Rennsport Reunion V at Laguna Seca ... The largest and most important gathering of historic Porsche
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Rennsport Reunion V at Laguna Seca ... The largest and most important gathering of historic Porsche
Rennsport Reunion V at Laguna Seca ... The largest and most important gathering of historic Porsche
Rennsport Reunion V at Laguna Seca ... The largest and most important gathering of historic Porsche
Rennsport Reunion V at Laguna Seca ... The largest and most important gathering of historic Porsche
Rennsport Reunion V at Laguna Seca ... The largest and most important gathering of historic Porsche
Rennsport Reunion V at Laguna Seca ... The largest and most important gathering of historic Porsche
Rennsport Reunion V at Laguna Seca ... The largest and most important gathering of historic Porsche
Rennsport Reunion V at Laguna Seca ... The largest and most important gathering of historic Porsche
Rennsport Reunion V at Laguna Seca ... The largest and most important gathering of historic Porsche
Rennsport Reunion V at Laguna Seca ... The largest and most important gathering of historic Porsche
Rennsport Reunion V at Laguna Seca ... The largest and most important gathering of historic Porsche
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Laguna Seca, 25th - 27th of September, 2015

Four years after the first edition of the Porsche Rennsport Reunion at the West Coast the largest and most important gathering of historic Porsche was back to California at the last weekend of September. This date caused some inconvenience for some travelers as it was originally designated to happen two weeks later so many early booked flights and hotels had to be cancelled and rescheduled but as the expectations for this special edition were very high a lot of visitors were happy to do so. The American market was always very important for the German sports car manufacturer and the cars from Zuffenhausen have a huge fan base in the US as one could see by the many 911 and 356 invading Monterey over the weekend from all over the country. Although prices were not as crazy as during the Pebble Beach weekend the hotels were pretty much booked out and one could see a Porsche on basically every parking lot in front of them resulting in more than 50000 visitors at the track during the event. With seven different race classes ranging from the first 356 models to the Group C race cars and a GT3 Challenge race there was a lot of activity at the track to keep people entertained, in the paddocks the concours display and the pit building line-up of significant race models showed a superb selection of the Porsche heritage including several Le Mans winning cars. In the infield a show stage entertained with life music, typical German food and various interviews and autograph sessions of no less than 11 Porsche Le Mans winning drivers.

After the return to La Sarthe last year and the victory this year with the all new Porsche 919 Hybrid it was no surprise that this was the main theme, under the motto “Legends of Le Mans” not only the official poster showed the three important steps of Porsche at the 24h but also the display in the infield.

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After working for Lohner, Daimler (designing the supercharged straight six series of the late 1920s), Austro Daimler and Steyr Ferdinand Porsche finally started his own design office in Stuttgart in 1930. Among his first successful constructions were the famous rear engined Auto Union Silver Arrow that raced under the Nazi-regime and with his close relation to the Führer Porsche was commissioned to build the KDF-Wagen that should later become the VW Beetle. During the war the newly formed Volkswagen-Werke were producing military vehicles like the Schwimmwagen and Porsche was also designing tanks. With the end of the war coming nearer and the major German cities attacked by the allies the construction office was relocated to Gmünd in Kärnten, Austria.

This was also the place where Ferdinand’s son Porsche started the construction of the first Porsche models soon after the war while his father Ferdinand was in French war imprisonment. The type 356/1 (or called No.1) was the first car ever to wear the Porsche-Name on its light alloy body. This light roadster never went into production but formed the base for the 356/2 that should become the first small series car both available as Cabriolet and Coupé bodied by Beutler in Switzerland and today known as the “Gmünd Cabriolet/Coupé”. These first cars were financed with the salaries for the construction of the Cisitalia 360 race car and after Ferdinand Porsche was released from prison and the production of the VW Beetle started the salary for the patents allowed Porsche to return after just over 50 Gmünd models built to Stuttgart were today premises in Zuffenhausen were built.

With the relocation to Stuttgart a new coachbuilder was needed and Reuter became responsible for the 356 that was now built in steel rather than aluminum. But Porsche started to race some of these early models and those models retained the alloy body named 356 SL (Sport Leicht) and the most important of them was displayed in Laguna Seca. Chassis 356/2-063 raced at Le Mans in 1951 giving Porsche it first class victory in the 1100 cc class racing the small version of the air-cooled 4-cylinder boxer engine. Aerodynamic improvements like the covered wheels raised the speed on the long straights and the success gave the new manufacturer some international reputation. Later this car was entered by John von Neumann in the US before being converted to a roadster that was raced several years at the historic races in Laguna Seca. After being acquired by a vintage Porsche collector in the US it’s was painstakingly restored to original specification and made its debut at the Rennsport Reunion were it was displayed next to the 917 and 919.

