 7,731 km
- Number of competitors : 282 cars of which 100 finish
1986 Paris-Dakar Overall standings
- Metge /Lemoyne PORSCHE
- Ickx / Brasseur PORSCHE
- Rigal /Maingret MITSUBISHI
- Lartigue / Giroux LADA
- Cowan / Syer MITSUBISHI
- Kussmail /Unger PORSCHE
Footage of the Porsches at the 1986 Paris-Dakar
Pictures courtesy Porsche AG.