Thursday, March 21, 2024

LE Mans: Porsche’s prestigious Overall Winner’s list

Which reads like a veritable Who’s Who of Man and Machinery…


Funny how I first learned about Porsche celebrating it’s 75th Anniversary. Which I discerned when perusing last year’s 24 Heurs du Mans entry list.


Since in typical “Penske Perfect” fashion, or El Capitano’, nee Roger Penske’s “Attention to Detail”. The third Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 was competing with the No. 75 on it’s flanks. Being Roger’s nod to the company’s History…


Porsche’s Debutante 24 Huers du Mans Overall victory came in 1970, when the Porsche GH Salzburg entry of Richard Atwood and Hans Herrmann won aboard a Porsche 917KH “coupe”. In 1971, Der Helmut’, aka Dr. Helmut Marko and gijs van Lennep driving for Martini Racing won driving a 917K. Before the ACO effectively killed the 5.0-litre Sports Car class, which the likes of the 917 and Ferrari 512M competed with.


Yes, that’s the very same Dr. Helmut Marko, whose the “famous” Red bull Racing Formula 1 Consultant…


For 1976-77 Martini Racing scored back-to-back victories with the iconic Porsche 936 Spyder. Jacky Ickx teamed up with Gijs van Lennep aboard a 936/76 Spyder. With the Belgian repeating a year later in an updated 936/77 Spyder with Hurley Haywood and Jurgen Barth.


Then there’s the ’79 win with the Kremer Racing Porsche 935 K3 which I’ve scribbled ‘bout before here on No Fenders. As Klaus Ludwig shared the podium’s top step with those dubious Whittington Brothers don and Bill.


As the ’79 race pitted two rival 935’s against each other fighting for the win. With the Hawaiian Tropic sponsored Dick Barber Racing entry including somebody named P. L. Newman on it’s driving roster, finishing runner-up…


Beginning with the ’81 24 Heurs du Mans, Porsche went on a tear, arguably during it’s Glory Years! With the Stuttgart Automobile manufacturer winning  then an unprecedented seven straight Le Mans victories


1981 saw Porsche Systems dust off it’s 936 Spyder. With two of Lecircuit de la Sarthe legends, i.e.; thee original Mr. Le Mans, aka six times winner Jacky Ickx and soon to be Five-times winner Derek Bell winning behind the keyboard of an updated 936/81 Spyder.


Beginning in ’82, the latest Panzerwagen from Weissach rolled out. As the new Porsche 956 would win four straight races.


1982 saw Ickx and Bell win again for Rothmans Porsche. Followed by Haywood, Al Holbert and Vern Schuppan’s win.


Joest Racing took over the podium’s top step the following two years. First in 1984 with Ludwig and Henri Pescarolo. Then Paolo Barilla, Ludwig and “John Winter” the following year.


1986 saw the arrival of Porsche’s greatest Le Man’s racer, the iconic 962. Seeing Rothmans Porsche go back-to-back between 1986-87   with bell, Holbert and Hans-Joachim Stuck at it’s controls. Before Tom Walkinshaw and His Eponomous Silk Cut Jaguar’s ended Porsche’s streak in ’88.


Porsched didn’t return to the winner’s circle until 1994, when Mauro Baldi, Yanick Dalmas and Hurley Haywood won aboard a Dauer 962 Le Mans-Porsche derived “Street Car!”


1996 saw the car that the late Al Holbert had been championing Porsche to build upon the 962’s demise win. Albeit it was the TWR Porsch WSP-95 “Spyder” with Davy Jones, Manuel Reuter and Alexander Wurz winning.


Then Joest Racing won again in ’97 with the same Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) racecar. Basically an old Jaguar XJR-14 Group C chassis with it’s roof cut off and intended to compete in IMSA’s new Exxon sponsored World Sports Car series. (WSC) Before being “outlawed” by rule changes.


As Reinhold Joest convinced Porsche to allow Him to race the chassis, and the rest was History. With Joest winning again for the second year in-a-row with ‘lil Stevie Johnson’, aka Stefan Johansson, Michele Alboreto and some Dude named tom Kristensen at it’s controls.


1998 saw Laurent Aiello, thee “Scottish Terrier”, aka Allan McNish and Stefane Ortelli win for Porsche AG behind the wheel of it’s Porsche 911 GT1-98


Meanwhile, Stuttgart had also taken over the WSC 95 project, renaming it the LMP1-98, which basically met with poor results and was cancelled for 2000.


Porsche returned to Sports Car racing with the debut of the Porsch RS Spyder at the 2005 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) Laguna Seca event. As Roger Penske would successfully campaign the RS Stateside in the ALMS, with overall victory in the ’08 12 Hours of Sebring being it’s High-water mark.


The RSSpyder also raced at Le Mans, winning the LMP2 class between 2008-09, beforerule changes for 2011 rendered it obsolete.


Porsche returned to Circuit de la Sarthe with it’s most impressive “Piece of Kit” as the Bloody Brits would say in 2014. When it’s “Spaceship” LMP1 919 Hybrid made it’s debut.


The Porsche Team then won the first of it’s three successive Le Mans W’s in 2015!


That year saw Earl Bamber, Nico Hulkenberg and Nick Tandy winning, netting Porsche a record extending 17th Overall victory.


2016,which has to be one of my favourite wins! Saw Romain dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb victorious again. Snatching what was to be Toyota’s maiden Le Mans triumph disintegrate upon the race’s final lap! Followed a year later by Earl Bamber, Timo Bernard and Brendon Hartley taking the lead of the race back in the final hour…


Porsche then promptly withdrew once again from Sports Car  racing. And wouldn’t return to the FIA World Endurance championship (WEC) until the new Hypercar era dawned in 2023. With Porsche Penske Motorsports running two full season Porsche 963 Le Mans Daytona Hybrid (LMDH) prototypes in both IMSA’s new Hybrid GTP category and the “Weckity-WEC”. Plus the aforementioned third No. 75 “Wildcard” Le Mans entry, for Circuit de la Sarthe’s Centenary running…