XCAR: Porsche at Le Mans: The definitive history
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XCAR: Porsche at Le Mans: The definitive history

25:19 /

Porsche has more overall victories at the greatest endurance race on earth than any other team. As it returns to Le Mans, we look back at its glittering history.

[FOREIGN] [FOREIGN] [MUSIC] Porsche have been incredibly successful at Le Man. That type of race has been designed for that car. [MUSIC] No, no I found out I think in 2012 it was announced that Porcia was coming back to Lamont, and that was when I was starting endurance racing, and obviously it was immediately the goal. I would love to be spotted by Porscha. [NOISE] It does mean a lot for me to drive for Porsche at Le Mans. Especially, I think the last two Swiss were Josef 'g Herd 'g and Herbert Muller 'g, two of the most famous Swiss drivers, and they drove for Porsche at Le Mans. And I'm now following in their footsteps. And I, I hope I can fill them. [MUSIC] The [UNKNOWN], definitely there, I mean the biggest race for, for the driver and for the brand and you know the history of Porsche at the most is outstanding. It's one of the unique races that, that are left from the old time [UNKNOWN]. And, and the combination of a close race track and open, normal roads. Country roads are not there any-more so, the more really large, large race. And, a history that's been like that and it's why always, already. When you walk into the [UNKNOWN] it is a magical place. Winning Le Mans even more I think when you are French driver I know it's very, very important. For sure when you're an [INAUDIBLE] driver, it's a goal, it's a target in your life. [MUSIC] This is a Porsche 356. It's a car that got Porsche off the ground as a road car manufacturer. And also, got it into motor sports. It's the car that gave Porsche its first taste of the Nemall 24 hours. The greatest endurance race on earth. The Porsche and the [INAUDIBLE] have a long history together. The Porsche and the [INAUDIBLE] belong together. And everything started at the castle Louvre in Paris in 1950 when [INAUDIBLE] and Porsche was approached by [INAUDIBLE] race director. And [UNKNOWN] and Porsche knew quite well from pre war times because both of them were in racing scenes and [INAUDIBLE] was also a famous motorjournalist. And so somehow he convinced [UNKNOWN] and Porsche to bring some cars to the Le Mans race for 1951, and this was also kind of a political affair because just a few years after the end of World War Two. A German manufacturer participated in the most famous and most traditional car race in France. The boys from Porsche agreed for two reasons, the first being that they saw what privateers had done with the 356. They knew how it could perform and that they'd be in with a decent shine. The second, they had absolutely no PR budget. [UNKNOWN] Porscha disliked advertisements he thought it was a waste of money. He wanted to invest all the money into the cars to make them better. Motorsports was also fantastic marketing for the cars because the cars could prove their performance directly in front of the future customers when it came to choosing a car to run the 356 it was obviously Porsche's choice sort of,. [UNKNOWN] was a big surprise for everyone because 356 was basically an unknown car first prototype came on in 1948 and was 56 they sent to the mall wasn't special a car it was an SL. SL means [UNKNOWN] super light. So even one year before Mercedes ended up with the same [UNKNOWN] 300 [UNKNOWN] it was used by Porsche. And the car has an aluminum body made in [UNKNOWN] Austria everything was handmade and it was aerodynamically modified. They were lighter, narrower and slippier than the standard road car of the three cars the company entered into the race. Only one that crossed the finish line, but it came first in it's class. And you have to remember that Porsche was there for the first time, tangling with teams that had been at for years and they won. The Le Mans 1951. This was our, our first official race attempt from Porsche, or the first victory team. Part of [UNKNOWN] and for part of the brand this wasn't a necessary break through. With a winning car under it's belt Porscha knew it had to keep going in 1952 two more SL's were entered, but it became clear that it had it's limitations Porscha needed a new car and so looked toward [UNKNOWN] for answers. Walter Gloker has modified a 356 so it was mid engine, not only that but it was rather good with it. So the men from Stuttgart once again got working. A big milestone for the Porsche Motorsports was the 550 Spider. It was the first true racecar made by Porsche. It was designed and engineered on, only for racing. It was mid engine race care with a tubular frame and a extra light aluminum body. This car was below 550 kilograms and it has a very special engine inside. It was a four, a race engine with four cam shafts. We call it the Foreman engine because it was designed by Dr. Ernst Foreman. It participated in the mall 1953 and yeah, for the next decade it became one of the dominating race cars in the, in these capacity classes. Over the next three years, Porsche would update the 550 giving it more power and less roof. It's skills not only helped it shine at the mall but all over the world. 