Porsche’s Rennsport Reunion Simply Showcased a Slew of Bonkers Vehicles. Right here Are the ten Finest Fashions This 12 months.
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“Rennsport” means “racing” auf Deutsch. No translation was required, though, at Rennsport Reunion 7. From September 28 through October 1, Porsche’s celebratory assemblage showcased 75 years of sports and racing cars at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca circuit in Northern California, where many entries once again had their mettle tested on track.
A sea of the German marque’s faithful–about 80,000 attendees over four days—underlined again how traditional auto shows, and their static convention-hall displays, are being rendered obsolete by action-packed destination events like Rennsport. Here and elsewhere, automobiles are presented in living, breathing, roaring context, and the fans go wild. Even the auto-show-style reveal of a hyper-exclusive model honoring the event, the 911 GT3 R Rennsport, was staged in pit lane.
This highly charged and rarified atmosphere made selecting our 10 favorite cars from the proceedings a daunting task to say the least, but our final list of superstars illustrates why Porsche is so venerated among enthusiasts the world over. The breadth, the dogged engineering, and the passionate drive that have defined Porsche cars for 75 years (and counting) are, in our opinion, exemplified by the following examples.
Porsche 356 “No. 1” Roadster
It’s extraordinary to consider that one million Porsches and 75 years of creative transformation all started here: a humble aluminum tub, hammered over a steel lattice frame, with a mid-mounted Volkswagen four-cylinder for a 1.1-liter heart. Bearing the adorably enduring hallmarks of Ferry Porsche, who co-designed the VW Beetle, the 356 received a road permit on June 8, 1948—the accepted birth date of the Porsche marque.
Propelling the svelte 1,290-pound car is a mere 35 hp engine which allows for an 84 mph top speed. Porsche reacquired the first example from its Zurich owner in 1958, and restored it to road-worthy status prior to a 70th anniversary drive in 2018.
Porsche 901 “Quickblau”
Serendipity doesn’t properly describe the 901 “Quickblau,” a car whose rags-to-riches provenance might have struck Dickens as altogether too much. The ostensible 1964 Porsche 911—with a dented body and missing engine—was a 19th birthday gift to Alois Ruf Jr., the now-fabled Porsche builder, from his father. Ruf drove it until 1971, when a potential buyer steered it into a ditch. Yet Ruf kept the salvaged car, and slowly discovered its amazing past.
This was one of seven prototypes of the original 911 (when it was still called “901”) and one of two that survives. It was the personal test car of engineer Ferdinand Piech, grandson of company founder Ferdinand Porsche, and future chairman of Volkswagen AG. Now restored, the blue-metallic beauty won “Best in Class” and “Most Iconic Vehicle” awards at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. Despite its irreplaceable museum status, the car is still driven by Ruf.
The 906, or “Carrera 6,” was one of the prettiest racing Porsches ever, but there’s more to it than that. Under 28-year-old Ferdinand Piech’s hard-charging R&D regime in 1966, the 906 kicked off an era of unparalleled progress in Stuttgart, as Piech designed at least seven new cars and five engines in a scant five years.
Among the last street-legal Porsche racers, the air-cooled, mid-engined 906 saw just 62 copies built. This example was campaigned by Racing Team Holland in 1966. Following a 1967 accident at Spa, the car was repaired and sold to a Montreal doctor, who entered it in Canadian club races. A 1992 restoration returned the car to its gloriously sunny orange livery.
Porsche 917 K
Here it is again, the legend to end all racing legends, the inimitable 917 K. It’s an iconic car in whatever classic race dress you like, whether its Martini dry, Pink Pig, or the Sunoco blue-and-yellow that’s forever linked to late driver and engineer Mark Donohue and his Can-Am heroism. Most likely, though, what first comes to mind is the orange-over-blue Gulf Oil cars that Steve McQueen drove into moviegoers’ dreams, and which has become a livery welded into car culture forever.
In actuality, the Gulf Oil 917 K model was transformed into a two-time world champion by a wedge-like new tail in 1970 and ‘71, before its 5.0-liter V-12 was banned in order to stop the 917 K’s motorsport dominance. Rennsport featured chassis No. 917-015, the upgraded 917 K that debuted at Daytona in 1970 versus the Ferrari 512. This car famously beat the next-closest Porsche by 45 laps over 24 hours—still a record dusting at Daytona.
Porsche Carrera RSR IROC
The year 1974 saw Roger Penske’s improbable dream of forming the International Race of Champions (IROC) finally realized. His vision was to pit the “Top 12 drivers in the World” against each other while all piloting an identically prepared car—the Porsche Carrera RSR. (Imagine, say, Mercedes-AMG’s Lewis Hamilton being allowed to drive a Ferrari in public, or even pose next to one, for an idea of how lunatic this scheme would appear today).
