The 80sth The members’ meeting staging at Goodwood once again had Porsche at its heart. In 75 of the brandthyear and with a nod to both the centenary of Le Mans and the 60sth anniversary of the 911, last weekend’s annual motorsport event saw another spectacular line-up of historic Porsche sports cars lap the famous circuit in south-east England.
Sunny spring Saturday
Welcome spring sunshine over West Sussex on Saturday morning had dried out the track just in time for the first of two days of nose-to-tail racing and high-speed demonstration tracks, the highlight of which for many visitors would be a unique feast of racing with 911 cars from decades. Thanks to the efforts of Porsche Cars UK, the team at Porsche Heritage and Museum and the team at Goodwood itself, some 19 cars spanning three decades of racing were brought together for this unprecedented parade, creating a colorful chronology of works and customer cars that revealed the diverse history of the 911 in its many competing guises.
Large crowds were drawn to the paddock throughout the weekend, enjoying such rare sights as the Martini-liveried 911 Carrera 2.8 RSR, which, due to its experimental “Maria Stewart” rear wing, was forced to compete in the Prototype class during the 1973 World Championship season. sports car championship. 50 years ago, with Gies van Lennep and Herbert Müller at the helm, this car was driven to a historic victory in the Targa Florio and an equally remarkable fourth place overall at Le Mans, on the tails of the V12 Matra and Ferrari prototypes.
The following year, Porsche increased the capacity of its racing six-cylinder model and three examples of the imposing 911 RSR 3.0 from 1974 were present at Goodwood, sharing the spotlight with the museum’s unmistakable 911 RSR Turbo, which Van Lennep and Müller drove to second place in the standings at Le Mans that year.
Many iterations of the Porsche 911
Rule changes in sports car racing by 1976 would allow for dramatic modifications to the 911 and for the rest of the decade sports car racing would be synonymous with the Porsche 935. This highly evolved, winged and turbocharged evolution of the evergreen air-cooled Porsche GT would brought countless victories to the factory and its customers. The four private examples at Goodwood, each an important part of Porsche’s rich racing heritage, flanked another of the Museum’s most reliable crowd pleasers, the fearsomely powerful longtail 935/78, better known as Moby Dick.
Other veterans of Porsche’s long history at Le Mans were visible in the 993 generation of the 911, which was touted by customers in the second half of the 1990s. Four versions of the 911 (993) GT2 R were once again the perfect support for the last of the museum’s exhibits for Goodwood in 2023: the 911 GT1 ’98. This technological tour de force gave Porsche its record 16th victory at Le Mans in 1998, 25 years ago. Danish Le Mans legend Tom Christensen, who took the first of his nine victories in a Joest Porsche WSC-95 in 1997, led the field in GT1 ’98.
No stranger to the 911, nor to taking the checkered flag for Porsche at Le Mans, former factory driver Neil Yanni was one of the guest drivers invited to take part in the Porsche parade. Behind the wheel of Moby Dick, the Swiss driver, who drove the 919 Hybrid to its second overall 24 Hours victory in 2016, was delighted to be part of such a special occasion and overwhelmed by his first experience with the 935/78, 845 hp. with
“It’s still the highest-horsepower 911 ever made,” says the 2016 WEC Drivers’ Champion, “and you really feel it when that turbine kicks in. You have to make sure it’s in the right gear and keep the revs high, and when the power arrives it’s surprisingly smooth. But there is also no end! Hats off to the guys who drove this flawlessly at Le Mans.”
Some 35 years older than the 919 Hybrid with which Gianni took first position and overall victory at Le Mans, the 935/78 was a thrilling experience for the former factory driver. “It’s a different physical effort compared to the 919. You train this car and you have to make sure you have the gears right and you don’t overrev, which is easy to do. When the push comes, you have to switch so fast. But it was a fantastic experience,” he adds. “Goodwood is the perfect environment to drive older cars and see what race drivers have been up to in the past. You can really hold the car by the neck and drive it!”
Thanks to more than half a century of continuous competition, combined with unmatched performance and reliability, the 911 in all its guises can claim to be the single most successful GT car to have turned the wheel in anger. And moments like the 80sth The Members’ Meeting at Goodwood serves as an invaluable reminder, to drivers and spectators alike, of the wide reach of this racing line and of the passion and enthusiasm that continues for a car that has been winning races for more than half a century.