Porsche 718/2 F2 (1959)

Premiere: 1959 May 10, Monaco F1

© James Herne

Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cam flat-4

For 1959, Porsche created a completely new Formula 2 car instead of the Mittellenker-version of the 718 RSK. For some reason the new car was still called 718, more exactly 718/2 or 718 F2. According to the F2 rules, the engine size was limited to 1.5 litres. Porsche's 4-cylinder 4-cam Furhmann engine was the natural choice. Interestingly, the debut of the 718 F2 took place at the Formula 1 event (F1 cars were allowed engines up to 2.5 litres). Wolfgang von Trips entered the Monaco F1 race on May 10, 1959, but unfortunately crashed on the second lap breaking the front axle. Skipping the Pau F2 and Zandvoort F1 races, the Porsche 718 F2 was again at the starting line at the Reims Formula 2 race where the first success came - Jo Bonnier finished third.

1959 III Coupe Internationale de Vitesse, Reims Formula 2, Jo Bonnier, Porsche 718 F2
1959 July 5, Reims, III Coupe Internationale de Vitesse Formula 2 race, where Jo Bonnier scored 3rd. The photo shows the first version of the Porsche Formula 2 car. Let's call it 718 F2, version 1. Distinctive to the first version are the openings left and right behind the driver (can be seen here behind the arm of Bonnier). © unknown (please inform us if you know)
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1959 AVUS, von Trips and Behra
Wolfgang von Trips in a 718 F2 (ver.2) and Jean Behra in a Behra-Porsche posing on AVUS. The photo shows the cars the gentlemen planned to use at the August 2, 1959, Formula 1 German GP. Unfortunately Behra killed himself on August 1 sports car race driving the 718 RSK Spyder. Following the tragedy, von Trips didn't participate at the F1 race. Trips himself got killed two years later at the Monza F1 race (the accident involving his Ferrari and a Lotus also killed a lot of spectators).© Porsche
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1959 Hockenheim, testing, Porsche 718 F2
This photo shows the shape of the engine room hatches on the second version of the 718 F2© Porsche

While Porsche had sniffed the Formula racing scene, entered just a few races until 1959, it had serious plans for the 1960 F2 season. The 718 F2 got some modifications, too. These cars (718 F2 v.3) can be visually told by the rear part of the body.

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1960 II Grand Prix de Bruxelles, Heysel, String Moss driving a Porsche 718 F2
This is a cut from a 1960 Porsche poster. It shows Stirling Moss scoring 2nd at the 1960 Heysel F2 race (II Grand Prix de Bruxelles). Note the shape of the engine cover - this 718 F2 version 3.© Porsche

In addition to the second place at Heysel, Stirling Moss scored second also at Goodwood F2 in 1960. Then a Porsche 1-2-3 victory was achieved at the XV B.A.R.C. 200 Formula 2 race on the Aintree circuit in England. The race was won by Stirling Moss, followed by Jo Bonnier and Graham Hill. The three Porsche formula cars were followed by around 20 Cooper-Climax and a few other.

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April 1960, scrutineering of Stirling Moss's Porsche 718 F2 at Aintree
April 1960, Aintree, inspection of the 718 F2 of Stirling Moss © Porsche
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April 1960, Aintree Formula 2, XV B.A.R.C. 200, Porsche 718 F2 of Stirling Moss
April 1960, Aintree, the BARC 200 Formula 2 winning 718 F2 #7 of Stirling Moss (R.R.C. Walker Racing Team)© Porsche
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1960 Aintree, Porsche factory team 718 F2
April 1960, Aintree, both of the Porsche factory team 718 F2 - #6 of Jo Bonnier (he can be seen pushing the car from the back) and #5 of Graham Hill © Porsche
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1960 Porsche 718 F2 with Porsche factory team truck
Porsche factory team truck© Porsche
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Jo Bonnier's Porsche 718 F2 that he used to score second in England at Aintree in April 1960
The photoshoot was made of the Jo Bonnier's #6 second place car as the Aintree winning 718 F2 #7 of Stirling Moss wasn't a factory team car© Porsche
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1960 Porsche 718 F2 front end, suspension, wheel
© Porsche
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1960 Porsche 718 F2 cockpit, windscreen
© Porsche

