Page 1


Porsche at Le Mans

1953 13/14 June

P

orsche’s third visit to Le Mans included a combination of both old and new cars. Making up the party of four cars were two 356 SL stalwarts accompaniedbyapairofPorsche’slatestweapons,the new 550, the company’s first purpose-built race car. q Lined up in front of Werk 2, two Porsche 356 SLs and two 550 Coupés stand ready for action ahead of the 1953 race. (Porsche-Werkfoto)

22

It had become clear to Ferry Porsche and his engineers that the 356 engine had great potential for further development, but what was needed was a dedicated race car into which such an improved engine could be fitted, and where it could be further refined for competition purposes. Inspiration for the 550 series racers came from work done and successes achievedbyseveralofPorsche’sprivateerdrivers,most notably Walter Glöckler, who had developed the 356 concept into an effective single-seater racer. In developing the 550, Porsche adopted much of whatGlöcklerhadalreadydesignedandimplemented in his cars, so the new factory racer featured the same simple ladder-frame used by Glöckler, but with a lighter and more streamlined body than the 356. The larger 1,488cc factory-tuned engine, which now developed a healthy 98bhp and sat ahead of the rear axle in what was an advanced mid-engine layout, could propel the 550 racer to 200kph (124mph). Although the 550 made its debut at Le Mans in 1953, the new racer was first shown to the public at the Paris Motor Show in October of that year.


1953 1953 Race Results Pos

Car/Model

No.

Driver(s)

Entered

Class

Cl.Pos

Laps

15

550 Coupé (550-02)

45

Richard von Frankenberg (D)/Paul Frère (B)

Porsche

Sports 1500

1

247

Reason

16

550 Coupé (550-01)

44

Helmut Glöckler (D)/Hans Herrmann (D)

Porsche

Sports 1500

2

247

DNF

356 SL

49

Auguste Veuillet (F)/Petermax Müller (D)

Porsche

Sports 1100

147

Engine

DNF

356

46

Gustave Olivier (F)/Eugéne Martin (F)

Gustave Olivier

Sports 1500

115

Engine

u With the hour of reckoning not far away, the No. 49 Porsche 356 SL of Auguste Veuillet (F) and Petermax Müller (D) lines up alongside the similar but larger-engined No. 46 car of Gustave Olivier (F) and Eugéne Martin (F), while the two 550s can be seen in the background. (Porsche-Werkfoto)

q Prior to the start, the No. 44 Porsche 550 Coupé (550-01) attracts attention in the pits. This car, driven by Hans Herrmann and Helmut Glöckler finished 16th overall and second in class behind the No. 45 car of similar spec. Many drivers found the coupé version of the 550 to be claustrophobic in long races, but it was more streamlined, which Porsche saw as important for top speed on the long Mulsanne Straight. (Porsche-Werkfoto)

23


Porsche at Le Mans t It began to rain during the early evening hours, and the weather got worse as night fell, changing the nature of the race entirely. As the hours passed, cars spun out or retired through mechanical maladies, but the No. 23 Porsche Salzburg 917 soldiered on. Having lost the title by a whisker the previous year, Hans Herrmann could hardly believe his good fortune as the smaller-engined 4.5litre 917 didn’t miss a beat. (LAT) t After 225 laps, the No. 25 Salzburg 917 LH ingested an inlet valve, which left Porsche regulars Vic Elford and Kurt Ahrens high and dry. (Porsche-Werkfoto) q A surprise top finisher at the 1970 race was the Porsche 914/6 GT driven by the French pairing of Guy Chasseuil/Claude BallotLÊna. A surprisingly steady and trouble-free run by the No. 40 car saw them finish in seventh place (officially 6th) and first in the Grand Touring 2000 class. (Porsche-Werkfoto)

