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    C & D article, Porsche Rennsport Reunion II at Daytona

    Car and Driver August '004:

    "Name-dropping at Porsche's Rennsport II" by John Phillips

    I know it's poor form to drop names, but in the space of 90 minutes, during Porsche's Rennsport Reunion II at Daytona, I shook hands with Dennis Aase, Dick Barbour, Derek Bell, Vic Elford, Dan Gurney, Hurley Haywood, Jacky Ickx, Bruce Leven, Sascha Maassen, John Paul Jr., Bobby Rahal, Brian Redman, and Chris Economaki. One of those guys doesn't drive race cars.

    Officially, they were at the track to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 356 and 550 and the 40th anniversary of the 911. Unofficially, they were at the track to wheedle rides in any of the 450-plus cars that showed up, the largest assemblage of racing Porsches ever. There were more race cars and transporters in Daytona's infield than at any 500 in history. In the 911 class alone, 109 cars took to the track simultaneously. At any turn, you could watch the faster guys passing three, four cars at a crack. Dozens of passes were accomplished in the grass.

    Throughout the weekend, I never saw a Porsche hit another or use another as brakes. But a friend of mine stuffed a $128,000 911 Turbo so far into Turn One that pieces may have landed in the surf. He broke his ankle.

    Possibly because he was drunk, an otherwise well-intentioned Porsche PR guy nominated me as one of the judges for Saturday's concours. I once owned a 1975 911S Targa that I blew up in Toledo, but that's the extent of my Porsche expertise. So this had the makings for disaster. "The owners [one of whom was Jerry Seinfeld, another name to drop] will stab me before I've judged the third car," I warned.

    "That's why I've teamed you up with two judges who are somewhat more knowledgeable," the PR guy replied. "Peter Falk and Hans Mezger." Falk was Porsche's director of racing for 34 years, with Mezger his director of advanced engine design. Together, they built most of the cars we were assigned to judge. It was like touring the Louvre with Matisse and van Gogh.

    Mezger pointed to a peculiar box in the engine bay of a surgically clean 908. He said, "Ziss iss ze einshpritzer zat probly iss comink from ze wrong bin, yah?"
    "From the bin at Pep Boys?" I asked.
    "Perhabs ze boyz wizz ze pep, yah."
    "I knew it was the wrong part," I lied, while fingering the car's shifter. The 908's owner looked at me as if I might momentarily steal the wood shift knob, which, actually, had crossed my mind. Then he asked Falk and Mezger to pose for a photo. All he said to me was, "Could you step back a bit? Your foot's in the frame."

    Two other cars really zinged me. On display was the 911 GT1 that Hans Stuck and my boyhood friend Bill Adam drove to class victory at Sebring in 1996. Also on hand was what might well be the most evil-looking Porsche ever built, an IMSA GTX-class 935 that everyone called JLP4, designed by Lee Dykstra for driver John Paul Jr., in 1982. It was a 200-mph cartoonish bastard of a road-racing Funny Car, with major ground effects, an offset driver's seat, a left-hand gearshift, and a twin-turbo 3.2-liter Franz Blam six that made 850 horsepower in qualifying trim. It cost $710,000 and won its debut at Brainerd--it was regularly quicker than the Lola and March prototypes, in fact. After it contested only six races, the car was sold to a museum, where it collected fingerprints for 15 years.

    "The ground effects worked so well," Paul Jr., told me, "that the car would sometimes suck itself to the ground, compressing the springs. Then, the springs, would violently release. At Brainerd, the front straight is a mile long, then it leads into Turn One, which is banked. All the cars came out of that corner slower than they entered. Except for the JLP4."

    At Rennsport II, both the white-and-red JLP4 and deeply tanned Paul looked exactly as they had in 1982, as if time had stopped. It gave me one of those creepy gooseflesh moments.

    On the tail of a modest 914-6, I spotted a bumper sticker that read, "Driver carries no cash." On the roof of a 911, one driver had painted the name, "The Doctor of Pitch & Yaw." Another had inscribed his name as "Von Haul'n'ass," and on the track he was.

    At dinner Friday, Brian Redman said, "I started racing at a time when this sport was incredibly deadly. I thought to myself, "Either this career will kill me or it'll make me rich. Unfortunately, neither happened."

    The next night, Redman was surprised when he was asked again to say a few words to those of us best described as the "free feeders." He'd been talking to friends at his table, holding what looked like a grid chart, and was startled by the request. He said, "This is the second time today I've been disturbed while sitting on a warm seat with a piece of paper in my hand." He nonetheless described driving a Porsche 917 for the first time at Daytona. "During practice, I was trying to go around the banking without lifting, but it was too terrifying," he recalled. "But deep down, I knew you could probably do it. So I ducked into the pits and found Jacky [Ickx], who was famous for being brave. I asked him, 'Could a 917 go all the way around here flat out?' He said, 'Yes, Brian, of course.' What I found out later was that after Jacky turned away from me, he added, 'But you would fly to the moon.' "

    In those days, Vic Elford was the only driver who showed any faith in the prototype 917, which tried to kill any driver who egged it beyond 200 mph, when the body began creating the sort of lift that would alarm a Boeing engineer. "On the Mulsanne straight," Elford recalled, "you had to be bloody careful at that kink near the end, gently rolling off the gas and onto the brakes for a sec, lest the back begin steering the front and you'd take a tour of the woods."

    During his victory-clogged career, Elford drove the most fantastic Porsches ever to pound pavement. Yet on Sunday night, he lit a cigarette, climbed into his personal car--a dull white seven-year-old Ford Escort worth maybe $750--and drove home looking like the lonliest guy on earth. Then I learned Dickie Attwood now drives an '89 Peugeot 405 wagon with 320,000 miles on the clock.

    There's a lesson there. I have no idea what it is.

    Re: C & D article, Porsche Rennsport Reunion II at Daytona

    Great stuff! Thanks for posting

    Re: C & D article, Porsche Rennsport Reunion II at Daytona

    Grant said:
    Great stuff! Thanks for posting

    You're welcome. "Ze boyz wizz ze pepp," is funny. LOL!



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