Tag Archives: Porsche

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The New Fifty

The sharp ones amongst you (that’s everyone who visits this site) who read the Festival of Speed piece  will have noticed a great gap in the words and pictures. No Porsche……….

1948 not only saw the arrival of Lotus and Land Rover, but also the powerhouse now know as Porsche AG came into existence. To celebrate 70 years of “Excellence was Expected”  Porsche pushed out the boat or more appropriately The Carrera at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and what a party there was!

As one might expect the centrepiece was the sculpture or should that be installation in front of Goodwood House, the work of Gerry Judah.

It is one of the signature displays at each Festival of Speed and this year’s effort did not disappoint. The 917 reminded me of a famous shot from the 1970 Le Mans 24, with Mike Hailwood’s Gulf 917 being hoisted by a crane from the track after ‘Mike the Bike’ lost control in the wet and crashed out of the race and the JW Automotive team………..no way to treat a 917.

 

Down to earth is how you would describe the 356 ‘No.1’ Roadster, that started the journey that we saluted some 70 years on. Porsche shows great respect for its heritage, not all automobile manufacturers are so clever.

I am not convinced that the term Mission Statement was popular back in 1948 but here we have the original thoughts from Ferry Porsche, pretty much sums up the company ever since.

Another giant step for Porsche was the introduction of the 911 and the oldest example that Porsche owns, 57th off the production line in 1964, was also on the Hill.

One Porsche that never saw the light of day was the LMP 2000 that was destined to succeed the 911 GT1 98 as Porsche’s challenger for further honours at Le Mans.

It ran but a few tests before the whole project was cancelled by the Board in favour of spending the budget developing the Cayenne. This was the first that LMP 2000 had ever appeared in public.

There were many familiar faces in the phalanx of Porsches on display. The 2003 911 GT3 RS that had beaten the top class cars to score an outright win at the 2003 Spa 24 Hours (how very Retro-Porsche!) was a welcome sight.

By any standards the Porsche at 70 event within an event at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed was rip-roaring success, here’s to another 70 years. In the meantime enjoy the sensations captured by Simon Hildrew.

John Brooks, September 2018

 

This One Is For Bob Carlson 1948-2008

Scanning social media while enjoying a glass of red on a Friday night is a largely pointless exercise, mostly involving dog, cat or toddler videos or folks getting worked up about the latest idiocy from Trump or Hillary (a plague on both of their houses). My attention was caught by a post from Deborah Kay Carlson, the widow of the late Bob Carlson, marking the seventh anniversary of his passing. Being a Brit I did not really know Bob that well but my man, Kerry Morse, did, and wrote a fine piece at the time. I am posting it again as a tribute to Bob and a small attempt at bringing comfort to all those who have suffered a bereavement at this difficult time of the year.

 

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I didn’t see any of the Daytona 24 Hours but I was certainly surrounded by the emotions of what the Porsche victory meant. A late dinner that Sunday evening in a large room of a new hotel in Sicily and PCNA’s head PR honcho, Bernd Harling kept leaving the table to escape the masses of journalists who made the trip to drive the new Boxster around the roads outside of Palermo.

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Aside from sneaking outside to have a smoke, Harling was keeping in contact with his PR ilk at Daytona on the status of the P-cars. He would return to the table  and give me the updates. My feelings towards the proto-turtles of Grand Am hasn’t changed and it’s doubtful if it ever will. But David Donohue is one of the genuinely good people out there and he has come close, very close, so many times in so many events. I was there the last time a Brumos Porsche won the 24 in 1978 and then there is the matter of time loving a hero as David’s father won Daytona 40 years ago. The recent passing of Bob Snodgrass, who for so many years was a major force behind both Brumos and Porsche, was also present with us all. If David Donohue could go from Pole to Victory Lane, well… who wouldn’t cheer a story like that?

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Harling vacated once more for the cool air of Sicily and my mobile buzzed as dessert was being served. It was Mr. Brooks who proceeded to describe the final lap and the scene from the Brumos pits. Harling returned, stood up, gave a short speech and then a toast all around. Thousands of miles away in victory circle a whole different set of emotions were on display. David Donohue made it certain that Bob Snodgrass got his due but also for one who had been responsible for what has kept Porsche Motorsport so visible in the U.S.

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Bob Carlson was always in motion. Until cancer finally overtook him, it wasn’t his style to complain, he always was thinking ahead. He spent the last quarter century of his life pulling the levers and oiling the squeaky wheel behind the scenes of public relations of Porsche in America. It may seem like a dream job but this was a time of transition for Porsche and Bob put in a lot of long hours getting such mundane tasks as the “details” done correctly. The man stayed out of the public view and never cared for being in the spotlight, he was far more comfortable being the lighting director and getting that spotlight trained on the task. He never overshadowed his subjects, the cars, the drivers or the company. To Bob, it was Porsche first and foremost.

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Bob Carlson was born and grew up in San Jose which meant that Laguna Seca was his “home” track. He covered motorsports for the town paper, got a fistful of degrees from SJSU and eventually the road led to a full time gig with Porsche Cars North America and in a “I can’t believe my good fortune scenario”, was put in to racing PR. This was the time of the late, great Al Holbert and the 962 era. I can still picture Bob at Daytona during the 24 hour race, running back and forth from the official Porsche truck to the Holbert pits, gathering his notes. He was always energetic while a pack of us burned out hacks would sneer and wonder aloud why we kept coming back year after year. Bob carefully maneuvered through the PR minefield of the Porsche Indy experience, putting the best face possible on a series of missteps and mishaps and then the tragic plane crash, which claimed the life of Al Holbert.

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Porsche was having it’s own internal struggles and the sales slump that hit in the early 90’s stretched the bounds of credibility. Bob Carlson caught a lot of flak from many of us in the business, but it was always in a behind the scenes, good natured but with a point, manner. He caught a break because even within the boundaries he was honest and forthright and while many of the answers were considered off the record, that bond was honored. One must remember, he was a gringo working for a German company. For many, that thought is a migraine in progress. As the company rebounded, both in sales and the overall product, a move for PCNA to Atlanta, gave Bob the springboard for creating some new ideas to modify the dreaded ‘arrive and drive’ staple that most automotive company invites had become.

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My personal favorite was in 2000 and quality seat time aboard the new 911 Turbo. The event was based in Reno which offered up ample opportunity of making the best of a route that covered several hundred miles, the highlight was the chance to make timed runs out in the desert region of Black Route. This was a true USAC sanctioned record run through a series of timed stages. Weather had a lot to do with the overall times, that were set, ground condition, wind direction, just like the real world but it was a great experience and one befitting the car.

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Later that evening at a historic house near Carson City, the after dinner entertainment was Mark Twain, or about as good as you are going to get to the real Mr. Clemens. That was Bob Carlson, eclectic in his choices, but always memorable. Being a hockey fan, he would check to see if there were any games, even in the minor leagues, on any number of press trips. Picture this, a game with so many penalties that there were only two players remaining for each team as the rest had been ejected. Bob leaned over and said, “You think these guys will get to the bigs?”