1958 would be the last time Porsche's cars would make a big splash at Le Mans until the 60s. The shiny new 718 RSK took third place overall. That's less than ten years after Porsche entered Le Mans in the first place. As the swinging 60s began, Porsche got off to a flyer, the 718 refreshed in 1960, then again in 61. Was 160 miles per hour, 160 brake horsepower monster. And it won it's class in 61 and took 5th overall. The 9F4GTS was introduced in 1964 and it was designed by Bootsie Porsche's own fair hand. It's the first of the so-called plastic Porsches so nicknamed because of it's glass fibre construction, but it's press-steel chassis was nice and strong. It was also fairly smart. It was designed to take different engines, depending on what Porsche wanted it to do. I think for me the 1960s were really the climax of Porsche Motor Sports. They were so creative, they built so many new race-cars, Centipede. He wanted to get the overall victories and, And, without him, today, the possibility then would be half-empty. Derrick was searching to win. He managed to irritate the many at the top, Ferry Porscher. There were always some internal fights of, for, for, for money, and, Inevitably, he, he spent a lot of money into into testing and into the engineering of, of new race cars and every know that Ferry Porsche as not happy at all with it. The 908 almost delivered the goods in 1968 and again in 69 but it was that year that braking issues made it hard to slow down on the last lap, lest they gave out completely. Jackie X overtook in a GT40, claiming Ford's last among victory by a mere 75 yards. Yep, 69 was a very special year though, in the mall [INAUDIBLE]. It was the closest final ever. At the end of the race, there was a extremely hot fight between [INAUDIBLE]. And they were overtaking each other every lap. I've spoken with both race drivers about this and on the long straight run, when they are driving next to each they are looking into their eyes. That was really a close fight and yeah, at the end, before the last corner, Jacky Ickx overtook Hans Herrmann and yeah, he has won the race by something 80 meters. That was the closest final ever. Piech was inspired to make a new car. A leaner, faster car. One that he knew would win them all. [UNKNOWN] Porsche wasn't quite so convinced. Racecar development was expensive and they couldn't really afford it. So, to get his way, Piech personally guaranteed the development cost of his new race car. Porsche agreed and [UNKNOWN] was allowed to make one more, the 917. I started on the, on the 917 because this was the project to win them all, and well of course I started with detail work. Fuel supply, through the engine or a gear box cooling, or things which. Which were nobody there to do it because Porsche was a very small race department, and everybody's doing let's say one or two jobs parallel. [MUSIC] The round 19 long tail was quick but not so stable, and there should be another quicker and more stable. The direction should improved because I had quite some down force at least, but the direction should be improved and the same down force. All these things which even today [LAUGH] it's always the same question, but it depends on the situation. And in 1970, the tools they're not so good as we have it today. Porsche was experimenting with new materials and with many new ideas like the adaptive aerodynamic. So even the long tails they had these adjustable flaps that were connected to the wheel suspension. And had the car to, to drive through the conner even faster. And the it was communicated but later on became an issue and yeah, it got forbidden. [INAUDIBLE] Porsche factory cars made it all the way one from Porsches [INAUDIBLE] did. Driven by RIchard Attwood and Hans Hermann, the 917 came over line in first place. Porsche had done it. The following year, a 917 driven by Helmut Marco and Gijs van Lennep wearing martini colors crossed the line a full two laps ahead of everyone else. It covered 3350 miles in average speed of over 138 miles an hour a record that was unbeaten until 2010. Pete didn't need to worry about his development money anymore. After that the ACO Lamont Le Man governing body put a three litre engine size limit on competitive, effectively killing the 917. Porsche stayed away until 1973, to give Norbert Singer and his team time to turn the 911 into a proper race car. They'd be back in 1974, this time mit turbo. Looking to the 917 for inspiration, which could muster over 1200 horsepower with a blower. Singer used a 2.1 meter turbo in a Carrera RSR and that would allow it to enter the sport 3000 class, it came second overall. We have the Carrera turbo, the first turbo of them all. Which were, actually we were second. Well, nobody cares about second but for us it was important to be second overall behind the matter. The