Why Porsche Rennsport Reunion VI Was My Favorite Event Of 2018
Wow, what a crazy few months it’s been! I’m just getting around to mentally processing what happened at Porsche Rennsport Reunion VI, held at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and not only what it meant for the brand, but also for myself. Back in 2001, Porsche North America started this little thing called Rennsport Reunion, held at one of America’s premier circuits, Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut. In the years since, the event has run an additional five times and changed venues twice, with each besting the one prior. Special care and planning went into this most recent iteration, though, with over 81,000 people in attendance. The event’s schedule of every four years was adjusted to perfectly align with Porsche’s monumental 70th anniversary of existence this year.
We feature a lot of manufacturer-specific events here on Front Street, but never any that are actually organized and hosted by a vehicle manufacturer itself. When a company like Porsche hosts an event, its overwhelming influence, mass of capital, and heritage within the community is sure to produce a quality affair like no other—and produce they did.
Rennsport Reunion VI was a four-day-long sensory-overload congregation of everything Porsche. Much like the SEMA Show, it contained such an immense amount of content that it would have been impossible to witness it all, despite its rather extended schedule. I struggled to capture everything I could and still missed critical parts of the weekend. However, I’ve assembled a list of my favorite parts of the event for anyone who missed the spectacular convention. Without any further hesitation, let’s get into it!
1. The Marine Layer
What a better way to start my list of why I loved Rennsport Reunion than with something that isn’t even Porsche-related. Marine layer is a term used to describe the thick fog-like haze that develops over large bodies of water like the Pacific Ocean, or Monterey Bay—both of which are nearby the jurisdiction of Salinas, California, where WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is located. This means that every morning, the air was damp, the sun was shielded, and overcast skies loomed overhead, while the marine layer prevented clear visibility. This caused a delay of the scheduled start time of the racing festivities for a couple of the days, but it also provided a rare moody backdrop for the morning practice sessions on track once the race officials deemed it safe to proceed. The temperatures were chilly, but it was still delightful to see the collection of white and selective yellow headlights cutting through the mist while the aural treat of flat-sixes grunted about. Plus, those same delays gave me a chance to wander around the show area and capture some foggy scenes in other places than on the track.
2. The Chopard Heritage Display
I found myself frequenting this display numerous times each day, just to be in the presence of these cars and gaze at all of the iconic liveries. I could have very easily made this into its own article because it was stacked with so much information, history, and incredibly important racecars to the Porsche brand. In fact, I’m saving detailed shots of many of these cars to be used in upcoming spotlight features, so keep a look out for them. For now, just bask in the glorious lighting of an unbelievable collection of Porsche Motorsport heritage on American soil and restored to impeccable condition.
3. Vintage Racing Run Groups
While the thrill in the paddock centralized around the Chopard Heritage Display, the real source of excitement at the event filled the remainder of the paddock, and the 11-turn, 2.238-mile stretch of tarmac winding its way through the grounds. With seven divided groups of cars in total, there was vintage racing circling the racetrack during all hours of the event. While most of the groups were split up into generation and similar chassis production, the PCA Sholar-Friedman Cup was a mixture of Porsche Club of America racecars which spanned different decades. The remaining six run groups (Werks Trophy, Eifel Trophy, Weissach Cup, Stuttgart Cup, and Flacht Cup) all showcased the undying pursuit of motorsport excellence built into the various 908s, 911s, 356s, 962s, 917s, and newer 911 GT cars. Some of these cars were driven by ecstatic civilian owners of vintage magnificence, while the majority were piloted by the Porsche moniker’s most prestigious professional drivers setting foot in their former machines of glory. On the final day, the practice and qualifying sessions were replaced with wheel-to-wheel racing, which produced some incredibly enticing battles amongst all of the classes. It was easy to forget this was not technically a sanctioned racing event, but merely a celebration of motorsport.
