Porsche Racing History

Porsche Racing History

Lots of automakers like to brag about how their “racing heritage” informs their production vehicles, but none of them can claim nearly the star power of Porsche. Porsche’s philosophy of small cars with high-displacement engines led to their initial nickname in the racing circuit: “giant-killer.” While other automakers tried out V8s, V10s and even V12s, Porsche stuck with their four or six cylinder flat engines and lightweight bodies for a long time.

Racing Stats:

  • 18th overall winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans (more than any other manufacturer)
  • More than 50 class wins at Le Mans
  • An estimated 28,000 total championships won globally as of 2007
  • 275 dedicated race cars produced in 2007 alone (more than any other manufacturer)
Porsche Racing History

The first official Porsche racing entrant was the 356 SL in 1951, a custom version of Porsche’s first production car, the 356. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Porsche won the under 1100cc category in its first try thanks to its aluminum body.


View our complete racing history:

1951 - 356 Light Metal Coupé

The young Sports Car manufacturer Porsche attracts international attention with the class victory of a 356 SL at the Le Mans 24 Hours race in 1951.

It was a logical step for Ferry Porsche to further develop the first roadster prototype into an alloy Coupé in 1948. Similarly to VW vehicles, but unlike the Porsche No. 1, the engine was now behind the rear axle in order to make room for two small back seats. Around fifty 356 aluminium Coupés were made between 1949 and 1951 in Gmünd (Austria), after which provisional production facilities were set up in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. In 1951, the aluminium Coupés manufactured in Gmünd were then used as a basis for the initial entry into motor sport by Porsche.

It goes without saying that the vehicle was adapted to the demands of motor racing. The fuel tank capacity was increased to 78 litres by placing it further forward and fitting it around the spare wheel. In order to speed up refuelling, the filler neck protruded through the centre of the bonnet. On its very first outing, at the Le Mans 24-hour race, the Porsche importer in France at the time Auguste Veuillet, with Edmonde Mouche as co-pilot, drove the aluminium Coupé straight to a class victory at an average speed of 140 km/h (87 mph).

1953 - 550 Spyder

From 1953 onwards, Porsche began to use a car specifically designed for motor racing, which was to have a long history of spectacular successes: the 550 Spyder. In technical terms, the mid-engine Roadster was distinguished by its lightweight yet rigid flat frame made from steel tubing and a streamlined and stylish monocoque body. The 550 Spyder won its very first race at the Nürburgring in 1953. Particularly in the "land of opportunity", the lightweight Spyder was a great asset both on the road and on the track in the 50s. In 1954, it won its class at the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico.

The mid-engine sports car was later equipped with a space frame and received the A designation for even greater power and driving pleasure and became an out and out racing car. The new 550 A Spyder made its racing debut at the 1000-kilometre race at the Nürburgring. But the biggest success of all came in Italy where, at the Sicilian Targa Florio in 1956, Umberto Maglioli beat the Ferraris and Maseratis to the finish line. That was the first of 11 Porsche victories in what was probably the most demanding race of its time.

1960 - 718 RS 60

In 1960, the new regulations for racing cars meant that the Spyder - now called the RS 60 – received an increased displacement of 1,587 cc, a larger windscreen, a functional hood and a regulation luggage compartment located at the rear behind the now 160-horsepower, four-camshaft, four-cylinder engine The new Spyder featured a rounded, deep-drawn front. An extended cowl ran behind the driver’s head. The RS 60 brought Porsche its greatest successes to date, particularly in long-distance racing: if overall victory at the 44th Targa Florio in 1960, which went to Bonnier/Herrmann with a lead of over six minutes on the 3-litre Ferrari, was within the scope of what had previously been achieved – sports cars from Zuffenhausen had achieved overall victory in both 1956 and 1959 – the first appearance of the RS 60 at the Sebring 12-hour race in the USA opened a whole new chapter. Olivier Gendebien and Hans Herrmann became the overall winners. And in 1960 and 1961, the Swiss driver Heine Walter gave Porsche its third and fourth European Hill Climb Championship in succession at the wheel of an RS 60.

1962 - Porsche 804 Formula 1 victory

In April, the 50,000th Porsche, a 356 B, rolls off the assembly line. In Weissach, the first segment of the new test grounds becomes operational. In Formula 1, the Porsche 804 wins the French Grand Prix.