next year, Porsche stayed away from them all because they were preparing the 911 turbos for production. Those second half of those 70s [INAUDIBLE] a new racing result. Porsche was looking for the sports car championship and for the, for French Championship and, For this reason, Forza Designs and 1935 and the 1936, which was an open spider with an Atobu touch engine. Together, Porsche bought the dominating brand in these years. In the first year [UNKNOWN]. We were able to win both world championships, which was a huge, huge success. [MUSIC] We had a turbo engine, and we could improve our dynamics a little more. We got a wider ring, we got wider tires, we got, we took everything, to improve it. So the next step to the 935. So then we get the regulation. Well, okay, we used all the possibilities of regulation. So, we could change the fenders, which was actually not planned by the FIE these days, but regulation said the fenders are free. So, and the Porsche had quite big fenders, so you had a quite free space to modify. Porsche designed the 935 and the 936. Which was an open spider with a turbo charged engine. You have an 935, for many, many years it the dominating race car in GT classes and, with all of the victories of the many privateers that used the 935. And, in 1979 a 935 K3 from Kramer was able to make an over all victory. It was the sensation of GT car, sports car in 9/11, was an overall winner in Lamar against the prototype. What a sensation? 1980 began interestingly. Professor Silman, the company's CEO and the man who designed the engine that went in the 550 managed to [INAUDIBLE] Porsche. And. Everybody, because he decreed that the 911 would shortly be discontinued, so the company could concentrate on front engine, rear wheel drive cars. 911 if it were half of everything that Porsche has stood for, since the 356 was replaced, and that's how people felt about it. There were also people in the racing team who felt that they'd only joined the company to go for an outright win. As such, at that year's [UNKNOWN] the company would enter three 94s. One driven by an American team, one by Germans, and one by the British. That 94 Carrera GT prototype was, I remember maybe one of the best handling of [UNKNOWN]. Obviously it was so far removed from the standard 19-4 that there is no comparison. One piece, front end of body work an incredibly stiff chassis for that sort of car. It was very impressive and it was one of the reasons for its excellent handling and you, you could do anything with that thing. It was brilliant from that point of view. 1981 Porsche also got a new CEO. Mr. Peter W.Schutz, a German-American manager, and he asked the guys at the racing department, how about the, the 924? Can it be an overall winner? And they said, not at all only class victories. That is, they are not interested in Le Mans. I want to get an overall victory. I knew this guy, you know? American bloke, only been. And vehicle engines and trucks. What's in there? It's not a cargo. It's littler than a sports car and he's brilliant. And he, he just came in and did really all the right things straight away. Certainly he said this, you're not gonna drop them at 11. When we had a, a big meeting I said, do we have any chance to win over all with a 944? And we said no, no. And we ran for a class win. Why we don't, prepare something to win, have a chance winning overall? So I said well, actually we have nothing, but in the past we, we got, it was in 79. Because they always 936 out of the museum. We can do it again. Then that's, that's the idea to get the Porsche 936 spider which would win in 76 and 76 out of the Porsche museum. They installed a new engine which was designed for the Indy series in the U.S. and they combined everything to some aerodynamic modifications and then they brought this car to, to the mall in 80 one. Yeah, and big surprise this car became a world winner. The same year. Porsche also entered a 924-GT prototype, a thinly veiled 944 driven by one Walter Rohrl. I drove in 91 in a 944 prototype in LeMons. It was just before the car was launched to, to the normal people and it was a really successful start because we finished seventh all between Oasis sports cars. We get a special prize for the shortest time in the pit lane from all the cars. And we are just 24 hours two drivers only, just driving. Petrol in, tires, go and it was really impressive to the finish it between all these super cars. I remember, I, I finished. I went out of the car. Pulled out my overalls [MUSIC] Was sitting in my car and was going home for 1,400 kilometers. Two minutes after the finish line, [LAUGH] I said, I want to go home. For something really special, it was, for, for, for, for our engineers and our mechanics then. Unbelievable, now he's hitting this car and goes home 1400 kilometers. In 1982, group C racing began. Cars had to weigh at least 800 kilos, have closed cockpits and meet a plethora of restrictions. Porsche's answer to this was the 956. The car was so good that it took first, second, and third places. We made big