Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Porsche at Le Mans

I seem to be picking a link from Autosport each day, and in fact that's not a bad way to plan for the future. Today I was pleased to see the new Porsche LMP1 car is running earlier than planned.

I always used to listen to radio reports from La Sarthe; tales of Ferrari v Porsche, or Ferrari v Ford. But in the 70s and 80s it was Porsche that dominated: 935s and 936s (Martini livery, not the Jules after-shave version please) and the all-conquering 956 and its not-quite-so-pretty, longer wheelbase (to protect the drivers' legs) sister, the 962.

It's all too easy to forget that F1 drivers used to drive cars other than F1 (don't forget that Jim Clark actually won the BTCC championship in 1964, his two F1 championships either side of that, and there were sports car and Indy activities too).

Two races spring to mind, the Brands Hatch 1000km, 1970 and the 1000km at Spa, 1985. The first has a happy ending, Pedro Rodriguez driving through the pouring rain to win by 5 laps despite being black flagged early in the race. The second was where Stefan Bellof (who was closing on Ayrton Senna in the infamous 1984 Monaco race) lost his life, the result of trying to pass Jacky Ickx at Eau Rouge. Fortunately, safety has improved since then, although we have again been reminded of the fragility of human life, with Mark Robinson tragically being crushed by a mobile crane in Canada. We can never under-estimate the work that marshalls do, and the risks they take.

Porsche belong at Le Mans, and it will be good to have them back. I'm not sure what my favourite Porsche Le Mans car would be, I've seen 956s and 962s there (and oodles of GT2/3 911s but that doesn't count) and also the GT1, but the favourites for most people are likely to be the 917s, probably in Gulf colours.

In choosing my favourite version, I'll admit a preference for the Langheck (long tail) version, but given that my all time favourite from Stuttgart would be the 908/3 in Targa Florio form (see my profile on Twitter if you don't know what that looks like) then I should really opt for the 908 LH. As you can see below, it's not too different visually to the 917s above.

 Sadly, I doubt that anyone is likely to hand over a 908 to me, but if you do have one, and need an independent evaluation of its handling characteristics, you know where I am.

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