1963 - 901

In 1957, Porsche began developing a new sports car as a successor to the 356. The key specifications defined by Ferry Porsche and his development team had been established early on: the new sports car would continue to have an air-cooled flat engine in the rear, but was distinguished by smoother running and better performance. Compared to the 356, the aim was to achieve better road holding and introduce larger passenger and luggage compartments. The development process resulted in a fastback coupé with a 2+2 seating arrangement designed by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche. At the rear, the car was powered by a two-litre, 130 hp flat-six engine developed under the guidance of Hans Mezger. The legendary 911 was born. Its code, which although familiar to the wider automobile world, has never been broken to this day.

Originally, however, a completely different number sequence was intended. When the successor to the 356 made its debut at the IAA in Frankfurt in 1963, the new sports car still bore the designation 901. After the objection by Peugeot and a production run of 82 units, the code was quickly changed to 911. This was to be start of a long and successful history. With the original 911, the Porsche brand finally made the breakthrough. And it has marked its stamp on the Porsche brand to this very day.

 

1964 - 904 Carrera GTS

Although officially named the Carrera GTS, the 904 opened a new chapter in Porsche racing history under its internal works designation. The 904, designed by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, anticipated many technical features which would only later become standard in racing car design: mixed steel/synthetic construction, low weight, small frontal area. The two-seater, mid-engine coupé was originally equipped with the four cylinder engine of the Carrera 2, which developed 180 hp.

The 904 Carrera GTS exhibited in the Porsche museum featured an eight-cylinder, two-litre engine and started at Le Mans in 1964 and 1965 with Mitter/Davis at the wheel. In 1964, exactly five months after its introduction, Porsche won the Targa Florio with the standard 904, its fifth victory in this classic race. Antonio Pucci and Colin Davis beat Linge/Balzarini in an identical 904. Further victories were to follow: at the Tour de France, at the 1000-kilometre race at the Nürburgring, at the Le Mans 24-hour race and at the subsequent 24-hour race in Reims. The on-road suitability of the 904 was perfectly illustrated at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1965, where Eugen Böhringer conquered the snowy conditions to finish second. The 904 was equipped with 4-, 6- and 8-cylinder engines and was not only a very successful racing car of the early 60s, it also was and remains one of the most beautiful.

1967 - 910 wins at the Targa Florio

Following the previous year’s success of the Porsche 906 Carrera 6, the Zuffenhausen factory team scores a triple victory with the Porsche 910 at the Targa Florio. For the first time Porsche logs an overall victory in the legendary 1,000-kilometre race on the Nürburgring.

1968 - Overall victory for the Porsche Type 908 LH

Porsche achieves its first overall victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona with the Type 908 LH. The grand successes of the previous year at the 1,000-kilometre race on the Nürburgring and the Targa Florio are repeated. The 911T wins the Monte Carlo Rally.

1969 - 908 Long-Tail Coupé

At the end of 1967, when the displacement limit for prototypes in the Constructor's World Championship was reduced to 3 litres of displacement (homologated Sports Cars were allowed 5 litres), the 908, with its new 350-hp eight-cylinder engine, could be raced in the long or short-tail version depending on track and competition. A tail unit with 2 rear fins and a transverse wing whose flaps moved with the spring deflection of the rear wheels meant that the power of the eight-cylinder engine came into its own when the long-tail version was in action. The debut race of the 908 Coupé at Monza was followed by the 1,000-km Nürburgring race on May 19, 1968. Siffert/Elford won, but this was to be the only victory at a major event in 1968. However, in 1969, the 908, by then fitted with an aluminium space frame, showed reliability and endurance and won the Constructor's World Championship for Porsche for the first time. In one of the most exciting Le Mans races of all time, Hans Herrmann and Gérard Larrousse were beaten into second place by a margin of 150 metres by the 5-litre Ford driven by Jacky Ickx, at the end of an extremely tough 24-hour battle.

