Watch legend Walter Röhrl wheel the Paris-Dakar 953 on ice

Walter Röhrl? Roostertails of snow? Paris-Dakar Porsche 953? Triple yes!

Recently, Porsche paired the two-time World Rally champion together with one of the marque’s most prolific race cars for a good ol’ fashioned romp in the Austrian Alps. Sideways was the directional preference for this particular escapade.

Porsche 953/Walter Röhrl drive passenger rear three quarter
Porsche | Stefan Bogner

The 953 was a Teutonic, clinical distillation of already good product, aimed at a singular goal. Porsche wanted in on the madness that was the Paris-Dakar rally—that 8700-ish mile grueling haul through terrain from hell required cars built from the ground up to take a savage beating. To that end, Porsche plucked a G-Body shell and set to work fortifying it for race duty. Porsche increased wheel travel to 10.6-inches and fitted double-wishbone suspension and twin shock absorbers to the front end, as well as additional coil springs and a reinforced axle at the rear. The body received a welded steel roll, cage, and the doors, front fenders, and all window glass save for the windshield were swapped out for polycarbonate panels.

The driveline underwent a similar up-fit. Although the 3.2-liter flat-six was basically stock, Porsche lowered the compression ratio to better handle the shoddy fuel its race horse would guzzle as it scampered across the sand. Speaking of fuel, Porsche engineers tossed an additional 31.7 -gallon fuel tank in the race car’s frunk to supplement the existing 39.6-gallon tank just behind the driver. With almost 70 gallons of fuel on tap, that screamin’ six could chug with impunity. But the biggest upgrade came from the new all-wheel drive system, which featured a 31:69 front/rear torque split and a manual locking center differential.

The end result was enough to nab first place on its maiden outing, courtesy of French rally vets René Metge and co-driver Dominique Lemoyne. Porsche entered two 953s that first year—the winning one previously noted, as well as one driven by Jacky Ickx and Claude Brasseur. Ickx and Brasseur’s car suffered a cable fire early on in the race, which dropped them all the way back to 139th, but over the remaining stretch of the competition they managed to claw all the way back to sixth place.

Although the images and video here depict this legendary car whipping around a field of powder, we love imagining it in its heyday, huge plumes of sand erupting from all four corners as it dashes through one of the gnarliest rallies in the world. In hands as capable as Röhrl’s, this snowy sizzle reel looks like a frigid, fantastically good time.


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