Mecca at Monterey


Photos by Sean Smith

Some travel to South Western France to visit Lourdes, some to Memphis Tennessee to visit Elvis Presley’s grave, some travel to the Black Rock desert in Nevada for Burning Man.

But for the faithful of the cars from Zuffenhausen, they had to make their pilgrimage to Monterey county California and climb the hill to Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca for Rennsport VI and they did 81,550 strong.

Rennsport creates a sense of ecstasy in the attendees. Walk through the gates and you are bombarded with every type of Porsche you can imagine and some you can’t. It’s total sensory overload.

Above: the faithfully recreated replica of the Berlin-Rome Typ 64 racecar looks as contemporary today as it did in 1939. Below: In the Chopard heritage tent, 70 racecars reflected accomplishments of all kinds. In the foreground, this Typ 936 finished second overall at Le Mans in 1980 with Jacky Ickx and Reinhold Joest driving.

This is the 70th anniversary of Porsche so all the stops were pulled out. In attendance was Porsche 356-001, the 1948 356 Roadster, along with some 2000 of its relatives keeping it company.

There were 550s, RSKs, 904s, 906s, 908s 917s, 935s, 962s, and all the other 900 numbers with the 919 Hybrid LMP1 Prototype doing exhibition laps (what they were trying to do, secretly or not, was to break the lap record on the 2.238 mile course) along with the new 935 a limited edition track only weapon and a less-limited Speedster. Slinking around quietly was the silent family member, the Mission E. The hills were alive with the sound of screaming flat sixes and the corrals were filled with all forms of road going P cars.

Above Stephen Thein in his 1967 Typ 910 beds in new brake pads or simply makes a run to the nearby 7-11 on the Laguna Seca outer road. Below: Tommy Trabue corners on the outside during the warm-up lap in his 1958 Typ 550A while Arthur Conner hugs the Corkscrew’s upper apex in his 1959 Devin Porsche #52.
Above: Porsche’s first Le Mans class winner, this 1951 Typ 356SL glistens in the morning sun. Below: The 1962 Typ 804 was a Formula 1 contender that brought Porsche two outright wins, at Rheims in France, and the other at home in Stuttgart on the Solitude Circuit.
Above: Chris McAllister in his 1969 Typ 917K #21 arcs into turn 3 just ahead of Dener Pires’ 1969 Typ 908/2 Spyder, #11A. Below: Cameron Healey in Vasek Polak’s 1977 Typ 911 RSR #01 leads Hurley Haywood in his former 1991 Typ 964 Turbo S 2, #59, and Tom Ross, #36, in his 1983 Typ 924 GTR on their way down the Corkscrew.

The royalty was not just mechanical; it came in human form as well. Walking through the paddock you could run into Porsche heroes like Hurley Haywood (the most successful American endurance driver), Jacky Ickx (six-time Le Mans winner), Derek Bell (five-time Le Mans winner three-time Daytona winner and twice World Sports car Champion) Vic Elford (sports car, rally car, and Formula 1 Driver), and Jeff Zwart (award winning director and Pikes Peak class winner)

Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, chairman of the supervisory board of Porsche AG and son of Ferry, who built that first car, so it was fitting that he took 356-001 for a run around the track.

There was also some guy named Redman wondering around with a houndstooth driving hat firmly on his noggin who is heavily to blame for this whole event.

After a point you don’t know which way to turn. Watch the track, wrap your eyeballs around the display of dozens of significant Porsches under the massive tents, and try not to drool on the outlaw creations of Rod Emory, gaze longingly at the Singer DSL. After a short time your brain just turns to Castrol R.

So you try to calm your addled senses with the concours on the front straight, but again you are inundated and overwhelmed with more Porsche eye candy; you just can’t get away from it.

You make a mad dash over then Michelin bridge, but there is no escape: you are confronted with everything Porsche, hats, T-shirts, jackets, shoes, iPhone cases, magazines, headers, tools. Even Porsche gummy bears!

Above: Whoever knew they made Gummy Bears in the colors of the 959s? Or so many other colors. Below: David Long in his 1964 Bobsy SR3 stands out in the soft morning light. Bottom: Richard Griot is vivid in his 1969 Typ 908-02 Spyder.
Above: Willi Kauhsen’s former European InterSerie championship 917/10 is another brilliant streak in the Monterey morning. Below: Gunnar Jeannette literally streaks up the hill from turn 5 to 6 in his 2007 RS Spyder.

Or you could quench your thirst in dichotomy form a bottle of water marked Porsche Classic. Because as we all know water and classic Porsches have never met!

RR VI is the crescendo and climax for Porsche’s worldwide 70th anniversary celebration.

This was a gathering you could probably see from space.

But to really experience the event you have to get track side and watch as these amazing machines do what they were bred to do: RACE!

Above: Tom Dooley in the 1988 Brun Racing Typ 962C takes turn 6 just ahead of David Lockwood in the 2007 RS Spyder. Below: Chris McAllister in his 917K sets up his line into turn 3, with a parade of challengers behind him.

To watch a 917 grab a piece of track and make it it’s own is a sight to see. These machines move along the road in an unearthly manner and they sing siren songs that draw their disciples deeper into their unwavering devotion to the marque.

And if all that wasn’t enough you could watch celebs and top drivers compete in a tractor race, complete with a Le Mans-style start.

I can’t think of any other manufacture that could draw as many to an event as Porsche has done. The base of fans and enthusiasts is gigantic and the dedication to and love of these cars is unparalleled.

Above Rennsport Reunion may be one of the only opportunities in the 21st Century to witness two enthusiasts touring the paddock on an early grey morning in a 550 Spyder. Below: The Chopard heritage tent offered a 70-year history of Porsche’s racing accomplishments in one place.
Above: Porsche’s Turbo Project Gold created a 993 Turbo S (right) 20 years after they assembled their final air-cooled car. Reaction to their 2018 Typ 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series golden coupe inspired them. Porsche will auction this at their Experience Center in Atlanta. Below: This car company always has had a sense of humor about itself, witness the “pink pig” paint scheme given this Panamera used to shuttle Rennsport visitors up to the Corkscrew.
Above: The racecar concours celebrates Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca’s banner: Life is better at the track. Below: Stone chips. What better evidence is there of a week spent celebrating everything Porsche cars signify to their owners?

Rennsport started in 2001 at Lime Rock Park as a way to honor Porsche’s illustrious racing history. It has grown into a celebration drawing acolytes from around the world to join tens of thousands of the like-minded to genuflect at the altar of German automotive mastery.

I don’t know about you, but I am going through Rennsport withdrawal and I will be counting the days to Rennsport VII. And I am sure it will be worth the wait.

The great racing driver Michael Delaney, played by Steve McQueen in his 1971 film Le Mans said “Racing is life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting,” Here, David Donner, sitting in his #41 2007 Typ 997 GT3R and his crew chief wait alongside Andrew Davis in car 59A, the Brumos 2011 GT3 Cup car, and Carlos Dequesada in his 2004 Typ 996 RSR, #90. Staged on the pre-grid for Group 7, they await the start of the Flacht Cup race.

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