1970 - 917 Short-Tail Coupé

In 1970, the 917 not only gave Porsche its first ever overall victory at the Le Mans 24-hour race, but also brought Porsche the Constructors’ World Championship. 1971 saw the first "rolling start" at Le Mans and the Porsche involvement in racing was greater than ever. Of a total of 49 vehicles at the start, 33 were Porsche vehicles. What was first tested in Monza, would now bring success at Le Mans on the Short-Tail 917: the "shark fins" on the rear.

One of these finned Short-Tail 917s, however, also concealed a little secret under its white synthetic skin. Instead of the tried and tested aluminium tubular frame, starting number 22 featured a magnesium frame which is a third lighter than aluminium. With such a light frame, the magnesium Porsche achieved stunning driving performance and became an insider tip. At the start of the race, it looked as if victory would go to the Long-Tail 917, but in the second half of the race the initial restraint of the driving team of van Lennep/Dr. Marko in the ultra-light 917-053 was abandoned. The team took the lead in the 13th hour. When crossing the finish line at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, a gap of two laps had opened up to the nearest Porsche 917 and the first Ferrari was 31 laps behind in third place. In 24 hours they had completed a total of 5335.16 kilometres – an absolute course record for Le Mans at the time.

1976 - The Porsche 935 and 936

The Porsche 935 and 936 racecars win the double World Championship in Sports Car and Make rankings.

1977 - 936/77 Spyder

Porsche developed the 936 Spyder specifically for the Sports Car World Championship in 1976. Having experienced great success with the 935 in Group 5, the company entered the car in the Group 6 World Championship where no "silhouette" regulations applied. A typical feature of the two-seater turbo racing car was the large air intake above the cockpit and the high tail fins. The premiere was a success. After 4 of the 7 races in total, the Sports Car World Championship had already been decided in favour of Porsche. The 936 Spyder won all its races against the works Renault Alpine and a Turbo-Porsche won Le Mans for the first time in the shape of the 936 of Jacky Ickx and Gijs van Lennep. Although Porsche was wholly focussed on winning Group 5 with the 935 in 1977, the modified and enhanced 936 Spyder was also awarded another opportunity at Le Mans – which it took: After 1970, 1971 and 1976, it achieved the fourth overall victory for Porsche.

1982 - 956

Built for the newly-created Group C, the Porsche 956 embodied a new type of racing car which was not about sheer speed alone. Group C was a technical battleground involving the lowest possible road resistance, the most fuel-efficient engines and extreme power transmission. The 956 was the first Porsche racing car with a monocoque chassis and the so-called ground effect. The effect means that when racing, the cars practically stick to the asphalt. The engineers channel the air flows to generate a vacuum to create a downforce beneath the car. Pioneering electronic injection/ignition systems allowed the 2.6-litre turbo engine to develop 640 hp.

The sporting career of the 956 was no less impressive: Only a few weeks after completion of the first car, three Porsche 956s, in the colours of the sponsor Rothmans, landed a sensational 1-2-3 victory at Le Mans in 1982. From 1983, Porsche made the 956 commercially available and the winning streak continued: victories in all races at the World Endurance Championship and at Le Mans, the Constructor’s World Championship for Porsche in 1983, 1984 and 1985, victories and championship titles in German and Japanese championships underscored the class and dominance of this racing vehicle. In design terms, the 956 represented a milestone for Porsche racing development and set new records in sporting competition. On a related note: the 956 saw the first appearance of the Porsche Doppelkupplung. Another success story.

1985 - 959

The technologically pioneering Porsche 959 was presented at the IAA in 1985. Only a limited production run of 292 units of this high-performance sports car, based on the 911, were built. With a biturbo flat engine with water-cooled 4-valve cylinder heads, an electronically controlled chassis and all-wheel drive system, as well as an aerodynamically optimised body, Porsche showed what was possible in the field of automotive design.

As part of an extensive road testing programme, the 959 was taken to the desert. The motorsport department at Weissach built a version specifically designed for the Paris-Dakar rally in 1985. Porsche entered three 959s in the race. Power was transmitted to all four wheels via a 6-speed transmission and a pioneering, electro-hydraulically controlled centre differential. The 959 featured a 330-litre fuel tank. Like the 911 which won Paris-Dakar in 1984, a synthetic body made the vehicle considerably lighter; the 959 weighs 1,260 kg. First place in Dakar went to René Metge followed by Jacky Ickx – A double victory for Porsche. Kussmaul brought his 959 to the finish in West Africa in sixth position. On the journey through the Sahara, the Porsche vehicles reached speeds of up to 242 km/h.

