THE MASTER – Porsche Autocross Legend Dwight Mitchell (Part 1)
“We knocked some dust off today,” the 77-year old Dwight Mitchell states matter of factly as he climbs out of his old Porsche warhorse. Minutes earlier a California sunset lit up a dusty parking lot disturbed only by the Signal Orange 1971 911T driven sideways at all times.
Both the driver and car are instantly recognizable to any long-time autocross enthusiast. Mitchell was the first chairman of the Porsche Club of America’s Parade Competition Rules Committee established in 1970. He was PCA Enthusiast of the Year in 1971 and president of two regions. He also participated in 17 Porsche Parades. Then there are his driving accomplishments.
Dwight won Sport Car Club of America’s ASP class ProSolo Champion in 1990 and 1993, and was the SCCA ProSolo Overall Champion in 1991. In 1992 he won his class at the PCA San Diego Parade and was third fastest overall. For 1993 and 1994 he was crowned SCCA’s ASP class Solo 2 National Champion.
The stories behind those wins are equally legendary.
“The 1990 SCCA event was very special because it was my first national win, and I did it under very trying circumstances,” Mitchell recalls with a grimace. “I fell out of the door of my motorhome right before the event and ruptured the quad in my left leg. I had to be helped into the car and foam had to placed around me so I could operate the clutch.”
But it was the 1992 San Diego PCA Parade autocross that was perhaps his proudest moment, “I had one of the best runs of my life on a very fast course, and Hans-Peter Porsche was there to see it,” he remembers. The next evening Dr. Porsche came up to a friend of Mitchell’s at the banquet and said, “Now that’s a man who knows how to drive a 911.” Mitchell was later honored with a PCA Zone 7 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mitchell’s thoroughness in setting up the car is also noteworthy. He tested eleven differently curved distributors before deciding on the best one that delivered the most low end torque for his special 1974 2.7L motor with a 7800 rpm rev limiter. Eventually he settled on 40mm Solex/Zenith carburetors when Craig Smith supplied venturis from a Weber carb to make it all work.
He could have gone up to 3.2-liters in capacity for the ASP Solo 2 class, but Mitchell chose a magnesium case motor with smaller pistons to achieve a lighter rear weight and quicker spin up for his driving style. That style of driving is throttle steering and he is a master of it. He’s constantly making corrections before they’re needed, using the rear of the 911 like a big rudder.
The current owner of Mitchell’s 911, Pat Costin, is a long-time Porsche enthusiast and vintage racer. He sums it up this way: “I think Dwight was pretty much the center of a perfect storm. His experience combined with an analytic mind, meticulous engineering, and construction skills vaulted the 911 into the competitive autocross position it now enjoys.”
Costin continues, “I purchased the customized original paint 1971 911T #9111102564 from Dwight and Linda Mitchell in 1998. Dwight co-drove with me at six autocross events in Sacramento at that time, and left me with the indelible impression that he could quickly learn any course, be able to pre-visualize it, and have the right line on his first run. He was amazingly smooth and precise with his inputs, focusing well ahead on course. He would adjust sway bars, shock settings and tire pressures between every run.”
Mitchell bought the car in 1978 from its original owner, Skip McQueen. McQueen had been stationed at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina. From there he drove the 911 to San Francisco where it suffered a chain tensioner failure. McQueen then brought it to Mitchell’s Autosport Technology shop in Sacramento for a rebuild. He happened to be Mitchell’s first customer.
To Be Continued Next Month…
Article Copyright Randy 2017 Randy Wells. All Rights Reserved.
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