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Bob Carlson wouldn’t want a tribute, that wasn’t his style but it looks like he has left something that will continue to be a tribute to what he worked for. After the 50th Anniversary of Porsche in 1998 that was a first class bash at the Monterey Historics, Bob hit on the idea of having a get together of like minded Porsche enthusiasts and their race cars every few years instead of waiting for ten years or longer. Support for the idea was tepid at first but after the success of the original Rennsport Reunion held at Lime Rock in 2001, the planning for an even larger event to be held at Daytona in 2004 was put in place. This time, many of the great names of not only the drivers, but the engineers, were to be honored.

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And then again in November of 2007, a gathering of 917’s were the highlight of Rennsport III. Bob Carlson, although thin and suffering the effects of treatment for cancer, happily wandered through the maze of people and cars, smiling and taking it all in. And then the 2009 edition of Daytona and it’s 24 Hours for Brumos, for Porsche and for David Donohue. It’s what Bob Carlson would have wanted and more importantly, deserved.

Kerry Morse, February 2009

View from the Perimeter

Lee Self is one of the Elders of the Turn Ten tribe, that mythical assembly that convenes each March in Highlands County to worship at the Great 12 Hours. He is also one of the truly good guys and I can personally attest to him being a mean provider of concierge services. Lee dropped me a note earlier in the week describing his latest adventure and I can think of no finer way of kick-starting DDC back into life this winter than a tale from our favourite piece of Florida real estate.

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The Amazing Randy and I went to Sebring Saturday to the Sebring Vintage and Used Racer Festival.

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I went back over to the track early Monday morning, to see what I could see. Drove straight to the Airport and had a quick breakfast at the Runway Cafe. It was decorated with World War II Hendricks Field vintage photos………

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Did I mention it was Dec. 7th, Pearl Harbor Day here in the US? So I was right in the Period, very cool and most appropriate.

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Went out to my car, got the little camera and shot some of the inside decor.

Walked back out to my car, really didn’t see anything, got back in the car and drove over to the Hotel that Don Built, you know, Chateau Elan.

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I parked, sat for a bit. walked on, then back out to the car to poke around at my camera gear, then down the side towards the track, easy to get to and nobody watching over the area.

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Then back to the car, drove around over to the Office/Gate. I asked if I could go in and look around. Got a stiff “NO!”

Why not?

“TESTING, GO AWAY!”

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So I went back out to the main road, turned left towards the power building and down the outside where they park pre-race staging campers. Well, they’re building an Ice Cream Bar factory in that field, lots of trucks, workers and traffic, so off into the mess I went, ended up at the west most edge of the circuit/airport property at the end of the runway.

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I could see the last turn before the long original straight down to T17, but just a bit of it, and at my max distance with a 200mm lens. Got some shots of the GTLM Porsche 911 turning laps, which he did on and off most of the day.

So anyway, I look to my right and see a Mexican fellow with a jeep looking down the runway, through the fence. He sees me taking shots, no problem. He said the airport called and said there was a cow and calf in the property, he was looking for it.

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So enough from there. I drive back to the track entrance area, and just drive right past the gate, then the hairpin then and then zoom into the industrial park. Drove around in there a bit, to see where I could go, and what I might be able to see of the track… not much luck, but I did notice a perfect parking spot in the General Parking lot right as you enter the park (right where the chicane used to be) pulled up in there, parked and just watched for a while. noticed I could see the cars sweeping past from leaving the hairpin through Fangio Chicane and in places on the outside I’m high enough to see track clearly.

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Maybe 45 minutes, maybe an hour goes by. I drive back over and park at the Airport / Runway Cafe parking lot, right where the cars exit Tower Turn. I have a clear view of the corner. I walk out by the road, and wait, the 911 keeps going by. Then I notice If I look straight ahead, due north I can see the Audi rig, set up next to the former Peugeot building. I can see the mechanics and engineers working around the car.

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Suddenly it comes out and has passed in front of me and is gone before I’m ready. It does a full circuit lap, then right back into their pit box setup. and they push it right back into their “garage”.

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So I wait……and I wait…and I wait….. then I hear radios behind me, I don’t turn around. It’s the authorities. (Sebring Airport Authority)

‘What are you doing?’

‘Watching,’ I said.

‘Who you work for?’

‘Nobody.’ I said I was watching the Audi guys, that I made paintings of racing cars, and that I had the idea to do a Skunkworks-type image, and was watching to see what I could see.

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I had the camera in hand, my kit on my belt, I whipped out my business card, introduced myself. They were cool, I had a Turn 10 hat on, he asked if I was with their crew?

‘Yep, I make the hats and stickers’ I said.

So it turns out his name is Ricardo, and he is best buds with Sammy who is Lola’s husband and the names keep coming………… but the best part is I know all of the folks he’s talking about.

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He says, ‘Ok, shoot away, just don’t go across the perimeter road.’

‘No problem, the sensor will do the work.’ I said I was gonna stick around, walk the perimeter road up to the hairpin and back. He said no problem. So that’s what I did for the next two hours. Got Audis, Got Porsches. Even saw the security guy giving me the eye on one of his passes and got a nice wave in return.

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Eventually I head back to the car, so I drive back to Chateau Elan and order some lunch. Watch for the Audi through the window. then took my Iced Tea and sat on the back porch, by the pool for at least half an hour. The didn’t come back out by 4:00pm, and I was done, If you saw the Audi test video on FaceBook it was shot from right there on Hotel grounds.

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It was nice shooting, never on Raceway property, working all the angles, just for fun, but serious fun, y’know.

 

Lee Self, December 2015 – images copyright and courtesy of the author

Hal Thoms looks back on a racing desperado – Milt Minter

1969 PR photo

 

Long ago and far away Kerry Morse and I ran a small website, SportsCarPros.com . We didn’t post much but when we did it was generally the real deal rather than filler or press releases. We always knew when we were on target from the abusive outbursts from those we had called out. We also provided a platform for those who understood what the Right Stuff was. So ten years ago today the news came through that Milt Minter had passed away the day before. A month or so later there was a memorial service which Kerry and his buddy, Hal Thoms, attended and the upshot was this fine tribute to Milt courtesy of Hal. I am of the opinion that it is too good a piece of writing to moulder in a dormant website.

When I proposed running this piece as a mark of respect to Milt on his tenth anniversary Kerry suggested that he would update his introduction, of course this deadline was missed, and frankly, I would not have it any other way.

Apologies for the strange formatting, WordPress has a mind of its own some days, did Morse inspire it?

Compliments of the Season to one and all.