Porsche went on racing with modified 356 as seen in the Gmünd Cup this weekend, Glöckler and others joined with own creations but it took until 1953 Porsche introduced its first pure race car, the type 550. Today the car is mainly known as the little Spyder James Dean died in but the first factory racers were indeed built as hardtops. Base for this car was the new Fuhrmann engine with 4 shaft driven overhead camshafts that should serve Porsche with different displacement during the next decade. The first cars of the line were intended as works racer and the car chassis 550-01 won its very first outing at the Nuerburgring in the hands of Helmut Glöckler who teamed up with Hans Herrmann for Le Mans just two weeks later. For Le Mans the cars were equipped with a hardtop to reduce the drag and the two entered cars won their 1.5 litre class. Both cars were then shipped to Mexico to race the Carrera Panamericana just as 550-01 displayed in the Chopard Heritage tent brought over by the Revs Institute from Naples.

After the factory cars Porsche produced the 550 Spyder for privateers where it was entered with huge success in numerous races all over the world. Because of its great handling and lightweight design the 550 was known as “giant killer” as it finished quit often in front of larger displacement engined cars and was an almost certain winner of its class. Apart from the Coupé two more Spyders could be seen in Laguna Seca, Chassis 073 with all American race history from the Ingram Collection in the heritage tent and chassis 034 that was delivered to Paris on the race track.

The evolution of the 550 was the 550A with a complete redesign and a new tube frame, three cars were on display. The prototype 550A-0101 in its current unpainted form was entered in the MM 1956 but more importantly gave Porsche his first Targa Florio victory in the hands of Maglioli to form the long successful story of Porsche in the Italian road race classic. Chassis 550A-0116 was raced by Jack McAfee in the US and 550A-0141 had a very long racing history that ended in the early 1970s with a fire that took the car off the road for the next 4 decades.

For the 1957 season Porsche introduced the new 718 RSK but it took until 1958 the car was fully developed. Entered in the World Sports Car Championship Porsche took the second place overall behind Ferrari who entered the legendary 250 TR with double the displacement. When in the first round at Buenos Aires Stirling Moss and Jean Behra were still racing the 550A it was in Sebring where the 718 RSK finished 3rd overall and second at the Targa Florio and again 3rd and 4th at Le Mans. The RSK went on racing in 1959-1961 and was renamed RS60 and RS61 for the last two years. In 1959 Porsche ended third behind Aston Martin and Ferrari but again the RSK could fetch a win at the Targa Florio just as the RS60 in 1960. As Porsche started to concentrate on the F1 efforts of the 718 the development of the sports cars was not full hearted and Porsche lost ground, especially when Ferrari introduced the 206 SP Dino.

But the 718 RSK and its derivates were not just popular back then but also today in the historic races. Not just 4 of them were entered in the Gmünd Cup but also 6 more were on static display including the third placed 1958 LM car of Behra and Herrmann (718-005) and the 718-007 that fetched the fastest lap at the Targa Florio in 1959 to loose victory in the last lap due to a suspension failure. The 718RSK was also available with center steering allowing to be entered in F2 races as 718-030 was in the hands of Jean Behra or 718-027 that won the GP of Spa when this was open for sports cars instead of F1. In 1960 Porsche took another step as it won the Sebring 12 hours for the first time, Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien raced the RS60 (s/n 718-042) in front of its sister car entered from Brumos Porsche. Its sister car for the 1960 works entries was chassis 718-044 that was just sold a few weeks earlier at Gooding & Company´s Pebble Beach Sale for more than 5 Mio dollar. This particular car was on its way to win the 1960 Targa Florio in the hands of Stirling Moss when the differential seized with just 3 miles to go. One of the longest serving RS should be the 718/8 RS Spyder from the factory museum. Nicknamed “Grandmother” this car competed four years as factory team car, equipped with the latest 8-cylinder 2-litre engine with 2nd at the Targa Florio 1961 and 5th at Le Mans the same year but also two victories at the Schauinsland Hill climb. Both the 550 and the 718 were very successful in the European Hill climb Championship as Porsche went to win this for four years between 1958-1961.

