Rennsport Reunion VI celebrates Porsche’s 70th Birthday

We all know that Ferdinand Porsche was an engineer and a visionary. In the first part of the last century he worked, as a consultant, on some of the most important cars manufactured worldwide. Indeed, it is thanks to him that many of them earned this definition. Today, almost a century on, the models he engineered, created or developed are still considered the most historically important examples of their respective brands. Just after the Second World War, he left Volkswagen the company he had developed from scratch, leaving behind the almost definitive prototypes of the Beetle. The rest, of course, is history.

2018 – 70th anniversary of Porsche

When Ferdinand Porsche founded his own car manufacturing company in 1948, he was partnered by his son, Ferry, legally Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche, another car genius and the man responsible for creating and engineering the wonderful 356. Yet quite probably, when they first started out, neither father nor son, while certainly hopeful that their new venture would be a success, ever imagined that 70 years down the line their cars, and their brand, would be among the most respected, renowned and celebrated the world over.

Looking at the history of Porsche, it easy to see that racing, in which the company was usually successful, lay at the heart of the Porsche strategy, because racing was seen as a means of developing and enhancing the cars, and also raising the profile and position of the brand. Having started out as a firm capable of winning smaller classes, Porsche grew to the point that it is now the most successful racing car manufacturer across all classes and, indeed, the firm with the longest string of successes at Le Mans: nineteen in total. This is certainly an amazing figure, especially considering that the brand secured its first overall victory there as (relatively) recently as 1970, with Hermann and Attwood at the wheel of a 917K.

It also boasts numerous successes in the F1 World Championship as well as in Indy races and rallies — basically, in pretty much every setting in which cars have ever raced! In view of all this, it is hardly surprising that one of the world’s most famous racing tracks, Laguna Seca, likes to organize, from time to time, a special Porsche celebration event, called Porsche Rennsport. This year was the sixth Rennsport and, lasting four days, it was the longest so far. Reflecting the fact that Porsche is 70 years old this year, the 2018 Rennsport meeting was a pretty special one, setting new standards in terms of both the quantity and quality of the cars entered.

As reflected in this year’s title, “Marque of Champions”, the event turned the spotlight on the names that have made the brand legendary. It attracted 70,000 visitors and was world’s largest ever gathering of Porsche racing cars and enthusiasts. Remaining on the subject of the “numbers of the event”, 70 important cars were on show in the Porsche Heritage tent, while about 1300 road cars were brought along by the Porsche Club of America.

Rennsport Reunion VI: Something red…

To start on a fun note, any car enthusiast would be thrilled to see an all-red starting grid at a Porsche celebration, and the visitors to Rennsport were not disappointed. On this occasion, the vehicles lining up were not “the” red ones that might immediately spring to mind, but instead Porsches: Porsche tractors, to be precise!

Like many other car manufacturers, Porsche struggled in its early years and every source of income was more than welcome. Agriculture was an important part of the growing economy of post-war Germany, and Porsche, among others, did its bit, by designing and building numerous tractors (around 125,000 in all). Laguna Seca, of course, is the place for real car guys, passionate about racing. Here, any excuse to do some laps is good enough, regardless of what you are driving! The noise generated by the Diesel engines of 17 tractors, all built between 1956 and 1963, roaring into life in true Le Mans style before chasing each other for a good half a lap, was really quite something. This “race” was performed in exactly the right spirit, and gave everyone present a hilarious few minutes as well as a taste of pure passion! Since Porsche will be Porsche, even when it comes to tractors, there were obviously several versions and evolutions built, with engines ranging from one to four cylinders. But in this case, I’m afraid, there were no flat sixes! But what an unforgettable experience it was, both for the farmers driving their tractors and the spectators!

Something (blue) parked…

It is hardly usual for a classic car show to be held in a pit lane, but this is exactly what happened in Laguna Seca on the Friday. With the race track silent for once, 70 participating cars — 10 from each of the historic race groups plus a further 10 cars picked by the sponsor Chopard, all considered to be among the most representative of their respective brands — were shown and judged while parked in the pit lane. The Best-in-Show award went to a 1973 Porsche 917/30 Turbo (chassis #917-30/003) belonging to driver and classic car lover Rob Kauffman, a partner of Chip Ganassi Racing. #917-30/003, one of the only six built, was raced by Team Penske during the 1973 Can-Am season, during which it ended up winning three races (including Laguna Seca) with Mark Donohue in the driving seat. In 1974, driven by Brian Redman, its best result was 2nd place at Mid-Ohio, but on that occasion it was heavily penalized by the “dedicated” rules, which forced it to slow it down. It is one of the most coveted Porsches in existence — a true dream car!

Fast and colorful

With six racing classes competing for prizes with amazing names, such as the “Werks Trophy”, “Eifel Trophy” and “Weissach Cup”, it is easy to imagine the spectacle of the numerous multicolored racing Porsches lapping the track at Laguna Seca last weekend. Some of these classes were amazingly rich, and with the “Werks Trophy” open to 904s, 906s, 908s and 917s, with aspirated or turbo engines equipped with 6, 8 or 12 cylinders, and the “Gmund Trophy” accepting entrants consisting of four-cam models such as the 550, RSK, RS, GS GT, Abarth Carrera, 356 and 904, they were pretty amazing to listen to, as well!

Good racing cars deserve the best drivers, and many works teams of the past, about 50 in all, came along to enjoy the show or, more often, some driving action. They included Hurley Haywood (the most successful American endurance driver ever), “His Speedness” Brian Redman, Vic Elford, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his legendary 1968 season, six-time Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx, and Jochen Mass. The engineers were out in force too, “led” by Norbert Singer, head engineer and “father” of the Porsche 962 as well as the man behind the Carrera GT V10 engine. What a party!

All photos courtesy of Peter Singhof.

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