John Brooks, December 2014

you drive for me-with Vasek

A few weeks ago my friend Hal Thoms and I made a journey to the small town of Sanger, located just outside Fresno in the central valley of California. The purpose of this drive was to get together with several hundred people and to throwback a few beers and swap tales of one of the most original individuals to climb aboard a race car. Upon arriving, it was obvious that we were here for a party, not a weepy memorial. The choice was not a church or hall but a sound stage full of Americana and a large horseshoe bar located off to one side. But then that’s the way Milt Minter is and was. In today’s motor-sport world talent and ability are not enough, it is what one can bring in addition to the table. Milt Minter’s greatest asset was himself and nothing else. Hal Thom’s remembrance of the man is proof enough of that. Ironically there were several close friends of Milt that could not make the trip because it was the same weekend as the test days for the Daytona 24 Hours. Any guilt? Nah, Milt would have skipped his own party to be back in a race car.

Kerry Morse, February 2005

 

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Milt Minter – An American Driving Legend (Donkey Bop)
Milt Minter was a great race car driver. He had an immense fire and passion for racing, and was as competitive as they come. He could drive the wheels off of anything he drove. He “kicked ass” not only on the track, but also in life. He made many cars appear much better than they actually were with his smooth, aggressive driving style. More importantly, he was a true friend. Every one of us, who knew him, knew him as one of the friendliest, kindest, sincere people we have ever known. He always had time for everyone. He was one of the best storytellers ever. He is truly one of the last of a rare breed. We will miss him dearly. We lost Milt after his long battle with cancer on December 23 in his hometown of Sanger, Ca. He was 71.

Hal's first photo of Milt

 

Down by the River (side)
My friendship started with Milt in the summer of 1968. I had just graduated from high school, and attended an SCCA race at Riverside Raceway. Boy, was I into Porsches! I borrowed my mom’s Brownie Instamatic camera, and off I went. Nothing was sweeter than the sound of a 911S “on it” with the pure Porsche tunes being played out of a Bursch exhaust! I was truly awed by a bright orange 911S being driven sideways lap after lap through Turn 6. It was there that I clicked off the first picture of this 911S that I ever took at a car race.

We later ventured into the pits. There it was, that hot 911S! Beside it, it’s driver, Milt Minter. To our surprise, he asked us “How are you guys doin’?” Is he talking to us? WOW! We talked for nearly a half hour before an older gentleman came up and needed to speak to Milt. I need a photo before we go. Click. My second photo ever taken at a race. It was of Milt, and the older gentleman I would later come to know, Vasek Polak.

Soon thereafter, in January of ’69, I began a four year stint serving my country in the Air Force. I would miss, what I now consider, the “glory days” of Road Racing. Not only the SCCA races, but the Trans-Am and Can-Am wars. Thank God for ROAD & TRACK. I kept up with all the racing news. Among others, I read about that driver that had befriended us in the pits at Riverside.

check out Milt's t-shirt

 

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In 1958, after service in the Navy, Milt began his racing career in his hometown of Sanger, Ca, when he traded in his VW Beetle on an MGA that he prepped for racing. He found it uncompetitive even though he finished 3rd or 4th in his class behind a gaggle of Porsches in his very first race.

Sam Caldwell of Foreign Motor Sales in nearby Fresno, where Milt had purchased his Beetle, also introduced him to those quick little Porsches. Milt was convinced Porsche was the car to have if you wanted to be successful in racing. After scrimping and saving his earnings from driving a school bus, be had enough to buy a very used 550 Spyder in 1960 for $5,000.00. It was a handsome amount back in those days. With fewer than five total races under his belt, he entered himself in the prestigious Pacific Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. The world-class event included drivers of the stature of Jack Brabham, Jimmy Clark, and Dan Gurney.

a Speedster in Stockton

Milt did well enough not to embarrass himself in his first professional outing. Unfortunately, the 4-cam engine blew before the checker flag fell. He soon found out that no one in the Fresno area would touch the complicated 4-cam engine. He had disassembled the engine but didn’t have the knowledge (nor did anyone else) to rebuild it. The 550 would sit in his backyard for over a year before he sold it for $4,000.00 to a local PCA crony, Warren Crumly.

Meantime, Milt’s first real patron in his racing career was another Fresno area native, Bob Rhodes. Rhodes turned his gorgeous concours winning Super-90 356 Coupe into a road racer. He installed a roll bar behind its drivers seat for Milt who would not disappoint as he would place second behind Harry Weber’s 356 at a race at Laguna Seca. In the pits between sessions, Rhodes would be wiping off his car trying to keep it in pristine shape. Milt didn’t put a scratch on it.

Harry Weber was so impressed with Milt’s aggressive, smooth driving style, that he hired Milt to drive for his own team. In 1963, Weber fielded Milt in a black Carrera GT belonging to Don Dickey, once again at Laguna Seca. Milt was having a tremendous race until the motor blew. Still impressed, Weber put Milt in his newly purchased red 904 at an SCCA event at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1964. This was the ride that boosted Milt out of production car ranks and into the sports racer elite. Even though Milt came within a length of beating Porsche guru Scooter Patrick, driving Otto Zipper’s 904, Weber withdrew his 904 “baby” from further competition after it had suffered minor collision damages in the contest. It would be Milt’s last Porsche ride for 4 years.

at Candlestick in a 904

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enter Otto, here’s Vasek and a no go for Ginther

After the Candlestick Park race, Otto Zipper convinced Milt to move to the L.A. area to become a mechanic for him. Zipper thought Milt had prepared Weber’s 904 for competition. He hadn’t. Even though he insisted he wasn’t a good mechanic, and that it was his great driving skills that had gotten him his second place finish, Zipper insisted on hiring him. As Zipper and his team, anchored by Patrick, departed for the 12 Hour race in Sebring, Florida, Milt was left behind to be in charge of Zipper’s Beverly Hills garage. “It was one of the saddest times of my life. Everyone went off racing but me.”

When Zipper returned and discovered that Milt wasn’t really a mechanic, he let him go to Vasek Polak who had also thought that Milt was a great mechanic, even though Milt continued to confess it was great driving skills that he possessed. After a short time, Polak also let him go.

In 1965 Milt drove a Lotus Super-7 fielded by another Fresno area patron, Clarence Matthews in many selected SCCA events. He had some great battles with yet another Fresno resident, Dick Smith, in his quick Carrera Speedster. Smith wound up taking the Division title, and later the National Championship in his Speedster. Once again beaten by a Porsche. Milt did have a fine season and finished up 6th in the Pacific Coast Division.

1966 saw Milt behind the wheel of the Universal Motors Formcar Formula-V. He went on to take 1st in the Southern Pacific Regional Championships.

By the time 1967 rolled along, Clarence Matthews offered Milt a ride in his new Mustang in the second year of the Trans-Am series. It was a successful year. In ten Trans-Am events where he finished, Milt never finished out of the top ten. Milt gained much experience ‘banging fenders” with the likes of Parnelli Jones, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Peter Revson.

Milt trashes his teammate

Vasek Polak again entered the picture at the end of the season when he approached Milt and offered him a test drive in his SCCA Porsche 911. Milt jumped on the chance to pilot a Porsche once again. The test was conducted at Willow Springs. Milt passed with flying colors and was offered the ride for the upcoming ’68 season.

