The High Holy Days of sports car racing in America are now upon us with the running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. This highly anticipated event will kick off IMSA’s 50th Anniversary, so let’s look back at a very special event that celebrated the 70th anniversary of Porsche, IMSA’s winningest manufacturer with 566 victories — an astonishing gap of 230 more wins than No. 2 on the list, Chevrolet.
Held at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca over four days at the end of September 2018, Porsche Rennsport Reunion VI stands apart in my memory as one of the very best motorsports events I’ve ever attended. It was a profoundly moving experience on every level because it felt deeply personal for the 60,000-plus people in attendance who shared an almost religious emotional connection to Porsche’s iconic competition cars that have defined motorsports passion and engineering excellence over eight decades.
It has been said that every Porsche has the soul of a racing car, and I felt this strongly when I sat in my grandfather’s beautiful new 1964 Porsche 356C that he’d obtained via European delivery. I was only ten and had just discovered auto racing a few months before, but this jewel of a car was so captivating that I fell under its spell instantly. Porsches were rare beasts that looked and sounded different than cars I’d seen on the roads of Southern California during the early 1960s. After noticing my Porsche infatuation, my stoic grandpa allowed me to sit behind the wheel of the 356C, alone in the garage, where I would make engine sounds as I pretended to shift gears in an imaginary race that took me to the lead at Le Mans. This fueled my dreams of a life in racing, and thankfully this childhood spark of inspiration continued to burn brightly in me or there likely never would have been a RACER magazine or the website you are now reading.
To my young eyes it soon became apparent that Porsche went racing in a way that stood apart from Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Ford, Chevrolet and the rest. Every Porsche racing car had a brave individualistic character and each told a unique story while taking the path less trodden. Before long, some of these unique stories would intertwine with my own and soon would define key moments and relationships in my life.
My career in motorsports media began with a journey to Laguna Seca in October 1972. I was on a mission with my high school pals to create a series of art prints of the Can-Am cars that we would publish and sell at the next round at Riverside two weeks later. My focus was on the mighty Porsche 917/10s in the field and my first drawing was of the Team Penske L&M Porsche driven by championship leader George Follmer. This simple drawing of a Porsche ended up being a springboard to everything that has led to this moment. As I stood over the Penske Porsche 917/10 in the Chopard Porsche Rennsport pavilion I reflected on how much this amazing car has meant to me personally and the remarkable life’s adventure it inspired. It is forever part of who I am and it is ironic that my company would eventually be hired by Penske Motorsports during the late 1990s to serve as a creative agency for their racetrack holdings. During this time we designed a new logo and icon for Roger Penske’s racing businesses and I could not help but think back to the unlikely journey from that same paddock on a cold and rainy weekend 46 years earlier.
One of my personal Porsche Rennsport highlights was seeing my friend and RACER co-founder Jeff Zwart (above) performing his duties as a Porsche brand ambassador. Jeff and I first discussed the idea of creating RACER in January 1978 during a long drive up the California coast in Jeff’s yellow Porsche 914-6, which he still owns. During the 40 years since that fateful conversation, Jeff went on to win several SCCA Pro Rally championships and also claimed eight class victories at Pikes Peak in various Porsche 911s. Watching Jeff interview our mutual hero “Quick Vic” Elford about his legendary victory at the 1968 Monte Carlo Rally in a 911, which he followed a week later by winning the Daytona 24 in a Porsche 907 was truly a surreal experience that underscored the power of passion and chasing dreams. Later this year, Jeff’s directorial talents will be on display in the action sequences for the motion picture “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” which follows the turbulent personal and racing life of an IMSA racer from the unique perspective of his loyal dog Enzo.