Porsche’s 1977 awards ceremony, which is traditionally held at Weissach every December

Porsche’s 1977 awards ceremony, which is traditionally held at Weissach every December

This classic ‘rogues gallery’ photograph was taken at Porsche’s 1977 awards ceremony, which is traditionally held at Weissach every December. 1977 had been a good year for Porsche Motorsports: another Le Mans win, and German national and world sports car champions. Indeed, it would prove something of a high watermark. Ernst Fuhrmann’s restrictions on high-profile racing and further development of the 911 would keep Porsche works teams out of top-flight competition until 1981.

Porsche Moment Total 911 recounts the story behind a famous picture from Porsche’s past…

The two ‘rogues’ on the left are familiar faces. Jochen Mass and Jürgen Barth were members of the Le Mans-winning Porsche- Martini team, as was Manfred Schurti on the far right of the shot. In the centre is the eternally shy Rolf Stommelen, who had not been a regular Porsche works driver since 1969, but whose Gelo-entered 935 had swept the board in the German championships. Between him and Manfred is team manager Manfred Jantke, who had taken over the role from Rico Steinemann in 1974. A journalist like Rico before him, Jantke was worried that leaving his editor’s chair at Auto Motor & Sport to work for Porsche could compromise his journalist’s objectivity; he intended to return to reporting after two or three seasons. Yet in the event he would remain in his post for 16 years, becoming both totally immersed in the company, and its familiar and authoritative public voice.

After a decade in sports journalism, Jantke had a substantial address book and he used his contacts to good effect, getting Wimbledon champions Ivan Lendl and Tracy Austin to play in the Porsche-sponsored Stuttgart tennis tournament and organising the very popular customer bike race at Weissach. An ex- Formula V champion, he was a talent spotter too, introducing Stefan Bellof to Porsche and persuading a reluctant Helmuth Bott to hire the 24-year-old. Alas, Stefan, a true racing prodigy, would crash fatally at Spa, thus robbing Germany of its greatest driver until Michael Schumacher 10 years later. When Porsche decided to re-enter the American Indy series, Jantke was key in persuading Mario Andretti to come to Weissach to help develop the car. For Manfred Jantke, Porsche was motorsport, and when Ulrich Bez arrived and abandoned the Indy series to re-enter Formula 1, only to throw in the towel after less than a season, it was a humiliation too far for a man who had worked for almost two decades building Porsche’s name. Jantke resigned in disgust, accusing Ulrich and CEO Arno Bohn of wrecking Porsche’s reputation inexcusably. He returned to journalism, notably as a commentator for Eurosport, and even today, in his 80s, remains an authority on the sport.

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