What is Rennsport? A look into the celebration of all things Porsche

Over the course of my weekend at Porsche Rennsport Reunion 7, I heard a common refrain that no other brand in the world could bring people together in the same way. No other automotive manufacturer has the fanbase, the motorsport history, or the 75-year common thread of enthusiasm to carry a festival like this one. Name a brand that could bring 84,000 people to a historic race track to watch vintage racing, cruise the paddock, shop the vendor area, and stand in line all day for merch. Porsche is alone in this. At least that’s what they say. 

I’m inclined to believe that BMW and Harley-Davidson could achieve a similar feat. Honda might be able to bring an event like this together, but it wouldn’t have the same aspirational appeal. All three would have a completely unique vibe, but worth attending in any case. Ferrari and maybe a Lotus or Aston Martin could pull off a large-scale event, but none have the variety that Porsche can deliver, and each would be more exclusive by a factor of ten. Porsche is at the perfect intersection of accessibility, historic significance, and high quantity sold to make a celebration of this level successful.

Like Taylor Swift’s global concert tour, Rennsport Reunion 7 was totally focused on eras. Porsche was more than happy to show off how long it has been at this racing game. From the outset, the brand was a force in motorsport, running its diminutive little overturned bathtubs with Volkswagen engines against the best in the world, and winning. The transition from giant-killer to giant didn’t take long for Porsche, and nowhere is that more evident than in the paddock at Rennsport. 

In Porsche’s earliest era, it was the up-and-comer. From the late 1940s to mid-1960s, most of the brand’s success was in lightweight alloy machines with four cylinders, the 356s, RSK Spyders, and 550s punched way above their weight class. In 1964 the company introduced its first fiberglass 904 racer and started pumping out bigger and more powerful engines. The 356 died in favor of the 911, and all of a sudden the company was racing in prototypes and GT classes simultaneously. And success followed in both, as the all-conquering 917 ran the table, and 911-based racers won everything else. 

The 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s were all about turbochargers for the brand. The company pushed ever faster into Group 4, Group 5, and Group 6 competition with iconic 934, 935, and 936 racers respectively. Once the 956 and 962 racers came on the scene, however, it was over for the competition. Porsche and its privateer racers won basically everything for fifteen years. Once the 962 was finally pushed out by rulebook changes, the 911-based mid-engine prototype GT1 took over. 

Into the 2000s and Porsche was back to focusing on naturally aspirated engines for its highest-performance machines and race cars. This era saw street machines like the Carrera GT and 918 Hybrid, while Porsche Motorsport produced the LMP2 RS Spyder and a variety of 911-based racers. The modern era, from the 911 GT3 R Hybrid and the 919 Hybrid to the current 963, brought about the proliferation of hybrid drivetrains, with the latter two once again bringing turbos to the table. Like Taylor, Porsche was playing all the hits at Rennsport, a couple from each era were on display. It was incredible to see all of them in one spot. 

While the event is ostensibly about Porsche, its history as an automaker, and its revolutionary approach to racing, that’s not why tens of thousands of people show up. The word “reunion” is in the name of the event for a reason. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses just in the United States orbiting the Porsche solar system. There are hundreds of thousands of Porsche enthusiasts in the country, no less the rest of the world. Maybe I’m just speaking for myself here, but I couldn’t go more than two or three minutes at Rennsport without reuniting with a Porsche-fanatic friend also in attendance. 

I’ve been selling Porsche parts, writing about Porsches, or driving Porsches for the better part of fifteen years. In the course of just a couple of days at Laguna Seca, I was given the opportunity to meet up, bump into, or say hello to dozens of acquaintances from the world of Porsche. And that’s before you get to the legendary drivers, company representatives, and personalities. In one day I had breakfast a table over from Porsche GT boss Andy Preuninger, got a ride-along on track with Jeff Zwart in a GT4 RS, had a conversation with Magnus Walker, said hello to event Grand Marshall Pat Long, bumped into 1971 Le Mans winner Gijs Van Lennep, shared an elevator with Pikes Peak Record Holder Romain Dumas, and saw Jacky Ickx at dinner. That’s the kind of thing that Rennsport is good for. The heroes, whether on four wheels or two legs, are everywhere. 

Whether you’re into racing or not, there is something to appreciate from Porsche’s past and present everywhere you look at Rennsport. It was truly a wild few days, and I spent very little of my time at the track actually watching the cars on track. I hiked up to the famous Corkscrew to watch for a few hours on Friday, but most of the time I was too tied up in the paddock or walking amid the thousands of cars in the corralls. Every ten feet something else would catch my attention and draw me away. 

Why is this event so important? Why does it draw so many people to the middle of nowhere in Northern California? What causes this many racers to spend their hard-earned to trek to this track for this particular event? It’s a celebration of the brand, yes, but it’s more than that. It’s an honoring of everyone who came before us, every racer who won behind the wheel of Stuttgart’s best, every driver on the road, every twist of the left-handed key, every high-rpm flat-six rev. Even if you’re not a Porsche fan, you’ll find a reason to love this event. You definitely need to make it to the next Rennsport Reunion. Don’t worry, the next one is only four years away. 

[Images courtesy of Jibran Kutik]

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