4. New Porsche Motorsport 935
Contrasting the decades of history presented on track and in the paddock, the company unveiled its next generation of 935 911 at the event. Heavily based off the borderline-unattainable 991.2 GT2 RS, this exclusive single-seater non-homologated clubsport racecar is limited to only 77 production units. Created as a tribute to the famed ’79 Le Mans-winning “Moby Dick” Porsche 935/78 Longtail racecar of yesteryear, the iconic Martini livery colors are emblazoned front to rear on the widened aerodynamic 911. It’s clad in carbon fiber aerodynamic pieces to keep the car planted, and generates 700 hp from its twin-turbocharged rear-mounted boxer engine. Because it is not road legal, the front end displaced headlights in favor of sleek, smooth lines to reduce drag, while the front bumper gained larger openings to aid in cooling the numerous heat exchangers. It’s refreshing to see a modern take on nostalgic aerodynamic treatments executed so properly. Amidst the electric future of the Porsche lineup, it’s nice to see they’re still properly outfitting the classic petrol head.
5. 919 Hybrid Evo Exhibition Laps
Never before have I witnessed a car lapping a circuit with so much blistering outright speed. Officially, it is the fastest car to lap some of the world’s most demanding racetracks including Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, and the famed Nordschliefe at the Nürburgring in Germany—but what is it actually? Well, nothing more than an R&D project for Porsche Motorsport, really. The triple-champion Porsche LMP Team was having trouble passing the time after Porsche left the World Endurance Championship, so they took one of the retired 919 racecars, binned the rulebook, and decided to answer the age-old question of what lap times a top-tier racecar is capable of recording without pesky regulations slowing it down. The aero on the Le Mans-winning car was altered; the power unit’s output was drastically enhanced, and with no limitations on tire or fuel makeup it was unrestricted in every aspect. It is, essentially, time attack at the highest level and Porsche brought it to Laguna Seca! Not a demo version with no engine meant for display. No, they brought the real deal, and even announced over the loudspeaker that it could potentially attempt a new track record before the end of the event. With only a half hour of exhibition laps per day, time was of the essence, and with half of those sessions spent trailing a camera car for Porsche’s own media use later, that left even less time to dial in the chassis to the California raceway. Nevertheless, on the final day, the team gave three different drivers the chance to attack the course at speed, and give their best shot at the record. Because conditions were less than favorable under the hot mid-day sun, most of those laps were aborted before crossing the finish line. So while no new track record was set, I did get to stand on the pitwall and experience the 919 Hybrid Evo slice past me at over 190 mph—a feat achieved in the relatively short distance from Turn 11 to the Start/Finish line along the pit straight. That’s massively quick for such a short distance. Truly a remarkable experience that capped off a perfect event!
6. Everything Else
It wasn’t just the on-track excitement, the unveilings, the heritage display, or the racing paddock which made Rennsport Reunion VI so special, though. The entire atmosphere of the event, combined with the special vehicles, unique displays of power and speed, along with the company in attendance made it a favorite for me. It had assembled Porsche corrals all over the property, organized by chassis, where I not only got to pick and choose my pros and cons about every single Porsche chassis throughout the years, but also see the gamut of modifications available for all of them. I overheard 911 experts explaining chassis changes to interested buyers. I got to see Paint-To-Sample Porsche models (the company’s custom-painted order process) in excess. I got to explore the extensive vendors present on location like TAG Turbo, which is outfitting 11 used Porsche Formula 1 engines from the ‘80s into beautifully restored 911s. There is the experience of just being at the historically significant Laguna Seca facility, or getting the chance to see some of my favorite drivers in real life. The Singer DLS (Dynamics and Lightweighting Study) was on display for me to soak in every nuance and detail of the mind-altering build. There was everything from vintage Porsche tractor races, screaming 911 RSR exhibition laps, and even quiet parking areas where I counted 14—yes, 14—Porsche 959s contained together.
I could really go on about this event for days on end. There was so much to see, to hear, and more enjoyment to be had than is capable of fitting into four days. If you are generally obsessed with anything Porsche, or even if you only marginally like the brand and its wacky cult following, Rennsport Reunion is an absolute must-attend. Thanks to the Porsche marque being everywhere for the entirety of the event, there was a point in the weekend where I honestly forgot that other automobile manufacturers existed. It was right about the time when a pair of perfect Singer 911s, a 918 Spyder, and an illustrious 959 drove by me in succession to enter the racetrack. Yeah, it’s that kind of event.