In 1986, Porsche introduced the Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) transmission at Le Mans. While a road-going version wouldn’t hit the streets until 2007, the automotive world got their glimpse of what the PDK could do and would eventually become in the Rothman Porsche’s car No. 3, a 962C driven by Vern Schuppan and Drake Olson (though the team was forced to drop out at lap 41 due to a failed PDK input shaft).
The same year, Porsche’s rally-proven 4WD system would also make its Le Mans debut, fitted to car No. 180, a Porsche 962, which was driven by René Metge and Claude Ballot-Léna. The team placed 7th overall, with 321 laps completed against the winning cars – a Porsche 962C – 368 laps.
In fact, the top-10 ranked cars for the 1986 Le Mans were entirely made up of Porsche’s. This was an incredible feat, but not a totally unsurprising one considering Porsche’s excellent performance in the 1985 Le Mans, where it dominated, occupying 8 of the top 10 spots.
1986 was also a year of loss, with esteemed racer Jo Gartner losing his life in a fatal accident during the 169th lap. Jo’s was one of three 962’s involved in an accident that year, though his was the most impactful.
A Story of Le Mans Every Porsche Fan Will Enjoy
The above facts about 1986’s Le Mans aren’t new to any serious Le Mans enthusiast, but they are among the trove of important facts, events, statistics, photographs, and race records that Glen Smale’s Porsche at Le Mans: 70 Years perfectly encapsulates.
Smale provides appropriate exposition, with the extensive gallery of photos, many from Porsche’s corporate archives, given plenty of context. Everything presented feels in-frame, significant, and an important part of the story being told.
Made for Every Generation
Each decade is treated to a brief introduction that calls out the more notable events, cars, and drivers of the era. These overviews paint a very human picture of the environment of the day, starting with the 1950s’ plucky optimism and continuing through the changing competitive landscape throughout the 2000s and 2010s.
In Appreciation of the Porsche Perspective
Smale does an excellent job presenting Porsche’s accomplishments and technological achievements without needlessly disparaging other teams, cars, or platforms. His presentation throughout the book is pragmatic and honest – a refreshing take from today’s opinionated online environment.
Smale’s expertise as a Porsche historian bleeds through the pages. Conscientious and detail-obsessed readers will especially enjoy the specificity paid to image captions, which are filled with interesting anecdotes and vehicle-specific stats. Each photo and accompanying caption adds an important element to the story.
Featuring Some of Porsche’s Most Iconic Le Mans Cars
The strength of the copy is equaled by the gallery the book contains. Smale’s relationships with Porsche and talented photographers rewards the reader with a selection of images that perfectly compliment the story being told.
Readers will dive deep into the makings and performance of legendary Porsches, such as the 356, 917, 962, and more. The book’s year-over-year view walks the reader through how Porsche adapted strategies and innovated with new technologies as racing regulations and competitors changed over time.
Featuring Some of Le Mans Most Notable Drivers & Privateers
The drivers and race teams are given equal significance as the cars themselves. Smale gives the reader a glimpse into the thoughts and emotions of the racers at Le Mans, with numerous drivers providing their own take on notable events and the cars they piloted
The True Porsche at Le Mans Encyclopedia
Clearly the work of a dedicated creator that has an equal love for both Porsche and Le Mans, books like this are increasingly rare. Fans of the brand will appreciate the detail paid to the cars, drivers, and circumstances motivating the team(s) for each years’ race.
Best of all? The book is fun to read and anyone that considers themselves a fan of Porsche, Le Mans, or both is sure to enjoy their time with it.
Porsche at Le Mans: 70 years was released in late November 2021 is available in bookstores and online.