The Porsche single-seaters

One-off commitments

At the end of the 1950s, after having achieved many successes in Formula 2, Porsche decided to enter Formula 1 thanks to a new regulation.

From the very beginning, Porsche has been committed to competition and its entire production has been designed with this in mind. It was therefore inevitable that Porsche would one day take an interest in Formula 1, in order to demonstrate its technical know-how in this leading discipline. However, its experience in F1 as a manufacturer was to end with mixed results and its official participation lasted only two seasons (1961 and 1962).

On July 8th, 1962, the American Dan Gurney won the ACF Grand Prix at Rouen-Les-Essarts in his Porsche 804-01 © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche

The initial entry of the Zuffenhausen-based manufacturer into Formula 1 was encouraged by the new regulations established by the International Sports Commission from the 1961 season onwards. Even then, the ISC was concerned about the increasing power of F1 cars and decided to limit engine capacity to 1,500 cm3, allowing F2 cars to enter the category. The Porsche factory racing team, which had been racing in F2 since 1957, was ready to make the step into the premier league.

For the 1961 F1 season, a Type 787 intermediate chassis derived from the F2 718 was entered in the Monaco and Dutch Grand Prix. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche

A promising start  

In 1959, a special chassis was built for F2 racing, after using modified 550 RS Spyders. This 718 with a 1,498 cc flat four cylinder engine (Type 547/3 with 150 hp) won the 1960 F2 championship and was also regularly lined up in F1, where F2 chassis with ballast were allowed to participate. By the end of the 1961 season, and despite a very good 3rd place in the Constructors' Championship, Porsche was well aware that its modest 4-cylinder flat engine would soon find it difficult to compete with the powerful V6 and V8 engines of its competitors. 

Since December 1960, a 1,494.4 cc flat 8-cylinder engine had been in development. This new engine, called Type 753 and rated at 185 hp at 9,200 rpm, was mounted in the brand new Type 804-F1 tubular chassis that was specially designed for the purpose. The streamlined single-seater made its debut at the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort on May 20, 1962. In subsequent races, results were disappointing for both factory drivers Jo Bonnier and Dan Gurney, until the latter won the ACF GP. Despite its more than honourable performance (5th in the championship) Porsche decided to officially withdraw from F1 to concentrate on its Sport Prototypes and GT programmes, while private Porsche cars continued to be lined up until 1964. There were several reasons for this: first of all economic, but also because of the Flat 8 engine which, having arrived a little late in competition, was surpassed by those of Coventry Climax, BRM and Ferrari.

From 1984 to 1987, the TAG Porsche V6 engine designed by Hans Metzger won 25 Grands Prix with the McLaren team. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche

Return to Grand Prix

Porsche returns to F1 as engine manufacturer for the McLaren team starting in 1983. During the 1981/1982 off-season, Ron Dennis, who had just taken over the management of the McLaren International F1 team, enters into a partnership with the Swiss-Saudi financial group TAG (Techniques d'Avant Garde) under the leadership of Mansour Ojjeh. The project involves the study of a V6 Turbo engine in collaboration with Porsche, while two-time world champion Niki Lauda is asked to participate in the adventure. The new MP4/1E single-seater, specially designed by engineer John Barnard for the new TTE-P01 engine, received its first track test at the Dutch Grand Prix on 28 August 1983, driven by Lauda (returned from retirement).  

The following year, the TAG Porsche became an unbeatable engine and, in partnership with McLaren, would leave its mark on F1 for four seasons. The record speaks for itself: from 1984 to 1987, single-seaters powered by the Porsche V6 won 25 Grands Prix and scored 405.5 championship points! Moreover, McLaren won the Constructors' Championship in 1984 and 1985, while Niki Lauda won the Drivers' World Championship in 1984 and Alain Prost that of 1985 and 1986. Porsche was absent from F1 racing for the 1988 season, but returned in 1991 with a 3,500cc naturally-aspirated V12 engine that equips the Footwork A11C... without success.

The McLaren MP4/1E was the first of the British team's single-seaters to receive the TAG Porsche V6 at the end of the 1983 season. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche

The North American adventure 

The United States was an important market for passenger cars and Porsche regularly participated in races here, such as the CanAm. In 1978, the first "Porsche-Indy" project was launched and was to come to fruition in 1980 with a planned entry in the Indianapolis 500. The single-seater entered by the Interscope team was a Parnelli P6B chassis equipped with a 2,650 cm3, 630 hp flat six cylinder developed at Weissach under the direction of Helmut Flegl. A last-minute conflict between USAC and CART over the engine's boost pressure forced Porsche to abandon the Indy Car project. The German manufacturer returned to the CART championship in 1988 and 1990 with the Porsche 2708 Indy. It was a March 89P chassis with a 2,649 cc, 738 hp V8 turbo engine designed by the indefatigable Hans Mezger. The only victory of this March Porsche was that of Teo Fabi at Mid-Ohio on 3 September 1989.

A ground breaking engine

In just 17 months, the TAG Porsche V6 Turbo Engine was developed in the Porsche research centre in Weissach, under the direction of engineer Hans Metzger, who had designed the Porsche 804 two decades earlier. This 80° open V6 engine with a displacement of 1,498 cm3, called TTE-P01 (TAG Turbo Engine-Porsche 01), is a true technological masterpiece.  Thanks to a magnesium and aluminum alloy block with titanium cylinder heads, it weighs just 145 kg. It is powered by two KKK turbochargers and its ignition is controlled by a Bosch Motronic MS3 electronic control unit. In 1983 it produced 650 hp at 11,500 rpm and in its final season in 1987 it produced 850 hp at 12,000 rpm.

The only F1 victory

The start of the 1962 Formula 1 championship was disappointing for the new Porsche 804. So much so that the official Porsche System Engineering team skipped the third round of the season in Belgium to improve the car. At the next Grand Prix on the French circuit of Rouen-Les-Essarts on 8 July the performance was finally positive. In practice Dan Gurney set the 6th fastest time and his teammate Jo Bonnier was in 9th position. Halfway through the race Gurney moved up to 3rd place and when the two leading cars (Jim Clark in Lotus and Graham Hill in BRM) dropped out one after the other, the field was clear for victory. That day, the American driver won his first F1 race and gave the Porsche team its only victory in the sport.

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