Porsche: An Enduring Racing Legacy
Porsche and motorsports. The two are virtually inseparable.
Over the course of the last 61 years the world-famous manufacturer from Stuttgart has tasted success in numerous areas and categories of motorsport, winning races and championships on virtually every level of the sport. It is the most successful manufacturer by far in the history of international sports car racing.
Porsche's racing heritage can be traced all the way back to July 11, 1948. Porsche chassis No. 1 was not even five weeks old when Ferdinand Porsche's nephew, Herbert Kaes drove the car in the first race held in Austria after the war and brought home a victory in its class.
Porsche's motorsports reputation has been built through success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, victories and championships in international sports car series, and rallies around te world.
The Porsche tradition of Le Mans glory began in 1951 when French drivers Veuillet and Edmond Mouche scored class win for cars under 1100 cc in the 24 Hours of Endurance - the first German sports car victory following World War II. Porsche drivers have felt at home at Le Mans ever since, perhaps even more so than at any other track in the world. In 1970, Porsche captured its first overall win in Le Mans with Hans Herrmann and Dick Attwood driving a Porsche 917 short-tail, five liter, 12 cylinder 580 hp coupe.
Porsche went on a run to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1981 to 1987, and no less than a total of 16 times up to 1998; no other manufacturer can even come close to that record. Porsche has more than 50 class wins at Le Mans as well.
Porsche's first major international overall win came in 1956 at the Targa Florio as Umberto Maglioli scored the win in a Porsche 550 A Spyder. The next year, in a similar 550 A Spyder, Edgar Barth outdistanced the single-seater Formula I cars to win the Formula II class and finish first at the German Grand Prix. 1959 brought Porsche's first European Hill-climb championship as Graf Berghe van Trips was fastest to the top at Gaisberg in a Porsche 718 RSK Spyder.
After Barth's 1957 success at the German Grand Prix, Porsche went on to win the Formula II constructor's World Championship in 1960, with Sterling Moss leading the way in a Porsche 718/2. To prove it could win in Formula I, Porsche built its first eight-cylinder motor and American Dan Gurney drove the Porsche 804 F1 racer to victory in 1962 at the French Grand Prix. Porsche's other Formula I success came during the 1984 - 1986 seasons, when McLaren used TAG turbo engines designed and maintained by Porsche to bring Niki Lauda and Alain Prost World Championship titles.
Rally and off-road racing are important parts of Porsche's rich motorsports history, including Hans Hermann winning the La Carrera Panamericana in a Porsche 550 Spyder in the 1500 cc class in 1954 and driver Vic Elford/co-driver David Stone bringing Porsche its first overall World Rally Championship win in 1968 at the Monte Carlo Rally in a Porsche 911 T. In 1984 - 86, the Porsche 959, the AWD monster 911 turbo, won the Pharaoh Rally in Egypt and the tough Paris-Dakar Rally from Europe to the tip of Africa. More recently, American Jeff Zwart has taken various Porsche 911 models to five class wins at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in Colorado.
In North America, the two most important endurance races - the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Daytona - are the standards for sports car performance and longevity.
Porsche's overall glory at the 12 Hours of Sebring started in 1960, with Hans Hermann and Olivier Gendebien scoring the victory in a Porsche 718 RSK 60 Spyder. Porsche now has 17 overall wins at Sebring (Ferrari is second with 12), and 47 class wins, including the Patrick Long/Lucas Luhr/Jorg Bergmeister GT2 class victory in a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in 2005. Porsche 911, 917, 935, and 962 have all taken overall victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Porsche has had equal success at the other Florida endurance classic, the 24 Hours at Daytona, where it has collected 64 class and 22 overall wins in the race's 49-year history. In fact, in recent years, Porsches have made up almost one-half of the overall entry list at Daytona.
Porsche's first overall win in the Florida classic came on Feb 4, 1968, with Porsche sweeping the top three places in Porsche 907/6 long-tail coupes, with Vic Elford, Hans Hermann, Jo Siffert, Rolf Stommelen and Jochen Neerpasch all driving the winning car.
The marque's latest overall victory in the 24 hour enduro came in 2009 when David Donohue/Darren Law/Buddy Rice/Antonio Garcia scored a historic win in the Brumos Porsche Riley. In 2003, Porsche scored a resounding overall win with the most successful race car in GT history - the Porsche 911 GT3 R/RS/RSR. The 2003 Rolex 24 winners, led by driver/owner Kevin Buckler and Michael Schrom and factory drivers Jorg Bergmeister and Timo Bernhard - had won its class at Daytona in 2002 as well. The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, now the standard-bearer in the Grand-Am series, has won more Grand-Am GT Championships than anyone.
Porsche's most powerful race car ever, the 917, dominated the sports car world in the early 1970s. It developed more than 1000 horsepower in Can Am form and won every series it was eligible to enter before being outlawed after the 1971 season by the FIA and the 1973 by the SCCA.
From the fall of 1969 to the end of 1971, the 917 and 917K had an almost perfect record in its European racing ventures, losing only the 1969 Le Mans race to Ferrari as all the cars had unrelated mechanical problems. The car would have had a short, but spectacular history - ending in 1971 with the FIA rules changes - had not the SCCA agreed to include the car in its growing Can-Am series.
1973 brought the 917/30 - turbo-charged, 12-cylinders with a modified front-end and rear deck; perhaps the most powerful sports car ever built. Although driver Mark Dononhue and team owner Roger Penske did not start the season well, they dominated the last half of it to win the '73 Can-Am title, leading to the SCCA regulating the car out of existence. The 917/30 did live on in the Interserie series in Europe, where Herbert Mueller won the championship in 1974 - 75. Also in 1975 at Talladega, Ala., Donohue set the World Closed Course Speed Record driving the Penske 917/30 at an average speed of 221.120 mph.
