Pizazz, performance & provenance at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the PORSCHE RENNSPORT REUNION 7.
How do you know if a niche motorsports event is successful? Well for one, it’s 6 AM and you’re seeing cars parked all over the hills that surround the event location – WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey County, California. And then you begin to see signs along the entry roads stating “General Admission and Paddock SOLD OUT.” After reading that I stared down at the media pass and parking permit sitting at-the-ready on my passenger seat and took a deep breath. “I’m good” I thought, and 15 minutes later I was walking through a corridor of super-sized and super-cool Porsche graphics that adorned the walls of the entry paths and the new Start/Finish bridge at Laguna Seca.
Porsche agreed to hold its PORSCHE RENNSPORT REUNION 7 and 75th Year Heritage Celebration at Laguna Seca under the conditions that major improvements be made at the track. And WeatherTech complied: Not only is there the new Start/Finish bridge that can now accommodate carts and pedestrians, but the famous 2.238-mile track has been completely repaved. When I photographed tall Malcolm Ross who was the Rennsport 7 driver of the famous Rothmans ’85 Porsche 962c-003 pictured above, he smiled broadly and gave me a “Thumb’s Up” after I asked him how the repaved track feels. Malcolm’s family owns Ross Racing and an impressive collection of iconic race cars, including the Rothmans Racing car No. 1.Porsche’s heralded racing history may make it difficult for us to think about Porsche as a gilded luxury brand, but the many TAG Heuer + Porsche, cross-promotion efforts that were on display under the ‘TAG Heuer Heritage Experience’ exhibition tent in the paddock were unapologetic in their messages of racing and refinement. This sexy and svelte ‘TAG Heuer x Porsche – Legends of Panamericana’ Sonderwunsch project car is a one-of-two, specially prepared 718 Cayman GT4 RS’s that will be participating in the upcoming Carrera Panamericana race this October 13th -19th. Look for Patrick Dempsey to be behind the wheel of Sonderwunsch cars in media promotions for these two luxury brands and in the fabled Mexican endurance race.There was a heavy mist and at times rain showers on Saturday, Day 3 of the 4-day PORSCHE RENNSPORT REUNION 7 – but that did not dampen spirits or stop the activities at Laguna Seca. While some attendees ducked under tents and umbrellas, I waddled around the paddock seeking photo ops, now that fewer people were surrounding celebrated cars like the race-winning Penske 963 Porsche Car No. 7 featured here. This icon helped secure a one-two victory for Penske, finishing 2nd at the recent IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Porsche colleagues Matt Campbell from Australia and Felipe Nasr from Brazil were the drivers.Dreams do come true. Thirty years ago, Porsche collector Cameron Healy discovered a little red Porsche Gmünd roadster at the Monterey Historics. His interest in the car became an obsession and when the previous owner died in 2009, Cameron acquired the car. It turned out to be one of the three examples Porsche entered in the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans – and the aluminum body car that took First Place in the 1100-cc class. Healy would then oversee a long and exacting restoration bringing the Gmünd back to its original coupe body configuration and 1951 Le Mans specifications. What a thrill to meet Cameron and photograph the historic Porsche 356/SL Gmünd Coupe at Rennsport!The PORSCHE RENNSPORT REUNION 7 broke records, attracting close to 100,000 attendees who traveled from all corners of the globe to participate in the Porsche Heritage fun and excitement. Of course, there was lots of racing; Rennsport is German for racing. There were more than 300 racecar entries – like Bob Campbell’s shiny and speedy Porsche ‘Special’, captured here bombing into turn 5 early Sunday morning. Over the course of 4 days racers competed across seven different classes on the repaved WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca circuit.Prayers and Praise. One of the more eye-catching racecars at Rennsport, and frankly any event it’s raced or displayed at, is the famous American Le Mans winning, DHL supported Porsche RS Spyder Type 9R6 car No. 