Every three years since 2001, the finest of Porsche’s Rennsport heritage gather for one big family reunion. In 2018, the event was held at the WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California, and we were lucky enough to attend. On the invitation list for this year’s event were as many as 350 cars, including a number of 917s, 962s and many 911s.
As you enter the track over the bridge, the sound of heavy-bass boxer engines roaring down the main straight hits you. And even though it’s a weekday, the paddock area is filled with fans of the Stuttgart-based brand, most of whom are in absolute awe of the iconic (and rare) race and production cars on display under the 70th anniversary heritage gallery.
Proudly exhibited as you enter are the 2015 919 Hybrid LMP1 and 917/30 Can-Am racecars, both of which enjoyed successful careers in their respective disciplines. The interactive nature of the reunion quickly becomes clear as the cars are available for the public to walk right up to; there isn’t any barricading to keep them safe. But, from up close, you’re immediately aware of the fact that putting as much as a tiny scratch on any of these would likely bankrupt you for good.
The benefit of getting up close and personal with these cars is being able to inspect the various intricate design elements, such as the 804’s fascinating air intake system or the 935’s intricate twin-turbocharging setup. When you head further down the paddock, you find dedicated areas for the 959s, of which there were a surprising amount; the 356s; and (comically) the classic Porsche tractors. Private owners are allowed to display their road-going models at the far corner of the track.
The interactive experience continues as live panel interviews take place on the main stage throughout the day. These feature icons such as Jacky Ickx and Gijs van Lennep as well as more contemporary heroes like Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard. Happily, they take time to autograph memorabilia for fans at a dedicated table.
Although the racing drivers were in attendance, most of the track time was enjoyed by private owners who were set up in a paddock area. As you walk through, you get the impression these cars are not being used as museum pieces, but are rather spending time exactly where they were designed to ... on a racetrack.
It's also refreshing to see the owners openly interact with passers-by and get down and dirty to work on their own multi-million rand cars. Once they head on the track, it's clear they aren't intending on being easy on their machines either, as almost every Porsche that lapped Laguna Seca seemed to be driven close to its limit. Gladly, all of the Rennsport representatives got track time, from the giant-killing 914s to the awe-inspiring 917 and 906s. Unfortunately, the 962C and 911 GT1 lapped the track only a handful of times, but their presence was a treat nonetheless.
A special run of the 919 Hybrid Evo is an eye-opening experience. Current holder of the lap record for the Nürburgring, this model isn't the loudest of the weekend but it is undoubtedly the fastest. You come to realise this when you try to capture a flyby video and just about manage to keep it in frame. The 2018 Porsche 911 RSR also shows off its naughty persona, with a couple of oversteering corner exits in between its flat-out exhibition.
Later in the day, we also have the opportunity to see the 1 162 kW 917/30 complete a couple of laps, but its driver understandably wasn’t prepared to explore its limits.
What makes Rennsport Reunion so special is the fact it focuses not only on the cars and heritage but also the community and lifestyle. It's a rare opportunity where everyone can feel welcome and interact with people who get to drive these iconic cars on a regular basis. And they truly are special cars that you may otherwise see only in magazines or on bedroom-wall posters.