Klaus Lud­wig in­ter­view

We chat with Klaus Lud­wig at the 2018 Le Mans Clas­sic – where, true to in­cor­ri­gi­ble form, he’s rac­ing a 1978 Group 4 930

Total 911 - - Contents - Writ­ten by Johnny Ti­pler Pho­tog­ra­phy cour­tesy Porsche Ar­chive

The Ger­man rac­ing great on his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer at the wheel of the Kre­mer 935 and Porsche 956

They don’t come much more suc­cess­ful than this man: three Le Mans wins, plus one sec­ond place, vic­tor of his na­tive Ger­man DTM Cham­pi­onship as well as for­ays Down Un­der to Bathurst and across the pond for the Transam and Camel GT IMSA se­ries. Klaus Lud­wig has en­joyed suc­cess driv­ing top-line cars not only for Porsche, but Mercedes-benz and Ford as well.

Klaus has also won the Ger­man na­tional DRM, DTM and FIA GT Cham­pi­onships. Having re­tired in 1999, he couldn’t re­sist some ‘hobby rac­ing’ at the Nür­bur­gring 24 Hours, plac­ing 2nd in the Alzen brothers’ 997 GT3 in 2006. We caught up with King Lud­wig at Le Mans Clas­sic 2018, where he was rac­ing a 930 and a 356 Speed­ster. Klaus, You started for Porsche in a 934 and 935. What was that like? The 935 is noth­ing like this 934; it’s a street car mod­i­fied into a 930, and the 935s are com­pletely dif­fer­ent, pur­pose-built race cars. But this car makes about 420bhp against 650 or 750 with the 935. So it’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ball game, but it’s a lot of fun to drive, very good han­dling and a good solid car.

Let’s talk about your Le Mans win in 1979 with the Whit­ting­ton brothers. A 935 in the wet, that’s got to be a real task; you’ve got to have some guts for that! No, in fact it was not so hard. We had Dun­lop tyres, and they were re­ally work­ing very well in the rain es­pe­cially, and no, it was not re­ally so tricky. You had to get used to the power de­liv­ery of the 935. It had great big rear tyres so you could slide it; you could make a won­der­ful four-wheel slide. You had to be at one with the car, and af­ter a cou­ple of laps play­ing your­self in, you were fine.

What were the prin­ci­ple char­ac­ter­is­tics of the 935, given its mas­sive horse­power and those enor­mous rear tyres?

Very big turbo lag! You had to wait for the power to come in, and that took about one sec­ond or more some­times, but then the power was there in­stantly. Such a bru­tal de­liv­ery. It was not easy to drive, that’s for sure, but once you were di­alled in it was won­der­ful.

You came from Ford to Porsche in the mid1970s. What was the tran­si­tion like?

Yeah, from a saloon car to a coupe, and later, in 1982, I came from Ford C100 pro­to­types to Porsche 956 pro­to­types, so that was about the same speed-wise.

And then you were with Rein­hold Joest driv­ing his 956; had you known him for a long time?

Ac­tu­ally, I didn’t know him so well at the time. I was do­ing some pro­to­type rac­ing with the Ford C100, and then Porsche asked me if I wanted to

drive for Rein­hold Joest, who at that time was a pretty small op­er­a­tion, about 15 peo­ple and two cars, but very pro­fes­sional; good guys and very good me­chan­ics. The car came from Porsche and wasn’t over-en­gi­neered. We didn’t do too many things to it like what hap­pened later when they built their own chas­sis – like the Thomp­son chas­sis and trick sus­pen­sions – but that was a pretty much stan­dard long-tail Le Mans car from Porsche, on Dun­lop tyres the first year. That was the Marl­boro car in 1983, and we [Lud­wig, Jo­hans­son and Wollek] were very un­lucky that year be­cause we were good for 2nd place for sure, but I lost it at Ar­nage be­cause there was a big oil spill and no flags. We spent a long time in the pits re­pair­ing it, so we only fin­ished 6th over­all. Then a year later we came back with a New-man 956 and Pescarolo and I won, and a year later we came back with the New-man 956 and we won again, this time with Bar­illa.

