Porsche's Rennsport Reunion is like the movie, "Night at the Museum," where Ben Stiller discovers that the historical characters and ancient creatures actually come to life. But rather than wax figures that suddenly become animated, Rennsport features real humans—legendary Porsche race drivers as well as renowned Porsche racing car engineers and other luminaries—who make up the cadre of guest stars spanning the marque's half-century- in motorsports. As for the animals that come to life? At Rennsport, those would be the race cars—350 at this year's Reunion—that get to roar once more.
The original idea of getting hundreds of racing Porsches out of the museums and private collections and onto a race track was the vision of the late Bob Carlson, the public relations guru at Porsche Cars North America, and Brian Redman, the legendary Porsche works driver and vintage racing promoter. Carlson had seen the drawing power of Porsche at the 1998 Monterey Historic Races where organizers had to close the gates because the parking lots were full. Likewise, Redman had witnessed the popularity of the marque when he staged an all-Porsche race car roundup at Watkins Glen that same year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Porsche. Both men were convinced that Porsche deserved its very own racing reunion and Rennsport, which essentially means "racing" in German, was born.
The first event took place in 2001 at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. It was such a huge success that it forced Bob and Brian to look for a more expansive venue, one with a unique history, as a setting for the next reunion. Daytona International Speedway seemed like a natural, and Rennsport II and III were held there in 2004 and 2007.
Sadly, Carlson succumbed to cancer in late 2008, but his legacy lives on. This year Redman, vintage race car collector and driver Bruce Canepa and Porsche Cars North America joined forces to stage the fourth Rennsport on Oct. 14-16 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, Calif. Although Daytona was a popular venue, the Southeast fan base was not as great as that on the West Coast, which is widely considered to be Porsche country. Besides, in many ways, Laguna Seca's road racing heritage was even richer than Daytona's.
Switching the event to this picturesque and storied road course turned out to be the right idea as Rennsport Reunion IV, which this year honored the Porsche 911, attracted one of the largest crowds ever—more than 35,000—to Laguna Seca. Commemorative T-shirts sold out on Friday, and vendors reportedly had to break up a fight over the few remaining shirts. Meanwhile, in the nearby Porsche Corral, 1300 Boxsters, Caymans, 911s and 912s, arranged by model and by year, covered nearly every square inch of an expansive parking lot. At the Park-in-the-Paddock, several unique Porsche racing cars, such as Baby, the never-raced 16-cylinder Spyder and the 918 RSR Concept were among the eye candy that also included several examples of the just-introduced 991, the all-new Carrera. Across the pedestrian bridge in the Porsche Platz, a Porsche Club of America display chronicled every 911 model from 1964 to the present while a German beer garden lent an Octoberfest feel to Rennsport where the sunny and warm weekend weather was anything but October-like.
Meanwhile, back in the paddock, a lineup of significant 911-based racing cars from the first Type 901 to score a class win in a road race—at Daytona in 1966—to the latest 911GT3 R Hybrid, competed for attention with a collection that ranged from 917 Le Mans racers to Can-Am 917-10s with an IMSA-winning 962 thrown in for good measure. Cars from the Porsche Museum, the Collier Collection, Brumos Porsche and Canepa Motorsports were augmented by multiple entries from private collectors. Suffice to say, nearly every Porsche model ever raced, save the 917-30 Can-Am racer, which was conspicuously absent, was represented, sometimes by multiple examples of the respective variant. Collective value? In the tens of millions. An exceptional 962, for example, can fetch $1 million—there were 16 of them—and each one of the 16 935s range from about $150,000 to a half-million.
Not to be outshone by the race cars were the men behind the machines: world famous drivers such as Derek Bell, David Donohue, Vic Elford, George Follmer and Hurley Haywood racing engineers like Norbert Singer (the genius behind Moby Dick, Baby, the 935, the 936 and the 911GT1-98), and Valentin Schaffer, the engine man responsible in part for dozens of Porsche racing powerplants including the V-6 turbo Formula 1 engine and the Indy car V-8. Dr. Wolfgang Porsche was in the house as was comedian Jerry Seinfeld, the consummate Porsche collector, who showed two of his many cars and, along with Singer, served as co-Grand Marshal of Rennsport Reunion IV.
Now race cars on display are fine, but what about cars on the track? Once again, Rennsport lived up to its racing moniker. Some 200 Porsches from early era 550 Spyders to modern-day 911 GT3 Cup Cars and Caymans—with a healthy helping of prototypes, such as 908s, 917s, 935s, 936s, 962s and RS Spyders, thrown in—competed in eight feature races including an all-Cayman contest.
Most memorable sights? How about Brian Redman carving up the competition in a 908/3 similar to the one he drove victory in the 1970 Targa Florio? Or Hurley Haywood, the five-time Daytona 24 Hours, three-time Le Mans and two-time Sebring 12 Hours winner, proving that at age 63 he still has the talent and endurance that made him a champion as he drove three of Brumos Porsche's 10 cars, including its awe-inspiring 917-10 Can-Am racer.
Now for the million dollar question: Will there be a Rennsport Reunion V? Probably. Although the date hasn't been set (the average interval between events is three years), one thing is reasonably certain. Based on how pleased Porsche was with this year's Rennsport, the next gathering of the clans will likely take place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Expect hundreds of Porsche racing cars and dozens of drivers, engineers and numerous celebrities. But not necessarily Ben Stiller.