In 1968, the SCCA was the factory battleground for bragging rights in the sports car industry. The Porsche 911s were up against the heavy guns from Lotus, Triumph and Toyota. In the very first race of the season at Willow Springs, Milt had a race long battle with Scooter Patrick’s factory Toyota 2000 that damaged every corner of his Polak 911. Milt was victorious! Polak was ecstatic! The “farm boy” from Sanger thought he had found a new home. Not so. Days later he was informed by his boss that Jon von Neumann made an offer to Polak for Milt’s services that he could not refuse. It was off to von Neumann’s Porsche Distributor team headed by Richie Ginther. He soon found out that he was expected to play “second fiddle” to the teams lead driver, Alan Johnson. Johnson had won the ’67 SCCA C/P National Championship at Daytona.

Richie Ginther with Milt

Milt’s status with the team created a major problem for Milt. “When it came to scrappin’ and we were back a little ways, I could run circles around Alan fightin’ for the lead.” Milt did confess that Alan was a much better frontrunner, and very hard to catch and pass while in the lead.

After two full seasons with Ginther and the team orders, it came down to the 1969 SCCA American Road Race of Champions at Daytona, and Milt had had enough. “I told Richie that the race was going to be mine, even though I knew it might cost me my ride.” He was told that if he won, he’d be fired. He drove to a convincing win. After the winner’s ceremony in winners circle, he was indeed fired.

how about a beer instead _

Milt’s driving relationship with Polak was quickly rekindled. The following year, 1970, he took Polak’s 906 to the BSR National Title. Milt also spent time behind the wheel of the Polak 904, which dated back to ’68, winning several Pacific Division A/P races.

Heavy Metal – enter Trans Am

1970 also saw Milt driving for Roy Woods Camaro American Racing Team again in the Trans-Am Series. In July, at the Donnybrook, MN round, Milt became the first independent driver to win a Trans-Am race.

10 at Laguna Seca

Other highlights of Milt’s career included 1972 when he drove a Jerry Titus Firebird(see the reply below from Harry Quackenboss)  to victory at Mid-Ohio, becoming the first driver to win a road race for Pontiac. He wound up 2nd overall in the season’s Drivers’ Championship. He also finished 2nd overall in the Can-Am Drivers Championship driving Polak’s 917/10. At the end of the season, Milt was flown to Stuttgart where Ferry Porsche awarded him the “Pedro Rodriguez Trophy” for most aggressive Porsche driver in the 1972 Can-Am Series.

1973 was off to a quick start as he co-drove a Luigi Chinetti Ferrari to a fine 2nd in the 24 Hours of Daytona. That was followed up the following month with another 2nd overall in the 12 Hours of Sebring co-driving Michael Keyser’s Porsche Carrera RS.

Meanwhile back in the States….
Milt had accomplished quite a bit in his racing career. But he was not done. As I mentioned earlier, I was off serving my time in the USAF from January ’69 – January ’73. A great racing era. I missed it.

In October of ’73, I was off again to Riverside Raceway for the Can-Am race. The Can-Am Series was in its final glory that year. Porsche 917s had been totally dominating that year as well as the previous two. Mark Donohue in Roger Penske’s 917/30 was all conquering in ’73. Porsche’s dominance would lead to major rules changes the following year, as the Can-Am would eventually die off a few years later.
A days
Milt was not driving a 917 for Polak. That was left up to Jody Scheckter and Brian Redman. Instead, Milt was driving once again for an old friend, Otto Zipper. He had a great race finishing 5th overall in Zipper’s little 3-liter Alfa Romeo. On Friday, cruising the pits, I once again came across Milt as I had back in ’68. “How’s it goin’?” he asked me once again. I told him “Great!” I told him of our previous encounter and explained I was now attending College and was taking up photography. I was armed with my new Nikon 35mm camera, and I was shooting my very first rolls of B&W film for my first assignment for my first photography class. I clicked off a few shots of him and his Alfa. After a nice chat, he wished me luck in my photography endeavors. It made another long-lasting impression on me. Unfortunately, over time, I have misplaced those first rolls of B&W. They were the first rolls of film I ever developed myself, and the first prints I ever printed myself, ever. I got an A in my class. I would later attend Brooks Institute, School of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA, where I would later obtain a BPA degree in photography.
Milt wins in the #81 Toady
More racing laurels were obtained by Milt in 1974. He came in first in Toad Hall’s Carrera RSR at the IMSA Camel GT race a Laguna Seca, defeating Peter Gregg and a very large and talented field. Throughout the ’74 IMSA season, Milt drove three different cars. Later in the season, at Talledaga, he would win driving John Greenwood’s Corvette. Going down to the wire of the IMSA season, Milt was locked in a tight battle with Peter Gregg, previous multiple IMSA driving champion.
In the series finale, a 250-mile race at Daytona, Gregg lead Milt 98 to 96 in points. Milt jumped once again in the Toad Hall RSR and led the race until the engine disintegrated. Greg went on to win the race, and the championship.
getting Paul Newman sleepy
1974 also saw Milt’s first appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans where he co-drove an RSR with Michael Keyser. They experienced several problems during the race, but still managed to finish 20th.

The remainder of the ‘70s saw Milt in action as a “hired gun” by several professional race teams. He competed for Ferrari Teams several times at the 24 Hour Daytona race. In 1977, he finished 5th in a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona co-driving with Elliot Forbes-Robinson and Paul Newman.
co driving with Ted Field
Milt and I would have another chance meeting in 1979. This time, I was now a professional photographer working for Rapid Pace, Inc., and shooting for Ted Field’s Interscope 935 team. Danny Ongais, Fields usual co-driver, was off at Indianapolis for the 500, so Milt was hired as Fields co-driver for the Riverside 6-Hour event. I was very surprised, to say the least, when I entered the Interscope pit area – THERE WAS MILT! I made my way over to him and he asked me “How’s it goin’?” NO WAY! We once again had a great chat. He was very impressed that, after hearing about our earlier encounters, I was now a professional photographer. He was very happy for me.

I got a Nikon camera, I love to take photographs…. It would be another 5 years before Milt and I would meet up again. By now I had been earning my living as a professional advertising photographer for several years. I had become good friends with Carl Thompson and Vasek Polak. Carl was Head of the Polak Competition Department, which had moved into historic racing. I had done a lot of product/race photography for Vasek Polak’s magazine ads. When I had spare time, you could find me hanging out at Polak’s race shop in Torrance, Ca.

In 1994, Polak & Thompson were ready to begin running one of the Polak 917/10s in vintage racing. Who better to drive it than Milt! It was VARAs (Vintage Auto Racing Association) Porsche/Alfa Challenge being held at Willow Springs that September. Friday afternoon, it was getting pretty late. “Where’s Milt?” Finally, in rolled an old green pick-up truck and out jumps this crazy guy with a goatee – it’s Milt. “How’s it goin’?” he asked.

