Porsche success at Le Mans revisited for new video series
The starting point is 1951, the year in which Porsche first entered Le Mans, securing a class victory with the 356 SL Gmünd Coupe. A further 107 class and nineteen overall victories later, Porsche has launched Porsche Moments, a new online video series devoting six episodes to this important and famous chapter in Porsche’s motorsport history.
“In the new Porsche Moments series, we will be highlighting special moments from our racing and production past,” says Achim Stejskal, Head of Porsche Heritage and Museum. “We recollect these moments, which have informed our corporate history, as authentically as possible by way of interviews with contemporary witnesses. We enable our fans to experience these special Porsche Moments all over again by publishing the videos across our social media channels.”
Winner of the Triple Crown in endurance racing, Timo Bernhard, who was also the first person to break Stefan Bellof’s legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife lap record (set in 1983 with a 956 and smashed by Bernhard in a derestricted Porsche 919 Evo with a time of 5:19.546 in 2018), takes fans through each episode as host. In both Zuffenhausen and Weissach, he speaks to influential Porsche personalities who made the manufacturer’s dreams of success at Sarthe a reality, including Norbert Singer, Walter Röhrl and Hans-Joachim ‘Strietzel’ Stuck.
For the first episode of Porsche Moments, Bernhard is joined by Fritz Enzinger, Porsche’s Vice President of Motorsport. Enzinger led the brand to three overall victories at Le Mans. The pair’s reunion takes place in front of the historical brick building of Werk 1. “Trust and friendship are important for success in racing,” says Enzinger, as he climbs out of a 356 SL. Thanks to its aluminium body, the Super Light weighs only 680 kilograms — almost 120 kilograms less than the steel-bodied 356 Coupés produced by Reutter in Stuttgart from November 1949. “Wilhelm Hild from the Porsche works team gave the 356 SL the nickname aluminium can,” Enzinger reveals with a smile, before confirming that in-house, the model is known by the rather more sober Type 514 Porsche Sport for Le Mans 1951.
“These days, it’s inconceivable to drive competition cars by road to Le Mans,” says Bernhard, referencing the risky eleven-hour trip on 16th June 1951. “Departure was at 7:15am, when Ferry Porsche waved the team off on their travels,” adds Enzinger, as he shares historical photos and entries about this moment in the journal of Porsche’s then Chief Designer, Karl Rabe. 356 driver, August Veuillet, and Le Mans race director, Charles Faroux, had managed to convince Ferry Porsche to participate at Le Mans when they met at the Paris Motor Show a year earlier, but the path to that seminal class victory on 24th June 1951 proved to be long — two out of three competition and test 356s were involved in catastrophic accidents by the time the race started. All hopes were pinned on the remaining lightweight and its increased displacement, four-cylinder boxer engine. “In the modern age, if a Porsche wins at Le Mans, the success reverberates throughout the whole company,” remembers Enzinger. “The brand’s first class victory in France must have been even more exciting. Le Mans is simply a magical place and Sarthe is hugely important to Porsche.”
To honour the Porsche success story at Le Mans with marque enthusiasts around the world, the manufacturer will be holding a travelling exhibition from June 2021 to January 2022, complementing the Porsche Moments video series. The plan is to make fourteen stops in ten countries, including France, the Netherlands, the UK, the USA, China and the UAE, finishing in Germany. Porsche enthusiasts can look forward to static and dynamic appearances of more than twenty Le Mans-winning car lifted out of the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart. For further information, and to be kept up to date with all Porsche Museum exhibitions and forthcoming video release dates, fire up Instagram and follow @porsche.museum.