Throughout the mid and late 1970s and early 1980s, Porsche's racing efforts involved the racing version of its 911 Turbo street car - the Porsche 935. Among the many victories for this powerful production-based racecar were overall wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1979), the 24 Hours of Daytona (1978-82), and the 12 Hours of Sebring (1978-84).
What began as an engineering exercise in 1981 to meet the new FIA Group C regulations turned out to be the most successful prototype in motorsports history. With a monocoque chassis replacing the traditional Porsche tube frame concept, water-cooled heads and motronic (electronic) fuel injection, the Porsche 956 was a departure from Porsche prototype design and new thinking for its designer Norbert Singer.
After an initial loss in 1982 at Silverstone, the 956 went on to five straight Group C manufacturers titles (1982 - 1986), four straight wins at Le Mans, and a long list of individual race titles. IMSA, however, would not allow the 956 to join the Camel GT circuit as the sanctioning body objected to the water-cooled heads and the fact that the driver's feet were placed in front of the front axle line. Finally, Porsche agreed to build a 956 variant using a 935-based engine and an extended wheel base for IMSA - and, in late 1983, the Porsche 962 was born.
Although it was always clear that the 962 would find success in IMSA, the car did not really hit its stride until the summer of 1984, when a larger 3.2-liter mechanically-injected turbo allowed the car to consistently beat the Jaguars and Chevy Marches that had dominated the races. Four straight Rolex 24 at Daytona victories and multiple Camel GT championships lasted until IMSA regulations gave the competitive edge to others. Even into the ‘90s, Porsche 962 privateers won races in IMSA, at Le Mans, and at Daytona. Today, both the 956 and 962 models race regularly in vintage classes, and are consistent crowd-pleasers.
The inception of the American Le Mans Series and the introduction of the Porsche 911 GT3 R came at the same time - the 1999 racing season. As the most successful sports car in GT history, the GT3 R, and its successors - the GT3 RS, and the current GT3 RSR - this race car has propelled Porsche to six manufacturers titles in the seven years of ALMS. Porsche also has the most class wins, longest winning streak (more than two years), and most pole positions.
On the drivers side, Sascha Maassen held the record for the most GT class wins, and two current Porsche driver pairs - Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas and Patrick Long/Jorg Bergmeister - battled for the 2005 ALMS GT2 title in their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR race cars until Bergmeister/Long captured the title at the last event of the season.
Porsche customer teams battled for the title again in 2006, with Flying Lizard Motorsports and Petersen/White Lightning Porsches in the point until the end, with Jorg Bergmeister/Patrick Long capturing the title in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
At the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway in October, 2005, Porsche debuted its latest prototype racecar, the Porsche RS Spyder, which is competing in the LMP2 class in the American Le Mans Series. The car, entered by Penske Motorsports and driven by Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr, won the LMP2 championship in 2006, with one overall win (Mid-Ohio) and seven class victories.
For 2007, both Penske and Dyson Racing entered two Porsche RS Spyder 3.4 liter, V-8 prototypes, with even greater results. Not only did Penske Racing win 11 of the 12 class victories possible, but the champion Romain Dumas/Timo Bernhard combination scored six overall wins, and finished on the podium for all 12 races. The other Penske driver pair, Sascha Maassen/Ryan Briscoe, who finished second in the drivers championship, also had a great season with two overall wins. For Dyson Racing, who debuted their RS Spyders at Sebring '07, it was a season of learning and testing, but the team managed several podium finishes.
2008 brought glory to Porsche in both the prototype of GT categories, with Bernhard/Dumas repeating as American Le Mans Series LMP2 champions in the Penske Porsche RS Spyder, and the Flying Lizard Motorsports team of Wolf Henzler and Joerg Bergmeister capturing the ALMS GT2 crown in their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Porsche continued its winning ways internationally by capturing 24 hour races at Spa, the Nurburgring and Dubai, as well as its third straight Transsyberia Rally (with the Cayenne) and the LMP2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Porsche RS Spyder.
2009 brought new challenges to the American Le Mans Series and Rolex Grand-Am Sports cars series in the U.S., but Porsche customer teams were up for the challenge. The year started out with Porsche's 21st overall victory and 63rd class win at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona as the Brumos Racing Porsche Riley of David Donohue/Darren Law/Buddy Rice/Antonio Garcia scored a less-than-one-second win overall and the TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car - with Patrick Long/Joerg Bergmeister/Andy Lally/Justin Marks/R.J. Valentine aboard - made it 37 wins for the Porsche 911 race car. Dirk Werner/Leh Keen went on the win the Rolex GT championship in the Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
In the 2009 American Le Mans Series, new challenges from BMW and Corvette, along with the usual Ferrari competition pushed the defending Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche team to the limit, but Patrick Long and Joerg Bergmeister gave the team its second consecutive GT2 title.
The same was true for 2010, as Bergmeister/Long repeated as driver champions in the 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. 2010 also saw significant wins for Porsche around the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours at Spa, and the debut of the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid “racing lab” which provided surprising results at the Nurburgring, China, and Road Atlanta.
While 2011 was a disappointing season for Porsche in the American Le Mans Series, it brought the emergence of a new team - the Team Falken Tire under the direction of team manager Derrick Walker, famed IndyCar team owner. Walker, and his two drivers, Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers, scored two wins late in the ALMS season, and, with two Flying Lizard GT2 victories, salvaged the season for Porsche. On the Grand-Am side, with Brumos Porsche fielding a 911 race car for the first time in 15 years, Leh Keen and Andrew Davis won the Rolex GT championship after the TRG Porsche took the Rolex 24 crown.