step forward because we left all this traditional things we had at the Porsche [UNKNOWN]. We were not sure if the car is reliable. The engine we know, it should be, not a problem but the rest. [MUSIC] And the more you know you always have a lot of [UNKNOWN] problems and at the end we got 123. A new variance of the 195 the 196 entered in 1984 it was lighter had new front springs and had a new engine management system and unsurprisingly too the top spot and seven more top ten places. In order to comply with new regulations elsewhere in the world, Porsche developed a new take on the 956. The 962. The car was essentially a modified 956 though that does sell it somewhat short. Like it's old predecessor, it was not only incredibly popular but also very successful for Porsche and [INAUDIBLE] and elsewhere. Not only in the hands of the factory though but also privateers. The 1962 was so good that it saw service all the way from it's debut in 1984 and remained competitive until the mid-90's. 85 saw Porsche kick **** again even though the race itself was apparently more of an economy run than a competition. In 1986 something interesting appeared alongside the now usual [UNKNOWN] the 956 and 962 you have some thing odd a 961 never was the 959 was going into racing. The biggest advantage of this car was the rain but unfortunately it didn't rain so it had no big advantage. Yeah, become on, all the class man, and then in the [UNKNOWN] serious. Next year in 87, yeah one of, one of the cars burned out. There was technical problems but yeah, the 1980's were dominated the Porsche 956's it became another iconic car for Porsche. In 1988 after years of dominance, Portia Street was broken by a Jaguar XJR-9. To put it simply, it's 7 litre, 700 and 50 brake horsepower V-12 was, too much, for the 962. In the early 90s, aside from entering a new 911 racer, Portia largely stayed out of the limelight, though privateers did keep running 962's with the number smart modifications to keep them competitive. One Jochen Dauer in 1994, even converted a 962 to road spec, to get a race version qualifying in the GT class. Because of a series of competitive breakdowns, the Dauer 962 LM Porsches took first and third place overall, in the '94 Le Mans, not something they expected at all. Darrel was reportedly told that his car was within the letter of the law but not in the spirit of the race. It would not be permitted to enter again. Porsche returned after a fashion, with the TWR Porsche WSC 95. It was a Franken-car run by Joe S. That use years to jag chassis and the Porsche engine merging two greats into one awesome car. 1996 on August seen a return the Porsche factory to them all with this, the 911 GT1. We start with the, with the chassis from the 911 still but, okay, it was modified after the driver seat and the, the terminal engine are also gonna meet engine car,. And it was continued the next three years till we got a carbon chassis and we get complete new aerodynamics for that, so at least we had just the headlights for the 911. [LAUGH] Which have a little bit look like 911. [UNKNOWN] with the 911 and it was powered by a twin turbo flat six 600 horsepower engine in it's debut year the GT1 won second and third close but not close enough 1997 saw the GT return mildly tweaked but sadly due to reliability issues neither factory car crossed the finish line. Everything what you do, even if you do other races for that car, had to be reliable for Le Mans. Everything. Every part. Every piece you take. Can it do 24 hours at Le Mans? For the race in 1998, the GT1 was upgraded again. This time it had full carbon fiber construction, different aero, and a modified engine. Seeing that this race fit on the same year as Porsche's 50th birthday, only a win would do. It worth a nine, Porsche 911GQ1, another new era in Porsche Motorsports, started because, the car was something completely new. It wasn't a 911 but with a mid-engine, not a rear engine. And sort of car [UNKNOWN] first part of the race car was the carbon fibre mono-car that was the first really modern race car that's not really far away from what we do today and we produced car in 1998 Porscha was able to make the 16th oval victory and 98 was a very special year for Porscha because we celebrated. Our 50th brand anniversary. It was a very, very nice race but you, you don't go into the race, which was my personal thinking, not planning to win. Of course, you hoping, but you planned for, let's say, 12 hours and another six hours and then we will see if you saw. After that Porsche starts to selling race cars that look like race cars 911GT3RS and RSRs and all that kind of thing. But they took a well earned break afterall, Porsche holds the record for the most overall number of wins, and over the decades, has captured the hearts and minds of countless race fans. Now, though, the company is returning to top flight LMP1 racing with this, the 919. Currently Audi and Toyota rule the roost so will they get another win? Let's hope so. [MUSIC]

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