Porsche was really after the 1960 Formula 2 title, so a heavyweight factory team was lined up at the homeground race in Stuttgart. The Solitude GP was won with a Ferrari by Wolfgang von Trips (who used to drive Porsches scoring many wins with the 718 RSK Spyder a couple of years earlier). Then came the Porsche 2-3-4-5 finish: 2nd Hans Herrmann #5, 3rd Jo Bonnier #4, 4th Graham Hill #6 (all with 718 F2). Finishing 5th was Dan Gurney #22, who drove a new experimental Porsche formula car. The last of the drivers in the Porsche factory team, John Surtees, spinned his 718 F2 four laps before the end of the race and retired.

A week later, at the F2 race on Nürburgring Südschliefe, the Porsche team was present again with all of its F2 cars: four 718 F2 and the single one-off formula car. Jo Bonnier in 718 F2 #6 won the race. He was followed by the experimental Porsche, this time driven by Wolfgang von Trips. Jack Brabham scored 3rd in a Cooper-Climax and then came the rest of the Porsches: 4th Graham Hill #8, 5th Hans Herrmann #14, 6th Edgar Barth #7. All the six fastest drivers finished on the same lap and the rest of the Lotuses and Cooper-Climaxes were all lapped.

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1960 Südschleife Formula 2 winner Jo Bonnier in Porsche 718 F2
1960 July 31, Nürburgring Südschleife Formula 2 race was won by Jo Bonnier. Like most of the fast drivers of the era, he later killed himself racing (at the 1972 Le Mans driving a Lola).© Porsche

Then, Jo Bonnier scored 3rd at the III Kentish 100 Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch and another Porsche 1-2-3 victory came at Zeltweg, Austria, on September 18, 1960: Stirling Moss won and was followed by Hans Herrmann (both in 718 F2). Third place was taken by Edgar Barth in the experimental Porsche formula car.

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1960 Zeltweg Formula 2 race winner Stirling Moss in  Porsche 718 F2
1960 September 18, Zeltweg Formula 2 race winner Stirling Moss. Car specs: 114 kW, 456 kg/1005 lb.© Porsche

1960 was a good season for Porsche in F2. In addition to the two triple victories and other podium places, VI Gran Premio di Modena Formula 2 race in Italy on October 2 was won by Jo Bonnier and the Austrian Innsbruck F2 race (I Preis von Tirol) on October 8 by Hans Herrmann. This was the last victory for the 718/2 as the Formula 2 rules would change from next year making all the 1960 F2 cars obsolete for F2 in 1961. Porsches participated in 14 of the 25 races in the 1960 Formula 2 Championship calendar. It should be mentioned that in addition to the championship races there were non-championship races, too.

From 1961, the Formula 2 engines were limited to 1-litre and Formula 1 engines were downgraded from 2.5-litre to 1.5-litre. So, the 1960 F2 cars were basically eligible for the 1961 F1 season. The competition in F1 was naturally very strong, so you needed something more than an F2 car from previous season to be competitive.

For the 1961 F1 season Porsche created a new car called 787. Two 787 were entered in the first race of the season, but the best achieved position was 9th. Three 787 were entered in the second race, but the result was even worse - the best 787 finished 10th - and consequently the 787 was dropped. In addition to the 787 F1, 718/2 raced on the first two races and during the rest of the season. 718/2 participated in all of the eight F1 races of the 1961 season, with up to 4 cars in a single race (Nürburgring). Dan Gurney scored three times second with the 718/2, but no more podiums for Porsche in F1 in 1961. Gentleman-driver Carel de Beaufort drove his 718/2 throughout the 1961, 1962, 1963 seasons without notable results until killing himself at the wheel of the 718/2 in the beginning of the 1964 F1 season.

Article © James Herne / Stuttcars.com

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