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Friday, April 29, 2011

Great Start To This Porsche Motorsport History

Our interview schedule gave us appointments at 10am, 1pm, and 3pm, which allows plenty of time to spill over without sacrificing time with the next subject. It paid off immediately today with nearly 90 minutes with Peter Falk. He is a tall slender Patrician gentleman, soft spoken but very quick to smile. He started at Porsche in 1959 and - get this - his first assignment was to install air conditioning into a 356. It was only experimental and he told us it was a nightmare -a small car with a tiny engine compartment that suddenly needed so much more plumbing. It had nothing to do with racing but I like to find out the very first assignments of everyone I talk to. Sometimes the surprises are startling. Like AC in a 356.

More to the point of racing, Falk was a participant in one of the most fascinating races against time that Porsche ever staged, a monumental record run staged at Monza race circuit, using the Number 001 911R. I've spent time digging into this event in the past but today Falk cleared up a few more lingering mysteries. And then he went on to talk about his development work on 911 rally cars, the 904, 906, 910, 907, 908, 909, and 917 racers. He gave us a fascinating litany of out-oof-the-box successes and a few dazzling failures that went on to capture world championships. We will have number of period photos of Falk and some wonderful recent portraits that Jerry shot today.

Our second subject was Ed Peter who spent two decades helping American dealers get the cars they needed to sell. He explained the structure that put Porsches in Audi sales rooms and put Porsche+Audi logos on the 1971 and 1972 Can-Am cars. Full of stories of working with Penske on Can-Am racers, as well as representing Porsche at hundreds of other races, he explained a number of the mysteries that cloud Porsche's unsatisfying efforts in CART and Indy Car racing. As enjoyable, he brought along two DVD's of images. Ed Peter was a talented photographer who chronicled all the races he attended, shooting thousands of previously unpublished photos - which you will see in this book.

The afternoon ended with Valentin Schaeffer. Porsche has an ability to attract exceptional talent and keep them a long time. Schaeffer started in 1956 and worked only in the motorsports department. A compact man with an extremely expressive face, he was sent by his boss in the late 1960s to a local company that produced turbochargers for trucks and tractors to buy some samples to begin the development experiments. But his boss insisted on secrecy; Schaeffer could not identify who he was with or even what they were going to be usesd for. Finally, the group of engineers around the table asked him, "Well, can you tell us how much horsepower you hope to produce?"

Schaeffer grinned at them. At last there was a question he could answer: "More than 1,000," he answered.

Tomorrow, we have the next two interviews, plus time to get through the museum and shoot pictures for you to illustrate what we're learning.

Stay tuned,     Randy

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