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Porsche at the 2018 Festival of Speed – ‘Intoxicating and Overwhelming’

Porsche was the honored marque at the 2018 Festival of Speed, and it was not to be missed: In celebration of the 70th anniversary of its first production car, the German sports car manufacturer was honored with a massive sculpture in front of Goodwood House. It looked like a star, or an interstellar compass. But to be sure, what they showed on the ground was an exceptional story of speed. It was the story of a once-small company that started its mission of creating the ultimate sports car using the humble means available in early postwar Europe. It grew through a process of continuous enhancement and development, proving that you can go fast if you just want to.

The ultimate fanboy from LA

Surrounded by the collection of Porsches presented at the Festival of Speed, an ultimate Porsche fanboy tried to summarize his impressions: “From prewar cars to obviously the latest, prettiest, fastest cars‚it’s intoxicating, it’s overwhelming.” And then, Magnus Walker, Porsche rebel from LA, went off up the hill in a new Carrera GT… At the forefront of Porsche’s presentation were, for sure, the 356s and 911s, but the rarer models, especially the race cars of all forms and ages, were unique testimonials to the brand’s rich history as well.

It started with the 356/001, Porsche’s first production car. It is a light roadster based on the axles and engine of a Volkswagen Beetle, combined with a tubular frame wrapped in a hand-shaped alloy body. Although it had to rely on a rattling 1.1-liter engine with only 40 horsepower, this little gem already showed an ambition for speed due with its lightweight construction. This philosophy would help all subsequent Porsche 356 production models to achieve remarkable performance despite mostly modest motorization. The 356/001’s drive up the hill at Goodwood House, however, was a sort of comfortable cruise. The car’s driver, Armin Burger of the Porsche Museum workshop, was obviously careful not to harm the nucleus of Porsche’s history.

In contrast, Massimo Toti’s performance was far more ambitious. Festival of Speed attendees could witness, especially sound-wise, his Porsche 356A Coupé, once driven by Jimmy Clark, climb up the hill with a loud growl. A couple of minutes later followed the pinnacle of 356 racing: the Porsche 356B Carrera Abarth GTL, driven by race driver and Fisken manager Rory Henderson. At a time when Porsche was putting all of its efforts into developing a grand prix car, Carlo Abarth came in and massively overhauled the 356 to create a GT, lighter and stronger than the Porsche 356 Carrera usually offered for racing. Abarth’s modifications‚ with the light, Scaglione-designed body and a tweaked engine‚ catapulted the 356 into another league. The flat-four Fuhrmann engine with its twin overhead camshafts asked for high revs, developing 135 horsepower at 6,500 rpm. Weighing just 780 kilograms, the car reached speeds of up to 230 kilometers per hour. In 1960, it won Le Mans in its class, repeating this victory two more times. With only 21 cars produced, this model is a rare sight today. No wonder top collectors like Miles Collier, the leader of the collector ranking of The Classic Car Trust, have one in their stables.

The 911s at the 2018 Festival of Speed

The next step in Porsche’s history was the 911, presented in September 1963. The attendees at the 2018 Festival of Speed saw some early examples, which clearly showed the family ties with its predecessor. Designer Erwin Komenda created a body that was a little longer than the 356, but even narrower. In contrast with the Beetle-derived engines of the 356, the engineers had high hopes that the 2-liter flat-six engine of the 911 was a future-proof foundation for further development. And yes, it delivered: at the 2018 Festival of Speed, the especially sought-after RSRs stole the show. These versions have been at the forefront of the 911-hype that started around the model’s jubilee in 2013. It seems that collectors can’t get enough of these massively powerful track tools, which made Porsche competitive against all the other famous GTs of the period.

The 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RSR, with its characteristic Martini livery, was one of these strong cars. It is said that the Porsche Museum is especially proud of this car because it won the Targa Florio. That victory demonstrated to the Ferraris and Alfa Romeos of the period that Porsche was not going to limit itself to small and light racecars any more. One visual sign of this confidence was the wing on the back. What had been a small ducktail was significantly enlarged from the usual RSRs, creating additional downforce for the long roads winding through the hills of Sicily and imparting an aggressive edge it continues to have today. Another flashy version of the Porsche 911 was the SC Paris-Dakar, which looked a little clumsy driving up the hill on the tarmac. This old four-wheeler rally car looked like a 911 on stilts, tilting from one side to the other at each and every corner.

