Read Motorsport revisits some of the golden moments that defined Porsche’s success in The 24 Hours of Le Mans before it enters a new chapter in its racing heritage with Formula E.
Porsche and Le Mans, the two names go hand-in-hand in the realm of motor racing legends. By withdrawing from the LMP1 programme, Porsche will now focus on its entry into Formula E in 2019.
Possibly the most successful manufacturers to ever compete in the famous endurance race with 19 overall wins, its absence on the Le Mans grid will be sorely missed by fans and rivals alike. We take a look at some of the defining moments throughout their history at The 24 hours of Le Mans.
Porsche competed every year since 1951 and was the first German company to contest at The 24 Hours of Le Mans since the end of World War II.
1958 was the year where they received their best result since their debut, scoring a third place on the podium with the 1.6 litre 718 RSK #29 of Frenchman Jean Behra and German racer Hans Hermann ahead of first place winners, the Ferrari of Olivier Gendebien and Phil Hill.
YouTube: Porsche 718 RSK in Le Mans 1958
Meanwhile fourth place goes to Edgar Barth and Paul Frère in the 1.5 litre 718 RSK while fifth position overall was won by privateer team Ecurie Maasbergen who entered the 550A RS Spyder of Carel Godin de Beaufort and Herbert Linge.
The Porsches crossed the finish line in third, fourth and fifth almost side by side.
The Le Mans 24 Hours was postponed to 28-29 September instead of the usual running in June due to protests in France earlier that year which resulted in a different atmosphere to the weekend, particularly in terms of weather…and for the worse!
Porsche entered four 908 LH coupes by the factory teams, powered by a powerful three-litre flat-8 engine. Porsche led the opening laps but started to fall behind the grid about four hours into the race, giving the Ford GT40 an advantage to overtake.
In the end, Porsche, crossed second on the finish line in Dieter Spoerry and Rico Steinemann’s Squadra Tartaruga’s 908 and third in Jochen Neerpasch and Rolf Stommelen’s 908 and also 12th position with Jean-Pierre Gaban and Roger van der Schrick’s 911T. Unfortunately, clutch problems forced three of the privateer teams entered 908s to retire.
YouTube: Le Mans (1968)
Stommelen also scored the team the fastest qualifying lap in the 908 clocking in 3 minutes 38.1 seconds.
Hans Hermann and British racer Richard Atwood scored Porsche their first ever victory in the Porsche Salzburg #23 917 KH Coupe. While Gerard Larrousse and Willy Kahnsen scored second in the #3 Martini Porsche 917 LH while Rudi Lins and Helmut Marko in the Porsche 908/02 came in at third place.
The success of the 917, which debuted the year before, can be attributed to the lightweight 12 cylinder engine and its light magnesium frame that gains a special advantage on the Circuit de la Sarthe’s 6km Mulsanne straight.
YouTube: Porsche 917 at LeMans
Hermann who had fulfilled his goal of winning the iconic endurance race, hung up his helmet after this victory, a promise he had fulfilled to his wife.
The #20 Martini Racing Porsche System 936 Spyder of Jacky Ickx and Gijs van Lennep powered its way through the 24 hours race with the 2.1 litre flat-6 turbocharged engine that led by an astounding 11 laps ahead of Jean-Louis Lafosse and Francois Migault’s Mirage GR8-Ford.
Ickx was also the fastest in practice clocking in 3min 39.8 seconds.
YouTube: Porsche 936 Turbo Wins Le Mans 1976 & 1977
The 936 is a combination of the Porsche 917 and 908 and was developed under the group 6 regulations of the World Sportscar Championship. The 936 was the first Porsche to win in a maiden appearance and also the first turbo powered car to win at Le Mans.
Derek Bell and Jacky Ickx took the helm of what is now possibly the most legendary sportscar of all time – the Porsche 956. The three 956s entered by the factory team dominated the race as all three cars finished on the podium.
Jochen Mass and Vern Schuppan finished second in theirs and third position goes to Al Hobert/Hurley Haywood and Jurgen Barth. The three podium finishers were also followed by two Porche 935s.
The 956 would go on to win Le Mans six times.
YouTube: From the archives: Porsche triple victory in Le Mans 1982
Designed under the newly introduced Group C regulations, the 956 was designed with an aluminium monocoque to keep the weight to a minimum while the turbocharged flat-6 engine was the same one used in the Porsche 936/81, which made it a winning combination.
1st and 2nd place goes to Porsche. It was the 911 GT1-98 car’s only win that season after losing 10-0 to Mercedes in the GT Championship. The win also marked the 16th victory for Porsche at Le Mans with #26 drivers Allan McNish, Laurent Aïelloand and Stéphane Ortelli on the podium. It also marked Porsche’s third year in its AG’s 911 GT1 programme.
The win, which also coincided with Porsche’s 50th-anniversary celebrations, was an emotional one as while founder, as Ferry Porsche had just passed away in March that year and wasn’t able to see his team clinch their latest victory.
Porsche would take a sabbatical from Le Mans for 16 years.
After a hiatus, Porsche makes a comeback in 2014 and only took one year to show that they’re back stronger than ever. The Porsche 919 Hybrid driven by Nick Tandy, Nico Hülkenberg, and Earl Bamber took the chequered flag after an almost flawless race over the 24 hours.
The 919 hybrid is powered by a 2.0-litre single turbo direct injection V4 engine and runs on a lithium-ion battery pack.
Porsche scores their 18th overall win in possibly one of the most dramatic finishes to ever take place at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Toyota had been leading just before the final lap but came to a sudden halt on track due after running out of power just a few minutes before it could claim victory. This heartbreaking scene allowed the #2 Porsche 919 hybrid of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb to score first place.
It was a day and night of mixed emotions for almost everyone in the racing paddock and grandstands alike.
In a rather eventful race where all six of Porsche’s LMP1 cars faced issues, the #2 919 Hybrid of Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendan Hartley managed to outpace the LMP2 cars to come out on top.
The winning move was made after Bernhard passed Ho Pin Tung in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA 01-Gibson.
This would be Porsche’s final Le Mans win after recently announcing the withdrawal from the LMP1 programme. After three straight wins, Porsche is now setting its sights on a new future in electric single-seater racing with Formula E. But when it comes to endurance racing, we’re quite certain that Porsche’s legacy won’t be forgotten in a hurry.