More books have been written about Porsche than any other car company so the publication in English of another tome is hardly headline news until you realise that the author, exceptionally, is a Porsche insider, but not just any insider. Jürgen Barth was at the epicentre of Porsche’s racing activity from the time he joined the Zuffenhausen payroll in 1966 until he retired four decades later. So, Karl Ludwigsen’s Excellence and Paul Frère’s 911 Story notwithstanding, Barth’s 1500-page Porsche Book will probably come to be seen by historians as the technical reference. But for the general reader, perhaps more interesting would be the book that Barth hasn’t written yet and that is his own story. Recently, the author met Jürgen Barth at his home in Sachsenheim, near Stuttgart, to get a more personal flavour of the man himself and perhaps of what that book would be like.
He was born in 1947 in what was then East Germany, the son of Edgar Barth a successful car and racing motorcyclist before the war, who resumed his racing career in the GDR with the EMW in 1951. This was a 1500cc light sports racer (which looked something like Chapman’s Lotus Eleven) and Barth senior soon made a reputation for himself outrunning the Porsche 550s at the Nürburgring. His talent was spotted by Porsche’s racing manager Huschke von Hanstein who offered him a job as works driver and manager of the client racing department. In the deteriorating climate between the two Germanies in 1957, it was too good an offer to resist and the Barth family left most of their possessions behind, defecting to the west and settling in Kornwestheim, just outside Zuffenhausen. Edgar Barth fully justified von Hanstein’s confidence in him with a string of successes in flat-four Porsche racers that included a Targa Florio victory and three European hill climb championships. As well as being works test driver, he had become very much part of the Porsche inner circle before his untimely death from cancer in 1965.