1987 - 962

The 962 is, under the direction of Norbert Singer, initially created for Porsche customers in the USA where it is intended for the IMSA racing series. The 956 serves as the basis. The IMSA regulations stipulate that the drivers‘ feet must not be further forward than the mid-front axle. In response, Singer increases the wheelbase to 2.77 metres, resulting in modifications to the monocoque and downsizing of the front overhang in order not to increase the overall length. The aerodynamics are modified accordingly. A 2,869-litre two-valve unit with just one turbo charger proves to be the best permissable engine option. In this specification the minimum weight is 850 kilograms. Gearbox and clutch as well as suspension can be taken from the 956, though springs and dampers are adjusted to the new vehicle. The capacity of the fuel tank is increased to 120 litres.

For competition in the World Endurance Championship and in Le Mans Porsche prepares a version with a 2.65-litre engine, two turbo-chargers and a water-cooled cylinder head.

Since 1984 Porsche builds 91 more 962 vehicles. Over the next decade the 962 will become the most successful sportscar in history, which in the IMSA series alone notches up 54 victories, 40 of which are between 1985 and 1987.

1998 - 911 GT1

In the mid 90s, motorsport using GT vehicles became more and more popular. In response to this, Porsche developed the 911 GT1, a forward-looking high-tech racing concept that made its debut at the 64th Le Mans classic in 1996. The new Porsche sports car category became the first 911 with a mid-engine, whereby the 6-cylinder power unit was moved to the centre for the first time, providing additional aerodynamic benefits alongside balanced weight distribution. The changeover from air to water cooling for the engine in order to improve the thermal load and fuel consumption was also a new feature.

The debut was a success. The customer team of Reinhold Joest took overall victory (the 14th in total) and both new Porsche 911 GT1s showed reliability and speed, achieving second and third place. Two years later, in 1998, it was the same story: against extremely tough competition from the works teams of Mercedes, BMW, Nissan, Toyota and Chrysler, the Porsche 911 GT1 achieved a notable double victory, Porsche victory number 16 in the classic 24-hour race. The GT1 from 1998, weighing only 950 kg, was the first Porsche racing car to feature a carbon-fibre monocoque chassis. The 3.2-litre engine with dual KKK turbochargers and 33.9 millimetre air restrictors delivers around 550 hp (7,200 rpm). The power is transmitted to the rear wheels via a sequential 6-speed transmission.

2005 - RS Spyder

In the 2006 season, the RS Spyder was raced in the ALMS exclusively by the Penske Racing team. In its first full racing season, it won every title going: the driver, team and manufacturer’s championships. The highlight of the 2006 season was the overall victory over the most powerful LMP1 competition in the third race in the Mid-Ohio.

In 2005, Porsche returned in the Prototype class with the RS Spyder, the first Porsche developed exclusively for the race track since the 911 GT1, which won the Le Mans race in 1998. The RS Spyder is powered by a newly developed 90-degree V8 racing engine, equipped with an air-flow limiter as prescribed by the rules and achieving an initial power output of 480 hp with a displacement of 3.4 litres. The four-valve engine features dry-sump lubrication and individual throttle valves. It transfers its power to the rear wheels via a sequential six-speed constant-mesh transmission and a three-plate carbon-fibre clutch, integrated into the chassis as a load-bearing component. Over this, Porsche fitted a carbon-fibre Kevlar monocoque, bringing the overall weight to 750 kg. A brake system with dual brake master cylinders, variable brake-force distribution and internally vented carbon-fibre brake discs is responsible for deceleration.

2007 - The second generation of the Porsche RS Spyder

With the Porsche 911 GT2, the fastest and most powerful roadgoing 911 is launched in November 2007. The new Cayenne GTS offers greater performance and agility, and an even more direct response. The uprated 4.8-litre V8 engine delivers 405 hp to the road. And the ALMS success story continues with the 2nd generation RS Spyder: 12 runs, 11 class victories, 8 overall victories, Team, Constructor’s and Driver’s World Championship.

