Renée Brinkerhoff has rallied her Porsche 356 around the world for an important cause, and now she’ll drive her re-engineered sports car on skis through the harsh conditions of Antarctica.
After a delay of nearly two years, Renée Brinkerhoff is preparing for the final stage of her Project 356 World Rally Tour with her 1956 Porsche 356 A. The amateur rally driver has already raced the classic sports car on six continents, on every type of terrain – an extreme endeavor for any individual, let alone one driving in a classic 65-year-old racer. She is now looking to check off the final land mass by putting the Porsche to the ultimate test, traversing 356 miles in Antarctica.
“While we are extremely proud of completing each endurance rally we’ve entered, our true mission has been for our racing efforts to become a worldwide visual that supports our vocal pursuit to end child trafficking,” says Brinkerhoff. “We’ve had a goal to break barriers and set new records and we’re hopeful our Antarctic expedition will do just that.”
The 356 is already in transit to Chile via ship from its workshop in the UK and, upon arrival, will be air-shipped to the Union Glacier in Antarctica. Brinkerhoff and the Valkyrie Racing team will rendezvous in Chile at the end of November, and if the weather cooperates the subzero sprint will begin in Antarctica on Dec. 5 and should be completed before the end of the year. The long-awaited journey was pushed from late 2020, and the more than 18 months of planning has also allowed the naturally-aspirated flat six 356 to undergo a complete re-engineering for the treacherous terrain.
While the addition of skis and tracks has increased the overall mass of the 356 – an issue because a low weight is key to driving over the ice rather than sinking in – the mass per square inch, or footprint, has been reduced to less than four per cent of the standard wheel displacement, the team said. “The ski we’ve created must do 40 – 50 per cent of the work, by compacting and prepping the snow for the track unit to follow over, with the underside blade guiding the direction. This ensures the tracks will not submarine under the light snow,” said Kieron Bradley, senior chassis design engineer for the project.
An extra thought that Bradley had to consider was that the skis and tracks must be easily removable so that spiked ice tires can be re-fitted with no wheel alignment changes necessary. A pneumatic inflatable jack will be used to make the change. Joining Brinkerhoff in the 356A for the polar trek will be British explorer Jason de Carteret, who will act as navigator. De Carteret has led more than 50 expeditions, including to both the North and South Pole, and together with Bradley he has claimed two world records for the fastest overland journey to the South Pole travelling in the Thomson Reuters Polar Vehicle, which they designed.
The Project 356 World Rally Tour is both an expedition and a humanitarian effort, and the December 2021 challenge completes the ultimate endeavor by one woman, one car and one global mission to help end child trafficking. Through Valkyries Gives, the philanthropic arm of her racing team, Brinkerhoff has raised close to half a million dollars, with 100% of the proceeds benefitting victims of trafficking around the world. By its conclusion, Brinkerhoff will have driven nearly 20,000 miles over all seven continents, partaking in endurance rallies such as Peking-to-Paris, the East African Safari Classic Rally and La Carrera Panamericana.