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Double blow for the world of Porsche motorsport

Sabine Schmitz at the Nürburgring 24 Hours
Sabine Schmitz at the Nürburgring 24 Hours, 20 May 2012

It is with great sadness that we bring you the news this week of the passing of not one, but two, significant names in the world of Porsche motorsport.

(From L-R) Manfred Kremer, Manfred Winkelhock and Marc Surer
Mosport 1000 km, 11 August 1985: (From L-R) Manfred Kremer, Manfred Winkelhock and Marc Surer in discussion prior to the race

We were informed on Tuesday that Manfred Kremer passed away at the age of 81 years, and then on Wednesday, we got the news that Sabine Schmitz, the ‘Queen of the Nürburgring’ had also passed away. These two personalities, although a generation apart, brought success and exposure to the Porsche brand in very different ways.

Manfred Kremer: 1940-2021

Mario Andretti visited the Porsche race department in Weissach in 1983
Mario Andretti visited the Porsche race department in Weissach in 1983 – (from the left) Helmuth Bott with Peter Falk and Mario Andretti. On the extreme right is Manfred Kremer with Erwin Kremer third from right

The Kremer brothers, together with friend Hermann Bürvenich, started their workshop in 1962 in Cologne, Germany. The elder brother, Erwin, was the racing driver while Manfred, the quiet one, was the engineer who preferred to stay in the background. Kremer Racing grew from strength to strength and in 1970 they entered a Porsche 911 ST in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. They finished seventh overall that year, and so began the team’s climb up the ladder with bigger and better cars until in the late ‘70s Kremer modified the Porsche factory’s cars to their own specification. This resulted in the 935 K3 with which the team won the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans outright, the first Porsche privateer team to do so in the history of the race.

The Kremer Racing headquarters in Cologne
The Kremer Racing headquarters in Cologne, photographed by the author during a visit on 30 July 2007

There followed another 24-hour victory, this time in the 1995 Daytona race with their K8, an open-topped Spyder version of the 962, but featuring their own chassis design. The Kremers were always pushing the design and development envelope and it showed in their record of achievements.

Daytona-Le Mans Trophy 1976-1977 proudly on display in the Kremer Racing headquarters
Daytona-Le Mans Trophy 1976-1977 proudly on display in the Kremer Racing headquarters in Cologne, 30 July 2007

It was Manfred who masterminded the K-series bodywork modifications (K1, K2, K3 and K4), and after their ’79 Le Mans win, he went on to develop the CK5, CK6, K7 and K8 models. Manfred retired in ’98 and moved back and forth between his holiday home in Spain, and his home in Germany, but after the death of his brother Erwin in 2006, he bought the company back in order to preserve the family name. After almost five decades of success in the motorsport industry, Manfred sold the company in 2010 to a private entrepreneur.

1995 Rolex Daytona 24 winners’ trophy proudly on display in the Kremer Racing headquarters
1995 Rolex Daytona 24 winners’ trophy proudly on display in the Kremer Racing headquarters in Cologne, 30 July 2007

The legend of Kremer Racing rose to become a real force in the world of sportscar and GT racing, with the likes of John Fitzpatrick, Derek Bell, Bob Wollek and many other top names driving for the team from Cologne. The days when a small operation such as the Kremer brothers built are probably long gone, but their memory will live on for many years to come.

The Kremer Racing headquarters in Cologne
The Kremer Racing headquarters in Cologne, photographed by the author during a visit on 15 August 2008

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