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The Porsche Le Mans Success Story: A Brief History – Part 1

Porsche History

There have been countless memories created by Porsche at Le Mans, and to celebrate these moments, Porsche Museum will focus on “The Porsche success story in Le Mans” during the coming months.

History was created back in 1951 when Porsche claimed a class victory with the 356 SL at Le Mans. The light alloy Coupé would go on to achieve 107 more class victories and 19 overall victories.

Porsche 356 SL
Auguste Veuillet and Edmond Mouche obtained victory in the class up to 1,100 cc with the Porsche 356 SL in the 1951 Le Mans. It would be the first outing of a Porsche in Le Mans.

70 years later, Porsche Moments has been launched, a new series that will consist of six episodes devoted to this famed chapter in their history.

“In the new Porsche Moments format, we will be highlighting special moments in our past during which we – from today’s point of view – have made corporate, product or racing history. We reconstruct these moments as authentically as possible by means of contemporary witnesses and invite our fans to again experience these special Porsche Moments via our social media channels.”  

Head of Porsche Heritage and Museum, Achim Stejskal.

Timo Bernhard, Le Man’s winner, and endurance champion hosts the mini-series upon which he meets fascinating contemporary witnesses, either with two legs or four wheels, in Weissach and Zuffenhausen. 

Timo Bernhard

Le Mans: the Porsche Success Story – Watch Episode 1 Below:

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In the first episode of the Porsche Moments series, Timo Bernhard is joined by a companion that he hasn’t seen for two years, the Vice President Motorsport at Porsche, Fritz Enzinger, who led the team to three overall Le Man’s victories.

Porsche 356 SL and Fritz Enzinger and Timo Bernhard
Fritz Enzinger and Timo Bernhard launch the new “Porsche Moments” series.

Their reunion in front of the historical brick building of Werk 1 is like a gathering of old friends – it’s as if the two had brought the legend of Le Mans to Zuffenhausen. Climbing out of the 356 SL, Enzinger explains, “Trust and friendship are important for success in racing.”  

The SL is for Super Light, reflective of the aluminum body, which enables the Coupé to weigh just 680 kilograms – a full 120 kilograms lighter than the steel-bodied 356 Coupés Reutter produced in Stuttgart starting November 1949. 

1st le mans episode

Enzinger reminisces, sharing tidbits from the past – “Wilhelm Hild from the Porsche works team gave the 356 SL the nickname of ‘aluminum can’”. In-house, the car was given the name “Type 514 Porsche Sport for Le Mans 1951”. 

From 1948, a total of 44 Type 356/2 Coupés were produced by Porsche in Gmünd. Eleven other body shells were sent to Stuttgart where some went on to be developed there.

The vehicle that is showcased in the first episode of the Porsche Moments is the historical godfather of the class winner that was manufactured in 1952, a year after the original No. 46 winning car. 

“Just imagine – a car with less than 50 PS driving 2,840.65 kilometers at Le Mans at an average speed of 118.36 km/h. And that’s in 1951! It had traveled to the race by road – and then drove back to Zuffenhausen on country roads”

Fritz Enzinger

The winning car was driven by French importer Auguste Veuillet and his compatriot Edmond Mouche: two drivers for a 24-hour race was not unusual at the time.

Ferry Porsche and 356 SL
Soon before setting off for the first works participation in Le Mans in 1951 with Ferry Porsche in the center, with the Porsche 356 SL in the foreground.
356 SL

The team started their journey to Le Man’s at the Reutter building. “These days it is inconceivable to drive competition cars by road to Le Mans,” Bernhard shared with regards to the eleven-hour trip taken to arrive on June 16, 1951.  

“Departure was at 7:15 in the morning, Ferry Porsche sent off the team,” Enzinger added as he showed photos and entries in then chief designer Karl Rabe’s journal about the event.

photos of 356 SL

The year before at the Paris Motor Show, racing driver Veuillet and Charles Faroux 24 Hours of Le Mans race director were able to convince Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche to enter in Le Mans. 

Their journey towards their maiden class victory on June 24, 1951, was filled with challenges. By the time the race started, two of the three competition and training cars had already been in accidents. All their hopes for a victory hinged on the remaining lightweight and the 46 PS four-cylinder boxer engine. 

Enzinger recalls:

“If you win at Le Mans with a Porsche, it reverberates throughout the whole company,” remembers Enzinger. “It must have been the same then with the first-class victory. Le Mans is simply a magical place”.

In addition to the mini-series, Porsche will also be honoring their success story in Le Mans worldwide through a roadshow that is scheduled from June 2021 until January 2022. The roadshow will be visiting 10 countries that include the Netherlands, France, the UK, Germany, the USA, China, and United Arab Emirates. 

Porsche enthusiasts will be treated to static and dynamic appearances of over 20 original winning cars that are part of the historical collection.

driving a porsche

[Source: Porsche AG]