The Long Run
Way way back on the 27th of October 1986, Saab embarked on an endurance challenge to show the world just how good their new 9000 Turbo was.
As with any new car produced by a manufacturer, the buying public are always wary of being the ‘guinea pig’ when it comes to new models, preferring to let others be the first to find out any shortcomings or problems before reaching for their cheque book.
Confidence in a new model takes time, time the car manufacturer really doesn’t have.
This is why an endurance test such as the one Saab carried out at the Talladega speedway in Alabama USA was felt to be a good way to instil confidence in its new car (which was after all very different from the Saabs the existing core buyer was used to) and to show the motoring press just how good a car the 9000 was.
It turned out to be quite a challenge too. The distance ran was an amazing 62000 miles at an average speed of 132mph by three cars picked randomly from the production line with no modifications other than the fitting of role cages and a six point safety harness for the driver. During the test Saab managed to bag 21 international and 2 world records.
As I mentioned earlier, the cars were picked at random from the production line under the supervision of FISA (Federation Internationale Sportif Automobile) International motor sports authority, and were sealed prior to shipment to the USA.
International rules allowed 85kg of spare parts which were carried in a special aluminium case on the back seat, and only these parts could be used to repair the car during the test.
Obviously Saab couldn’t carry out such a mammoth test without help, so partners were sought, these being Shell, Pirelli, and Garrett.
Pirelli supplied 400 P600 tyres, Shell made sure that approaching 100,000 litres of fuel and suitable quantities of lubricating oil was available, and Garrett supplied back up and expertise within the world of turbocharging.
So what about the test itself. Well, 25 drivers, most of them Saab engineers, took turns behind the wheel of the three test cars. Each car made a pit stop every hour for fuel, and every other hour for a driver change.
Front tyres were changed every 12 hours, and the rear tyres every 24 hours, with servicing carried out at the normal 12,000 mile intervals.
The cars were driven constantly at 136mph, with pit stops reducing the average speed to 130mph. This equated to each car covering around 3000 miles a day for twenty days.
Part two to follow