That weekend he hung out with us. I now had a motor-home and several of our 356 racers would use it as a base at the vintage race event. Beer was in order and a BBQ followed by hours of Milt’s great story telling. He made several new friends that weekend.

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Desperado
After many vintage races, and a few years passed, VARA planned to revive Pomona’s glorious road course of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s through the L.A. County Fairgrounds. An initial race was run in 1995. For it’s second race at this historic venue in May of ’96, VARA was looking for something great to promote the race. I suggested to Dan Verstuyft, VARAs President (and excellent Speedster racer!) and to Carl Thompson an idea I had. “How about having the race in honor of Vasek?” After some discussion with Vasek himself, it was decided that is what we would do. The race would be a Tribute to Vasek Polak. I was very honored to have lunch with Mr. Polak several times, and other meetings with him, and got to know him quite well.

After 6 months of planning, over 65 vintage Porsche race cars would show up to pay homage to Vasek. Cars included 550, 550A, RSK, 356 Carreras, 911s, 904, 908, RSR, and 962 examples. Vasek brought out three 917s, a 908/3, a 2.1 RSR Turbo, and the very first 935 ever produced. Drivers in attendance included Milt Minter, Jack McAfee, Jon von Neumann, Joe Playan (550 Spyder driver), Max Balchowsky (Ole Yellar fame), John Morton and George Follmer. It was quite a weekend indeed. Drinking beer and hanging with Vasek and Milt one evening was quite an experience. Who was the most popular storyteller? Why, it was Milt of course.

Milt would also visit our camp-sites at Laguna Seca for many of the Monterey Historic weekends. That man could stay up all night drinking beer and telling Bill Doyle, Steve Schmidt, Gary Emory and me his stories as only he could tell.

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Speaking of Gary, he built a 356 “time-bomb” racer called Desperado in the early ‘80s. Desperado was so radical, it could only be raced in the POC (Porsche Owners Club) events in an experimental class. The body fenders were flared, the front fenders had “917-type” design, and the body was painted in Gary’s favorite Porsche 908 Flounder paint scheme. Eventually, Dean Polopolus needed a radical car to place his newly developed 911 engine into, so he talked Gary into installing it into Desperado. Dean’s engine was a 3.2-liter, 911 6-cylinder engine, with the middle two cylinders cut out, producing a 2 litre, 4-cylinder configuration. “It ran like stink!” said Milt, who was the cars primary driver. Milt would go on to set several fast times of the weekend in POC time trials.

Gary once decided he would like to drive Desperado at an event at Willow Springs. Milt was Gary’s instructor for the weekend. In an early practice session, Milt was riding shotgun as Gary was familiarizing himself with the track and the car. After a few laps, Milt was getting bored. “Come on Gary, Goddamn it! You’re driving like an old woman, lets get goin’!” Gary quipped that he was going fast enough, thank you. Well, the next thing Gary knew, as they were approaching the “sphincter-tightening” turn 9, Milt took his left foot and stomped Gary’s right accelerator foot down to the floorboard and grabbed the steering wheel with his left hand, “Come on Gary, we can go twice as fast through this turn!” For the next half lap, Milt was driving from the right hand seat, and Gary had one of his thrills of a lifetime!

Fast lap and the final lap
Milt had his biggest battle the last few years of his life. He battled cancer. It was a gallant fight. He would never complain. You wouldn’t expect anything but that from Milt. I saw him drive Ray Stewart’s ex-Ginther 914/6 at Willow Springs last October. Guess what, he still could kick ass and won the race. It would be his last.

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I had been telling him for quite some time that I wanted to come up to Sanger and see him because I wanted to do a story about him. A few weeks later I finally made the trip to see Milt and Melissa. What an afternoon we spent. His good friend Dean Polopolus was also there. Milt had his passion for great story telling in full gear sharing many great tales with us. Nobody could tell a story quite the way Milt could. After another most memorable afternoon, it was time for me to head back home to Southern California. He gave me a huge hug, and with a twinkle in his eyes, he told me he wasn’t doin’ too good. He looked into my eyes and told me we’d be friends forever. He passed away about a month later.

I am a lucky man. I have a wonderful wife, Marilyn, and two wonderful daughters, Tricia and Traci. I have been very blessed. I have gotten to pursue my passion in life that I have totally enjoyed. How many people can get up every day and look forward to it and the work they are involved with?

No one else in my life inspired me to pursue my dreams of being a race photographer than my encounters with Milt did. He was a great driver, but a greater friend. I only know one thing, when I hopefully reach the Promised Land, he’ll be one of the first ones to greet me, “How’s it goin’?”
Hal Thoms
Tustin, California
February 2005

Bob Wollek – En marge de la gloire

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Ten years or more has passed since Bob Wollek was killed in an accident on Highway 98, near Lorida, Florida. Last summer has seen the publication of a biography of the great French endurance driver, written, appropriately, enough by his close friend, Jean-Marc Teissedre.

Jean-Marc is now unquestioningly the leader of the journalistic pack in the endurance sportscar racing media circles. The proud Frenchman has been covering that aspect of the sport since the 70’s and now, since the retirement of Mike Cotton, is probably the only one, other than Mark Cole, who can remember witnessing the glory days of Group C. Jean-Marc was a confidant of Bob Wollek and there can be no more appropriate author of a book celebrating the life and times of a very successful racing driver.

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However the book is far from a hagiography, it is a warts and all account of a man who spent nearly 30 years at the top of the sport. A indication of the honest tone of the book is found right from the start as Jean-Marc gives an account of his first encounter with Mr. Wollek.
“Can you imagine a worse introduction to a guy who had a reputation for being pretty unsociable than having to ask him for money? This is what happened to me in the paddock of the old Nürburgring on Friday evening before the final round of the 1977 German Circuits Championship. Auto Hebdo sent me to Germany to cover the event, and I got the exchange rate between the  French Franc and the Deutschmark a bit mixed up. The only solution was to find a Frenchman who would get me out of this mess. And they were thin on the ground in that era. So it looked like my only hope was Wollek! I didn’t know him, but the magazine asked me to follow him closely as his reputation was just beginning  to expand beyond the banks of the Rhine. But at this particular point in time I had to introduce myself to him not as a journalist but as a beggar! So after a very careful approach I had to come clean. I told him who I was and asked for what I wanted almost in the same breath in a barely audible voice. 
“Who the hell do you think you are asking me for money? We don’t know each other- do you think I’m the Bank of France, or what?” he shot back. A long silence followed our first contact. By the time I’d got round to thinking up an answer, Bob had already gone to the rear of the car and was talking to the Porsche Kremer Racing mechanics in German.
I walked a little further away and tried to think. I didn’t know anybody, the future was looking grim. But now it was time for practice so I said to myself that I’d see about it later. After things had calmed down I went into the press room, and as luck would have it I found myself face to face with Bob. “Have you got your one hundred marks?”
“Well, er .. . no. I don’t know anybody here……”
“It’s not bloody possible…”
I couldn’t  make out the rest  of the sentence, but  it was probably a sarcastic comment about the level of intelligence of  the journalistic profession. But I didn’t have to be asked twice when Bob told me to follow him. He flipped open his wallet and gave me fifty marks. But now there was another problem- how was I going to repay him? At best we’d meet up again in the same spot in March of the following year for the first round of the 1978 DRM. This is what I said to him. He rubbed his hand across his forehead asking himself what kind of half-wit  he was dealing with. “And a cheque, you don’t know what that is? It’s a little piece of paper you take to your bank and get money in exchange!”
Mumbling vague excuses for not having thought of this solution I promised  to send him a cheque on the Monday following our meeting.”

