Porsche 718 RSK (1957), Mittellenker, RS 60, RS 61

Premiere: 1957 May 26, test at Nürburgring

718 RS 60© Porsche

The Porsche 718 was a successor to the 550 A, or more accurately to the 645. The principal difference compared to the 550 was that the 718 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 718 had full tubular frame like the 645.

The 1.5-litre Fuhrmann engine that was originally already rather powerful for its small size and was pumped up for the 550 A, saw another increase in power for the 718. This little 4-cylinder engine developed 110 kW (150 PS). Later even more powerful 1.6-, 1.7- and 2.0-litre engines were used.

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 for F2 and it is not incorrect to call it as 718 F2, the better name is RSK Mittellenker ("central steering") to distinguish it from the later real (open-wheeler) 718 F2.

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Porsche 718 RSK Mittellenker
718 RSK Mittellenker© Porsche

For the 1958 Le Mans 24h race factory team fielded three 718 RSK and the event became a real success for Porsche who 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 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
1958 Le Mans documentary about Porsches
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

The RSK Spyder had to be changed because of the rule changes for sports car catgeory. Although the 718 was a pure racing car, it was kept in accordance with the sports cars rules. The new version with full size (street legal) windscreen for the 1960 season was called RS 60. While the successor to the 550, the 645, got a new rear suspension, but it couldn't be sorted, so the new 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 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 scores 5th and takes class victory with its 2-litre 718 RS 61 #33 driven by Bob Holbert/Masten Gregory. The 718 RS 61 #32 scores 7th driven by Hans Herrmann/Edgar Barth.


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