Report and photos by Jackie Buys
For the first time ever, the West Coast welcomed the Rennsport Reunion. Laguna Seca’s world famous Mazda Raceway was the host for Porsche Rennsport Reunion IV, sponsored by Porsche Cars North America. The event is the fourth Rennsport since 2001, gathering the Porsche brand’s most renowned race vehicles and the drivers who raced them.
An impressive list of legendary cars were scheduled to line up on grid over the three-day event on the Monterey Peninsula which began on Friday, 14 October and continued through Sunday 16 October, 2011. Equally impressive were the drivers appointed to pilot them, many being reunited with the cars they drove to victory. Gijs van Lennep, Jürgen Barth, Hurley Haywood and Jochen Mass, to name a few, all winners of the famed 24 Heures du Mans. Brian Redman served as Official Ambassador and legendary Porsche Engineer, Norbert Singer, as Grand Marshal. Several Porsche Factory drivers, namely Patrick Long, Jörg Bergmeister, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, Wolf Henzler, Marco Holzer, Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz were also on hand to meet the fans and drive a few of the historic cars on track.
At what is hailed as the ‘greatest gathering of Porsche race cars’ in the world, crowds were thrilled to witness upwards of 385 vintage and historic cars on display of which 250 raced on track, brought in from around the world, each chosen for its specific racing history and authenticity. Cars privately owned, housed in private collections, and from the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, all made their way to Monterey to be a part of this massive celebration. Historic racing models from the 1950’s through today, starting with the early Porsche 356 and 550 Spyder, the 1000 horsepower 917 and 956/962 and the newest RS Spyder. Special recognition was given to the iconic 911 and the significant role it played in establishing Porsche as the most successful manufacturer in motorsports.
Rennsport Reunion was first organized in July 2001 by Bob Carlson, head of PR for Porsche Cars North America, together with Brian Redman. They envisioned a grand gathering of historic racing machines that changed the world of professional motorsports and to honor the brilliant men who drove them. The event was an overwhelming success with over 18,000 spectators wandering the infield and watching more than 300 vintage Porsche race cars from the hillside at historic Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut. Driving legends in attendance were Roger Penske, Paul Newman, Norbert Singer, Hurley Haywood and Jacky Ickx. It was easily recognized that such an event was a ‘must see’ on the calendar of any true Porsche race enthusiast – a living history lesson; a place where all the senses are engaged.
Plans were made for Rennsport Reunion II, which took place in April 2004 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach Florida, celebrating Porsche’s first 24 Hour race victory at Daytona in 1968 with the Porsche 907, driven by Vic Elford.
Rennsport III, also held at Daytona International Speedway in November 2007, was a celebration of the “plastic” Porsches, the 906 to 917, 962 and RS Spyder. Each gathering grew more successful. After the passing of Bob Carlson in 2008, Brian Redman carried on the legacy of Rennsport Reunion together with former Porsche racer, Bruce Canepa of Scotts Valley, California.
The weather over the Monterey Peninsula for the opening of Rennsport Reunion IV was spectacular; clear skies with sunshine and ambient temperatures in the 80’s. A perfect day for cars and drivers to become acquainted with each other, and with the 2.238 miles (3.602 km) paved road course at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The 11-turn road course features a 300-foot (91 m) elevation change and is home to the famous “Corkscrew” at Turns 8 and 8A. Each run group would offer a different level of excitement as they carried themselves through the course. Slower cars in the Gmund and Eifel group relying on momentum, while the faster super cars would brake later and power out of the turns. Each delivered sights and sounds that captivated the onlooker.
The cars selected for the limited grid positions were chosen for its historical significance, race history and authenticity to ensure that the very best Porsches were represented in each class and grouped by the period in which they raced.
Group 1: Gmund Cup – These are the first generation Porsche race cars, the 356, Abarth Carrera, 550, RSK, RS60-61 with period racing history. The earliest entry was a 1952 Porsche/Glöckler 356 driven by Jeff Wysard of Fullerton, California. It is a purpose-built race car and was the 1952 German National Champion under 1500cc. Also on track was the only complete 1964 Bobsy-Porsche SR-3 in existence driven by Donald Anderson who also won the Gmund Cup race on Saturday. Brian Redman, former factory driver in the 908/917 era and three-time 12 Hour of Sebring winner, piloted a 1960 Porsche RS-60. Two-time Le Mans winner Jürgen Barth motored along in a 1958 Porsche 356A owner by Perry Lee. Jürgen’s father Edgar Barth claimed many victories with the 718 RSK, RS60 and RS61 Spyders.
