Rennsport Reunion VII: The Return Of The Ultimate Porsche Racing Celebration
To the Porsche faithful, there were worries when the world seemed to grind to a halt during the global pandemic in 2020 that one of the most popular events in the USA, the Rennsport Reunion, might be shelved for an indefinite amount of time. Concerns about international travel, the fact that the Rennsport Reunion is a massive event, and the potential availability, or lack thereof, of Laguna Seca, the home of the event since 2011, were all contributing factors.
However, late into the fall of 2022, we all received the good news that in September of 2023, after a wait of 5 years, the Rennsport Reunion was set to go ahead. Laguna Seca in Monterey, California was confirmed as hosting the event once again, invites began to go out for the special guests and historical cars that are going to be the centerpiece attractions, and tickets finally went on sale in late 2022.
But for those that have never attended a Rennsport Reunion, what about it makes it the enthusiast event to attend? That question we are going to (hopefully) answer for you today. To begin with, however, let us turn the clock back to 2001…
The History Of The Rennsport Reunion
At the turn of the century, Porsche had just passed the 50th anniversary of its first production road car, and almost since day one, the company and Ferdinand himself had been highly invested in racing. While there had been car meetups and some special events in Europe taking place in Germany, these were mostly focused around the road cars and the enthusiasm shared by many about them. North America, it seemed, was destined to be the land of the owner-organized event.
Then an idea was proposed by former racing driver and Porsche enthusiast Brian Redman, along with Bob Carlson, who for decades was Porsche Cars North America’s press spokesperson, to the company. The idea was to hold an event not surrounding the road cars, but to celebrate the abbreviation that appeared on all of the race cars and on the top tier of the road cars: RS. Those that know, know that RS stands for RennSport, which translates quite literally to “racing.”
Rennsport Reunion 2001
In a timeline that is purely German in its efficiency, Porsche took hold of the idea and, in short order, had secured Lime Rock Park Race Circuit in Connecticut to host an event celebrating the by then 50 year history of factory and customer racing, as well as sent out invites to owners of retired Porsche race cars, or those still racing in classic series events. It was settled almost from the word go, however, that the big celebration was going to be a “Racing Reunion” of all the cars from Porsche’s recent and distant pass, and someone happened upon the idea of using the German word for racing instead of the English, and the Rennsport Reunion was born.
On a slightly cloudy but otherwise sunny day in July of 2001, the Porsche faithful thus inundated Lime Rock Park with perhaps the biggest attendance any official company supported event had ever seen. They were there for a reason, though, as RR1 at the time had some of the largest groupings of specific model race cars of any Porsche event, such as no less than seven Type 935 Carrera RS’s, twenty-three (to this day the largest grouping) Type 956 and Type 962 Group C endurance race cars, and the Mark Donohue #6 917/30 CAN-AM owned, and entered into the event, by Roger Penske himself.
There were static displays of classic, priceless race cars, all lovingly preserved at, or near, concours-level beauty, but the true draw was when the rumbling roar of many flat-four, flat-six, flat-eight, and a few turbo-charged flat-twelves filled the air. To see, hear, smell, and at times feel the soundwaves hitting your chest as the unbridled fury of Porsche race cars thundering around a track… it was one of those “you had to be there” moments when time seemed to reverse for just a moment or two. Many of the invited drivers and owners did not take it easy around the Lime Rock circuit, as for them as well, it was a rare outing and chance to let their cars stretch there legs after sometimes decades of parade laps or static displays.
Expectations from the factory were that they might get 5,000 to 10,000 people attending the event, which would still make it the largest Porsche organized and supported event in the Western world at the time. So when the attendance clickers stopped just short of 20,000 attendees, many a lightbulb popped on over many a head in Stuttgart, and plans started almost immediately to host another reunion.
Rennsport Reunion II
While plans were to host another event the next year, a series of events happened that no one really kept track of that meant that it was delayed, then postponed. As it happened, Porsche saw that with the recent internal project that would eventually become the Carrera GT, as well as a new generation of Porsche Cup cars coming, that they could turn this postponement into an opportunity.
It also turned out that Lime Rock Park, while an excellent facility and a really fun track to race around, was not available for the next Rennsport Reunion. The decision was made that since the attendance was nearly double what was expected at the high end of RR1, that a truly legendary track needed to be used for RR2. As such, when the announcement came in 2003 that the second Rennsport Reunion was going to happen in 2004, it was also revealed that it would be taking place at none other than the Daytona International Speedway.
It was also announced that RR2 would be a two-day event, which allowed for more racing, more time to view the static displays of classic race cars, and more opportunities to just have fun. Porsche pulled out all the stops it could, as well, as over 550 former and current (at the time) Porsche factory drivers and customer race drivers were in attendance, including names such as Dan Gurney, Jacky Ickx, Hurley Haywood, Derek Bell, Bobby Rahal, and Reinhold Joest.