2010 - The 911 GT3 R hybrid and the 918 Spyder concept car

During its racing debut at the Nürburgring, the 911 GT3 R Hybrid shows how the Porsche Principle can be applied to low-emission, low-consumption hybrid concepts. With hybrid technology for the race track.

At the Geneva Motor Show, Porsche presents a concept study: the 918 Spyder high-performance hybrid. With hybrid technology for the 21st century Sports Car.

With the Boxster Spyder, Porsche realises the dream of a new roadster – even more original, dynamic and liberated than ever before.

The new generation of the Cayenne (combined: 11.5-7.2 l/100 km; emissions: 270-193 g/km)* performance SUV is launched with 6 and 8-cylinder engines, powered by petrol, diesel, turbo or hybrid technology. Thanks in great part to a significant weight reduction – by up to 185 kg compared to the respective previous Cayenne model – fuel consumption has been lowered by up to 23% and CO2 emissions by up to 26%.

With the Panamera and Panamera 4, two new drive variants are added to the Gran Turismo range.

* The data was determined using the prescribed measuring method (Section 2, items 5, 6, 6 a, German energy labelling ordinance for cars in the applicable version). The information does not refer to an individual vehicle and does not form part of the product offer, but serves solely to permit comparison of the different vehicle types. Further current information on the individual vehicles is available from your Porsche Centre/dealer. Fuel consumption determined based on the standard equipment. Optional equipment can influence fuel consumption and performance.

Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of a vehicle depend not only on efficient fuel use by the vehicle, but are also influenced by driving behaviour and other non-technical factors. CO2 is the principal greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.

More information on official fuel consumption and official specific CO2 emissions of new cars is available in "Guidelines on fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and current consumption of new cars" which is available at all sales locations and from the German Automobile Trust (Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH).

2011- 936/77 Spyder

Porsche developed the 936 Spyder specifically for the Sports Car World Championship in 1976. Having experienced great success with the 935 in Group 5, the company entered the car in the Group 6 World Championship where no "silhouette" regulations applied. A typical feature of the two-seater turbo racing car was the large air intake above the cockpit and the high tail fins. The premiere was a success. After 4 of the 7 races in total, the Sports Car World Championship had already been decided in favour of Porsche. The 936 Spyder won all its races against the works Renault Alpine and a Turbo-Porsche won Le Mans for the first time in the shape of the 936 of Jacky Ickx and Gijs van Lennep. Although Porsche was wholly focussed on winning Group 5 with the 935 in 1977, the modified and enhanced 936 Spyder was also awarded another opportunity at Le Mans – which it took: After 1970, 1971 and 1976, it achieved the fourth overall victory for Porsche.

2013 - 911 RSR

From the very start, the 911 RSR was designed with long-distance racing in mind. Honed over more than 50 years, the unmistakeable 911 silhouette reflects the pure power that is just waiting to be unleashed. The water-cooled six-cylinder Boxer engine with four-valve technology transmits its power output to the rear axle via a specially developed six-speed sequential Porsche GT racing gearbox. The aerodynamics of the vehicle have been optimised further by means of a new front end. For even more efficiency due to less drag coupled with enhanced downforce distribution. The result is that the vehicle’s self-steering behavior is even more precise, which translates into higher speeds when cornering.

At the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2013, Porsche further extended its record with class wins number 99 and 100 and opened a new chapter in the history of the world’s most famous long distance race. On the Circuit des 24 Heures, the new Porsche 911 RSR won the fiercely competitive GTE-Pro class with consistently fast lap times.

2016 - 919 Hybrid

The third-generation 919 Hybrid is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder, two-litre petrol engine delivering almost 500 hp that drives the rear axle. Its ally is an additional electric motor delivering more than 400 hp to the front axle. The latter is fed by two energy recovery systems. Converted braking and exhaust energy is temporarily stored in a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery. Its reduced weight, an improved overall rigidity and the optimisation of the chassis and the aerodynamics all serve to make the 919 Hybrid more efficient, rigid and robust.

In 2014 Porsche returns to Le Mans with the newly developed Porsche 919 Hybrid. By 2016 it was the second-straight win for Porsche and the automaker’s 18th overall victory at the 84th running of the 24h of Le Mans. No other brand has managed to win the world’s toughest endurance race so many times.