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Vintage Racing

Here’s What It’s Like To Drive A Porsche 906

Modern racecars are hyperbolic in nearly every sense. The tires? Massive. The brakes? Indefatigable. The power figures? Not often fully stated in public, but generally extraordinary. The array of switches? They’d make a DC-8 pilot blush. Not so the 906. The 906 is hyperbolic in one, perhaps two ways. At 580 kilograms it is lighter than any modern top-tier racing car (Formula 1 included), and, depending on the nature of your eyes, it is unimpeachably beautiful. While it lacks the brutality of the 917, or the sinuous curves of a longtail 908, it is a stunner on track.

Presented mercifully without commentary, the 906 at Thermal Club is a sight to behold. CPR Classic even bestowed upon us footage without music, save for a bit of classical music bookending the song of the 2.0-liter flat-six. The big track at Thermal Club is also devoid of distractions- there are no sponsor banners, grandstands, lights, or even trees of exceptional size. It is the perfect environment to appreciate the simple beauty of the 906.

Unlike the 917K, and virtually every car that came after, the 906 has virtually zero aerodynamic grip. With just a low nose and a small lip spoiler cleaning up the shape, the car lacks the appearance of robotic precision that often accompanies an abundance of aerodynamic grip. Instead you can watch the car lean into its tires, find its damping, set up, and move through every corner. It’s a dance rather than an exercise, and it will be a joy forever.

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Ride Along For A Frantic Lap Around the ‘Ring in a 1976 Porsche Turbo

Though the Widowmaker strikes fear into the hearts of many, this footage suggests it’s not necessarily as fearsome as its reputation suggests. While it wouldn’t be fair to call it a pussycat, this example looks approachable by a talented shoe. Granted, the car here is heavily modified and the man in the seat is one of the best instructors at the Nurburgring, but it shows that the classic 911 Turbo can be tamed with a delicate touch.

It looks slightly pushy at turn-in, but the car is planted and settled under throttle. It even leaps out of corners with a hint of oversteer here and there (4:29). Predictable enough, but its high-speed manners are what are the most surprising. It looks friendly—almost tame, and though the steering writhes around in Andreas Gülden’s hands, it looks like the most laborious part of driving the car is rowing that shifter!

Such a confidence-inspiring car is a huge asset during the 24 Hour Classic, where serious speed differentials separate the pros in faster cars from the hordes of playful amateurs in mildly modded E30s. As a result, quick decisions must be made frequently.

Gülden’s negotiation of traffic is even more impressive than his stylish and understated driving. Huge traffic jams decorate the 16.12-mile course (7:34), and he can quickly switch his pace from banzai to drive-through lane at the drop of a hat. He can also pounce at the precise moment without compromising either’s safety (11:12). He’s the real deal alright.

He keeps his professional cool until he’s cramped by a Golf at higher speeds (9:01). His gesticulation is justified; the oblivious driver ahead needs to provide the faster cars a way through—especially in the fastest sections of the track. Like a seasoned pro, he proceeds unfazed until his podium hopes are dashed with mechanical failure of some sort (12:32). To suffer something like that to happen in one of the Nordschleife’s most intimidating corners and not panic deserves some sort of prize, though.

Not the hand gesture I would’ve picked, but it show remarkable composure in dangerous situations.

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Just Listen To Porsche’s Shouty 1962 Formula One Racer

Back in the early 1960s, Porsche was still a tiny sports car manufacturer punching way above its weight in international racing. With an astonishingly small 1.5-liter flat eight motor stuffed into a bespoke chassis just barely large enough to contain the lanky Dan Gurney, the 804 was a beast from day one. While it’s difficult to call it a serious contender in 1962 Grand Prix racing, it did score a pole at the German Grand Prix, and a victory at Rouen in France (as well as a non-points race Solituderennen) against the mighty Jim Clark and Graham Hill who raced for Lotus and BRM respectively.

The Porsche 804 is a bit of a footnote in Porsche history these days as they are infrequently seen, and even less often heard. Only four 804s were built for the 1962 season, and one of those was never raced. Allegedly only two examples of the 804 remain in existence, one in a private collection. The example seen in the video below [by 19Bozzy92 on YouTube] was restored by the Porsche Museum in 2016. Since then it has only been run in a pair of vintage events, the Monaco Historique in 2016, and the Goodwood Festival of Speed last year (where this video comes from). I’ve been a Porsche fanatic for decades, and I’ve never heard this car shout its mighty growl before now.

The Type 753 flat eight makes about 177 horsepower, which is pretty impressive compared to what Porsche road cars were producing in 1962. More importantly, it weighs under 1000 pounds, and goes like stink. For such a diminutive displacement, I did not expect the engine to be quite so throaty. In fairness, the Type 753 can rev to nearly 10,000 RPM and the driver in these clips is surely not giving it the full beans. Considering how many millions something like this must be worth, I can’t say I blame them.

Even if that driver is the famed Le Mans victor Richard Attwood.

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Porsche Unveils A Freshly Restored 917-001

Fifty years ago Porsche unveiled the first production batch of the 917 race car that would transform the tiny German sportscar maker into a Le Mans winner. The first 917 chassis has spent much of its recent life in 917K bodywork with the Salzberg red and white livery. It’s been sitting in the Porsche museum that way for a while, but Porsche decided that it was time for the progenitor of it all was ready for a complete redo to look like it did when it was built.

That first batch of 917s featured suspension-activated adjustable ailerons, which you can see working at both the front and the rear in this video below. Porsche re-created the longtail bodywork and completely re-bodied this lovely vintage 917, bringing it full circle, just in time for the car’s 50th anniversary.

The car’s first display was during the Goodwood Members Meeting earlier this year, and once it was returned to the factory, the original 917 photograph was recreated with a huge line of 917s sitting outside the doors of Werk 1.

Later this month the group of 917s will be on display at the Porsche museum in Stuttgart for the « Colours of Speed » exhibit, which runs from May 14th until September 15th. So if you’ve always wanted to see 917-001 in person, it now looks like it did on that first day, so you’ll get a real glimpse of its history.

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A Pair of Jaw-Dropping 917Ks Snarl at the Goodwood Festival of Speed

If you’re considering cutting back on caffeine, the blaring exhaust notes of these two Le Mans titans might provide that pep needed to begin the day. Truly, the sound these two big 12-cylinder engines shoved in tiny 917s get the hairs on the back of your neck standing up and your heart beating a bit faster.

There aren’t many motors as musical as the famous flat-twelve, the Type 912, which burbles and cracks with a delightful combination of roughness at low revs and a sonorous bark as the engine nears redline. That, combined with the very mechanical gearshift, make these powerplants almost frightening to listen to.

They’re also a feast for the eyes. Whether you prefer the iconic Gulf-liveried car, which really needs no introduction, or the green car, you made the right choice. The latter—a car doused in a classic shade of grass green—was once run by David Piper, a well-heeled British privateer who campaigned several 917s in the early 1970s, and even lost part of a leg after crashing one.

Doused in brilliant green, the David Piper 917K is just as striking as the recognizable Gulf car.

As beautiful as they were dangerous—small wonder these cars became icons of racing’s romantic past.

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