Porsche also brought out some great cars for this event, including the #26 911 GT1-98 LM that gave Stuttgart its 16th overall Le Mans win in 1998, even a 1958 Porsche 718 RSK Formula 2 car. While attendance didn’t double the surprise amount from 2001, various numbers between 25,000 and 30,000 are quite commonly found with a little research, so it is safe to say that things went well.
Rennsport Reunion III and IV
RR3 was held at Daytona again in 2007, this time featuring over 600 drivers, over 2,000 cars, and also set a new attendance record for the event with a confirmed 36,000+ attendees, as the news had propagated around that this was the Porsche event. It was the pilgrimage many Porschephiles marked as needing to attend at some point in their lives, and it was also the first of the Rennsport Reunions to feature drivers and special guests from all five continents.
RR5 was held in 2015, and was the last “Summer” Rennsport Reunion. This was also the event that saw attendance soar to 60,000, setting a new record for one of the largest single company-organized car events, not just in North America, but in the world. Multiple 918 Spyders were on display, including the development prototype for the Weissach Package, with more single-model races like the 917 race from RR4 taking place.
Rennsport Reunion VI, the most recent one from 2018, was the single event that shattered expectations. Now running across four days, not only did Laguna Seca see over 81,000 attendees over the September weekend that it was held, firmly setting the world record for the most attendees for a single manufacturer factory-organized event, it was also the launch event of a special edition car, a new car, and also saw one of the Porsche family turn laps around the vaunted circuit.
The special edition car, the 2018 Porsche 911 935, with a limited run of 77 units and a love letter to the Moby Dick 935, was unveiled on the first day, becoming one of the star cars in a field of concours-grade classics. RR6 was also where Porsche announced that their newest car, the Porsche Taycan EV, was in production and would be on sale in 2019. As we now know today in 2022, the Taycan is perhaps the best electric sports car in the world, even outselling the 911 year-to-year.
The big centerpiece, the coup de grace of the event, was Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, head of the board of Porsche A.G. and part of the Porsche family, taking the 1948 Porsche 356 #1 out on track for some laps, 70 years after the car was the first production vehicle to emerge from the fledgling little German manufacturer.
RR6 also set a record for the most of Porsche’s first supercar, the 959, in one place at one time. No less than 9 of the ultra rare cars, of which only 345 were made in the 1980s, were in attendance, and to prove their reliability and capability, all of them did some parade laps at speed.
Rennsport Reunion VII in 2023
Running over the weekend of September 28 to October 1 in 2023, Rennsport Reunion VII will once again be headed to Monterey, California, at the Leguna Seca Raceway. The fact that the event is returning to the circuit is, among many other things, one of the reasons that the entire track is being repaved, the old wooden pedestrian bridge over the front straight is being removed and a much more sturdy and modern one replacing it, and investing in creating more hospitality and VIP suites at the turn 3 viewing area.
No doubt, those suites will be used for meet and greets with a variety of Porsche drivers, as well as potential private events, such as the Racer’s Dinner which in the past has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars alone for charities benefitting injured drivers, giving children access to motorsport, and the like. They will also most certainly be used, along with the new grandstand seating being installed at turn 3, to watch the racing action during RR7.
While details of what drivers and cars will attend have not yet been released, the 919 Evo has been rumored to be coming out of the Porsche Museum to be on display, as well as appearances by the new Type 992 991 GT3 R and Type 992 911 Cup. An almost certain appearance will be made by the newest hybrid race car from Porsche, the Type 963 Hypercar LM.
Another car that will most likely be making its Rennsport Reunion debut is the new Type 718 Cayman GT4 e-Performance, a demonstration car much like the Mission R from a few years back that shows what the future of GT racing may look like.
As to classic cars, based on previous iterations, it’s almost a locked-in guarantee that at least one of the Type 963’s predecessor, the Type 962 Group C, will be there. The same can be said with the newest special edition car, the Type 992 911 Dakar, having its predecessor, the extremely rare 1984 Type 953 911 Carrera 4×4 RS Rallye, be rolled out of the Porsche Museum and onto the front straight at Laguna Seca.
While it is early days, it’s also almost a locked in guarantee that many of the big names of Porsche racing will be coming, name that are rumored to include Australians Mark Webber and Matt Campbell, New Zealander Earl Bamber, Germany’s Jorg Bergmeister and Andre Lotterer, and legends such as Jacky Ickx, Allen McNish, Derek Bell, and America’s own Hurley Haywood.
Of course, as Stuttcars is your source for everything Porsche, we will pass along any updates on cars, drivers, and featured events that may take part in, or take place at, Rennsport Reunion VII!