Now that Porsche has officially confirmed its participation in the upcoming Hypercar class, let's take a look a back at some of the individuals instrumental in the German marque's 19 triumphs at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche
Porsche was founded in 1931 by Ferdinand Porsche then handed down to his son, Ferry. Motorsport, specifically endurance racing, have always played major roles in the German marque's endeavors. In 1951, Porsche took its rookie start in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the 356, a car built on the platform of the Volkswagen Beetle. That first participation culminated in 20th place overall and first in the class reserved for 751 to 1,100cc cars. Porsche went on to earn the win record at the race with 19 overall, in place to this day, and dozens of victories in all the other classes.
The man who created the Porsche 917 is often described as a visionary, daring and avant-garde. The 917 gave the German manufacturer its first overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, he first worked under his uncle, Ferry Porsche, on the marque's engines after completing a thesis on mechanical engineering. In 1967, he joined the competition department then became Director of Research and Development in 1968. Ferdinand Piëch described the 917 as "the biggest risk of his career."
Ferdinand Piëch & Gerhard Mitter lors de la présentation de la Porsche 917.
Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood
Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood gave Porsche the first of its 19 overall wins at Le Mans with the 1970 917 K.
A trained baker, the German driver was 100% loyal to Porsche throughout his career in racing. He is now 92 years young and has 14 participations in the 24 Hours to his credit. Shortly before the 1970 running of the race, he promised his wife to retire from racing if he won, and that he did.
Immersed in the world of automobiles thanks to his car dealership manager parents, Attwood is one of the most successful Porsche factory drivers in history. Richard Attwood: "Contrary to what a lot of people think, I never did any test sessions with the 917. I drove a 917 for the first time at a qualifying race in 1969. I didn't believe for a second we had the slightest chance of winning in 1970."
Of his six overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Jacky Ickx earned four with Porsche, in 1976, 1977 and 1981 at the wheel of the 936 then in 1982 with the 956. A true spearhead for the German marque, Ickx and his teammates claimed the first victory for a turbocharged engine, in 1976 with the Porsche 936. The following year, he changed cars during the race and gave a sensational performance overnight, winning the race in the balance. Known for his graciousness, Jacky Ickx: "Let's make something clear. There are heroes on the track, but also those behind the scenes you never see. They make the driver and are passionate while working in the shadows. They are the craftsmen of a project no matter the race or place in the world. They give you a tool and if you're there at the right time, it's the winning tool. The only thing left for the driver to do, in a manner of speaking, is stay on the track and go as fast as possible."
Jacky Ickx, sextuple vainqueur des 24 Heures du Mans, au volant de la Porsche 936.
Few names are more closely associated with the 24 Hours of Le Mans than that of engineer Norbert Singer. Of the 19 cars fielded in the race by the German manufacturer over the years, Singer worked on 16. He played a crucial role in the success of both factory and client teams, and until his retirement in 2004, served as project manager for most of Porsche's racing cars, responsible for strategic and tactical decisions on race days. The most signficant technical stage in Singer's career was most likely the development of the Porsche 956. He proved his tremendous expertise in the field of aerodynamics and provided the car with exceptional ground effect and therefore extremely efficient handling. In 2003, he was given the "Spirit of Le Mans" award by the ACO. Five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell: "Norbert gave Porsche's racing cars everything they needed to win. If you told Norbert about a problem, you knew it was taken care of before you took your place on the starting grid."
Sur les 19 victoires que compte le constructeur allemand en Sarthe, 16 ont impliqué la participation de Norbert Singer.
Fritz Enzinger and Andreas Seidl
Fritz Enzinger and Andreas Seidl are credited as the workhorses of Porsche's LMP1 programme between 2014 and 2017, Enzinger as vice president and Seidl as team manager and technical director. In late June 2011, Porsche announced its return to the top class in endurance racing with the Porsche 919 Hybrid prototype. The car was built on the back of the new ACO regulations to take on Audi and Toyota. The 919 Hybrid is considered the marque's most technically evolved racing car ever. In four years of competition, it earned 17 wins in 34 races, including three at the 24 Hours (2015, 2016 and 2017). Andreas Seidl: "Those were four exceptional years. We are very proud of the success we achieved with this technology-driven car," he said in November 2017 after the 919 Hybrid's final race, the Bahrain round of the FIA WEC.
Porsche will return once again to the top class in the FIA World Endurance Championship, this time the Hyperclass, in 2023 with an LMDh prototype.
PHOTO: Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood posing in front of the 917 K winner at the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans.