Meet the Only Porsche 928 to Ever Grace the Grid of Le Mans
Over 30 years after taking its only podium at the storied race, the lone wolf of Le Mans is restored and ready to race again.
When you think of Porsche and Le Mans together, what comes to mind? The ultra-lightweight 917s of the early 1970s? The dominating 956s in Group C of the 1980s? Every 911 to ever take its place on the grid?
What about a 928? Though the front-engined Porsche isn’t on the minds of many fans, one 1982 928 S made history in 1983 and 1984 as the only 928 to run the Le Mans 24. Porsche Excellence has the story of the 928’s brief moment in the sun.
French racer and builder Raymond Boutinaud built a reputation on and off the track in the 1970s with his Porsche race cars and his shop, which specialized in all things Stuttgart. Soon after buying his 928 S in 1982, though, he thought about what it would be like to race his car on the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe. With help from Porsche Motorsport boss Jürgen Barth, and Le Mans organizers Automobile Club de l’Ouest approving his entry a couple of months before the 1983 Le Mans 24, Boutinaud got to work on transforming his 928 into a race-ready competitor.
Boutinard put his car on a crash diet, removing and replacing everything he could to make it a performer in Group B Race. The diet worked so well that he wound up adding ballast to bring the 928 S up to the minimum weight of 2,425 pounds. Porsche built a roll cage, the engine was sent to Germany for anti-friction coating, the brakes came from the legendary 917, and the whole thing received a paint job that wasn’t what Boutinaud or Porsche had in mind.
The first outing wasn’t the best for Boutinaud and his team. The 928 S was the slowest of the entire field, the car spun-out in the early evening hours of the race, and by the time it finished the race, the Porsche wound up not placing due to being too far behind the race leaders. The following year nearly played out the same way, this time with a head gasket issue. However, with lots of water and perseverance, Boutinaud’s 928 S not only placed, but took third on the podium of its class after all but two other cars tapped out.
Rather than spend more money to bring up the 928’s performance, Boutinaud shelved the front-engined Porsche in favor of racing 911s. The 928 S remained in his shop, though, leading to its frame-up restoration a couple of years ago. The dry climate preserved the body, but the old 4.7-liter V8 was junked in favor of a 5.0-liter V8 from a 1991 928 S4 bored to 5.5 liters.
The intended goal of the restoration was to compete in the 2018 Le Mans Classic. However, it didn’t make it to the grid this year. Should the 928 S arrive for the 2019 edition, though, it will likely still be the only 928 racing at Le Mans, just like it was back in the early Eighties.