Not an auspicious start.

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And the book continues in a similar vein, the story of Bob’s career as a skier, then a rally driver and finally to the circuits. Interwoven into the tale are pieces from his contemporaries and also artifacts from his estate. One that caught my eye is the invoice from Motor Racing Developments for a Brabham BT28 the weapon of choice for a Formula Three campaign in 1970, all for the princely sum of £1,860-0-0.

It was in the Brabham that Bob’s career nearly ended before it began. Contact with none other than James Hunt sent Wollek into the trees of Rouen, bouncing from one trunk to another, the car was destroyed and the final destination for Bob was the local hospital for a couple of weeks. Racing at the time was a blood sport, for two others (Jean-Luc Salmon and Denis Dayan) were killed in the race, the drivers adding their impetuosity to the fragile nature of the cars. Bob’s friend of the time and 1980 Le Mans’ winner, Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, recalled the race in the book, “They tried to pass four abreast in a place where there was only room for two.” What can one add to that?

Tribute

Tribute

The story continues on with Bob soon ascending to Formula Two, and ultimately more significant in the long run he found his way into endurance racing with Lola and Matra. It is all here in chronological order, the privateer Porsche years, his successes in IMSA, the titles and the race wins, culminating with factory drives for Lancia and Porsche.

The book is spiced with comments from his contemporaries, not always complimentary, as evidenced by this passage from his 1995 Le Mans co-driver, Eric Helary. “In my life I’ve only had problems with two drivers: Christophe Bouchut and Bob Wollek. I respect everything that Bob did but he made our 1995 Le Mans 24 Hours sheer hell. Right from the start he behaved despicably. He didn’t want Mario or me to get in the car. He wanted to do the start, the finish, practice, qualifying, the lot.”

And then, “At the finish Mario and I were in the motorhome and we asked each other what the hell was going on in Bob’s head? And it didn’t stop there. After the race he wrote me a letter telling me I was an arsehole!”

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Eric concludes, “Maybe I’m not a good example as I drove with him in only one race and I never came across him again. I have the impression that I didn’t see the real Bob Wollek. I never knew the other side to him.”

Mario, in diplomatic mode, was less critical. “I always had good relations with Bob who I’d known for a long time as we’d done tests in the open WSC Porsche at Charlotte which had gone off without a hitch. I respected him as he had an exceptional set of results.” Team Owner, Yves Courage, also found Wollek to something of a Jekyll and Hyde personality but I will let you buy the book to read the full story. For every negative there is also a positive view from those not easily fooled, like Klaus Ludwig and Norbert Singer.

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When I sat down to write this review I was inclined to include some personal experiences and I have to say that my own somewhat limited dealings with Bob were, at best, mixed. At the time I started out in motorsport he was one of the stars of the scene and I was another anonymous face in the mob of photographers, so there was no call for any form of interaction. I witnessed Wollek win races, join teams at the wrong moment and endure all manner of indignities at Le Mans. He grabbed pole position in 1987 and then in the race did not even get to drive as the engine went bang. Bob was driving a werks-Porsche, the ones with Rothmans’ signage, they were not supposed to fail, after all excellence was expected. However a rash of top line Porsches retired early in the race, all victims of a batch of fuel supplied by the ACO that was found to have a lower octane level than it should have, which played havoc with the turbocharged cars. Typically the sister car did not blow a piston and went on to win the race against all odds.

27 May-01 June, 1986, Le Mans 24 Hours. Norbert Singer and Bob Wollek.

The 1987 edition of Le Mans was perhaps the first time I really saw how forceful Wollek could be. The ACO would have a Friday afternoon press conference which in theory was to champion the great race. However the President of FISA, Jean-Marie Balestre, would also manage to be present and would always take the stage. Balestre was prone to giving the assembled hacks a stern lecture on whatever topic was troubling him at that moment, so although we were at Le Mans we would usually receive a rant about Formula One. This was delivered in the theatrical style of a proper tinpot dictator, thumping the desk and getting red in the face all the while bellowing about FOCA or the drivers, or some other iniquity.

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Craven cowards that we in the media were, we would endure these bizarre performances without protest, partly because we wanted a pass the following year and partly because there was usually some form of gift or bribe to encourage our attendance. For instance in 1986 it had been a Magnum of vintage Moët & Chandon Champagne, I can certainly remember that high point of dubious incentives. Well I still have the bottle in my office though it is sadly empty, the bottle that is.

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There was the usual matinée idol performance from J-MB and then as the floor was opened to questions Bob stood up and gave Monsieur le Président a full blast. My French comprehension is poor at the best of times but I was no doubt that this was about safety standards at Le Mans and the irrelevance of the Formula One blather. The drivers were very concerned about the speeds down the Mulsanne Straight, which pushed to the limits of the tyres’ performance, a year earlier Jo Gartner had been killed during the race in an unexplained accident. Klaus Ludwig, a three time winner, had refused to race at La Sarthe unless changes were made. Balestre was shaken by the direct line that Wollek took as he was more accustomed to dealing with a tame bunch of scribblers. Bob made his point quietly but he left the Président in no doubt. The message was clear, force the ACO to do something before someone else is killed. As if to underline this point there were several accidents in that race week culminating in the monumental crash of Win Percy’s Jaguar, after a puncture at around 230 mph. Win survived but it was a lottery, the next victim might not be so fortunate. Within a year or two the Chicanes on the Mulsanne would appear. Bob had made his point.

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I continued to see Bob at the tracks but the next time we had any real interaction was less enjoyable. His final race as a Porsche driver in the prototype class was in 1998 at the Suzuka 1000kms, a round of the 1998 FIA GT Championship. Porsche had endured a horrible season being beaten at almost every turn by AMG Mercedes Benz. The exception, of course, was Le Mans but Bob had only managed yet another second place, once again the glory went to his team mates. Looking through the viewfinder at the podium ceremonies, it would taken a heart of stone not to be moved by Bob’s tears as the realisation set in that the dream was over, there would be no triumph at La Sarthe.