5. The 9R6 was designed by Porsche in conjunction with Penske to compete in Le Mans Prototype Class 2 (LMP2) racing. It debuted in the 2005 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) at Laguna Seca, winning its class. When I reviewed my photos of the car when it was parked on pit lane for the Concours display, I discovered its caretaker in a reverent kneeling pose, and a photographer seemingly floating like an angel above its rear wing.One of the longer and lower Porsche racing history icons on display in the TAG Heuer sponsored Heritage Display Tent was the ‘68 Porsche Type 907 LH (Langheck). Chassis 907-005 is one of just eight Langhecks (longtails) built, and is the first Porsche ever to win a 24-hour endurance race. It was a four-time entry at Le Mans, winning its class in 1971, and a top five competitor at Sebring and Monza. Engines: In 1967, a 2.0 L Flat-Six; In 1968, a 2.2 L Flat-Eight.What classic is in your carguy garage? Now wouldn’t it be cool if we all had the money and the means to put a significant piece of racing technology and racing lore in our garages? I think I’d like to pull this Porsche 919 Hybrid into mine. It’s a jaw-dropping Le Mans Prototype 1 racecar entered by Porsche in the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship seasons. In this configuration, power comes from a Porsche 9R9 2.0 L direct-injected, turbocharged V4 engine with a lithium-ion battery for energy recovery – and is delivered via a 7-speed gearbox to a 4WD system.There was a lot of excitement and eye-candy at the Saturday evening Pit Lane Concours at PORSCHE RENNSPORT REUNION 7. More often than not a car’s provenance delivers a proportional amount of pizazz – as is the case with this goosebumps-delivering ’97 Porsche 993 GT2. Acquired new by Larry Schumacher in 1997 it is a 1997 GTS-2 and 1998 GT2 Champion out of the Schumacher Racing stable. Yeah, it’s pretty, but its turbocharged 3,600-cc Flat Six engine produces over 600 horsepower. This awesome Porsche was sold at a Gooding & Company auction in 2021 for $460,000.Know in racing circles as the “Jager Bomb” this Porsche 962c chassis 117 has been wowing motorsports crowds since its debut in 1985. Swiss racing team Brun Motorsports competed with the car as a privateer team. Car No. 17 has a rich racing history having raced in the World Sports Prototype Championship from 1986 to 1989. It finished 2nd in its class at La Mans, was victorious at Spain’s Circuito Permanente de Jerez, and achieved an overall win at Belgium’s 1000-km Spa-Francorchamps in 1986. What a thrill to see it wow the crowds at Rennsport 7!Jim McCann’s silver Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racecar charges into turn 5 at Laguna Seca Sunday morning, midway through the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Race 1. The Carrera Cup is a racing series that ran in conjunction with the PORSCHE RENNSPORT REUNION 7 at Laguna Seca. Sunday’s two Carrera Cup races represented rounds 13 and 14 of the 2023 North America series. Jim’s car No. 83 is out of the McCann Racing team and automotive performance shop of Akron, Ohio. From 1990 to the end of 2019, Porsche produced and prepared a total of 4,251 GT3 Cup racecars.Its beverage is known as The Champagne of Beer, but its Miller 962 was known as the fastest 962 in the world back in 1989. With wins at the Daytona 24 Hours, the Porsche Cup and the Palm Beach GP, Porsche 962-108C is the chassis that racing historians consider the fastest 962 ever produced. So, it was no surprise that I had to press my way through a wall of excited fans to grab a photo of this iconic machine. During its winning season, Derek Bell, Bob Wollek and John Andretti piloted the Miller Livery 962-108C.True Confession: I do not know who the driver of this Porsche 550 Spyder is, but I do know he is one lucky guy to be sitting behind the wheel of the car that helped write Porsche’s early racing history. The hand-built 550 was introduced at the Paris Salon Car Show in 1953. Over the years some well-known names have driven 550 Spyders, including racing legends Jack McAfee, Ken Miles and Wolfgang Seidel. And, of course the 550 legend would explode internationally when the Spyder known as the Little Bastard crashed on September 30th of 1955, killing owner/driver James Dean.Girls just want to have fun! The Ginther