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October Editor’s Note

by | October 2015

This October issue arrives on the heels of a great event for Porsche and a disaster for Volkswagen. It’s difficult to completely divorce the two because the VW scandal was the 800-pound gorilla lurking around Monterey and Laguna Seca. It led to several dozen VW and Porsche executives and board members canceling their plans to attend the weekend. As one observer put it, “If there’s smoke coming from the tail pipe…” There certainly is a firestorm coming that will change the landscape and regulation of the auto industry.

That said, this issue continues to celebrate the history of Porsche, with stories and advice from regular contributors Sean Cridland, Richard Newton, and Randy Wells, culminating with our coverage of Rennsport Reunion V.

This is history on standby. The 1970 Le Mans-winning liveried 917K awaited its hour on the stage as patient participants staged cars for the traditional Big Shot.

To many long-time observers of vintage racing and Porsche-themed events in particular, this weekend presented a clear reflection of what the hobby is now: It is, crudely put, big money. One participant who was invited to bring his car for the historic display almost gasped when he reached the paddock Wednesday afternoon. “Look at all the huge transporters,” he said. At first glance the area more closely resembled any current professional racing paddock than the family-oriented one-owner/one car meetings of the past. Slick, sleek Peterbilt and Kenworth tractors towed in long stacker trailers carrying many cars from a single owner or several cars cared for by a racing management service. Mechanics had uniforms, not grease and sweat-stained t-shirts.

This is not bad. It just is different from four years ago.

While Marc Urbano directed car placement for his photo from the lift truck, this solitary 904 waited for orders. The value of many of these cars now served as a damper for many owners to participate in on-track racing sessions.

A benefit of this change is that the cars this year were extraordinary. They were nearly incomparable in historic significance, and in finish and preparation. The theme of the weekend was legends of Le Mans. But there were legends of Targa Florio and Pikes Peak, of Trans-Am, Can-Am, Nürburgring, Road America, and Indianapolis as well.

And that brought about the success of the weekend. Whether this was someone’s fifth Rennsport or their first, this event unified focus and attention on the company’s long and on-going accomplishments. From newcomers whose only exposure to Porsche history may be photos on dealership walls, to the deeply passionate enthusiasts who memorize the contents of historic service bulletins, to the individuals who own, appreciate, preserve, and race these cars, Rennsport represented an opportunity for introductions and education. No matter how unapproachable some individuals may be in their outside lives, Rennsport dissolved barriers, and earnest conversations, questions, and answers were universal.

Earnest conversations were frequent between these three as the Big Shot came together. At left, Tim Pendergast, event steward and Director of Operations at Amelia Island, worked with Jeff Zwart, center, who directed a number of video productions for Porsche during the weekend, and Dave Engelman, right, Motorsports Media Relations Manager for PCNA, to orchestrate a critical shot for one of Zwart’s project.

The ingeniously contrived Porsche Panamera camera crane “Chase Car” nosed into the Big Shot after following the 1951 Typ 356SL into the foreground of the Big Shot. The historical significance of the vehicles gathered for this complex photo stunned even the participants who brought their cars to this shoot.

After each of these Rennsport Reunions, participants, spectators, and journalists have hoped aloud that there will be another one. Following Bob Carlson’s death from cancer in December 2008, many of us worried about the event’s future. Carlson served for 24 years as Porsche Cars North America media relations manager for racing, and it was he who conjured up the idea of these reunions and produced the first three. Carlson was deeply passionate about Porsche’s history. The Reunion in 2011 came together – in many ways (and many minds) – to honor Bob and to reunite those who appreciated and admired his ideas and his efforts.

Times and motives change. Sunday afternoon, September 27th, Porsche enthusiasts and Porsche staffers wandered around the Laguna Seca paddock in a kind of post-party high. Some were saying “See you in four years!” It is something to hope for. The effluent seeping from the 800-pound gorilla will taint things for some time to come. But Porsche A.G. seems to have found great value in Rennsport, using this latest one to rekindle excitement for its products – its brand – by showing off its new 911, the Typ 991-2, now turbocharged as many of its most successful racecars have been. Porsche also used the event to celebrate its hard-won success with its LMP-1 program. And perhaps most beneficially, they gave us another opportunity to reconnect with Porsche racers and Porsche friends. Let’s hope these are reasons enough for them to continue on to RRVI.

Randy Leffingwell
Editor, Road Scholars Magazine
randy@road-scholars.com

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