A PORSCHE notorious for being owned and raced by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar is set to go under the hammer.
The immaculately restored 1974-model Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 RSR has a unique racing pedigree even without the Escobar link.
This particular Porsche was one of 15 purchased direct from the factory and prepared to race in the inaugural International Race of Champions, an all-star racing series developed by Roger Penske, former NFL hero and Riverside International Raceway chief Les Richter and Mike Phelps.
And when I say all-star, I mean all-star.
The original list of 12 drivers included three active Formula 1 world champions in Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi and Denny Hulme plus multiple Grand Prix winner Peter Revson, Indianapolis 500 heroes Mark Donohue, Bobby Unser, A.J. Foyt and Gordon Johncock,, NASCAR legends Richard Petty, David Pearson and Bobby Allison, plus Trans-Am and Can-Am frontrunner George Follmer.
In the end, Stewart commentated the IROC races on television after his late-1973 retirement from racing and was replaced by Foyt, who’d originally baulked at his invitation and had been replaced by fellow IndyCar frontrunner Roger McCluskey.
The inaugural IROC Series placed the 12 drivers in 12 mechanically-identical Porsches – chosen at random from the fleet of 15 prior to qualifying, with drivers switching cars from race to race – for three races at Riverside in late 1973 and one on the Daytona International Speedway road course in early 1974.
Along with pride, there was no shortage of prizes on offer: the series carried a total purse of US$160,000, just shy of US$900,000 or roughly AU$1.2 million in today’s money.
This Porsche only took part in the first of those races – but it was a highly eventful race.
In his first visit to the Californian circuit, Fittipaldi received the Sahara Beige-painted 911 and qualified it on pole position.
However, he missed the drivers’ briefing on race day and was shuffled to the back of the field.
The Brazilian legend bent the Porsche as he tried to charge back to the front of the field and retired from the race – and, initially, the entire IROC Series.
“I came here for an international race and you treat me like a Boy Scout,” he fumed, per the Los Angeles Times.
“I am not going to race. I had time to think about what happened to me when I was out there driving around, and I am not going back.”
Fittipaldi eventually came around and participated in the rest of the Riverside weekend, finishing third in each of the remaining races.
The Sahara Beige car, however, didn’t return for the remainder of the series and was eventually sold to US racer John Tunstall, who campaigned it in a string of IMSA events including the Sebring 12 Hour and Daytona 24 Hour.
At some point later, Tunstall sold the car to Escobar.
The details of the Colombian’s racing career are not as well publicised as his business endeavours; Escobar was the founder and leader of the Medellin Cartel which monopolised the cocaine trade into the United States in the 1980s, which amassed him a fortune in the order of US$30 billion at the time of his assassination in 1993.
However, it is known that Escobar drove the Porsche – upgraded to 935-spec bodywork and bearing a Martini-esque livery – in South American races and hillclimbs.
The Porsche eventually returned to the United States in the early 1990s and was converted back to its original RSR IROC configuration.
A full restoration on the car began in 2007 that, upon its completion in 2010, returned the car to the same livery and specification as when Fittipaldi raced it at Riverside.
Listed with Collecting Cars, the bidding on the Porsche was up to US$850,500 at the time of writing with just over 21 hours remaining.
To illustrate the Fittipaldi car’s potential worth, consider that the Porsche RSR that Revson raced at Riverside was eventually purchased by Jerry Seinfeld, who sold it in 2016 for US$2.31 million…