Racing E-Production 914-4 makes its way onto the Pit Lane Concours display on September 30th. This high-visibility Teener has a number of unique features, perhaps the most obvious, its racing windshield from the Aircraft Windshield Company. Another pertinent fact is that the current owners at Frank Racing always bring a spare motor to track events – which turned out to be a good idea when they blew engine No. 1 at Rennsport. Undaunted, the girls and the team replaced the motor in the paddock and everyone got back to having fun!The Fast & The Luxurious. In 1958, when news of the Porsche 356A Carrera’s ability to hit 200 km/h (124.27 mph) spread to the general public, non-racers started to place orders. To placate the racing crowd, Porsche divided the series into De Luxe GS (with the luxury of a heater) and Gran Turismo (a stripped and lightened GT for racers). Further performance choices were offered such as a lighter Speedster model – like the ’58 356A Carrera GT Speedster featured here, competition axel and compression ratios, aluminum hoods and decklids, and of course, a full-race 1600-cc RS-60 engine option.The bold and beautiful, blue and gold livery on this ’76 Porsche 934 is one of my favorites. It’s easily recognizable from the spectator seats yet still understated by today’s anything-goes paradigm. Bosch-supported Car 14 was number 22 of 31 934s built by Porsche. It was raced in the 1976 Trans-Am Series, 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring – racking-up four podium finishes. Power is from a 3.0 Liter, single turbo Flat-Six. This car underwent a full ground-up restoration that was completed in 2020.The Porsche 910 racecar was produced from 1966 to 1967. Its design was based on the Porsche 906. Only 29 were produced and its racing history was limited to one year due to the fact that its racing rivals – the Ferrari Dino 206 and the powerful Ford GT40 – were simply better and faster. This 1967 example on display at PORSCHE RENNSPORT REUNION 7 is chassis 910-018. It was raced across Europe with Hans-Dieter Blatzheim and later acquired by the Hollywood Cigarettes racing team in Brazil.If we had to pick our favorite vehicle at the PORSCHE RENNSPORT REUNION 7 simply based on the total number of scale models produced in its likeness, then the smile-inducing VW T1 Rennstall Bunker transporter would have to be the winner. This one-off, extended wheelbase T1 was fabricated in the mid-1950s for Art’s Sports and Utility Motors of Kansas City, MO. It’s my understanding that the original was lost but this carefully-crafted replica tours tracks and shows today with its vintage Porsche Spyder on-board.If you’re not a Porsche zealot you may be surprised to learn that when Ferdinand Porsche founded his pre-war engineering and automotive company in Stuttgart in 1931, a good deal of the work was related to tractor designs featuring both gas and diesel powerplants. Post-war manufacturing restrictions hampered much of what Porsche was trying to accomplish, but ultimately the company did manufacture technologically-advanced tractors between 1956 and 1963 – with more than 125,000 examples produced. So of course, no true Porsche Reunion could be complete without a Porsche Tractor Race. I grabbed this Staging Lane shot as the tractors were lining-up for Tractor Race No. 1 on Saturday.The PORSCHE RENNSPORT REUNION 7 was a really big deal. From the record-breaking crowds to the races and racing legends in attendance – plus special events like the Doobie Brothers concert in the paddock, the global debut of the Porsche 911 GT3 R, kid-friendly activities, arcade games, tractor races, TAG-Heuer/Porsche Heritage displays, a coloring wall of Porsche cars, autograph sessions, and the coming-together of the global Porsche community, and, along with the screening of the new Transformers movie Rise of the Beasts, a presence in the paddock of building-size replicas of the movie’s principal characters – like this Big Guy here who apparently had to wait in line like us humans to grab an autograph from his favorite Porsche legend!
Words & Photos ©Jim Palam, https://www.jimpalamphotos.com/
For more information about PORSCHE RENNSPORT REUNION 7, please visit https://www.porscherennsportreunion.com
Check out upcoming events @ https://www.co.monterey.ca.us/government/government-links/weathertech-raceway