Is The DP Motorsport ‘Red Evo’ The Ultimate Lightweight Porsche 911?
Photography courtesy of DP Motorsport
A version of this story has previously appeared in the magazine GT Porsche
There are many iconic Porsches from different eras and disciplines of motorsport, and with the chunky K1, the outrageously-winged K2, and the sublime K3 that took Klaus Ludwig and the Whittington brothers to victory at the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans 24, the Kremer cars of the late ‘70s have to be high up on most people’s lists.
Along with the Kremer brothers, Ekkehard Zimmerman helped design these iconic racing cars, and his company, DP Motorsport, saw the fiberglass sculpting genius create such inspired vehicles as the 944 Cargo and the original slant-nose that Porsche would later copy. Now in his late 70s though, he’s officially retiring from his five-decades-long career of designing cars. He’s not going out without a bit of a fanfare though. Before leaving the company fully in the hands of his son Patrick, he’s built one more Porsche, the culmination of all he’s learned over his illustrious career: the 911 RS 3.5 ‘Red Evolution.’
I’ve been to the DP workshop before, so I have a certain idea of what to expect. Usually it includes wings and vast expanses of fiberglass and carbon fiber draped over the skeletal remains of a 911. Not this time though. Unlike many of his earlier works, first impressions of Ekkehard’s latest creation are how reserved it looks. Apart from the eye-catching Guards Red paint job, understatement is the key word. Well, parked next to a K2, at least.
“The DP11 is not a new concept,” Patrick translated for his sprightly father. “Everything DP ever did with Porsches was to improve on what we saw could be improved upon.” To the uninitiated that might come across as a rather over-confident statement, but we were sat in the back office amidst display cases stacked full of models of all the cars Ekkehard has designed, from the early Kremer cars to the Group C CK5, the first car outside of Formula 1 to have a rear diffuser to create ground effect. DP has full authority to say that.
Porsche, as beautiful and emotive as its models are, is a mass production manufacturer with profit margins commanding priority in just about everything they do, so if someone has some extra budget and sufficient engineering skills it’s not that difficult to improve the bases built in Stuttgart. Ekkehard was so good at this that for the 993 GT2, Porsche actually bought the plexiglass screen and side windows from him. This car, the Red Evo as it is called colloquially, is a one-off by a master builder with decades of experience, making it as far from mass production as it gets. Conceived as 80% track car with 20% for the road, it perfectly encapsulates the triple philosophies at DP: form, function, and a massive diet.
The project started life as a leftover shell initially intended to be built up into a race car for Heinz Remmen (the “R” in H&R suspension), but he found a readymade car in the spec he wanted, so he bought that one instead. The unused shell could have just gathered dust in the corner of the workshop, but Ekkehard decided to start a project of his own in his spare time. Rich in talent and reputation as he is, he was also time poor, and finding spare hours to put into it were hard to come by. However, by stepping back and slowly handing the day-to-day running of the business over to Patrick, he was finally able to dive in.
Lugging excess weight around is the antithesis of a great handling car, so shedding kilos was the main mantra for this one, and it’s what DP’s specialized in since the ’70s. From the factory, the shell is coated in layers of undercoat, paint, sealant, and lacquer for instance, which accounts for a hefty 20-something unnecessary kilograms. Soundproofing was also definitely surplus to requirements, so everything was stripped out to be replaced with the bare minimum carpeting—black velour, lightweight of course. All the unneeded brackets and mounts were ground off to save another 5kg. A racing loom with thinner-gauge wire was installed which eliminated all the surplus connections, fuses, and relays, and the windows are now all plexiglass, which DP have been making for many, many years. With the heavy glass gone, a few kilos are saved but at the cost of a little convenience. The FIA minimum 15×18 cm gaps in the side windows means that anyone driving this thing and trying to reach out to get a car park ticket will have a bit of an issue!
Inside it’s as gloriously minimalistic as a well-appointed race car. The doors weigh next to nothing yet don’t feel flimsy, and their inner panels have an intriguing inner cut out that is open to the inside of the door skin—a distinctive and eye-catching design. There are no window winding mechanics to get in the way, so it all looks very neat too—not like a hastily stripped-out husk. The dash is sculpted carbon fiber, and the seats are an aesthetically pleasing mix of bare carbon at the back, and real leather on the front. Fitting in with the rest of the car, they are stylish, comfortable, and of course, as light as possible. Between them the gear lever sits on a raised carbon fiber mount that allows for a shorter movement of the stick to change gears. The safety hoop behind the seats is all DP-designed as well.
The body panels are all fiberglass units (carbon- and glass-fiber reinforced plastic to be more precise), which DP have always been rightly famous for. The fenders are 10mm wider than a standard ’74 911 RS, and they are also 10mm wider in diameter so that the car can be sat lower down without having to worry about an illicit meeting of rubber and inner wings. Again, it’s such subtleties that make this car special as fender diameter is not something you would immediately notice by eye, like the fact too that the roof guttering has been removed—less for the 200g of metal saved, more for the aesthetics in this case, as the roof now has a continuous curve which Ekkehard believes is kinder to the eye. The same goes for the smaller wing mirrors, which are actually one piece with the door skin.
Underneath the body, suspension is provided by H&R, a company that has been making aftermarket Porsche upgrades almost as long as DP themselves. To make cornering even more surefooted, the bottom joints are polyurethane bushes by SuperPro, while the upper struts are uniballs as this gives the needed movement of the steering over the springs. The set-up is bespoke for just this car.
A Porsche with an aggressive stance looks good, and nothing looks as good underneath it as a set of detailed Fuchs. The Red Evo wears 9x15s on the front, and the massive 12x15s at the rear are fitted with Michelin 335/135-15 semi-slick TB5s. In the front cargo space, a tiny racing battery is tucked into a corner in front of a specially designed 80-liter carbon Clubsport tank. The brakes are off of 3.3 Turbo.
The 3.5-liter engine was chosen for this build though, as in Ekkehard’s opinion it was the ultimate evolution of the RS engine and the power plants that came after started to have some very complicated electronics. Going against the norm, one of the first things Ekkehard did with it was de-tune it down from 365bhp to a slightly less brutal 350. Still plenty of power to move this phantom-weight 940kg 911.
The trumpets and throttle bodies were made by Scheffler, while DP added the carbon fiber air intakes, race-spec stainless manifolds, and a unique exhaust with the end pipes exiting in the middle of the rear bumper instead of at the sides. Unsurprisingly, the car sounds as good as it looks.
Ekkehard initially planned to have the car ready for the summer of 2017 but the mechanical injection pump needed a lot of work to get right. A company called Edelweiss came in to help perfect the setup for drivability. For a race car it’s simple; almost off on idle, then pump as much as possible through when the driver puts his foot down. Finding the correct balance between performance and refinement is a complicated process but an important one, as Ekkehard is not too interested in correcting oversteer every time he accelerates out of a corner.
With everything properly fettled and buttoned up, Ekkehard’s use case for the Red Evo involves taking it out on one of the many serpentine roads in the hills around his home town of Overath, near Cologne. But he’s keen to point out that getting behind the wheel is not the end all, be all of the project; for a man who likes working with his hands, Ekkehard says that doing the work itself was the real pleasure of the build. The sentiment about the journey being more important than the destination translates well into German.