From Zuffenhausen to Monza

Fifty years ago Porsche conquered five endurance world records at Monza. The original record attempt began on October 29, 1967. Using a Porsche 906, it ended in failure after 20 hours with a second broken shock absorber. Undeterred Porsche decided to give it another go – this time with a 911 R. Two of them were available in the Porsche testing department. But the clock was ticking. The rules allowed a restart of the record attempt within forty-eight hours. The cars had to be sent down to Monza as quickly as possible, one as a race car and the other as a parts donor. 

When the record attempt was restarted at 8:00pm on Tuesday evening it was dark and pouring with rain. To help protect the suspension, the afternoon was spent marking the biggest potholes on the banked walls with long white arrows on the track. This enabled the drivers to take the potholes between the wheels and avoid the bumps. It worked. The 911 R went about its business, the rain stopped, and Wednesday and the second night passed without incident. The pit stops took little more than a minute. Ninety litres of fuel, top off the oil, clean the windscreen, check the suspension – it was literally a well-oiled machine in action.

It was wet again on Thursday evening. The problem this time was that there were no more rain tyres. So the Firestone experts cut rain grooves into the dry tyres by hand. On Friday evening, the tension reached fever pitch. At around 7:00pm it was confirmed: they’d driven 15,000 kilometres at a new record average speed of 210.22kph. Not long after that, Porsche set the seventy-two-hour record with a speed of 209.94kph. Fog rolled in and visibility was hardly forty metres. And yet the team still managed to set a new record shortly before midnight: 210.28kph over 10,000 miles. With another twenty hours of top-speed driving to go, two further world records were still waiting to be achieved. After four days, at 8:00pm on Saturday, the team had reached 20,000 kilometres in ninety-six hours at an average speed of 209.23 kph – in a car that, just a few days before, had been standing in the testing workshop in Zuffenhausen.

Recently Porsche collector Johan-Frank Dirickx and journalist Bart Lenaerts, marked the anniversary by retracing the drive from Zuffenhausen to Monza undertaken by the record-hunters fifty years ago in a 1967 Porsche 911 R, one of just twenty ever built. Source: Sven Freese, Christophorus, No. 383. Photos: Porsche / Lies de Mol.