118


1970 u The Martini International Racing 917 LH driven by Gérard Larrousse and Willibald Kauhsen inherited second place when the Lins/Marko Porsche 908 was delayed in the pits, leaving the No. 3 car to finish in a comfortable second, five laps down on the leader. Not only had Porsche won Le Mans, but they had also scooped the top three places with three very different cars – a 4.5-litre 917 K in first place, a 4.5-litre 917 LH in second, and a 3.0-litre 908/02 Spyder in third. (LAT)

u Porsche’s tried and tested 908/02 Spyder, driven by Rudi Lins and Helmut Marko, dropped from second place to third following an errant wheel nut, which delayed the car in the pits long enough to let the No. 3 Martini Porsche 917 to pass. The No. 27 908 Spyder was able to hold station to the end, finishing in third place. (Porsche-Werkfoto)

u Richard Attwood remembers, ‘The factory rung me in February and they asked what car I would like to take to Le Mans? So I said I wanted the short tail with the small engine [4.5-litre] because the gearbox had broken in the other 4.9-litre-engined cars, so I did not want a big engine.’ In his interview with the author, Attwood admitted that he had made a mistake, as the larger 4.9litre engine had been sorted out by Le Mans, but he did not want to take that chance back in February 1970. After ten hours they found themselves in the lead, and from then on they had to defend that lead to the end in the heavy rain. He continued, ‘It was a question really of not making mistakes, but we still had to drive with total concentration in those conditions.’ (LAT)

119


Porsche at Le Mans

1976 12/13 June

H

aving received rather a fright in 1975 with the low public attendance, the Le Mans organisers undertook to spice things up a little, and they proceeded to invite all manner of entrants, including ‘stock’ cars from America. However, the main contenders were still to be drawn from the sports racers and GT cars traditionally seen at Le Mans. No longer referred to as ‘Prototypes’ by the ACO, the top classification was now called Group 6, which included two-seater sports racing cars, ably supported by the Group 5 ‘Silhouette’ racers and the Group 4 GT cars. Seen for the first time in 1976 was Porsche’s new

150

936 Spyder model (see panel on page 156). The product of the creative minds of Stuttgart’s engineers Norbert Singer and Helmut Flegl, the 936 essentially replacedthe908,stillbeingrunbysomeprivateersbut in danger of being cast into the‘geriatric’class as it had first seen action back in 1968. In motor sport terms, a lifespan of eight years is almost unheard of, and the 908’s successes had silenced many critics in its time. Porsche would in 1976 begin a period of international sports car dominance with their 935 and 934 sports racers that would see the more powerful 935 regarded by many racing enthusiasts as the most successful race car in its class in the world. During an eight-year period from 1976 through 1984, the Porsche 935 won over 150 races that included over 20 class victories. q Qualifying second on the grid, the No. 20 Martini Porsche 936 of Jacky Ickx/Gijs van Lennep (No. 19 Renault-Alpine pole-sitter is already out of the picture) starts the warm-up lap alongside the No. 40 Martini Porsche 935 driven by Rolf Stommelen/Manfred Schurti, which had qualified third for the start. Just behind is the No. 18 Martini Porsche 936, the factory’s original test car, driven by the well-known factory pairing of Reinhold Joest/Jürgen Barth. (Porsche-Werkfoto)


1976

p Finishing in 11th place overall was the No. 54 Porsche 934 of French trio Hubert Striebig/ Anny-Charlotte Verney/Hughes Kirschoffer. (Porsche-Werkfoto) t The 1976 No. 20 Group 6-winning Porsche 936 of Jacky Ickx/Gijs van Lennep having passed under the Dunlop Bridge. Twenty minutes into the race, Jacky Ickx took the 936 into the lead, building up a useful cushion, which allowed the team to carry out repairs later in the race without losing the lead. (Porsche-Werkfoto)

q With shadows lengthening, it’s time to light up those BBQs. On the track, meanwhile, this very bright orange (and very ’70s) Egon Evertz-entered No. 63 Porsche Carrera RSR was driven by the German trio of Heinz Martin/Hartwig Bertrams/ Egon Evertz. Here the Porsche, which finished ninth overall and third in Group 5, is seen doing battle with the No. 1 Inaltéra Ford-Cosworth which finished in eighth spot three laps ahead of the ever-reliable RSR. (Porsche-Werkfoto)