Group 2: Eifel Trophy – Group 2 (late sixties 911, 904, 914, Elva/Lotus/Cooper Porsches) marks the development of Porsche from class winning cars to challengers for the overall World Championship title, as well as the birth of the brand’s most famous offering, the 911. Vic Elford, one of the most famous Porsche drivers, enjoyed winning success in the 911. “Quick Vic” is best known for his endurance racing exploits, but his career started in rallying; he won the 1967 84 hour “Marathon de la Route” at the Nürburgring in a 911S, and the 1968 Rally Monte Carlo in a Porsche 911. Winner of the Eifel Trophy race on Saturday was Arthur Conner of Salt Spring Island, Canada, driving a stunning 1964 Platypus-Porsche S/R. Hurley Haywood, one of the most accomplished American road racers of all time, drove the 1971 Brumos Porsche 914/6 GT, the last race car built for the late Bob Snodgrass. Jeff Zwart also piloted a 1971 Factory Werks 914/6 GT which ran in the 1971 Monte Carlo Rally driven by French race driver and later Formula 1 team manager, Gerard Larrousse.
Group 3: Weissach Cup – The era of power. “Porsche wins Le Mans!” These words were heard for the first time in 1970, and again in 1971. This marked the first of 16 victories at Le Mans, the most wins of any manufacturer to date. For the Weissach Cup race on Sunday, Gijs Van Lennep drove the 1969 Dave Piper Sandeman Porsche 917 owned by Christian Zugel, while Brian Redman won the event driving a 1971 Gulf Wyer Porsche 908/3 Spyder brought to Rennsport by the Collier Collection in Florida. Michael Reischl of Kent, Washington, drove a 1966 Porsche 906 which was the Italian Hill Climb Champion in its class in 1966.
Group 4: Carrera Trophy – Dominance and change. During the 1970s Porsche concentrated on production based racing with ever-new derivatives of its now iconic production model, the 911. It spawned such successful racers as the Carrera RSR, 934 or the mighty 935 silhouette car with turbo power and radical aerodynamics. In a decisive step away from proven principles, the front-engined 924 was added to the line-up in 1976, a new attempt at a more affordable “Volks-Porsche”. Rusty French of Mt. Eliza, Australia brought his 1979 vintage 935 under the checker in first place for the Carrera Trophy race on Saturday afternoon. This car has competed successfully in Europe and Australia from 1978 to 1983. Current Porsche ace Johannes van Overbeek drove a 1983 Porsche 935 K3 of James Edwards, known as last and fastest 935 built by Bob Akin at FabCar. Resplendent in its famous Coca-Cola livery, it has numerous top 5 finishes at Daytona, Sebring, Riverside and Lime Rock. Van Overbeek was in a spirited exchange for lead position over several laps with Bruce Canepa in Saturday’s race, until contact caused an early retirement for both.
Group 5: Stuttgart Cup – As of 1982, Porsche dominated sports car racing with the singularly successful Group C/IMSA GTP “wing car” prototypes 956 and 962. Meanwhile the foundations were laid for the marque’s single make series, the Porsche Cup. As of 1994, the 911 – now in its 964 model variant – made its way back into the resurgent GT racing categories and took over in the various Carrera Cups around the world as well as the Formula 1 support series, the Porsche Supercup. Meanwhile, the factory relied on private entries to represent it in prototype racing until the RS Spyder for the LMP2 category was introduced in 2005. The RS Spyder secured class wins at Le Mans in 2008 and 2009, and the ALMS LMP2 Championship in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
To this day, Porsche continues its line of made-to-order customer sports cars with the 993, 996 and 997 variants of the GT3 (including its R, RS and RSR variants) – the new 991 will surely continue this legacy.
It was a 1-2-3 finish for the RS Spyders in Sunday’s Stuttgart Cup race. Didier Theys, a well-decorated race driver from Belgium, won the race driving the 2007 RS Spyder; Christian Zugel, driver in the 2011 ALMS LMPC Class with Genoa Racing, followed second in the 2006 RS Spyder, and Bruce Canepa was third in the 2008 RS Spyder. Another brilliant race by all three drivers with nose-to-tail competition. Joachen Maas of Münnich, Germany and former Le Mans winner, drove the 1988 Texaco Havoline Porsche 962.
Group 6: Cayman Interseries – The race for the Cayman Interseries with cars in various famous liveries from the Porsche racing history concluded the event. David Donohue, hot shoe for Brumos Porsche, drove the 2011 Cayman to first in class.
At the conclusion of the event, Porsche’s engineering legend Norbert Singer (now retired and working for the ACO) commented that no other sports car manufacturer has such a large following of enthusiasts. When asked for his highlight of the weekend, he simply stated, “The people. There is such a deep passion for Porsche in America, unlike any other country, including Europe. It has always amazed me. Rennsport Reunion should be held again very soon. Let’s not wait four years to do it. Let’s push them to do it sooner.” The more than 35,000 spectators in attendance will surely agree.
Rennsport Reunion IV – Picture Gallery (click image for larger photo and description)
[Source: Jackie Buys]