Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Shout Out To Hans Herrmann

Herrmann, recently, with the Porsche Museum's 917-001 in 917-023's LeMans-winning livery.

To the extent that he is remembered much in the States,  Hans Herrmann is recalled as Richard Attwood's co-driver in Porsche's first overall win at LeMans in 1970.  Attwood said he requested Herrmann because he was steady and reliable.  Both were Porsche-nominated drivers for the Salzburg team.  Attwood's unspoken subtext could be "with nothing to prove...".  Herrmann was 42 years old and had been racing for 19 years.

It was a revelation to me to learn about (and sometimes recall) Herrmann's earlier career.  He won Daytona and Sebring for Porsche with Jo Siffert in 1968, in a 907.  He came second at LeMans in 1969 (with Gerard Larrousse), in a 908, to Jacky Ickx/Jackie Oliver is a Ford GT 40, in the closest finish in LeMans history.  And Porsche put Herrmann in the car for the last stints, in their effort to catch the Ford.  He came second in the Nurburgring 1000 Km three years running (1968-1970) in Porsche 908's.

But those results were not as impressive as Herrmann's early career.  As much as anyone, and more than most, he helped to put Porsche on the map.  He began racing in 1951 in his own, used, Porsche 356 1100.  In 1952 he used a new 1500 engine in the same car to win his class at the Nurburgring.  In 1953 he won his class in the Mille Miglia in his own new Porsche 356 1500 Super.

Also in 1953, he came 2nd in class at LeMans (with Helm Glocker), in his first factory ride, in a prototype 550 Spyder with a pushrod engine.  Actually, this was a tie, but, like the more famous "robbery" of Ken Miles's win in 1966, the LeMans organizers awarded the victory to the other Porsche.

Herrmann winning the 1500 c.c. class in the Mille Miglia in 1954 in a Porsche 550 Spyder.  Herbert Linge navigated.

1954 was a fine year for Herrmann.  In the Carrera Panamerica he won the 1500 sports class and came 3rd overall in a 550 Spyder, now with the 4-cam racing engine.  In the Mille Miglia he won the class again and came 6th overall.  He was DNF at LeMans with a blown engine, but fulfilled his assigned "rabbit" role by forcing the competing OSCA's into retirement to let a sister Spyder in for the win.  Two victories were in true road races, far more impressive (to me) that circuit racing.

A crash in the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix sidelined Herrmann for the rest of the season.  In 1956 he was DNF in the Mille Miglia in a Porsche factory drive.  By now, Herrmann was focusing on his (unsuccessful) Formula 1 career.  And Porsche had a new generation of sports car drivers coming up.

Herrmann was "uninjured" when the brakes failed on his BRM in the German Grand Prix at Avus in 1959.  The car flipped
and rolled several times, throwing him out.  After his career-capstone overall win at LeMans in 1970 with Richard
Attwood, Herrmann retired from racing because (he said) his wife had persuaded him that it was too dangerous.
This was well after he had produced outstanding results in open road races like the Carrera Panamerica,
Mille Miglia, and Targa Florio.  Herrmann's driving style was easy on the equipment and he almost
never went off the road due to driver error.

In 1960, with his Formula 1 career in decline, Herrmann returned to the Porsche sports car fold to win Sebring overall with Olivier Gendebien in a 1.6 liter  RS-60 Spyder.  In 1962, he and Eddie Barth won the 1600 GT class (7th overall) at LeMans in a Porsche Abarth coupe.  But Porsche left him out of their Formula 1 lineup in 1961-1962, using Dan Gurney and Jo Bonnier instead.  Gurney and Bonnier also headlined Porsche's sports car racing lineup.  Herrmann's career as a front-rank sports car driver appeared to be at an end.  

But in 1966, as Porsche was ramping up its now-legendary prototype racing program, Herrmann was again put on retainer at age 38.  This brings the story back to the second paragraph above: he still had a lot of co-driving wins left in him, in some of the fastest sports prototype cars of the era.  Herrmann won consistently for Porsche, in almost every sports model they built, for 17 years.

Porsche: Excellence Was Expected, by Karl Ludvigsen
Wikipedia, Hans Herrman page

This post gives me an excuse to put up a picture of the Porsche Carrera Abarth coupe, a little-remembered but very
successful car in the GT 1600 class 1960-1962.  It was a light-weight aluminum body on a 356 production car
chassis, with a 4-cam Typ 547 rear-mounted engine.  Herrmann used this car for a class victory at LeMans.

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