Renowned author and photographer and Excellence contributor Randy Leffingwell was asked by Porsche to research and write the official book of its motorsports history. Join him along the way.
May 8, 2011:
There is nothing quite like trying to keep up with Hans Herrmann and Jacky Ickx through traffic. This is especially true when Herrmann is in a 917K and Ickx is driving his 1976 Le Mans-winning 936 Spyder. On the Autobahn. Into a tunnel.
It was easy for me. I was just holding the route card for my driver, former racing director Peter Falk, who was driving the 1983 Paris-Dakar 4-wheel drive 911SC Type 953 that he helped invent.
Our excuse was a huge celebration of 125 Years of the Automobile in the German province of Baden-Württemberg, home of Porsche, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz. Each of these manufacturers pulled treasures from their museums to make a total of 125 cars that drove a 17.5-kilometer route from the Porsche Museum to the Mercedes-Benz Museum to the center of Stuttgart and the city hall. Porsche alone contributed 50 cars. The parade started at 11 AM and the pace alternately stalled and sprinted, some of the cars reaching speeds above 200 km/h (125 mph) on three separate autobahn stretches. Through the city, crowds closed in on the cars, narrowing roadways to single lanes lined with women, men, children, and thousands of cameras. When progress stopped, people recognized Herrmann in the 917 and Ickx in his 936 and ran out to get autographs.
The list of cars Porsche pulled out — and the list of drivers who came to drive their own history — was incredible. Herbert Linge; Paul Ernst Strähle, Jr; Derek Bell; Walter Röhrl; Marc Lieb; and several others. Dr. Wolfgang Porsche drove 356 Number 1, and the parade included an impressive collection of historic automobiles spanning from a privately owned Type 64 from 1939 up to the most recent Porsche Trans-Siberia Rally Cayenne, 14 race cars in all.
We haven’t heard crowd estimates but it’s easy to imagine as many as 25,000 people lined the parade route and another 10- to 15,000 came to City Hall square to see the cars and greet the heroes.