Stahl

WAK­ING UP IN PORSCHE PAR­ADISE

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents -

I’VE BEEN TRY­ING TO THINK OF SOME KIND OF COM­PAR­I­SON WITH FOOT­BALL OR CRICKET OR GOLF, BUT I KNOW NOTH­ING ABOUT ANY OF THOSE GAMES AND CARE EVEN LESS, SO I GUESS I’LL JUST GET STRAIGHT INTO IT. IN LATE-SEPTEM­BER I WAS AT LA­GUNA SECA RACE­WAY IN MON­TEREY, CAL­I­FOR­NIA, WITH A FEW MATES (AND 80,000 NEW ONES) FOR THE RENNSPORT RE­UNION VI.

For those that haven’t heard of it (though Porsche Aus­tralia staged a small-scale ver­sion in Syd­ney in 2016), Rennsport is ba­si­cally Porschep­alooza – the Wood­stock of Weis­sach’s wun­der wa­gens, billing every­thing from the lat­est record-break­ing 919 Hy­brid Evo, through pretty much ev­ery Porsche model (many of them the ac­tual cars) that ever raced or won at Le Mans, ‘out­law’ 356 and 911 road cars, lit­er­ally right down to the Porsche-diesel air-cooled trac­tors built from 1956-’63. And yes, there were races for them, too. The roughly tri­en­nial Rennsport was born in 2001 with an event at the Lime Rock cir­cuit, re­main­ing on the east coast for edi­tions II and III at Day­tona in 2004 and 2007. It moved to La­guna Seca for IV in 2011 and many hope it con­tin­ues its cy­cle there.

North­ern Cal­i­for­nia is prob­a­bly the epi­cen­tre of the clas­sic car world. Just a few weeks ear­lier, Mon­terey’s Peb­ble Beach had hosted its an­nual Au­to­mo­tive Week, scene of some of the world’s heav­i­est-hit­ting con­cours and auc­tions, and four days of his­toric rac­ing at La­guna Seca.

Pic­ture that – mi­nus pesky Fer­raris, Bu­gat­tis, Isotta-fras­chi­nis, or what­ever else might im­pede one’s see­ing and hear­ing and smelling and touch­ing ev­ery kind of rac­ing and road-go­ing Porsche that ever was – and you’ve got the pic­ture.

Oh, the touch­ing. In the vast, open-sided mar­quee of the Chopard Her­itage Dis­play, the line-up of 100 or so cars in­cluded, well, what are now pretty much ir­re­place­able au­to­mo­tive art­works. Like the Gulf-liv­er­ied 917K chas­sis #022, driven by Steve Mcqueen in Le Mans (and now owned by Jerry Se­in­feld); one of the mon­strous, 1100kw 917/30 Canam cars; a cat­a­logue of 935s, 911s, 908s, 906s, 904s, Paris-dakar 959s; and the ac­tual Porsche No.1 built by Ferry Porsche in 1948.

In the for­tu­itously glow­ing early-au­tumn weather, these cars were open, un­roped, with pun­ters milling among them with their swirling cam­eras and kids and tripods and selfie-sticks …

The nearby pit garages housed yet more mas­ter­works, var­i­ously from Porsche’s own Mu­seum and pri­vately owned – like 956-003, the third­placed car of Schup­pan-hol­bert-hay­wood from the 1-2-3 white­wash at Le Mans 1982. Bloody Se­in­feld again.

The US has a whole com­mu­nity of Porsche celebri­ties, of­ten for­mer (and cur­rent) rac­ers like Bruce Canepa and Gun­nar Jean­nette who buy, sell, re­store and main­tain (for even richer guys) many of these his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant cars. Canepa, a cir­cuit racer who in 1981 built and drove a 930-pow­ered open-wheeler to sec­ond over­all at Pikes Peak, ex­pen­sively ter­mi­nated his own 917K’s en­gine dur­ing one of the week­end’s races.

I’ve hardly even men­tioned the al­most non-stop rac­ing and on-track dis­plays – the lat­ter in­clud­ing laps in Porsche No.1 by Dr Wolf­gang Porsche, and rather more brisk lap­pery by Timo Bern­hard in the 919 Evo (which didn’t ex­tend to a widely ru­moured at­tempt on La­guna’s out­right record). In the model-grouped car parks, one wan­dered among hun­dreds of 356s, ev­ery gen­er­a­tion of 911, cars rang­ing from the rare and im­mac­u­late to the shit-beaten and rat-rod­ded … a dozen or so 959s, about as many 918 Spy­ders…

This was also a bit of a re­union for me. With­out be­ing a wanker about it, I was see­ing some of the ac­tual cars that, over the years, I’ve been priv­i­leged to have driven or rid­den in. I had my bum-prints in the 1998 Le Mans-win­ning GT1-98, a 1977 Le Mans 935, a 917/30 Canam, a 356 Car­rera GTL Abarth, and a hand­ful of the Porsche Mu­seum’s road cars also present.

Imag­ine hear­ing and touch­ing ev­ery kind of rac­ing and road-go­ing Porsche that ever was

PORSCHE HEAVEN

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