Porsche 718 RSK / RS 60 / RS 61 (1957-1961)

Premiere: 1957 May 26, test at Nürburgring

600+ podium finishes

250+ race victories

718 RS 60© Porsche

The Porsche 718 was a successor to the 550 A, or more precisely to the 645. The principal difference compared to the 550 was that the 718, like the 645, had a full tubular frame and was made for racing use only. Design wise the rear of the car looked somewhat similar to the 550 A, but the front was made smoother, more aerodynamic, like on the 645. Gone was the front fender design of the 550 (that was later implemented on the 901/911).

The 1.5-litre 4-cam Fuhrmann engine in the 356 was already rather powerful for its small size. It was then pumped up for the 550 A and saw another increase in power for the 718, now developing 110 kW (150 PS). Later even more powerful 1.6-, 1.7- and 2.0-litre engines were developed.

For the 1957 Le Mans 24h race Porsche fielded its new 718 RSK, but unfortunately accident terminated its race.

The RSK was also built with Formula 2 races in mind, so it's steering wheel and seat could be installed in the center of the car. The gear lever was also moved, but the hand brake lever stayed in position – exactly between the legs of the driver. While the RSK with centered driver position was used in Formula 2 racing and it is not incorrect to call it as the 718 F2, the better name for the car is RSK Mittellenker ("central steering") - to distinguish it from the later open-wheeler 718 F2.

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Porsche 718 RSK Mittellenker
718 RSK Mittellenker© Porsche

The first major success for the 718 RSK came at the 1958 Targa Florio, where Jean Behra and Giorgio Scarlatti scored 2nd (1st in 1.5-litre) after a V12 Ferrari.

For the 1958 Le Mans 24h race factory team fielded three 718 RSK and the event became a real success for Porsche which celebrated 10 years of sports car production. First and second place were taken by 3-litre Ferrari and Aston Martin and then came the Porsches: on 3rd place 718 RSK 1.6 #29 of Jean Behra/Hans Herrmann (1st in 2-litre class), on 4th place 718 RSK 1.5 #31 of Edgar Barth/Paul Frère (1st in 1.5-litre class) and on 5th a Porsche 550.

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1958 3rd: 718 RSK #29 is fighting its way towards the finish. The two other cars on the photo, #38 Lotus Eleven and #47 DB Coupé both had to retire because of engine problems.© Porsche
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1958 Porsche 3-4-5 publicity photo: 718 RSK 1.6 (718-005) #29 Jean Behra/Hans Herrmann 3rd overall (14 laps behind winner, 1st in 2-litre class), 718 RSK 1.5 #31 Edgar Barth/Paul Frère 4th overall (15 laps behind, 1st in 1.5-litre class), 550A RS Spyder 1.5 #32 Carel Godin de Beaufort/Herbert Linge 5th overall (17 laps behind) © Porsche
This Le Mans documentary mixes frames from 1957 and 1958, although the label says "Le Mans 1958"
1959 May 3, Grand Prix de Spa, horror crash at the Eau Rouge curve. Christian "Bino" Heins survives the accident (to die at Le Mans 4 years later while driving for Alpine).

Following the success in 1958, the 1959 Le Mans race was a complete failure for Porsche. Three 718 RSK were fielded by factory team, another two by privateers, but all the cars retired due to technical problems.

1959 August 1, Formula 2 race on AVUS, Jean Behra injures himself fatally

For the 1960 racing season, the RSK Spyder had to be changed because of the rule changes for sports car category (although the 718 was a pure racing car, it was kept in accordance with the sports cars rules). The new 1960 version with full size street legal windscreen was called RS 60. While the successor to the 550, the 645, got a new rear suspension, but it couldn't be fully sorted out, this type of rear suspension for 718 was postponed until the 1960 718 RS 60.

At the 1960 Le Mans race Porsche factory team fielded three RS 60 and two more were entered by privateers. A 1.5-litre 718 finished 11th, while all 1.6-litre 718s retired due to engine problems.

The 718 made in 1961 were called as RS 61. At the 1961 Le Mans 24h race Porsche fielded three 718 RS 61. After 3-litre Ferraris and a Maserati, Porsche scored 5th and took the class victory with its 2-litre 718 RS 61 #33 driven by Bob Holbert/Masten Gregory. The 718 RS 61 #32 scored 7th driven by Hans Herrmann/Edgar Barth.

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