The early and mid-1960s brought many changes at Porsche both for the race and road cars. The first significant cut was the introduction of the Porsche 904, the first fiberglass body to found the base for the upcoming success in the prototype classes the following years. Unlike the alloy bodied Spyders before this lightweight coupé was entered in the GT class instead of the sports car class. This was also the last car to be raced with the Fuhrmann engine, now with 2 litre displacement. Surprisingly few 904 could be seen in Laguna Seca this weekend, a sole example in the heritage tent was 904-078, again brought from the Ingram Collection in just its third ownership with less than 10000 miles from new. Just one more 904 could be seen in the Corral parking at the club display of the PCA.

In 1965 a far deeper cut came with the introduction of the legendary 911 with his air cooled 6-cylinder boxer engine. This did not just change the model range of the road cars but also went into the race cars. Some later 904 received the new 6-cylinder but it was also introduced in the new 906. Just as the 904 the 906 with light fiberglass body and tubular frame was intended to race in the sports car class of the World Sports Car Championship but before the car got its homologation (50 cars required) it debuted in the prototype class at the Daytona 24h where it finished 6th with Herrmann/Linge driving. One of the goal for the new 906 was to challenge the Dino 206 SP of Ferrari and both at Sebring and Monza the 906 delivered the desired class victory and even better at the Targa Florio where Mairesse/Müller repeated the victories of the 550 and 718.

But the 906 was also meant to be raced by clients as Porsche soon moved on to the 910 but cars like the orange 906-134 raced by the Racing-Team Holland in the hands of Gijs van Lennep or the bright yellow 906-148 went on to race for years in different racing series. Whereas the racing versions of the 911 had their own race with the Eifel Trophy the 906 Carrera 6 were entered in the Weissach Trophy named after the Porsche development center in Weissach.

Soon Porsche saw that the sports cars would not bring the desired success but a step into the prototype class was needed and the 906 was developed into the 910. Without the need to get enough cars sold for the homologation the concept could get more radical and the 910 therefore is the first racer that was never licensed for road usage. The 910 used the engine type 901 with 2 litre and some later models the 8-cylinder 2.2 litre. The 910/8 was very successful in 1967 and Porsche won both the Targa Florio and the Nuerburgring with a full 910-podium, at the end of the year only 2 points were missing in the World Sports Car Championship against the Ferrari 330 P4.

910-006 was displayed in the pit-building line-up representing its entry in 1969 when this car was already in private hands after being run by Porsche System Engineering for a single season in 1967. Two more were entered in the Weissach Trophy with 910-004 coming home 4th at Sebring 1967 with Siffert/Herrmann and the 1967 Mugello winning 910-025.

For 1968 the regulations in the World Sports Car Championship changed limiting the displacement of the prototypes to 3 litre and the sports cars to 5 litre. As this meant that neither the dominant Ferrari 330P4 nor the 7-litre Ford GT40 MKII was eligible anymore Porsche was hoping to win the title. While working on the new 3-litre engine that should be run in the 908 later the 907 entered alongside the 910 still used the 2-litre 6-cylinder or 2.2 litre 8-cylinder. Especially for the long distance races in Daytona and Le Mans a special long tail version was entered and with few competition Porsche won the opening race at Daytona with a 1-2-3. Again Porsche lost the championship in the very last race when the Gulf livered Ford GT40 MKI of the Wyer in the hands of Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi won Le Mans that was rescheduled due to protest in France earlier that year. By that time the new 908 was already introduced but it was the private entered 907 long tail of the Squadra Tartaruga that came second in front of the 908.

For the 1969 season the 908 with the new 3-litre engine seamed well prepared and although the opening race did not see any of the 908 Langheck finishing the 908 went on to win almost every race during the season apart from Le Mans when once more the Gulf GT40 of Ickx/Oliver won in the closest finish possible, Porsche was literally only a few hundred meters away from the desired 1st overall at La Sarthe.

The 908 was built in different body forms including a short and a long tail coupé, the 908/2 Spyder (called “Flunder”) and the compact 908/3 Spyder for tracks like the Targa Florio and the Nuerburgring. Several 908 were Monterey this weekend, 908-025 of the Collier Collection just came out of restoration were several layers of fiberglass had to be removed as the works racer was later converted to a street car in Switzerland with strengthened bodywork. Gunnar Jeanette was racing this car in the Weissach Trophy were he could keep up for quite a while with the more powerful 4.5-litre 917. In the concours tent a further long tail car (908-027) was displayed right next to a short tail Coupé (908-006). The Flunder 908/2-005 was entered by Martini Racing in 1970 and finished third at Le Mans behind the winning 917s. In the Weissach Trophy 3 more 908 were entered, a 908 coupe (908-011 came third at Spa 1969), another Spyder (908/2-021) and a short 908/3 (chassis 21).