And you were right at the heart of the ground­ef­fect era when fuel econ­omy ruled the roost in Group C.

Yeah. So then the next year I came back to Le Mans again in Joest’s Blaupunkt car with Goodyear tyres, and we were re­ally dom­i­nat­ing the race, us­ing less gas – and the gas con­sump­tion was a se­cret – and the tyres were less roll-re­sis­tant be­cause they had a lot of chem­i­cal grip, and at the time no­body re­ally recog­nised that. But we knew that we could run a lit­tle bit less down­force or wing on the straight, so we were very quick. We used very lit­tle gas and that was won­der­ful.

So we [Bar­illa and Win­ter] were dom­i­nat­ing the race – un­til the en­gine blew up be­cause of the pace car sit­u­a­tion af­ter Jo Gart­ner’s dread­ful crash. That meant it was not running hot enough. We were running no ther­mo­stat in the cool­ing sys­tem, so when the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture went down to 35 de­grees and the oil tem­per­a­ture was at 35 de­grees, the oil pres­sure went up to 11, and then I think a bolt flew out of the oil pump and that was it! It was very sad be­cause that year was our year; we would have won. In 1987 and 1988 you were us­ing the 962… Yeah, and I was also driv­ing with Mass and Wollek, Dieudonné and Win­ter, and I came back to Le Mans in 1988 with a fac­tory car with Stuck and Bell and we were fly­ing again. But we couldn’t make use of the re­serve tank be­cause the fuel pump was full of the yel­low foam from the tank. It was a new car and we didn’t know that, and when I came in from my first stint I was sur­prised that the pump wasn’t work­ing, so we had to push the car and we lost some time. We fought back though, and Stuck did a won­der­ful job dur­ing the night in the rain, and we were lead­ing again, eas­ily. And then a wa­ter pipe broke and we had to stop for an­other seven min­utes. Then we fought back again, this time against the Jaguar, but we couldn’t over­take it. We fin­ished 2nd be­hind the Jaguar. That was one of the hard­est fights we ever had, and Stuck and Bell did a great job.

Can you ex­plain a bit more about what hap­pened with the fuel pump in­ci­dent?

I was the loser be­cause I was the first one to experience that prob­lem with the fuel pump. The sys­tem in the Porsche was very straight­for­ward to han­dle: a white light came on to warn you that the main fuel tank is empty, so now you have to switch over to the re­serve, but you could carry on go­ing un­til the en­gine started to cough be­cause it was starved of fuel. I passed the start/fin­ish line, went down the Mul­sanne Straight, and at the end of the straight came the first cough, and I pressed the re­serve switch but there was noth­ing hap­pen­ing be­cause the pump was clogged up.

I man­aged to limp back with the dregs of the nor­mal tank as far as the last chi­cane, but the en­gine cut out and I cov­ered the last 100 me­tres jerk­ing it with the starter mo­tor! That was very lucky be­cause it was only 100 me­tres to the pits; if it had been 400 me­tres I wouldn’t have made it. Af­ter that we could only use the main tank’s 90 litres, but it was okay be­cause we just did one lap

less so we didn’t run into a prob­lem. It was re­ally a shame though, be­cause we could have won that time. Af­ter the race I spoke with Jan Lam­mers, who was in the Jaguar, and he told me the Jaguar was dead – com­plete trans­mis­sion fail­ure with the gear­box groan­ing and noth­ing work­ing any­more. So maybe with just one more lap they would have stopped on the straight and we might have over­taken them. That’s how it goes. They were very lucky and we were a bit un­lucky. At the time I think that was good for the sport, Jaguar win­ning at Le Mans in front of 100,000 English peo­ple; they loved it.

You’ve driven events like the N24 quite re­cently. In 2004 and 2005 you drove with Uwe Alzen in the Alzen team’s 996 GT2, and you fin­ished 2nd in 2006 in their 997 GT3. Yeah, I’ve won that race three times. But that’s a dif­fer­ent ball game too. That was my home ground, and the first vic­tory was with a street car more or less. The sec­ond vic­tory was the same with a Sierra Cos­worth and the third one was

BE­LOW Driv­ing the 956 for Joest Rac­ing

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