2000 Le Mans 24 Hours

For the race in Japan he was paired with Uwe Alzen and Jörg Müller but the trio could not match the pace of the other factory Porsche, let alone the Mercedes duo. During Bob’s mid-race stint he had contact with a GT2 in the final chicane and recovered to dive into the pits to check for damage, unfortunately to do so meant driving against the traffic and he received a three minute stop/go penalty for his pains. I reported this in a Swiss magazine that I was working for but something in the translated report incurred Bob’s ire and he threatened to sue us all! The Editor assured me that he would sort it out and I got the impression that this was not the first time that he had Angry of Strasbourg on the phone.

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The next encounter with Bob was much more convivial. At the Le Mans Test weekend for the 2000 race I was filling the hire car up at the petrol station near to the Parc des Expositions next to the track. A Porsche pulled in at the next pump and out got Bob, who nodded hello and gave me a smile, it made my day, maybe I had stopped travelling, perhaps I had arrived. Like Porsche AG itself, Wollek was confined to the supporting ranks of the GT class. He continued to go flat out, frequently surprising the Young Guns like Lucas Luhr and Dirk Müller with his turn of speed. He certainly seemed more at peace, reconciled to the fact that he would never take the great prize.

2000 Le Mans 24 Hours

The following March I was at the Sebring 12 Hours. Arriving at the track on race morning before the sun rose, there is always a photo briefing to look forward to, a great assembly of grumbling, groaning snappers. I understand that the collective noun for motorsport photographers is a Moan. 2001’s race-day photo meeting  was an unexpectedly solemn occasion though.  First to arrive, and in those pre-digital days, first to leave, the vast majority of us snappers had not heard the news, Bob Wollek was dead. It was unbelievable, Wollek had survived during a truly dangerous period in motorsport and now, as he contemplated retirement, he was killed in a pointless traffic incident. There would be no more chance encounters.

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Every year that I make the trek to Sebring for the 12 Hours I try and get out to the marker post near Lorida where Bob Wollek was knocked off his bike and killed. Others also make the same pilgrimage, evidence such as fresh flowers and wine bottles attest to that.

Bob Wollek was a complex, contradictory character, much loved by those who he allowed to get close, less so by those who were not. This book is a fascinating account of a man who lived by his own terms, well researched, written and translated. It lacks an index but that is about all, buy it, treat yourself, especially if you are in Sebring this week

John Brooks, March 2013

85 and Rising

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It is rare that a racing driver is the subject of a press release from a major manufacturer, to have two of the giants writing about you is almost unprecedented. However perhaps in Hans Herrmann’s case it is less surprising. He hits 85 today, so Happy Birthday, Hans.

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I had the pleasure of meeting Hans back in 2010 at Sebring where he triumphed in the 12 Hours some 50 years before. Somewhere in the confusion that is my office is an interview with the great man, most of the recording was drowned out by a crappy Trans-Am race that was unfolding outside so my masterpiece makes little sense, lesson one learned.

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His career was an extensive one with spells at Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Arbarth, Maserati and Borgward. His crowning achievement was winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1970 with Richard Attwood in a Porsche 917. He could also point to having competed at long gone events like the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio and Carrera Panamericana. It is said that you are judged by the company you keep, so you could think yourself just slightly special if among your team mates you could list Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss. I could go on and on, there were many others.

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But I will have to make do with the releases from Porsche and Mercedes-Benz and some evocative photos. Once again Happy Birthday Hans.

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Porsche congratulates Hans Herrmann

Stuttgart. Hans Herrmann, one of the most successful and best known works racing drivers at Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, will celebrate his 85th birthday on 23 February 2013. Born in Stuttgart in 1928, this long-distance specialist was considered one of the most successful and dependable racing drivers of his era. His motorsports career lasted from 1952 to 1970, during which Hans Herrmann won over 80 overall and class victories.

Hans Herrmann started his racing career in early 1952, piloting a privately-owned Porsche 356 1500 in mountain races, rallies, and endurance races. A year later he and Richard von Frankenberg took overall fifth place in the Lyon-Charbonnieres rally. Porsche racing chief Huschke von Hanstein thereupon hired him for the Porsche Works team. Herrmann drove the 550 Spyder at the 1953 24 Hours of Le Mans, and together with Helmut Glöckler came in first in the 1.5 litre displacement category right off the bat.

In 1953, at the age of 26 Herrmann won the title of German Sportscar Champion and got the attention of legendary Mercedes-Benz racing chief Alfred Neubauer, who hired him for his works team. Hans Herrmann piloted the Mercedes W 196 Silver Arrow in the premier category of motorsports, teaming with top drivers like Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling. Parallel to that, in 1954 he continued to drive for Porsche in the smaller displacement categories. In the 550 Spyder he won widely noted class victories in the Mille Miglia and Carrera Panamericana.

When Daimler-Benz pulled out of racing in 1955, Herrmann went on to drive Formula 1 races for Maserati and BRM, as well as other races as a Borgward works driver. In 1957 he became European Vice “Bergmeister” – Mountan Champion – before returning to the Porsche works team in 1959. Together with Joakim Bonnier, in 1960 Herrmann took the overall victory at the Targa Florio in a Porsche 718 RS60 Spyder, and the Formula 2 championship in a Porsche 718/2. He also won the 12 Hours of Sebring with Olivier Gendebien. In 1963 he left Porsche KG and joined Carlo Abarth’s racing team.

In 1966 Herrmann returned to the Porsche works team, not only driving in all the major long-distance races and European Mountain Championship races, but also doing countless test drives in Weissach. With pilots Hans Herrmann, Jo Siffert, Vic Elford and Rolf Stommelen, in 1969 the team took the World Sports Prototype Championship for the first time. In 1970, at his eleventh Le Mans race Herrmann capped off his career with a bang, winning the first overall victory for Zuffenhausen in a Porsche 917 KH. He took this motorsports achievement as a suitable time to retire from active racing, after 42 years on the track. Since then Hans Herrmann has lived with his wife Magdalena near Stuttgart, successfully operating his company “Hans Herrmann Autotechnik.” As a pilot of historic racecars, he also takes part in many vintage car events for the Porsche Museum.

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Hans Herrmann celebrates 85th birthday

Legendary racing driver Hans Herrmann celebrates his 85th birthday on 23 February 2013. Born in Stuttgart, Herrmann gained international recognition during his time as a works driver for Mercedes-Benz in the years 1954 and 1955. The cars he drove for the brand back then were the post-war “Silver Arrows”, the W 196 R Grand Prix racing car and the 300 SLR (W 196 S) racing sports car.

