The Porsche 911 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans: a centenary for the Centenary!

CENTENARY OF THE 24 HOURS – BRAND STORIES In 2023, the centenary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will also mark the sixtieth anniversary of the 911 for Porsche. the brand’s 100th victory at the 24 Hours in all categories, and to put its name on the list again in 2022, on the eve of the centenary.

Presented at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show, the 911 considerably renewed the concept of the 356, itself inherited from the prototype of the Volkswagen Beetle. The original mechanical base remains the same: a cantilever engine (behind the axis of the rear wheels) cooled by a turbine placed between the two rows of cylinders. Its body is also meant to be an evolution of the 356. But could designer Erwin Komenda and Butzi Porsche, Ferry’s son, imagine that the aesthetics of the 911 would become the hallmark of the German manufacturer for decades to come?

Because if the shapes of the 911 had been different, the history of sports cars and motorsport would have undoubtedly been changed. Thus, with the notable exception of the 924 and the 928, the front end of the 911 has become a signature that has accompanied the expansion of the Porsche range, from the Cayenne and Macan SUVs to the Panamera and Taycan sedans, passing by the Boxster and Cayman coupes.

From the 911 to the 935

In almost six decades of existence, the 911 has also become one of the most versatile competition cars ever seen in motorsport, capable of imposing itself both on the roads of the Monte Carlo rally and the tracks of Paris- Dakar than on circuits around the world. With of course a very special place for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Two and a half years after its presentation and its marketing, the Porsche 911 discovers the Sarthe, with under the checkered flag the fourteenth place of the general classification and, just like the 356 on its debut in 1951, the victory of its category for Jean Kerguen and Jacques Dewes, aka « Frank ». In 1969, the 911 entered the top 10 of the general classification, with tenth place for Jean-Pierre Gaban and Yves Deprez. In its first five years at Le Mans from 1966 to 1971, the 911 won a category victory in each of the editions contested during this period.

Throughout the 1970s, the 911 was also the starting point for several notable developments. Second in 1974, the Carrera RSR Turbo served as a laboratory for the development of turbocharged engine technology, which was to prevail for the first time in 1976 in the 936 prototype. because based on a production car, led to the birth of the 935, which won the general standings in 1979.

1998-2013: the 911 to the power of 50

At the end of the era of Group C prototypes in the mid-1990s, Porsche returned to its fundamentals with the official entry of a 911. Called GT1, this one inscribed in 1998 the most famous number of the history of Porsche in the overall rankings, with the victory of Laurent Aiello, Allan McNish and Stéphane Ortelli, ahead of their teammates Uwe Alzen, Jörg Müller and Bob Wollek. A signed double which is moreover the year of the brand’s half-century.

In 2013, fifteen years later, the 911 in turn celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in the best possible way, with a double victory in the LMGTE categories, thanks to Romain Dumas/Marc Lieb/Richard Lietz (LMGTE Pro, 15th overall ) and Christophe Bourret/Raymond Narac/Jean-Karl Vernay (LMGTE Am, 25th overall). Two doubly historic successes for Porsche, which for the occasion reached the milestone of 100 victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, all categories combined!

From 2013 to 2022, the 911 signs four new victories in LMGTE, with a special mention for 2018: respectively winners in LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am, Michael Christensen/Kévin Estre/Laurens Vanthoor and Julien Andlauer/Matt Campbell/Christian Ried celebrate with dignity 70 years of Porsche.

After the LMGTE Pro victory of Gianmaria Bruni/Richard Lietz/Frédéric Makowiecki in 2022, what will happen next year for the centenary edition, which will also be for Porsche that of its 75th anniversary and 60 years of the 911? While waiting for Sunday June 11, 2023 and one of the most anticipated checkered flags of the year in motorsport, let’s leave the final word to the German Jörg Bergmeister who, in seventeen participations in Sarthe from 2002 to 2019 , has known only the Porsche 911, with two class victories: “In my opinion, it’s the perfect sports car. The very latest generation with a mid-engine is very pleasant thanks to good downforce. Over the years, the mechanical and aerodynamic grip has improved, the tires have improved a lot and the car has become more reliable. I raced my first 911 in 1994 and have enjoyed driving it ever since. »

PHOTOS: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS – FROM TOP TO BOTTOM (DR / ACO ARCHIVES) – An imaginary top 5 for six decades of Sarthe history of the Porsche 911: the last victory in the LMGTE Pro category in 2022, the first top 10 in 1969, the Carrera version second in 1974, the 911 GT1 overall winner in 1998 and the LMGTE Pro victory of 2018, which celebrated the brand’s 70th anniversary.

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