Having quietly racked up numerous victories in the ALMS in 2006 and 2007, including an indecent number of overall victories, the LMP2 Porsche RS Spyder developed into a mature thoroughbred racer just as its forebears did.
In the world of Porsche motorsport, nothing happens by chance and equally, nothing is left to chance. But, as the new millennium rolled on, many Porsche enthusiasts and followers once again hankered after greater assertiveness from the Stuttgart manufacturer on the world stage of motorsport. After all, it was back in 1998 that the 911 GT1 had last taken overall honours at the 24-Hour of Le Mans, and that was too far back in history, in the opinion of many.
The type designation ‘Spyder’ stems from a long success story which began back in 1953 with the Porsche 550 1500 RS Spyder. Many encouraging results were achieved in those early years, but the first major international overall win for Porsche came in 1956 with Umberto Maglioli’s victory in the Targa Florio driving a 550 A Spyder. This victory marked the start of a string of unparalleled successes that followed over the ensuing four and a half decades, rounding off the millennium with Porsche’s victory at Le Mans in 1998.
As the new century dawned, Porsche continued with their programme of developing and supporting their 911 GT customer teams, until the moment that the motorsport rules allowed them to look at building a completely new prototype racer. Emerging from under the covers in 2005, was Porsche’s latest iteration of the RS Spyder, an all-new 3.4-litre V8-powered prototype racer aimed at conquering the LMP2 category. Testing commenced in June 2005 followed by a successful three-day test programme under race-like conditions at the Estoril circuit in southern Portugal.
During the test sessions in Portugal, works drivers Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen shared the cockpit of the open sportscar that Penske Racing was contracted to run in the LMP2 class of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). The test at Estoril served as the perfect training ground for the two drivers who would pilot the Spyder in its inaugural race in Atlanta on 1 October 2005 and again at Laguna Seca on 16 October. These final two races in ’05 served as an important precursor to the Spyder’s first full season of racing in 2006. Penske Racing, who ran two RS Spyders in its first ALMS racing season, were to assist Porsche in further developing the car for other possible ALMS customer teams in the future.
In the RS Spyder’s second season of racing, 2007, the two Porsche teams of Penske Racing and Dyson Racing took overall victory in no fewer than seven of the twelve races against the mighty Audis, winning the LMP2 class in ten of those races. Winning against such overwhelming opposition as the squadron of works Audi R10s, one might ask what challenges still remained for the Spyder to achieve. But it wasn’t until 2008 that the RS Spyder entered competition in Europe.
Competition in Europe
Porsche revealed in their press release dated 4 March 2008, that the Porsche RS Spyder was to celebrate its European premiere at the official test of the Le Mans Series (LMS) at the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet, southern France. Here, the two European privateer teams, Team Essex (Denmark) and Van Merksteijn Motorsport (Netherlands) tested their respective RS Spyders for the first time. The Swiss Horag Racing team was not present for the test as it was already in Florida to contest the Sebring 12 hour race on 15 March. The main purpose for the test in southern France was for teams and drivers to familiarise themselves with the new sports prototype, as for both race teams, the RS Spyder represented new territory.
The main difference between the RS Spyder sanctioned by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and its IMSA counterpart, lay in the vehicle weight and fuel capacity. Mechanically, the two race cars were initially the same in 2008, apart from the direct injection engine, but the ACO version weighed in at 825 kg (1818 lbs) and had a fuel capacity of 80 litres (17.5 imp gal). The IMSA version, on the other hand, tipped the scales at 800 kg (1763 lbs) – up from 775 kg in 2007 – and it had a fuel capacity of 90 litres (19.8 imp gal).
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