For the 1969 season Porsche did not only enter the 908 but also the all-new 917. When the number of required cars for the homologation for the sports car class was lowered to only 25 cars Porsche went on to produce most likely one of the most iconic sports car racers ever, the legendary 917. Under financial pressure Ferdinand Piech, grandson of Ferdinand Porsche and head of the development department got green light from the executive board to build this sports car finally using the full displacement allowed by the regulation. The 917 was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1969 and the famous picture from April that year showed the 25 cars (although most of them not complete with engine) lined up in Zuffenhausen. The 917 was again intended as long and as short tail and although the long tail had advantages on the long Hunaudieres the drivers were scared in the beginning by its handling and the car became particular successful in the short version. Being a huge project for Porsche it took them almost a year to fully sort the new car and when Ferrari showed up with its counterpart, the 512 S, Porsche already had an advantage in development. The 917K finally gave Porsche the desired first overall victory at the Le Mans 24 hours with the car entered in the colors of Porsche Salzburg. Unfortunately this most important car did not find its way to Monterey from the UK so Porsche presented the prototype (917-001) that was repainted in the Le Mans winning livery soon after the victory and handed over to the public relation department of Porsche were it still serves today. The most famous colors ever on the 917K are certainly the Gulf Blue-Orange of the Wyer-Team who ran the Porsche works entries and as seen in the legendary Le Mans movie of Steve McQueen. No less than 6 Gulf-livered 917K were seen at Rennsport, three of them entered in the Weissach Trophy and three more in the garages and tents. Being heavily raced many of the 917K had to be rebuilt with replacement frames making the chassis numbers difficult to follow over their career. Chassis 917-016 driven by Chris MacAllister seems to be one of the easier cars as it is the Pedro Rodriguez car for 1970/71 before it was sold a few year later for historic races where it is still competing today.

Bruce Canepa had two cars on show, 915-015 raced seems to be rebuilt on the damaged frame of 917-015 when this car was originally rebuilt with frame 035, this 917-015/035 was displayed by Porsche themselves after being restored to the Spa 1000km 1971 specification where it won.

Canepas other car in the heritage tent had a similar history as this is the restored frame of 917-004 after this car was rebuilt with the frame of 917-017 so those two swapped numbers.

Charles Nearburg was racing 917-009 that seemed to be resurfaced just recently as several books mentioned this car being scrapped and parts were used in the restoration of the 1970 Le Mans winning car. Finally the sixth of the Gulf livered 917K was the movie car of the McQueen movie. Chassis 022 was sold to Solar Productions and later run by Reinhold Joest who should be linked with Porsche again later on. Today this car is owned by comedian and Porsche enthusiast Jerry Seinfeld.

Obviously the 917 proved to be too dominant and after Porsche winning another Le Mans with the lightweight magnesium chassis and dominated the World Sports Car Championship the 5 litre sports cars were banned. Porsche went on to race the 917 as 917/10 in the CanAm in the US and the Interseries in Europe. Three 917/10 were on display, the Penske-Car raced by George Follmer (917/10-003), the Bromus-Car raced by Peter Gregg (917/10-007) and the car of Willi Kauhsen (917/10-015).

In 1973 finally the last evolution of the 917/30 developed much more than 1000 HP from the turbocharged 5.4 litre engine and 917/30-003 was raced by Mark Donahue winning the 1973 CanAm series with 6 out of 8 overall victories.

After the 917 Porsche divided their efforts both in the sports cars and the GT cars. In 1974 Porsche started supercharging in the road cars with the type 930 Turbo. As the former GT cars like the 3.0 RSR were normal aspired the 930 was the new base for GT racing. Starting with the 934 in Group 4 and later the 935 in Group 5 Porsche dominated the Sports Car Championship for years, the 935 might be the most successful GT car ever as it went to win races into the 1980s.

Rennsport Reunion had a complete race group (Carrera Trophy) for the RSR, 934 and 935 and many interesting cars could be seen both on track and in the paddocks. The most important of the 935 line is without doubt the 1979 935 K3 of the Kremer Team (00900015) that took overall victory at Le Mans that year when the works prototypes failed to finish.

