Video: Onboard the Forgotten GKW 862SP Group C Racer

With some talented members on board, a popular powerplant, and timeless good looks, it’s a pity the GKW 862SP never went further, but it was a victim of the legislation of its time.

It had all the right ingredients for success. Established racer and engineer Gabriele Gottifredi and some of the bright minds at Alfa-Romeo jumped onboard, and as Gottifredi’s company, GKW, focused on Porsche racing cars, the stars started to align. The only GKW 862SP car was designed for Swiss driver Claude Haldi, who had been to Le Mans several times in turbocharged Porsches—namely the 934 and the 935. With the success off the 956 in that era, and the availability of 956s to privateers, there could only be one type of powerplant, really.

This car used the venerable 3-liter Porsche Type 935/76 Flat-6 with aluminum heads and dry-sump lubrication, and sported the 956’s five-speed racing gearbox. With two 3K turbochargers force-feeding the powerplant, the engine could make as much as 750 horsepower. As that powerplant only had to push along a car weighing 1,550 pounds, it’s not surprising how quickly this featherweight accrues speed; the straights at Imola are simply devoured.

The svelte figure came as a result of a steel tube frame, a honeycomb monocoque, magnesium castings, and plenty of titanium. This emphasis on low weight put this car in the C2 class, which required smaller fuel tanks but allowed a lower minimum weight compared to the faster C1 category.

It’s a shame something so pretty never had a real career.

The double-wishbone front suspension featured pushrod actuated springs and dampers, and the rear suspension—very similar to that of the 956—featured rocker-actuated inboard springs and dampers. That inboard suspension allowed for the svelte body with minimal overhangs and a very stylish exterior that turned heads at its first showing at the WSC race at Monza ’87. However, it was wingless and didn’t start regular testing until the following year, where it made appearances at Monza, Fuji, and Le Mans. Unfortunately, a lack of funds kept it from ever formally racing.

By the time 1990 rolled around, the FIA disbanded the C2 category, which rung the death knell for this car. As sponsors withdrew, the GKW 862SP was rolled off to a corner of a warehouse to collect dust for the next decade. In recent years, an Italian enthusiast purchased the car and put it through a comprehensive track test, as well as a strengthening of the footwell. After all, the driver’s feet were located ahead of the front axle in the 956, so it’s likely that this shrunken version put the driver’s feet in a perilous position. He also opted for a slightly different lump to sit between those massive rear tires.

Far more plentiful, the Porshce 3.2-liter flat-six, as used in the IMSA GTP-spec 962, now powers the machine and provides some 670 horsepower. The way the boost comes on, it’s not surprising how nervous this short car is. The engine is reportedly capable of 750 horsepower, but considering the rarity and the price needed to get this back into running order, turning the boost down is understandable.

 

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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