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From the archives: Celebrating Porsche at 70 at Brands Hatch

Friday, December 28 2018

The Porsche brand has a long and storied history of success in competition at Brands Hatch and, as the marque celebrated its 70th anniversary at Brands Hatch with the returning Festival of Porsche at Brands Hatch this year, we decided to look back at some of the Stuttgart brand's successes at the venue.

During the '60s, '70s, and '80s, Brands Hatch was a regular fixture on the World Sportscar Championship calendar, and during this time Porsche won the circuit's 500km, and later 1000km, sports car races nine times - more than any other manufacturer.

The first of these victories went to Porsche stalwarts Brian Redman and Jo Siffert behind the wheel of a Porsche 908/02, an open cockpit sports prototype. The Brands Hatch event was something of a breakthrough weekend for the '69-spec 908 which had endured a difficult start to the season before claiming a one-two-three finish in Kent.

The following season, Pedro Rodriguez produced one of the greatest drives, not just in Porsche's history, but the sport's. Sharing an iconic John Wyer Automotive 917K with Leo Kinnunen, Rodriguez decimated the opposition in appalling conditions to win by five laps.

Visibility was so poor in 1970 that Rodriguez failed to notice that he'd overtaken cars under yellow flags and was summoned to the pits by a black flag. Undeterred by this setback, the tenacious Mexican stormed back from 12th to claim a lead he would never lose as he piloted the car for the majority of the race, leading home a Porsche one-two-three-four. Domination.

Porsche's next win in the 1000km epic came in 1977, with Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass sharing the driving in a 911-derived 935/77 GT car. Then, two years later, the 908 had a second Brands Hatch wind in its 908/3 Turbo guise, as Reinhold Joest and Volker Merl claimed victory.

The Porsche 956 claimed the first of its Brands Hatch Victories in 1982, with the supreme pairing of Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell behind the wheel. This kicked off a run of five straight victories in the major Brands Hatch sports car fixture for the 956 and its close relatives the 962C and 956 GTi - the last of these coming with Mauro Baldi and Bob Wollek behind the wheel in 1986.

It was in the 1980s that Porsche enjoyed success at Brands Hatch in the British Rallycross Grand Prix too, with Rolf Nilsson taking home the silverware in 1982 with his Porsche 911SC.

Porsche claimed victory when the BPR Global GT Series made its one and only appearance at the circuit in 1996 too, with the Porsche 911 GT1, just a couple of years before it became an outright Le Mans winner.

More recently, Porsche cars have appeared at the front in the British GT Championship with modern GT3 and GT4 specification cars. The most recent of its outright Brands Hatch British GT victories came on the full Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit in 2014, when Nick Tandy claimed a charging win as a guest driver alongside David Ashburn.

Currently, you can see a variety of Porsches racing at Brands Hatch throughout the season, whether in the Porsche Club Championship, or in the British Touring Car Championship supporting Porsche Carrera Cup GB.

The latest chapter of Porsche racing history at Brands Hatch was written when Tandy unleashed Porsche's stunning 919 Hybrid Evo on the Indy circuit at the returning Festival of Porsche in September. The Le Mans-winner lapped the Kent circuit's shorter layout with an unofficial quickest lap-time of 38.146s - just 0.114s shy of the overall record.