How far could you go with the 911?

Le Mans winner Gijs van Lennep knows all about it. At Festival of Speed, he presented a Porsche dubbed “Moby Dick.” It was a special version of a 935‚ a racecar model based on the Porsche 911 Carrera RSR Turbo 2.1. Meeting the homologation rules of the FIA for Group 5 racecars, the cars with the project number 935 looked like a slightly souped up 911. But two years later, in 1978, both racing regulations and a further-developed 911 SC allowed for a dramatic revision. Its sheer size led to the atypical nickname “Moby Dick”. Aside from the roofline, the Moby Dick had plenty of design elements that set it apart from the typical Porsche Carrera RSR Turbo. The flat nose, big wheel housing, massive rear wing and stretched back showed that this was a pure racing machine, light-years away from a production car. The most powerful 911 of all time delivered up to 845 horsepower and a top speed of 366 km/h back in the day. Although the Festival of Speed was not able to witness this top speed during the hill climb, they heard the high undertone of the turbo engine. And in 1978, you could listen to the exact same sound on the Mulsanne Straight, driving to victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Back to the future: Following Moby Dick, Nick Tandy rode an updated Porsche 911 RSR that had participated in the GTE pro car class at this year’s Le Mans. As we know, they led most of the race, but Chevrolet and Ford crashed the party in the end ranking 1 to four. Nevertheless, the car was an unforgettable sight, thanks to the “Pink Pig” design borrowed from its predecessors of the 1970s and ’80s.

Celebrity Porsches

Another car with a characteristic design was presented by Mark Finburgh at the Festival of Speed‚ the Gulf Porsche 917K, famous for its role in the Le Mans movie. The unforgettable performance by the king of cool, Steve McQueen, was not the sports car brand’s only encounter with Hollywood. Another memorable moment, which ended tragically, involved James Dean and the Porsche 550 Spyder RS. At Goodwood, the museum decided to send the famous rally co-driver Christian Geisdörfer up the hill with an unusual version of the iconic car. Trying to maximize downforce on all four wheels, the engineers placed a huge wing right above the driver‚ quite an advantage in the hot and sunny weather at the 2018 Festival of Speed.

Porsche superlatives

Definitely superlative on the roads of Goodwood were the 959s‚ Porsche’s foray into supercars. In addition to the street version that was present at the event, Porsche also developed a racing version called the 961. The one shown at Festival of Speed in Rothmans livery raced in Le Mans. Most interestingly, the 961 was used for both rallying and racing. Talking about Rothmans: racing icon Derek Bell presented the Rothmans 962 Group C at Goodwood, the car he enjoyed lots of successes in with Jacky Ickx and Hans Stuck. The distinctive 962, with its long tail and exceptionally low rear wing, is THE ’80s car for Derek Bell, who calls it “the most astonishing car … and I think none of us will ever forget.” Its design was all about generating ground effect to improve traction for the nearly 800-horsepower car powered by a twin turbo 3.2-liter engine. It was up to Jochen Mass to show another 962C in Rothmans livery. The visual difference from Bell’s version was that Mass’ 962 had enclosed rear wheels, showing that aerodynamics was a serious avenue for enhancing the performance of the Group C cars of the ’80s.

A car that also needed taming by its drivers was the brutal 1,100-horsepower Porsche 917/30, which also showed up at Goodwood. With horsepower in the four digits, the car was able to reach 300 km/h in just 11.3 seconds. Competing in races in 1973 and 1974, this CanAm derivative of the 917 dominated the competition, not only because of its sheer power but also because of the exceptional handling hailed by most of its drivers.

What else could you have wanted to see as a Porsche aficionado? A Porsche 910 Flunder Spyder Prototype or a closed version? Check. A 904/8, 718 RS 61 Spyder, or a 904 Carrera GTS? Check. Presenting such a variety of cars in a matter of hours, the sports-car maker was able to showcase 70 years of automotive history in an impressive way. We’re sure that the applause of the Goodwood crowd was heard in the Stuttgart headquarters, wishing Porsche a happy birthday along with an invitation to return.

All pics courtesy of Julien Mahiels.

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