The Porsche factory whipped up 15 of these 320 hp racers for an all-star cast that included A.J. Foyt, Emerson Fittipaldi, Peter Revson, Denny Hulme, and even Richard Petty. Only Mario Andretti and Al Unser were missing, forbidden to drive the Goodyear-shod Porsches due to their Firestone commitments. This lovely “Mexico Blue” example was raced by Formula 1–ace Denny Hulme and NASCAR champ David Pearson. It went on to be comprehensively restored in 1992, including its original IROC engine.
Porsche 959 SC “Reimagined”
The groundbreaking 959 was the world’s fastest, most technically advanced sports car at its birth in 1986, including a top speed just shy of 200 mph. American fans could only admire it from afar, though, as the rally-bred model was never certified for sale stateside. Bill Gates spent more than a decade trying to get his car released from U.S. Customs impound. Porsche maestro Bruce Canepa was instrumental in freeing those 959s—and other desirable international vehicles—under “Show and Display” legislation signed by President Clinton in 1998.
Now, Canepa is squeezing fresh juice from this ultimate forbidden fruit through “Reimagined” 959s with more than 800 hp, versus the 444 hp output of the originals. Canepa treats customers’ original supercars to 4,000 hours of concours-level restorations and engineering upgrades. The result is a fantasy car, squared.
Porsche Vision 357 Speedster
Like the Mission X, Porsche’s Vision 357 Speedster offers another teasing glimpse of electric possibility for the German marque. This visual knockout tips its open cap to the automaker’s first sports car, the 356, and its 75th anniversary. Yet this concept is based on the reality of a 718 Cayman GT4 chassis, but with a 1,074 hp output from its dual ePerformance motors when driven in qualifying mode, or 604 horses for up to 30 minutes in Race mode.
Get this: Engineers say the all-wheel-drive Speedster will match the lap times of a gasoline-powered GT3 Cup racer, and equal its 186 mph peak—all while using a fraction of the fossil-fuel model’s energy. Please, Porsche: Build it, and they will come.
Porsche 911 GT3 R Rennsport
We took a few hot laps around Laguna Seca and its delirious Corkscrew in a street-legal Porsche GT3 RS. But when night fell, an even-hotter fury made its world debut in pit lane: the 911 GT3 R Rennsport. This single-seater outperforms a current GT3 R race car, with more power and aerodynamic downforce than rules allow in events like the 24-Hours of Le Mans. In other words, it can never race in America or Europe, nor be driven on the street. The extremely limited-edition model exists purely for the track-day pleasure of it owners.
The rear-wheel-drive GT3 R Rennsport makes 611 hp from an uprated version of the standard GT3 R’s naturally aspirated, 4.2-liter flat-six engine. It’s designed to run on E25 bioethanol or e-fuel. And about that wing, well, it’s the largest to sprout from any 911-based car, with a span to make Icarus blush. Considering the near-mythical performance, Porsche will limit global supply to 77 examples, starting from just over $1 million.
Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo
Call it the ultimate mic drop. After casually dominating Le Mans for three years, Porsche capped things off with a rebel version of its 919. This was the Hybrid Evo, which threw out every racing rule to stake an indisputable claim for supremacy at the Nürburgring Nordschleife. The Evo shares the 919 racer’s turbocharged 2.0-liter V-4 to drive rear wheels, with electric shove up front. Ditching racing fuel restrictions boosted grunt from 500 hp to 720 hp, and an additional 440 hp from electrification.
With weight sliced to 1,880 pounds, and massive gains in aerodynamics and energy harvesting, the Evo unwound the Nürburgring in outlandish fashion. With Timo Bernhard driving, the Evo’s lap of 5:19.55 dismantled a ‘Ring record that had stood for 35 years: Nearly 52 seconds faster than the late Stefan Bellof’s lap in a Rothmans Porsche 956C.
Porsche Mission X
With a bravura glass dome, Le Mans–style swinging doors, and perhaps 1,600 hp, the all-electric Mission X concept stands atop the muscled shoulders of supercar predecessors like the 959 and hybrid 918 Spyder. And for a design study that Porsche hasn’t decided it will produce, the Mission X sure has a big to-do list.
Goals for its development include having it become the fastest road-legal car on Germany’s Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit; achieving a power-to-weight ratio of one hp per kilogram (the oft-cited “magic ratio” for supreme hypercar performance); to top the aerodynamic downforce of the 911 GT3 RS—the current record holder among production cars—and, finally, to recharge about twice as quickly as a Taycan Turbo S. Throw in a gorgeous slipstream design over a carbon-fiber exoskeleton, and the Mission X is the kind of electric moonshot that could spark Elon’s envy.
Source: Robb Report