Porsche continued its winning ways last year at the 12 Hours of Sebring, taking the overall victory with the RS Spyder sports prototype. Following tradition, the name of the overall winner was added to the front of the pit structure at the Sebring International Raceway before this year’s race.
With a total of 18 overall wins and 65 class victories, Porsche is the most successful manufacturer at the long distance classic in Florida. Several days before the season-opener of the American Le Mans Series on Saturday, March 21st, the first and the last overall-winning Porsche as well as the two most successful models to secure wins at Sebring come together in an unprecedented group picture: The 718 RS 60, the RS Spyder as well as the 935 and 962 models.
The first overall win for Porsche at the Sebring 12 hour race came in 1960 with Hans Herrmann (D) and Olivier Gendebien (B) at the wheel of a tiny 160hp 718 RS 60 featuring a 1.6-litre engine. The compact and lightweight car beat many considerably more powerful rivals and earned itself the nickname “Giant Killer”.
Between the years 1978 and 1984, the Porsche 935 was in a class of its own in Sebring. Seven times in a row, the 590 hp sports car with its 2.85-litre six-cylinder turbo engine dominated all its competitors. The victorious vehicle of 1980 was piloted by Dick Barbour (USA) and John Fitzpatrick (GB).
In 1985, the Porsche 962 continued the 935’s success streak with pilots A.J. Foyt (USA) and Bob Wollek (F). In the years 1986, 1987 and 1988, the 680 hp sports prototype with the 2.85-litre six-cylinder turbo engine also crossed the finish line first in Sebring.
Twenty years after the last overall win for Porsche in 1988 of Klaus Ludwig (D) and Hans-Joachim Stuck (D) with a 962, Timo Bernhard (D), Romain Dumas (F) and Emmanuel Collard (F) triumphed with the RS Spyder. Like so often in the racing history of Porsche, here it was again a case of David defeating Goliath. Despite having 200hp less, the 478 hp 3.4-litre V8 engine contesting the LMP2 class beat all other cars in the faster LMP1 category. The keys to this success were the best reliability, spending the shortest time in the pits, and the best fuel consumption of all sports prototypes. Victory at the season-opener in Sebring laid the foundation for a successful title defense in the American Le Mans Series.
This coming weekend at the start of the 2009 ALMS season, five Porsche GT3 RSR will line-up on the grid in the GT2 class.