At the same time Porsche ran the 936 as open spyder in the Group 6 with the 2.1 Litre Turbo engine. Three cars were built and they won Le Mans 1976 and 1977. After completing the podium behind the winning Renault in 1978 both cars entered failed to finish in 1979 and Porsche did not enter 1980 but in 1981 the old 936 got a second life with an enlarged engine winning its final Le Mans, Chassis 936/81-003 was in Monterey with its Jules-Livery instead of the earlier Martini-livery. Joest built another 936 alongside the works cars and this chassis 936-004 was present as well.

In the 1980s another legendary Porsche design became famous, after Martini and Gulf it was now Rothmans gracing the works entries both of the sports and the rally cars.

In 1982 the FIA introduced the new Group C for sports prototypes and Porsche developed the 956. Unlike the previous prototypes it did not feature a tubular frame anymore but an aluminum monocoque and far better aerodynamics. The closed sports racers were mainly restricted by their fuel consumption but left enough room for technical development, the turbocharged 2.65 litre engine developed about 620 HP. The 956 proved almost unbeatable and won Le Mans, the manufacturer and the drivers’ championship with Jacky Ickx both in 1982 and 1983.

For 1983 Porsche started to deliver customer teams with the 956 but as the works entry remained strong they only fought for the places. Le Mans 1983 became the most dominant Porsche race ever when just a single Sauber C7 on position 9 disturbed a clean 1-10 finish of Porsche.

In 1984 the works-Porsche did not start at Le Mans and the 956B (now with electronic injection for a reduced fuel limit) of the Joest team took the chance to win the 24h with the NewMan 956B-117, this car should win just a year later at the same place making this one of the very few double Le Mans winning cars. This was achieved in 1929/30 by the Bentley Speed Six of Woolf Barnato and in 1968/69 by the Wyer-Ford GT40.

By this time the 956 was replaced by the 962 with longer wheelbase due to American regulations and the car was either entered with engines from the 935 (as 962) or in Group C specification (962C). Rothmans-Porsche again won Le Mans in 1986 and 1987 but stepped back in the championship to give the customer teams the possibility to shine. Two of the Rothmans-962C were present, the 1987 Le Mans winning chassis 962C-006 of the Porsche Museum and 962C-005 as raced by Charles Nearburg in the Stuttgart Cup. Other significant 962 could be seen including the 1989 Daytona 24h winning 962-108C/C02 with Miller High Life livery and improved bodywork.

At the end of the 1980s other manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar put in huge efforts to win the prestigious Group C class and the dominance of the 962 came to an end but after the end of the Group C again a 962 took the crown at La Sarthe. In the new regularities for 1994 beside the Prototypes also small series sports car like the McLaren F1 were allowed but Jochen Bauer and Porsche found a loophole. Dauer bought a bunch of 962 and apart from preparing them for racing there was also a street legal version available and therefore the Dauer 962 LM were eligible for Le Mans. Under the leadership of Joest Hurley Haywood, Yannick Dalmas and Mauro Baldi took the chequered flag first overall, the sister car of Stuck/Sullivan/Boutsen came third, this car (962C-173/GT002) was on display.

After Joest Racing winning another two Le Mans races in 1996/97 in an Porsche-powered open prototype it was in 1998 when the 911 GT1-98 won the last 24h-race for Porsche in a battle against the Toyota GT-One, the BMW V12 and the Mercedes-Benz CLK-LM.  Soon after Audi took over and was on its way to catch up with Porsche in the total number of Le Mans victories when Porsche announced its return with the 919 Hybrid. Now in just its second year the 919 took the crown again for Zuffenhausen providing a good party to celebrate the Le Mans history in Monterey in late September.

The Porsche Rennsport Reunion V was an exceptional weekend for people interested in all things Porsche or racing in general. Few other single marque meetings got that much attention in the last years and even when climbing into the plane in Frankfurt one could already see numerous Porsche-fans making the long trip to see the cars at the famous corkscrew. The paddocks were very well visited and with the lack of the Race Car Classic Concours of the previous edition the concours at the pit lane was even more interesting for the visitors than 4 years ago. Certainly several important cars were missing but on the other hand the classic department could have brought the entire museum as most of these cars fit in this category winning one of the important races.

If one does look for a downside it would be the very American way of looking at the Germans as the ambience was limited a little bit to clichés with Dirndl and Blasmusik but at the end this made most of the German visitors smile and the Americans got a small portion of the popular Oktoberfest.

Unfortunately the mother VW is struggling at the moment due to the emission scandal and one might see how this will affect the racing attempt of Audi and Porsche in near future but even without any upcoming Le Mans victories there is certainly a reason to celebrate again in 4 years at the Rennsport Reunion VI.

Text & images ... Peter Singhof