Porsche goes rallying, and it’s not with the model you’re thinking of

The Cayenne, not the 718 Cayman, is the Porsche model best suited to venturing off the beaten path. It’s four-wheel drive, it benefits from decent ground clearance, plus it boasts a sufficient amount of wheel travel. And yet, the German automaker has turned its smallest coupe into a rally car for the first time.

Built to GT4 specifications, the 718 Cayman rally car isn’t a wild, one-off design study developed merely to turn heads on the auto show circuit. It’s a running, driving, and — importantly — braking machine that leverages Porsche’s vast expertise in the world of racing and uses it to break new ground.

Though the 718 recently downsized to a turbocharged flat-four engine, the rally car retains a naturally aspirated, 3.8-liter flat-six rated at 385 horsepower. The mid-mounted six spins the rear wheels through a dual-clutch automatic transmission controlled via steering wheel-mounted paddles. Porsche added several parts to help the Cayman tackle trails. It sits a little bit higher than a stock 718 thanks to suspension modifications and it’s equipped with a light bar between the headlights. Full underbody protection ensures it won’t leave its oily bits behind.

The Porsche 718 Cayman will make its competition debut during the ADAC Rally Deutschland taking place between August 16 and 19. Company officials will decide whether to move forward with the development of a GT4-spec rally car based on the Cayman — or on another one of the company’s cars — in the coming months. If it arrives, it will be as a race-only model, not one that’s legally driveable on a public road.

“I would like to invite every interested driver and team principal to visit the service park and take a close look at our rally concept car. Based on the feedback and the interest from potential customers, we will then decide by the end of the year whether we’ll develop in the mid-term a competition car for near-standard rallying based on a future Porsche model,” explained Frank-Steffen Walliser, Porsche’s vice president of motorsport and GT cars, in a statement.

The idea of turning a sports car into a rally machine isn’t new. 911s with off-road-ready modifications often competed in rally events during the 1970s. In the 1980s, Porsche dropped its 959 supercar on silts and entered it in the grueling Paris-Dakar rally. It gloriously won the event in 1986.

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