Skating across the rough surface of Sebring International Raceway, Leh Keen puts on a masterclass for us mere mortals to witness. Speedconcepts lent him their 1974 Porsche IROC, an old-school bruiser shod in worn Hoosier R7s. The combination of an uneven surface, an old set of tires, a wheel bearing on its way out, and an old car that rewards being “freed up” regularly, the former IMSA star shows us how, sometimes, sideways can be quick.
Keen is no stranger to wringing to most out of a 911. During his competitive career in professional endurance racing he sat on pole 10 times, won his class 14 times, and stood on the podium 44 times, almost entirely in various versions of the Porsche sports car.
Getting down into the 2:17-second range at Sebring International Raceway in an old 911 takes chutzpah, to say the least. It also takes an assertive style that complements the car. As Keen says, “These old cars fast requires a lot of slip angle and ‘over-driving’ to keep the momentum up and the car happy and ‘free and dancing.’ In other words, the regular rotation at the rear helps Keen point the car in the right direction sooner. The levels of grip and power from the 3.0-liter are low enough to encourage this pushy approach.
Here’s a longer clip:
Clearly, this wouldn’t work in all cars. A Porsche 919 wouldn’t put up with this abuse. However, the rally-style driving is something welcomed with this car. Look at the way Keen locks the wheels in the footage above at 1:59. He manages to enter the car nervously twitching into the corner as the rear wheels skip, and the front pointed alarmingly at the wall not far away. Yet, Keen gets the car to turn once the rears re-grip and keep the rolling speed up with a blur of the gloves and a heavy right foot. While the car on display control is baffling, his ability to not inadvertently hit his legs with a flash of countersteer is even more impressive.
His commitment was impressive there, but where he can peel the viewer’s eyelids back is into Turn 17 (2:52). Crossed up on entry, wide in the middle of the corner, and sideways again from mid-corner to the exit, even throwing in a hint of opposite lock with that intimidating wall just a few feet away. It takes more than chutzpah. It takes years of experience, comfort over the very bumpy taxiway surface, and a car that loves to dance around wildly at the rear. For Leh Keen, a man whose experience includes an 800-horsepower 935 and an 600-horsepower Supra, he’s a great match; he’s at his best when putting a car completely sideways.