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The engineering genius of Dr Ferdinand Porsche

In 2014 the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, celebrated its five-year anniversary by putting on display a car that, in truth, actually somewhat resembled a wooden wagon.

The vehicle had been discovered in an undisclosed Austrian warehouse a year earlier – a dusty, century-old creation that would have featured four seats, now missing; an open-air chassis that could be used in both summer and winter; an electric motor, also missing, and large wooden wheels that were wrapped with pneumatic tyres. Its official name was the Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, also known as the C.2 Phaeton model.

Most fascinating to the car world, however, was not the fact that a gem produced in 1898 and lost in 1902 could remain undiscovered for 112 years, but what happened to be stamped on the key components that still remained intact.

‘P1’, they read, the mark of one Ferdinand Porsche, and further affirmation that before the company that now bears his surname, before 911s and profit margins and even before ties to the Nazi Party, there was simply a man who was fascinated by the development of automotives – one who was willing to experiment with electricity as a means of doing so.

Born in 1875, Ferdinand Porsche’s interest in electricity stemmed back to his childhood in northern Bohemia – an area that was then part of Austria-Hungary and now falls under the Czech Republic. Porsche’s father, Anton, owned a workshop, and in his teenage years the younger Porsche would find himself helping his father by day, attending technical school by night.

At home Porsche was installing doorbells by 13 and experimenting with electrical lighting by 16 – a positive attitude that, with the help of a recommendation, landed him a job with the Vienna-based electrical company Bela Egger & Co. when he turned 18.

It was here in the Capital that Porsche’s formative work with the marvels of electricity began. Now with a day job that involved the medium, Porsche was able to attend occasional classes at a local university after work, which despite not ending with a formal education in engineering, saw Ferdinand develop the skills to produce an almost friction-free drivetrain by mounting electric motors in the front wheel hubs.

This work helped the engineer become his company’s head of testing before landing a job at Jakob Lohner & Co. in 1896. Previously Jakob Lohner had built coaches for the likes of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, but two years prior to Porsche’s arrival the company declared its interest in moving into automobiles.

Its first unveiling was the vehicle colloquially known as the P1. Weighing 1,359 kilograms, the 12-speed vehicle was mounted with an octagonal electric motor that was designed…


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Porsche officially retires 911 RSR

Porsche has officially retired the current incarnation of the 911 RSR. After three seasons, thirteen wins, 34 podium finishes and titles in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, along with victories at Le Mans and Sebring, the RSR will go down in motorsports history as one of the most successful Porsche race cars of all time.

In 2019, in IMSA competition, the RSR scored six GTLM class wins, including a record string of five in a row. Included in those wins were the endurance races at Sebring and Watkins Glen, as well as the sprint races at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Virginia International Raceway, Mid-Ohio and the streets of Long Beach, California.

Earlier in the season, Total 911 sat down with Earl Bamber to discuss the championship and the Porsche 911 RSR. “One advantage is that we have a flat six engine, which is better for weight distribution. Our car was designed to run to the limit of the rules. We all have idiosyncrasies, as we are a short wheelbase car which is better on a tight circuit whereas BMW is a long wheelbase car, which is better on a track with high speed corners, like Road America. Our car is well suited for the variety of tracks we run on in IMSA. You can’t be good everywhere. That’s why we do a championship, right?”

The Porsche 911 RSR proved to be the right tool for the job, both in the IMSA and in the FIA-WEC, where Porsche also won the drivers’ and manufacturers’ world championships.

Laurens Vanthoor, who shared driving duties with Earl Bamber all season in the #912 and won the drivers’ title with Earl, summed up his feelings at Petit Le Mans. “I came to Porsche three years ago. I finally got the chance to drive in the USA. It’s something I’ve always wanted. The IMSA series was completely new territory for me. I had to get used to the racetracks, the processes and the car. Now I’ve won the title with my friend Earl. For me personally, a dream has come true.”

Even though the #912 car and driving duo of Bamber and Vanthoor won the championship, the contributions of the #911 car and drivers should not be overlooked. Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet, the season long drivers of the #911, finished second in the championship, just a few points behind.

During the season, the #911 squad took wins at Sebring, Watkins Glen and Virginia International Raceway. The overall performance of the Porsche team was outstanding, as they defeated strong manufacturer efforts from Ford, Chevrolet, BMW and Ferrari to secure the IMSA GTLM championships.

Perhaps Frédéric Makowiecki, the third driver on the #911 car at Motul Petit Le Mans, summed it up the best. “It was a perfect season for Porsche. If you take home all the titles in the enormously competitive GTLM class, then it’s proof of perfect teamwork, strong performances in the cockpit and an extremely competitive car. The Porsche 911 RSR has enabled us to secure many victories. The new 911 RSR has some big shoes to fill next season.”

Total 911 awaits the start of the 2020 season at Daytona in January and the debut of the next generation of the venerable Porsche 911 RSR.


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Porsche L.A. Stories

Let’s take the Porsche Taycan on a single charge tour of L.A., meeting friends from the Arts Scene – a screenwriter, a brand founder, a star DJ and a fashion designer. All heroes of this vibrant city and the urban L.A. scene.


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The Mobility Seers

Why a software company can already see the future of transportation.


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Un huitième Porsche Experience Center construit en Italie

Le huitième Porsche Experience Center (PEC), le plus grand du genre à ce jour, sera construit sur le circuit «Autodromo di Franciacorta» en Italie. Les travaux de rénovation du circuit et de construction d’un centre client sur le site de 559 000 mètres carrés doivent commencer cette année. Son ouverture est prévu pour début 2021. …


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