151


Porsche at Le Mans

KEES NIEROP ON THE PORSCHE 961 ‘I was first introduced to the 961 at Daytona in the fall of 1986 after the car had already run the 1986 Le Mans race. I had been very close to several people at Porsche and I finally got my chance to join the factory team, I was so proud to be chosen. ‘I remember that we had some issues with the car [at Daytona], it was hot … VERY hot, mostly due to the fact that there was a radiator mounted in the front, and it washed the car with hot air. The driver’s fresh air duct also got filled with hot air. ‘It felt big and powerful, it was hard work to drive it but I enjoyed it. At Le Mans I was scheduled to drive a 962 but due to the earlier crash by Price Cobb I was invited to drive the 961 again. It was much easier to drive this time around as it had bigger tyres and wider fenders, a better AWD system and an improved aero package. My memory flashes back to going down the Mulsanne Straight at full speed and having Hans Stuck just creep by me. This [961] was a big car with the same horsepower as the 962, it was just aerodynamics that kept it from going faster.’ The crash came on Sunday at around 10:00, ‘I came into Indy corner at full speed and I went from 6th to 4th at 180mph … or so I thought, but it had actually slipped into 2nd and started to lock the rear tyres. Of course, the engine could not rev up fast enough to keep traction at 180mph in 2nd gear … I caught the tach and realised what had happened and depressed the clutch again in time to not over-rev the engine, but the damage was already done.The rear of the car came out and hit the guard-rail and then swung the car around and the front impacted the barrier also.’ Following the impact, the engine was still running, and despite

230

much of the broken fibreglass bodywork hanging loose, Nierop was able to continue driving. Unbeknown to him, though, a piece of the rear bodywork was touching the hot turbo and it started a fire which was unsighted in his mirrors. Nierop’s aim was to get back to the pits but while making his way along the track he heard Peter Falk’s voice over his radio, “Stop the car and get out!” Falk and the crew could see on the TV monitors that the car was burning, so Nierop pulled over and got out. Unfortunately, where he had been told to stop was midway between two marshal posts, and by the time the fire marshals reached his car it was completely engulfed in flames. Nierop continues, ‘They had to run a long way to get to me and so all I could do was stand on the side line and watch this million dollar car burn up. The car was structurally OK, the actual impact against the barrier didn’t do that much damage. I still watch the TV clip of my final moments in the 961 while it was on fire. It was so sad, if only I had been told that it was on fire, I would have stopped at a fire station. ‘As the car was only entered in three races over its life, I was lucky enough to be chosen twice to drive it.’ q Unfortunately, Dutchman Kees Nierop (now living in Canada) spun out on lap 199 following a gear selection problem, and a car fire ensued while lying in tenth place and third in class, thus terminating any chance of another fine finish for the No. 203 works Porsche 961 (chassis No. 10016). Sadly, this incident brought the 961’s career to an unceremonious and rather premature end. (Porsche-Werkfoto)


1987 u The No. 3 Brun Motorsport 962 C with the Thompson chassis, driven by the Canadian trio of Bill Adam/Scott Goodyear/Richard Spenard, retired after 120 laps with engine maladies. A faulty electronic chip in the Bosch Motronic ECU sidelined most of the private Porsche entries, but the Brun car seemed to have a problem all of its own, unrelated to the Bosch chip failure. (LAT)

q Kremer Racing was delighted with a fourth place finish for their No. 11 962 C Thompson. Driven by two South Africans, George Fouché and Wayne Taylor together with Austrian Franz Konrad, the Leyton House-sponsored Porsche enjoyed a trouble-free run. Taylor, who was by this stage resident in America, had always preferred to drive a tactical race, reasoning that it was far better putting the pressure on than having the pressure applied to you. However, in the international arena of world sports car racing he quickly learned that one has to drive flat out from the word go. He told the author in an interview in Johannesburg in 1997, ‘I was overwhelmed by the heavy steering and brute power of the Porsche and was not comfortable in the big German car.’ The following year Taylor would return to Le Mans in a smaller Spice Cosworth in which he led the C2 field, and in the process shattered the class record before mechanical failure forced him to retire. (LAT)

231


Porsche at Le Mans

1993 19/20 June

1

993 saw the 911 return to Le Mans in some meaningful numbers after an absence of more than ten years. Of the 18 Porsches that started 11 were 911s, with eight of those being classified as finishers. The late seventies and early eighties saw

q Walter Röhrl/Hans-Joachim Stuck/Hurley Haywood would drive the No. 46 factory-entered 911 Turbo S LM, pictured here in the pits before the start. (PCGB)

