April 25, 2011
My wife Carolyn suggested I do a blog of the trip I am about to begin. I think most of you know that several years back Dieter Landenberger, Porsche' s head of Archives and co-director of the new museum, asked me to write their racing history for them. He reiterated his request this past summer when he and his wife Sonja came to visit us in Santa Barbara. My long-time publisher Motorbooks politely deferred on this project, worried that in the current book and financial economy, it might be too tightly focused for their audiences. David Bull in Phoenix quickly stepped in and he and I have been plotting and scheming ever since this past winter to produce what we hope will be an exceptional history of Porsche's racing.
But this is day zero, meaning tomorrow I fly to Frankfurt where I connect with long-time friend and serious Porsche enthusiast Jerry Reilly. I met Jerry 21 years ago while producing my first Porsche book, Porsche Legends. We hit it off and our friendship has grown deeper and deeper over the years. Jerry first accompanied me along on the trip in 2004 and 2005 when I researched and then wrote Porsche 911: Excellence by Design. (I also dedicated the book to him and to my late father in law.) Jerry's background is in business and each morning I'd go over the day's interview subjects with him and review the questions I had developed for each individual. Time and time again, Jerry came up with one or two or several questions that I never would have thought of, topics that grew out of a business-like approach to Porsche's design, engineering, marketing, racing. Many times, in my mind, his questions yielded the most interesting and thought-provoking answers and information of the day. He then came with me when I did Porsche 60 Years, and now, glutton for punishment that he is, he's agreed to yet another journey through Porsche's history. I already have tasked him with reviewing my daily questions and discovering the issues I missed. (There are other assignments but he doesn't know about those yet....)
If you can think of friends who love Porsches or racing and who you think might enjoy reading some of what I'm going to be learning—and passing along to you—please pass it along to them.
At some point, I'll throw (c) copyright symbols on some of what you'll read. I'd rather not read it myself on some other site or publication (and I will be grateful for your respecting that request.) But for Porsche enthusiasts and for those who enjoy sports car racing, this next month will be a journey through some very interesting history. Dieter—and Porsche—have promised me full access and exceptional cooperation. In our first four days of interviews alone, we start by talking with Peter Falk, who ran racing for more than a decade and who was so effective at it that insiders and outsiders dubbed the Porsche motorsports department "Falkland." As though it were its own nation. (Probably it was a monarchy!)
Porsche was the first company to successfully turbocharge its race cars and a few hours after spending time with Falk, we'll talk to turbo "inventor" Valentin Schaeffer (perhaps we more accurately should call him Turbo Tamer.)
The next day we meet Klaus Bischof, who started his career at Porsche as a racing mechanic (and was at Le Mans the first year the 917s won!). After returning to school and earning his engineering degree, he came back to Porsche as a racing engineer who helped steer a number of projects into winner circles. That same day we meet again with Herbert Ampferer, who worked with Schaeffer on turbocharging, but also helped develop Formula 1 cars, and endurance racers; Ampferer was one of my most favorite interviews from the 60 Years project. The man simply did everythjing. That day we conclude with Walter Rohrl. Walter sometimes is known as Wild Man Walter. He is arguably one of Porsche's fastest and most capable racers who has served as development engineer on a number of extraordinary cars and who has run—and won—more races than I can count. He is regularly the driver the factory calls on to set new lap records with new models at German's legendary Nurburgring circuit. A ride with him would be a thrill, but that's unlikely to happen. I think hearing his stories should come close.
The next day is all racers, all legends, Kurt Ahrens, Hans Herrmann, and Herbert Linge. Between them, they have more than 100 years combined experience racing Porsches into the victory circle. I've met and talked to Herrmann and Linge before; they are great story tellers.
The next day...well, you'll just have to wait for that. And then there are 24 more days after that. I return to Santa Barbara on May 22. I am guessing it might take me a while to come back to earth even after the plane lands.
I'm going to be recording each of these interviews. We have the idea of doing not only a print edition but also an e-book and David Bull and I have been bouncing ideas around that include excerpts of these individuals—in their own voices—telling their stories. We'll see how it works.
Oh yeah, pictures. Well, just wait and see. So to speak. This book promises to be not only a reader's delight but a visual feast as well. I already have worked with Porsche Archive's Jens Torner, and I've heard he has entire new collections just waiting for me to see.
I'll try to keep you posted every day or so. In the meanwhile, as my friend Pete Biro says, "Stay tuned."