 

These days Hans Herrmann is regularly to be found behind the wheel of historical Mercedes-Benz competition vehicles, as a guest at any one of a variety of classic events, where he is able to convey to visitors the fascination of an important period in motor racing. “Our congratulations to our brand ambassador Hans Herrmann, who has been a good friend of Mercedes-Benz for almost 60 years now,” commented Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic, expressing his thanks to Herrmann for his contribution to keeping the brand’s heritage alive.
The legendary Alfred Neubauer, Head of the Mercedes-Benz racing department in the 1930s and again in the 1950s, discovered Herrmann as an up-and-coming talent and brought him into the works team, alongside Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling, for Mercedes-Benz’s re-entry to Grand Prix racing after the Second World War. For the 1955 season, the team was then joined by Stirling Moss.
In the very first race of the new Silver Arrows at the French Grand Prix of 1954 in Reims, Herrmann drove the fastest lap time, 2:32.9 minutes – corresponding to an average speed of 195.463 km/h. Over the course of the season he took two Grand Prix podium places, in the 1954 Swiss Grand Prix and the 1954 Avus race, in each case coming 3rd. In 1955, Herrmann was seriously injured in an accident during practice in Monaco and was no longer able to start during that season.
Even after his Grand Prix racing career with Mercedes-Benz had come to an end, “Lucky Hans”, as his friends know him, retained close links with the brand. In 1961, for example, he entered the “Gran Premio Argentina” road race in a Mercedes-Benz 220 SE (W 111), finishing in 2nd place behind Walter Schock, also in a 220 SE, to deliver a double victory.

After training originally as a pastry chef, Hans Herrmann began his career in motor racing in the Hessen Winter Rally of 1952 in a private Porsche 356. That same year he took a class win in the “Deutschlandfahrt” (Tour of Germany). In both 1953 and 1954, Herrmann then took class victory for Porsche in the legendary 1000-mile “Mille Miglia” race in Italy.
Through his participation in Formula 1 as well as Formula 2 Grand Prix races, sports car races and rallies, Stuttgart-born Herrmann proved himself to be an exceptionally versatile motor racing driver. Apart from the cars he drove for Mercedes-Benz, he competed above all in Porsche racing and sports cars. He also took the wheel at various times for B.R.M., Cooper, Maserati and Veritas.
Hermann achieved his greatest successes in sports car endurance racing. Among his wins were overall victories in the Targa Florio (1960), the 24 Hours of Daytona (1968), and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1970). In honour of the grand total of eight Targa Florio races in which he had driven, Hans Herrmann was presented with a special award by the Sicilian town of Collesano in October 2012. “Noblesse oblige”: the one-time works driver arrived at the award ceremony in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR.
After capping his success in motor racing with the Le Mans victory of 1970, Herrmann withdrew from active motor racing that same year, at the height of his career. From then on he would devote himself above all to his automotive accessories business. But our “birthday boy” has retained close links with the world of motor sport to this day – above all as a brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz Classic.

Ferdinand Alexander Porsche 1935-2012


The automotive world lost one of the least known, but perhaps most influential of its design geniuses last week with the death of 76-year-old Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, better remembered by most as “Butzi,” in Salzburg, Austria after a lengthy illness. The eldest son of Ferry Porsche and the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, Butzi carved his own niche during his tenure as head of the sports car company’s Styling Studio.


It was while he was in charge that he penned the body shape for the iconic 911, whose original bodyshell, with modifications, remained in production from the fall of 1964 through the mid 1990’s. And, while it has been superseded in the years since, the overall “look” of the 911 has remained intact to this day.

After leaving the company at the end of 1971, in a change of direction to broaden the outlook of the firm that saw all family members, including Ferry Porsche himself, depart their day-to-management positions, Butzi formed his own company, Porsche Design. His talents quickly made it famous for its award winning high end consumer products led by its long line of watches and sunglasses that were almost required purchases for aspiring “in crowd” members.


Less well known, was his contribution to the motorsport side of Porsche. There he made history as well with his design of the Porsche 904, the two-liter, first all-fiberglass car ever fielded by the Zuffenhausen factory. Not only is the 904 considered the most beautiful of all Porsches, it dominated the small displacement sports racing category for more than two years between 1964 and the early part of 1966.


In addition to the 904, Butzi likewise worked with the engineers during Porsche’s first foray into single seat, open wheel racing. It was his design, the 1962 Type 804 that brought the factory its first and so far, only Formula One triumph as a chassis and engine builder. That highlight moment came when Dan Gurney won the 1962 French Grand Prix at Rouen. In addition, he drew the bodies of Porsche’s later Spyders and several of their enclosed coupe counterparts that kept Porsche in the sports racing game until the 904 made its appearance.


He is survived by his wife and three boys.

Bill Oursler, April 2012

Traditions – Porsche and Sebring

For years Porsche played the role of a supporting player in sports car racing around the world. It played it well – perhaps Academy Award winning well, but nevertheless seemingly destined to remain as a class and not an overall winner capable of standing alone in the center stage spotlight.

 
Yes, there were outright wins in the unique over-the-road events like the Targa Florio as well as the important hillclimb arena. These, though, for all their tradition – the Targa going back to 1906 – were perceived to be outside the mainstream. The general consensus being that such affairs suited well a small displacement entry like a Porsche Spyder because handling and balanced performance rather than a reliance on outright horsepower and speed were the keys to winning.

 
That perception of Porsche changed one March Saturday in 1960 when Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien drove their underrated RS60 Spyder to an overall victory at Sebring, leading a one-two Porsche sweep and humbling the far more powerful Ferrari Testa Rosa in the process. Before the decade was out not only would Porsche repeat its Sebring success in 1968, but would also go on to claim the World Manufacturers Championship just a year later.

 
But, while under Ferdinand Piech, then head of Porsche racing, and today the chairman of giant Volkswagen, Zuffenhausen transformed itself into the mega, global headlining sports racing star it now is, no where has its greatness been more evidenced than at the Florida 12-hour classic.

 
Porsche’s Sebring record shows it has amassed no less than 67 class triumphs, 207 top ten finishes, and led 19,977 miles out of the 2, 4 million miles covered by its cars and their 3,300 drivers that have participated at the Central Florida airport circuit.
Perhaps more important than those impressive statistics is the fact that of the 60 12-Hours held so far,Porsches have won 18, or just under 20 per cent, 13 of those wins being consecutive between 1976 and 1988. And, as if all that weren’t enough, it was Derek Bell who set the existing lap record of just 130 miles an hour in a Porsche 962 during the 1986 event.

 
Will Porsche win Sebring again? With the factory preparing to re-enter the prototype scene for 2014 don’t bet against the engineers from Weissach.. Remember their last overall Sebring triumph came in 2008 when Roger Penske’s supposedly underdog RS Spyders took the checkered flag ahead of the then undefeated headlining Audis. If they could do that, with a car not necessarily designed and made to race at the front, you can bet they’ll be a favorite to carry on what was one of their most proud winning tradition, not only at Sebring, but that everywhere they race.

 
Susann Miller, March. 2012

Susann Miller (susannart@aol.com) is a noted Porsche author and enthusiast, with 12 books and numerous articles to her credit on the subject of Zuffenhausen and its cars. www.porschebooks.org

Poster Boys

Porsche are not only famous for their excellent cars and ferocious racing teams, they have over the years issued a series of posters that reflect the self image of this premium brand. The message comes across as understated “cool”; it must have been a dream to have Steve McQueen as the poster boy for Porsche.

Enjoy the trip down memory lane.

John Brooks, November, 2011