262

the rise of the 930, 934, and 935 variants, but throughout the middle and late eighties the Group C cars ruled, with the 956s and 962s taking centre stage. But by 1993, the writing was on the wall for the 962 and, in the words of the Motor Sport correspondent that year,‘The ageing Porsches were soundly beaten.’ No doubt the Porsche engineers had been closely watching the direction the ACO was heading with its regulations, as the French race organisers sought to restrict the speeds of the Group C cars and to introduce a production sports car based Grand Touring class.This development opened the doors for Porsche to expand its work on their Grand Touring 911 programme, which resulted in the appearance of the 911 Turbo S Le Mans GT at the 1993 race. Clearly this new car was not vying for top honours, but by putting such stalwarts as Walter Röhrl, HansJoachim Stuck, and Hurley Haywood behind the wheel, Porsche obviously wanted the most accurate feedback possible under full race conditions to further aid its development programme.


1993 1993 also saw the reintroduction of the spring test day, which had previously had quite widly varying levels of support from the teams. This year was different, however, in that the teams did regard the pre-race contest as important to their race preparation, and the good attendance was encouraging. Never short of a new idea, Kremer Racing arrived at the May test session with a new model that wasn’t intended for Le Mans, but which participated in the European Interseries. Replacing the CK6, the new K7 (no ‘C’ in the name as Group C was to fall away) was allowed out for a brief run by way of special dispensation from the ACO. The K7 was not simply a 962 with the roof chopped off, rather it featured a completely new chassis created by Kremer, with a substantially strengthened roll-over bar, different mirrors to ensure an improved flow of air to the rear, and revised air ducts. The K7 was now without ground effect as this had been outlawed in both Europe and America. Fitted with Kremer’s now familiar covered rear wheels, only three examples of

the hugely successful 3.2-litre K7 were made, but this car led to the development of the K8, which was to race at Le Mans in 1994. Once the dust had settled at the end of the 1993 race, the Tom Walkinshaw Jaguar XJ220C, which had finished 15th overall and first in the Grand Touring class, was retrospectively disqualified for not having a catalytic converter fitted, as per the IMSA rules under which the car was entered. This lifted the No. 47 Porsche Carrera RSR of Joël Gouhier/ Jürgen Barth/Dominique Dupuy into a class-winning position by default. q Monaco Media International, the Monaco-based media agency established by ex-Formula 1 driver Jean-Pierre Jarier, sponsored the No. 47 Larbre Compétition Carrera RSR (3.8-litre) to be driven by Joël Gouhier/Jürgen Barth/Dominique Dupuy. Entered into the Grand Touring class, the white and blue Porsche RSR finished first in class and 15th overall. (PCGB)

263


Porsche at Le Mans u A ‘scrute’ gives the No. 65 Roock Racing Porsche GT2 a once-over before allowing it to leave the pits. The car, driven by André Ahrle/Dave Warnock/Robert Schirle, was in the wars from early on in the race. First it had to come in for repairs after Ahrle went off on only the second lap, and then in the middle of the night Warnock was hit coming up to Indianapolis. He said, ‘When you are driving a GT you obviously have got LMP cars coming up behind. Everybody was running with full headlights, of course, but I was unsighted, and after the first headlights came up I turned in and moved over to the left, thinking that one LMP car was coming through, but there was a second one there that just whacked me out of the way.’ Roock were right at the forefront of technology back then and they had installed sequential gearboxes in the cars, but switched back to manual for the race. ‘We decided to go back to the manual ’box which was the right thing to do back then, but we ran into problems and it was just stuck in third. Rob was in the car and we had to bring it back in and change the gearbox, which was a long job,’ Warnock explained. The car was in 22nd place overall at the finish and eighth in the GT2 class, an admirable accomplishment considering the scraps it had to endure. (LAT)

