Reading the signs on the road, I write you…Porsche’s Rennsport Reunion IV

The marquee out front of Laguna Seca raceway, facing highway 68 said it all, as we pulled up to the track Friday afternoon…

Laguna Seca Raceway_marquee_10/14/11Parked along  the “A” roadway  leading up to the track (and set back from highway 68) was another rare sighting – a Porsche Rothmans 959 rally car. The first photo opportunity of many to come, and we weren’t even officially at the track yet…

Porsche 959 Rally car, Rennsport Reunion 4_ 10/14/11As we approached the crest of the hill, the unmistakable sound of Porsche race cars at speed could be heard echoing off of the surrounding hillsides. My son and I looked at each other with huge smiles on our faces, knowing that this was going to be the start of an epic weekend. After flashing our 3 day passes to the admissions gate crew, we were waved through and sent on our way to look for parking.  Fortunately we found a spot on the hill located just behind (for this weekend) the Porsche Hospitality suites, which overlooked the start / finish line, and affords a panoramic view of the majority of the racetrack. It was then a short walk down the hill to the pedestrian bridge, which crosses over the front straight just beyond the start /finish line, allowing access to the infield portion of the racetrack.

Porsche hospitality suites_Rennsport Reunion 4_10/14/11Once inside the infield, we headed directly over to the Porsche Park, to see what amazing treasures awaited discovery.  As my son and I rounded the corner, there sat Porsche 935 / 2.0, affectionately referred to as “Baby”.

Porsche 935/2.0_Rennsport Reunion 4_10/14/11This was a car I first learned about back in April 1977, just as my parents began planning a family trip to Europe for mid june of that year. And since we had already decided to make a stop at the Porsche factory for a tour and to pick up some parts for our 911’s, my dad thought why not inquire about the possibility of attending a race as well. So a letter was sent off to Porsche, explaining that we would be vacationing in Germany during June and planned to visit the factory, and pick up some parts for our cars, and attend a Porsche race if possible. So imagine our family’s surprise when we received a letter back from Porsche, confirming receipt of our letter and sharing with us the details of a tour upon our arrival. But it was the last part of the letter that really got my dad’s and my attention; we had been invited to attend a skhakedown race of the 935/2.0 “Baby”, as guests of Porsche. This was the car that I had just read about, and now we were going to see it race in person; it was almost too much to take. Needless to say, waiting for our summer vacation to begin for me was agony. However all of that frustration was erased when we pulled up to the gates of the Porsche factory, and were directed over to the building where we would meet our contact. And imagine our surprise when we were met by Manfred Jantke, who just happened to be the manager of the factory race team. So off we went on our insiders tour, led by the race team manager. Wow…

Unfortunately, it was during our walk that we learned from Herr Jantke that the race we had been invited to attend at the Osterreichring had been cancelled, and that the 935 / 2.0 “Baby” would not be competing. So imagine finally getting getting to see the car in person, at Rennsport Reunion 4  after being so close 34 years ago in Stuttgart…

1977 Porsche 935/2.0 "Baby"_Rennsport Reunion 4_10/14/11“Baby” did go on to compete in two races; the first unsuccessfully, resulting in a retirement of the car and its driver (Jacky Ickx) due to heat exhaustion. However, for its second race, Jacky Ickx qualified the car on pole, a full 2 seconds faster than his closest competitor.  Ickx and the 935/2.0 went on to dominate the race, and at the end, finished a half lap ahead of the second place car (a Ford). Porsche had demonstrated that they could compete and win at all levels, and shortly after, “Baby” was  retired to the works museum.

Porsche 935/2.0_"Baby"_ Rennsport Reunion 4_10/14/11

Located 90 degrees from this gem sat another Porsche jewel, the Porsche 918 RSR hybrid; 560 horsepower from its direct injection V8, supplemented by dual electric motors residing at each front wheel. With the inclusion of these two electric motors, and in conjunction with its KERS system (Kinetic Energy Recovery System / located in the space normally occupied by a passenger seat), Porsche is able to boost the horsepower up to 767. Hybrid technology for supercars, taken to a whole other dimension by Porsche.

Porsche 918 RSR hybrid_Rennsport Reunion_10/15/11Porsche 918 RSR hybrid_KERS unit_Rennsport Reunion_10/15/11Porsche 918 RSR hybrid_KERS unit_Rennsport Reunion_10/15/11

Positioned another 90 degrees from the 918 RSR Hybrid was a one-off factory creation; the 1971 Porsche 16 – cylinder.  The motor in this car was developed as a result of a rule change made by the FIA at the end of the 1972 racing season. The Sports Prototype series was to undergo a reduction in engine displacement, dropping from 5 liters to 3 liters, thus making Porsche’s previous 917, flat 12 -cylinder motor obsolete. Porsche’s solution was to develop 2 different motors in parallel; The first being the 16 -cylinder, which was designed to accommodate a range of displacement  from 6.0 liters, all the way up to 7.2 liters. In the 7.2 liter configuration, this motor could produce 880 horsepower, making it the most powerful, normally aspirated engine ever produced by Porsche. However, it was the second motor under the parallel development program that rose to prominence. The 12- cylinder, 917K motor with turbocharging added, was now able to produce 950 horsepower. And by the conclusion of the 917/30 Can- Am program ( and running twin turbochargers), the motor was putting out 1200+ horsepower. And according to the vehicle biography on display, this is the sole remaining Porsche 16-cylinder motor.

1971 Porsche 16 -cylinder_Rennsport Reunion_10/14/11

1971 Porsche 16 -cylinder motor_Rennsport Reunion_10/14/111971 Porsche 16 -cylinder_Rennsport Reunion_10/14/111971 Porsche 16 -cylinder_motor_Rennsport Reunion_10/14/11In sharp contrast to these three, purpose-built race cars, were two examples of Porsche’s new production models for 2012, and making their US debut at Rennsport; the  911 Carrera and Carrera S (type 991).

Porsche 911 (type 991) 2012_Rennsport Reunion 4_10/14/11Porsche 911 (type 991) 2012_Rennsport Reunion 4_10/14/11Porsche 911 (type 991) 2012_Rennsport Reunion 4_10/14/11Porsche 911 (type 991) 2012 at speed_Rennsport Reunion 4_10/14/11Porsche 911 (type 991) 2012 _Rennsport Reunion 4_10/14/11Porsche 911 (type 991) 2012 _Rennsport Reunion 4_10/14/11Stay tuned for Rennsport Reunion IV, Part 2 coming shortly; more photos and less narrative.

(All photos by the author)

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