The 24 hours of Le Mans is arguably the world’s greatest race. It started in 1923. Porsche first entered the race shortly after the second World war in 1951, as a fledgling manufacturer. They have an unbroken run of competing for seventy years.
When Porsche started—having just been producing the Porsche 356 for three years—just finishing was an accomplishment. In 1951, winning the 1100cc class in the process was monumental. Porsche desperately wanted to win the race overall, finally accomplishing the feat in 1970, 19 years after their first entry.
Through perseverance and ingenuity, Porsche has had nineteen overall (and numerous class) victories over the past 70 years—more than any other manufacturer. Documenting this history, as Glen Smale does in his new book, Porsche at Le Mans—70 Years, is certainly a noble undertaking.
The book Porsche at Le Mans—70 Years starts at the beginning, in 1951. The Porsche 356 SL finishes 20th overall and wins the 1100cc class.
The Book is full of excellent Archival photos. Here the visionary Ferry Porsche (right) and his team manager Baron Huschke von Hanstein at Le Mans 1952.
Glen Smale’s book documents both Porsche’s successes and their failures at Le Mans over the years. The book is filled with epic photography, many side stories, and tabled results of all Porsche cars for each year.
This is an updated book, building on Glen’s previous edition at 60 years (published in 2011, which was a finalist in the British Motorsports book awards in 2012). That Book is now out of print and costs up to $300 on eBay. This edition covers more ground and is less expensive.
The book is professionally researched and includes many rare photographs from the Porsche Factory Archives. Glen has authored seventeen books on sports cars and motor racing, and is well versed about Le Mans and Porsche, being a lifelong racing enthusiast.
The author’s enthusiasm for Le Mans knows no bounds, as he commented: “The Le Mans 24 Hours has always been my favorite race, right from when I was a youngster. To now have worked as a full-time journalist and photographer for the last 13 years is a huge privilege for me. I look forward to each race right after the last one has just finished; it’s like living a dream.” A perfect pedigree for such a work.
The book is full of photos of historic cars such as this one: the 550 RS Spyder of Ed Hugus and Carel Godin de Beaufort in scrutineering in 1957. The car would finish eighth overall winning the 1500cc class.
The book is organized into chapters, each covering a ten-year period. Each chapter has a general overview. There are subsections in the chapters for each year, with an overview of what happened in that particular year.
Results tables of all Porsches in the race each year are provided with detailed finishing positions (class and overall), along with car numbers, drivers, entrants, classes, laps completed, and their reason for retirement (if applicable). However, much of the story is told via the excellent photographs sourced from the Porsche Factory Archives.
Many of the significant cars from each particular year are included, with long and detailed captions, which tell the story in themselves. Quite a few of the yearly reports include sidebars detailing particular cars, or interviews with drivers such as Vic Elford, Brian Redman, Jochen Mass, Allan McNish, Jackie Oliver etc.
The organization is superb—you can get the full story of a particular race in 5-10 pages, with all the detail and pictures required.
The book is organized by chapters spanning 10 years. This is a sample of the 1990s introduction.
The book highlights the results of all Porsche cars in each year’s race in full detail.
The book is well laid out, with detailed captions of the photos, which tell the story in their own right. This is the famous story of the Joest 956 beating the factory cars in 1985.
This book is a terrific addition to any motorsport’s library, especially if you are a Le Mans or Porsche fan. In this work, you will have the whole history of Porsche’s 70 years of participation in one place. The book is worth the cost just for the historic photos!
All photos taken from Porsche at Le Mans—70 Years.
From beginning to end of the 70 years, Glen’s book covers it all. Here’s the 2020 GT3R of Ben Keating—quite different from the 356 of 1951!