310


1998

311


Porsche at Le Mans

ALLAN McNISH RECALLS HIS 1998 VICTORY Allan McNish only had two years of racing a Porsche at Le Mans, and although he is a household name in sports car racing today behind the wheel of an Audi, his brief time with Porsche left a lasting impression. McNish admitted in an interview with the author, ‘I liked it [the GT1-98] more than the ’96 version and the ’97 version, it was more of a racing car, I could throw it around, it had better downforce, less shudder, it was just more aggressive, and for me it was a good step forward. At Le Mans, with the variety of conditions that you get there, it was in its natural environment. ‘Certainly as a company, the names Le Mans and Porsche went q The winning factory Porsche calls in for a quick ‘splash-’n-dash’ before resuming its bid for victory. Allan McNish is at the wheel. (Porsche-Werkfoto)

316

hand in hand. Their motor sport department was set up very much around endurance racing.When we would arrive at Le Mans it was like arriving at just another part of the house. Although it was in France, for them it might as well have just been at the other side of Weissach. They were very much at home, and all the guys just seemed to sit down in the same place just as they had done the previous 15 years, and they knew exactly what was going to happen.’ In 1997 McNish was signed by Porsche, who farmed him out to the Fabian Roock racing team to gain some experience. Arriving at Le Mans that year, McNish approached Norbert Singer, complaining that the Roock car had excessive oversteer in the corners. Singer quickly narrowed the problem down to the differential setting, as McNish explains,‘It was obvious to him that that was not the way to run at Le Mans, and it suddenly became a completely different car. But if you’ve got a new engineer and


1998

a new team trying to learn these things, then they basically start from behind. And that was something that I found with Porsche. That depth of experience, that knowledge of what was required, made it a lot easier for us drivers because we didn’t have to think about it.We just drove, because they were the ones who were 95% in control of the car before we even got to the track, and the last 5% was tuning.’ Roock had some good technical people in the team, as McNish added later, but the 1997 race did not end happily for the Scotsman when he hit the wall in the Porsche Curves. McNish picks up the story, ‘Obviously it was a bit of a shock, and it was a lesson in terms of getting the car back to the pits, that’s for sure. They looked at the data; they thought it could be damper failure, but there was quite heavy damage to the car, so it was difficult for them to piece it back together.’ The following year was a completely different picture for McNish. ‘There was a massive difference in terms of experience, in terms of capability, in terms of everything – technology, the lot. You couldn’t compare the two. One had the capability to have good results in some races some of the time, but the Porsche factory team had the capability to have good results all of the time. We had all the appropriate physios, we had the dietitians, and we had the areas to rest. And that was not an optional extra, that was a standard. It wasn’t something where they thought, “Oh let’s try this”, they already knew about it as they had been doing it for a long time. And that’s where factory teams and private teams start to separate,’ he pointed out. ‘But,’ McNish continued, ‘For me, Stéphane Ortelli was very good because he taught me a lot, he taught me about where to go and where not to go at Le Mans. He was very good, and so I would say that Stéphane was quite important to that success in ’98.’ On the podium, the formalities were interrupted with some fun and games, as McNish recalls, ‘Standing on the podium in ’98 at Le Mans, we had been given these wee instamatic cameras, and Stéphane and Laurent and I were taking these pictures of each other. It was like three beach-bums that had just struck gold, if you like, and that was one of the funniest, surreal experiences.’ But the importance of the occasion was not lost on the drivers, as this victory had coincided with the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Porsche car company, and McNish admitted that there had been a tremendous amount of pre-race pressure because of that. ‘Theboardwerethere,everybodyexpectedavictory,andanywayit would have been a pretty bad celebration if we had finished third, wouldn’t it? Herbert Ampferer, who was the boss who put his trust, against a lot of people’s opinion, in three young guys who had nothing in terms of a record for Le Mans, and by going against the board to say these are the ones we want to put in the car, his neck was probably on the line. But he felt that was the right way to go,’ McNish admitted soberly.‘There was also pressure because we had been beaten in all the races up until then by Merc. And so there

was that expectation too, that we had built a new car but we hadn’t succeeded yet, but we did succeed in the big one.’ The actual anniversary was on the Monday, the day after Le Mans, and McNish added with a smile,‘We basically celebrated on the Sunday night into the Monday morning.’ Sadly, Ferry Porsche, the driving force behind the Porsche company for so many years, passed away on 27 March 1998 at the age of 88, just 74 days before the company’s 50th anniversary. As the post-race celebrations were in full swing, most would have stopped for just a moment in their own minds, to reflect on their own personal memories of that great man, and what he meant to the company. q An exhausted Allan McNish gives his engineer a debrief on the way the car is handling after one of his stints. (Porsche-Werkfoto)

