Porsche has tapped Derek Bell for the latest video in its Top 5 series. In this clip, Bell shares Porsche’s list of of its most iconic race cars.
Now might be the time to bail out of that conference call and find some earbuds.
Bell should know about iconic race cars. He’s won Le Mans five times. He’s won Daytona three times. His first pick for the list? The Porsche 911 GT1. In the early 1990s, Bell says, Porsche wasn’t having much success in the top-tier endurance races on the motorsport calendar. In 1995, that would come to an end thanks to the mighty 911 GT1, which blended top-speed straight-line performance with engine reliability and corner stability. Porsche unveiled it in 1996, when a pair of GT1 race cars finished 1st and 2nd in their class. In fact, they were 2nd and 3rd overall and finished ahead of the mighty McLaren F1 GTRs.
Next on the list: the Porsche 904 Carrera GTS. Porsche built 100 examples to meet homologation requirements, and then they hit the race track. They took their first victory at the Targa Florio. Then Le Mans. Then Reims. After that came class wins at Spa, Sebring, the Nürburgring, again at Le Mans, and Watkins Glen. The 904 won on road courses, on rally stages, and pretty much anywhere else an owner wanted to push it.
The third car on the list is the mighty 917 KH. This is truly a remarkable machine packing a powerful flat-12 engine, mounted midship. A 917 ripped off a top speed run of 224 miles per hour down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans; it was capable of hitting 240 miles per hour on the test track. It’s the very picture of iconic liveries from 1970s racing Porsches. Bell calls it one of the greatest cars ever to race. The car shown in the video? It gave Porsche its first ever 24 Hours of Le Mans victory. Iconic, indeed.
For car number two, Porsche has a hell of a machine in its 962C. While the 917 ruled the 1970s, it’s the 962 that came to dominate the ’80s and Group C racing. In 1987, Porsche won its seventh consecutive Le Mans victory and it happened thanks to the 962C. In fact, Derek Bell himself was part of the teams that won in 1986 and 1987, and they won in Porsche 962s. Bell considers this car number one, despite its finishing place on this Porsche-provided list. Between its ground effects bodywork and 800-horsepower engine, the Porsche 962 is an icon not just among Porsche racing vehicles but alongside all race cars.
Finally, the number one car on this list is the 550 Spyder. That’s because it’s the car that pushed Porsche down the path of racing. It’s a simple machine that has had a lasting impact, both on the track and on the road. An air-cooled flat-4 engine sits behind the driver and makes just 110 horsepower, but it was enough grunt to be competitive out on the racing circuit. Additionally, it was also simple and reliable. The 550 Spyder showed Porsche that it could build a proper race car but still have it serve as a road car as well.