It’s been a summer of post-Brexit blues, sorted by returning to two wheels and clocking up four thousand UK miles on a pair of BMW motorbikes over various Porsche-inspired jaunts, which left no time for blogging. Sorry if you thought I had left the building: as only one of you emailed to check, I guess most knew what was going on or were not that bothered 😀
It was a busy summer for Stuttgart, with a new Panamera and a bunch of other stuff happening. To be honest, only two Porsche announcements made me click for more details: Mark Webber’s retirement and the final races for the Porsche 991 RSR. I think I’ll miss the 911 most of the pair, but then we’ll still see Mark out and about (all over Twitter and also hosting Channel 4’s F1 coverage) and 911s tend to dominate thoughts around here.
The 991 RSR has enjoyed a decent sportscar career. First raced in 2013, the car has clocked up more than seventy races in WEC, IMSA and European Le Mans, winning twenty-one of those races and eight championships. Given the intense level of competition in sportscar racing and the number of other cars Porsche has built to go racing (and won) with, this is pretty impressive.
Porsche’s own RSR retirement story contained an interesting statement, claiming 2015 as its most successful motorsport year ever. “The handling of the 911 RSR was improved to such an extent that even customer teams with amateur race drivers could yield success,” says the factory. “Patrick Dempsey is a perfect example of this.” Dempsey took his sole WEC GTE AM class win at Fuji in October 2015, alongside works driver, Patrick Long, and top man Marco Seefried, but there were many more GTE Am victories along the way.
More importantly for the RSR’s place in history was last year’s season-long charge of Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen in the 4-litre 911 race car to take the GTE Pro championship, following a great second half of the season with victories at the Nürburgring, COTA and Shanghai. An exceptionally tenacious drive, which showcased the spirit and talent of both pilots. This year has been much lower key for the WEC RSR, with most effort going into the 2017 car.
Mark Webber’s retirement creates an interesting energy within the Porsche racing squad. Rumours have Kevin Magnussen going to Porsche to take Webber’s seat but I’m not so sure about that. Shifting Le Mans LMP1 winners Bamber and Tandy back to GT cars for 2016 can’t have been easy to manage, so one assumes they stuck around as they knew a free seat in the top class was coming. Webber’s departure sorts one driver out, but what of the other? I’m sure someone knows what is happening: that will be interesting.
Mark is a consummate Porsche guy, with a garage full of collectable 911s and a fascination with everything Stuttgart produces. He’s always going to be one of the faithful, so will never be fully retired. Like a Gen II Derek Bell, there’s lots still to come from Queanbeyan’s great champion.