317


Porsche at Le Mans t Tomas Saldaña/Jesús Diez de Villaroel/Giovanni Lavaggi were also the victims of an accident in the No. 72 911 GT3 R. The Racing Engineering Porsche went out after 78 laps. (Porsche-Werkfoto)

u The No. 59 Freisinger Motorsport 911 GT2, driven by Wolfgang Kaufmann/Yukihiro Hane/Katsunori Iketani, retired after 313 laps with suspension failure. (Porsche-Werkfoto)

t Unfortunately, the No. 81 Haberthur Racing 911 GT3 R of Michel Ligonnet/Gabrio Rosa/ Fabio Babini was forced to retire after 310 laps following a late duel that resulted in a coming together with the No. 73 Porsche driven by Hideo Fukuyama, the latter car finishing in 16th place overall. (John Brooks) 2000 Race Results Pos

Car/Model

No.

Driver(s)

Entered

Class

Cl. Pos

Laps

14

Porsche 911 GT2

60

Jürgen von Gartzen (D)/Charles Slater (USA)/Tom Kendall (USA)

Konrad Motorsport

GTS

7

317

Reason

16

Porsche 911 GT3-R

73

Hideo Fukuyama (J)/Bruno Lambert (B)/Atsushi Yogou (J)

Team Taisan Advan

GT

1

310

17

Porsche 911 GT3-R

82

David Murry (USA)/Sascha Maassen (D)/Johnny Mowlem (GB)

Skea Racing Intl.

GT

2

304

18

Porsche 911 GT3-R

76

Michel Neugarten (B)/Tony Burgess (CDN)/Max Cohen-Olivar (MA)

Seikel Motorsport

GT

3

302

23

Porsche 911 GT3-R

79

Thierry Perrier (F)/Jean-Louis Ricci (F)/Romano Ricci (F)

Perspective Racing

GT

4

286

24

Porsche 911 GT3-R

80

Philip Verellen (B)/Dujardin (B)/Rudi Penders (B)

Club-Renstal Excelsior

GT

5

285

27

Porsche 911 GT3-R

75

Gunnar Jeannette (USA)/Michael Lauer (USA)/Mike Brockman (USA)

Olaf Manthey

GT

6

261

DISQ

Porsche 911 GT3-R

83

Dirk Müller (D)/Bob Wollek (F)/Lucas Lühr (D)

Dick Barbour

GT

319

DNF

Porsche 911 GT2

59

Wolfgang Kaufmann (D)/Yukihiro Hane (J)/Katsunori Iketani (J)

Freisinger Motorsport

GTS

313

suspension

DNF

Porsche 911 GT3-R

81

Michel Ligonnet (F)/Gabrio Rosa (I)/Fabio Babini (I)

Harberthur Racing

GT

310

accident

DNF

Porsche 911 GT3-R

72

Tomas Saldana (E)/Jesús Diez de Villaroel (E)/Giovanni Lavaggi (I)

Racing Engineering

GT

78

accident

DNF

Porsche 911 GT3-R

77

Christophe Bouchut (F)/Patrice Goueslard (F)/Jean-Luc

Larbre Competition

GT

34

accident

Jean-Luc Maury-Laribière (F)/Angelo Zadra (I)/Bernard

Jean-Luc Maury-

GT

32

accident

Chauvin (F) – DND

Laribière

Shane Lewis (USA)/Cort Wagner (USA)/

Michael Colucci

GT

22

accident

oversize fuel tank

Chéreau (F) – DND DNF DNF

Porsche 911 GT3-R Porsche 911 GT3-R

78 71

Bob Mazzuoccola (USA) – DND

328


2000

329

Porsche at Le Mans by Glen Smale  

As the title suggests, the book charts Porsche’s remarkable tally of victories in the world’s toughest endurance race, the Le Mans 24-Hour....

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